melissas_corner: (Steve/Danny)
[personal profile] melissas_corner
I swallow thickly, I know what the paper inside will say and desperately wish I was wrong. With trembling fingers, I open the flap and pull out the single sheet of expensive paper stock.

The words on the page blur but not before they're burned into my mind. I want - badly - to crumple the paper, pretend I never saw it, but I can't so much as wrinkle it. It doesn't belong to me, even though it has my name on it, and damaging it in any way beyond the creases to make it fit in the envelope would be destruction of property. Governmental property.

Since I can't crumple the paper in my hand, I allow my body to fall to the floor. My knees hit the hard wood so hard my teeth rattle in my skull. This can't be real. Surely this is some kind of a joke. It's not possible that this is happening now. Not when Danny and I are almost there.

An eternity passes before I hear Danny's car in the drive. I think about pulling myself together before he comes in but I can't seem to move.

"Hey, Babe?" he calls before he even has the door all the way open. "What's burning? I can smell it out here."

Burning? The word circles my brain and then it clicks. Fuck! Dinner! Even with the spike of panic that flares in my head my body refuses to obey my command. But not so my mouth. Although the only thing that comes out is "…chicken…"

"Chicken." His voice is deadpan but I hear him make his way to the kitchen so maybe he understood me.

The smell of burnt chicken intensifies and I know he's trying to save it from the oven, then muffled curses that I can't tell are because I burned dinner or because he burned himself.

I lose track of time again, my mind still refusing to believe the paper in my hand. "Steve." Danny's voice followed by the scent that is all him: coffee and malasadas and something that has to be Grace's, pull me back from the abyss of my mind.

"Hm?" I hum, turning to gaze up at him.

"This isn't like you." He squats down, grunting at the pop from his knee and places one hand on my forearm. "What's wrong?"

I swallow and open my mouth to speak but nothing comes out. I'm afraid if I try any harder, I'll either end up screaming or crying, or both. So I just shake my head, my gaze going back to that damn paper. How can such innocent words cause such destruction?

"What…" He reaches for the paper and my training kicks in. I pull it out of his reach and snap, "Confidential". He snorts. "Don't think so, Babe." He gently tugs the sheet from my grasp.

"Lieutenant Commander Steven Jedi – your middle name's Jedi?" I glare at him. "Right, not the point." He clears his throat and quickly scans the page. "Camp Pendleton?"

"It's in Cal-" I begin only to have him interrupt me with, "I know where it is!"

He sits down on his butt and runs one hand through his hair. "Why there? I mean, surely you don't perform missions on US soil. Right?"

"There's a SEAL team stationed there. I was even stationed there for a time."

"Not what I asked, Steven." He huffs out a breath.

"Pendleton's just a stop. That's where I'll get my orders – proper orders – and meet up with the rest of my team."

"This isn't fair," he says, echoing my thoughts from earlier.

"I know."

"Two weeks, Steve." I can hear the tears he refuses to shed.

"I know, Danny." I want so much to wrap my arms around him but he's giving off a 'don't touch' vibe.

"What happens now?"

I'm still stunned sitting there on my knees next to the coffee table, until he starts to crumple the paper in his fist. "No!" I shout, diving at him and ripping the paper from his hands.

"What? You keep a scrapbook or something?"

I lay the paper on the table to inspect it for wrinkles. "No. It's not mine."

"Not yours." There's that deadpan tone again as if he's not sure if what he just said is supposed to be a question or not. "Babe, how can it not be yours when it has your name on it?"

I counter with, "It doesn't have my name on it" then continue with, "It's addressed to me" when he just blinks at me.

"Still not following. The USPS says any piece of mail belongs to the person it's addressed to."

"Maybe for the average citizen. Or even the average member of the military. But my missions are always classified."

"How highly classified?"

"The President doesn't even have clearance for most of my missions."

"Wh-?" He starts, then shakes his head and mutters, "Plausible deniability."

A quick grin flashes across my face. "Yeah. So if a letter addressed to me, or the unknown number of other men just like me, has The Seal of the Navy on it, it doesn't belong to me."

"I guess I'm still not following."

"Does it really matter right now?" I'm slowly coming out of my shock and it's making me snappish.

"I suppose not," he snaps back, hurt feelings making his tone extra heavy.

I close my eyes and blow out a breath through my nose. "I'm sorry for snapping, Danny, really I am." I open my eyes and look at him, allowing everything I'm feeling to show in my eyes. "I'm just really angry right now. Angry at the terrorists for forcing the military to have to reactivate me. Angry at myself for not making my move sooner. Angry for thinking about retirement. I'm just fucking angry, okay?"

"Yeah, I get it. I'm angry too. Mostly at me for not speaking up sooner. But we can still act on our plans for the night, right? I mean, you're not expected to report for two weeks."

I shake my head. "I refuse to go off with that particular memory. Not that I don't want to make love with you, I just don't want my having to go off to be hanging over us when we do."

He snorts and gets up off the floor with a groan in order to pace the living room. "Do I get a say?"

One corner of my mouth twitches up in a humorless smile. "Sure. But we're still doing it my way."

He spins on his heel to glare at me. "That's not what I said."

I rise to my feet to face him better. "But that's what it boiled down to. If you hadn't been so set on not rushing…" With a shrug I leave the sentence unfinished.

Suddenly he rushes at me and beats his fists on my chest. "It isn't supposed to be like this!"

"I know, D, I know." I gently take his wrists in my hands and hold him still.

"Not now, Steve. Not now." A sob escapes and that seems to be his undoing. Before I know it I have an armful of weeping Jersey cop.

"Shush, Danny. It'll be okay."

"You…promise?" He hiccups and sniffles.

"Of course," I say even though I know I can't - shouldn't.

"So what now?" He still has his face buried in my neck, his arms wrapped tight around my shoulders.

I lay my cheek on his head and thread the fingers of one hand into the hair at the nape of his neck, the other tight around his waist. "Now, I put my affairs in order. Make sure my will's up to date."

"But you just said-" he begins but I cut him off. "I know, but it's SOP for any deployment."

He releases a hitching breath. "It still sounds morbid."

"Maybe a little."

"Maybe a little he says," Danny mutters into my chest. "I swear to God, Steven-" He doesn't finish that sentence. Doesn't need to. I feel the same.

"I know, D. The timing on this sucks rocks."

"And you wouldn't be the man I love if you objected to your orders or even change your mind on, ya know." His head snaps up so fast he almost clocks me on the chin. "Sorry," he mumbles when he realizes he almost hit me. His eyes search mine. "Can you?"

"Can I, what?"

"Object to your orders. Respectfully decline or whatever." He waves his hands in the air. "I mean, you're pretty important around here."

"And yet my first obligation is to the US Navy."

"Well, damn." He pulls out of my arms to resume pacing. "How much trouble would you get into?"

"Court martial with jail time; Leavenworth this time."

"We can't have that."

"No, we can't. Not to mention what seeing me go to jail would do to Gracie; especially since she wasn't here the first time."

"For which I will be eternally grateful." He walks back to where I'm still standing and loops his arms loosely around my neck.

"Same." I wrap my arms around his waist again, this time resting my hands on the swell of his ass. "So not how I was planning on spending our first Valentine's Day."

"I know." He rises up on his toes and sucks my upper lip into his mouth.

The closer we've gotten to today, the more frantic our kisses have been, but right now he's back to the lazy exploratory type. The ones that lead to a slow build of passion and allow it to burn slower but no less hot.

Sliding both hands down, I cup his ass and use it to pull him closer. His arms tighten and he shoves the fingers of one hand into the hair at the back of my head. The slow almost lazy kiss quickly turns hot and heavy.

Eventually we need to breathe but we only pull back enough to suck in lungfuls of air, neither wanting to stop touching. The next two weeks are going to suck so fucking much.

I don't realize he's walking us toward the stairs until I stub my toe on one of the treads. He hisses in sympathy. "Watch out for the stairs," he says completely straight faced.

"Yeah, thanks."

"You're welcome." Now he's just messing with me so in retaliation, I toss him over my shoulder and jog up the stairs and into my bedroom where I flop down on the bed on top of him, taking care to not land with my entire weight on him.

He punches me on the shoulder. "What have I told you about that?"

"That you like it and I should do it every day." His outraged squeak is silenced by my kiss.

He holds me in place by my ears so he can suck on my tongue for a few seconds, then pushes me back. "God, I hate you right now."

"Yeah, I can feel how much you hate me." I grind down against his erection.

He pushes me back a little. "What the hell is that?"

Both brows climb my forehead. "You really have to ask?"

He rolls his eyes. "No, you idiot. That!" He flicks one finger against the box in my pocket.

"Oh, that. That's your present." I lean back down to resume kissing him but his insistent shoving on my shoulders gets me to pull back again. "What?"

"Really? You're gonna announce you got me something and then promptly go right back to sucking my face?"

"You want your present?" He shoves until I sit back on my heels between his legs. He pushes himself into a sitting position, propped up on the pillows against the headboard and makes a 'gimme' motion with his hands. Rolling my eyes, I chuckle and dig the little box out of my pocket. "Here. I didn't really know what to get you."

He tugs on the ribbon to untie it before peeling the paper off the box. The look he throws my way upon seeing that the box is the size of a ring box would be funny if I wasn't so nervous about this. "Please tell me you're not giving in to the cliché of proposing on Valentine's Day."

I raise one eyebrow. "Please. Even I'm not that cheesy."

With a nod that clearly says 'Good', he opens the box and his jaw drops when he gets his first glimpse of what's inside. "How-?" He clears his throat and tries again. "How'd you know?"

I grin at him. I had been hoping for this reaction but I'm afraid my explanation will put a damper on the evening's activities. "I saw you looking at them the other day when you emptied your pockets on the dresser." I nod my head in the direction of said dresser where a pile of things that are usually in my pockets resides with a twin to the object in the box on top.

He slowly lifts the chain out first followed by a pair of dog tags that bear my name, rank, serial number, blood type and religious preference. As he slips the chain over his head something primal unfurls deep in my gut at the knowledge that he's wearing my tags. That there is now tangible proof that he belongs to me. This must be how he felt when he put his engagement ring on Rachel's finger.

"Did you have to lie and say you lost yours in order to get these?"

"No, they issue two sets nowadays. I think they know the men give one to their wives or girlfriends."

"So you've had these since basic?"

I shake my head. "Every time you're promoted you get new tags. I've only had these a few years."

He holds my tags in one hand and runs one finger over the raised lettering of my name. "I think the next two weeks are going to suck so fucking much."

"Yeah, they are. And the next however long I'm gone, too." He nods, silent tears once more slipping down his cheeks. "We need to figure out how to tell Grace."

"Oh, God!" The pain on his face is almost more than I can bear. How can I concentrate on my mission with that expression burned into my mind? "She won't take this well at all."

"Oh, I don't know." I shrug. "When we were at the toy store she told a rude woman that I was about to be deployed."

"And you let her get away with lying to an adult?" He seems shocked that I'd even consider not punishing her for lying.

"The woman was trying to take her toy from her."

"Did Grace have it first?" Crap! I knew he'd ask that.

Not wanting Grace to get into trouble after the fact, it did happen over a month ago after all, I don't feel the least bit guilty for lying. "Yep. As Grace was pulling it off the shelf, this woman swooped down and snatched it from her hands."

"So Grace said you were being deployed?" I can tell Danny still doesn't get just how much Hawaiians respect the military.

"Apparently your daughter gets just how important the military is to the people who live here. It got her the toy, didn't it?"

"But she still lied."

"I think at this point we can say she overstated when I was actually shipping out."

He rolls his eyes. "Now you're just splitting hairs."

I grin at him and lean in to press my lips to his. He responds like always, only this time there's a certain sadness to his kiss, in his touch and his eyes. "We don't have to. We can just lie here and talk." I have no idea why I suggested that. I want to kiss him all over, commit his taste and smell to memory so I can pull it out on the long cold lonely nights ahead.

He nods his head and scoots down on the bed to lay his head on the pillow. I stretch out on my side facing him. "Danny?" I cup his cheek in my hand, wiping away tears with my thumb. "You know that if it's within my power to do so, I will return to you, right?"

"Doesn't make saying good-bye any easier."

"I know." I press my lips to his, tasting his tears. "God I love you. I never knew I could love anyone as much as I love you and Grace."

He grabs a fistful of hair at the back of my head and presses his forehead to mine. "I swear to God, Steven, if you break my little girl's heart…" He doesn't need to finish that sentence. The last thing I want to do is hurt him and Gracie.

"You have to know that's the last thing I want to do. The thought of never seeing either of you again…" I don't need to say it aloud. We're both thinking it. It's the fucking pink elephant in the room.

"Shut up. Just shut your fucking mouth." His kiss is full of anger and regret. I know neither is directed at me, that most of it is directed at himself but that doesn't assuage my guilt any.

That anger filled kiss is the last one we share for the rest of the night. By unspoken mutual agreement we hold each other, keeping our hands firmly on each other's back to avoid temptation and talk about anything and nothing at all.

We tell stories we've both told and heard a dozen times in the almost two years we've known each other. I close my eyes and let his words wash over me, storing the sound of his accent, the inflection of certain words or phrases but mostly the feel of the deep rumble of his voice in his chest, away for when I need reminding of why I do what I do.

Eventually we fall asleep and when I wake we're still wrapped around each other, our legs tangled together and Danny's head tucked under my chin. I'm not normally someone who cuddles all night but knowing there's a chance I won't make it back has me clutching him like a lifeline.

Danny wakes slowly, as usual, and I feel him stiffen when he remembers what's going to happen in two weeks. "I know we've both said this a billion times but it bears repeating: this fucking sucks."

"I know, Ku`u Lei. But you had to know this was a possibility."

"I did. It's why I didn't want to fall in love with you."

"We should get going. I want to tell everyone now and get it over with."

"Yeah," he agrees but doesn't move from my arms. "I dread telling Grace."

"I do, too but we'll tell her together. She's a bright kid. She'll understand I have no choice."

"This is harder than when I told her Rachel and I were divorcing."

"C'mon." I pat his ass. "No time like the present."

With a heavy sigh, he rolls to sit on the side of the bed. "What time is it?"

"A little after nine." I roll off the other side of the bed and walk around the end to stand in front of where he's sitting.

His head snaps up at that. "We are seriously late."

"It's fine. Chin and Kono both know what we had planned. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had better not beat you in today."

"As if you've been going to work without me for the past month," he scoffs.

"I know." I take his elbow in my hand and pull him to his feet. "But I think Kono meant that we had better not be early birds today."

"Okay, okay." He pulls his arm from my grasp. "Let's go tell The Wonder Twins why we didn't fuck like rabbits last night. And then we can get Grace from school and tell her. Not that we were supposed to-" He breaks off when I can't contain my laughter any longer. "Ha, ha. So very glad I could amuse you."

"Aloha au ia 'oe, Danno."

"Just had to say it in Hawaiian, didn't you?" He rests his forehead on my chest. "I love you, too, ya big goof." He leans back so he can pull me down by my ears and give me an almost chaste kiss. "Miss you already."

"Yeah." I pull him closer and bury my nose in his hair, inhaling his scent.

"We could-" I don't let him finish. The temptation is too great as it is. "No, D. We can't. I explained it to you."

"Yeah." He heaves a deep sigh. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."

"Think how much more special it'll be when I return."

"I suppose." He kisses my chin then spins on his heel and shuts himself in the bathroom.

An hour later we pull into the parking lot of HQ. I park the Camaro into its usual spot and we sit there staring out the windshield for several long minutes after I turn off the engine.

"No time like the present," Danny says but making no move to get out of the car.

"Yeah," I mutter, opening my door and getting out before I lose my resolve.

Danny follows my lead and we enter the building and slowly make our way up the stairs to the office. Pushing through the doors I can't help but notice that things seem to still be quiet which is good because I don't think I'm going to be in the mood to actually do any work today.

"Hey, Boss! Didn't expect to see you two so soon today." Kono's exclamation brings Chin out of his office.

"Yeah. What're you doing here? Really thought you'd take the day."

"We, uh, we have something important to tell you," Danny says, running the fingers of one hand through his hair and leaning back against the smart table. Chin and Kono share a look and I can tell they think we're going to say that we've decided to not be a couple any longer.

"It's not what you're thinking," I hasten to reassure them. "We're still very much together." I walk over to lean against the table next to Danny, pressing my shoulder to his.

"O-kay," Kono says, once again sharing a look with Chin. "So what's got the two of you looking like someone just ran over your puppy?"

Danny leans into my shoulder, giving me the strength to open my mouth and say the words I never thought I'd ever say again. "I'm being deployed. I have to report to Camp Pendleton in two weeks."

Kono's gasp is drowned out by Chin's "What!?"

I nod my head. "I got the letter yesterday."

"Oh, Boss!" Kono throws herself into my arms, squeezing me tight. I endure her hug until Chin manages to peel her off. "How can they do this?"

I shrug one shoulder. "My guess would be that the mission requires my particular skill set or it has something to do with one of my old missions."

"But-" Kono starts to protest but Chin's hand on her arm, and him shaking his head, have her frowning at me, her lower lip trembling.

"Babe?" Danny bumps my shoulder to get my attention. "I'm gonna…" He points at his office when I give him my attention.

"Yeah, okay." I'm fairly sure I know what he's going to do and know I need to clear his idea with Denning. "I'm going to call the Governor and ask for permission to close the office for the day." Chin and Kono nod their understanding.

With a deep world weary sigh, I step into my office, closing the door behind me, and lower myself into my desk chair before picking up the receiver to my desk phone and hitting the speed dial for the Governor's office. When Jameson was Governor, she insisted my speed dial be routed to her direct line. Luckily for me Denning saw no reason to change that.

"Denning," he answers on the second ring.

"Governor, it's McGarrett."

"What can I do for you, Commander?" His tone is carefully neutral.

"Well, Sir, I'd like to close Five-oh for the day."

"Closing early two days in a row doesn't look good, Commander," he says, a note of censure in his voice.

"I understand, Governor, but today my team just isn't in the right frame of mind for mind-numbing paperwork."

"And why would that be?"

I take a deep breath and try to not imagine how Jameson would have reacted to my news. "Because I'm being deployed, Sir."

"Deployed?"

"Yes, Sir. I received my orders yesterday. I'm to report to Camp Pendleton in two weeks."

He clears his throat and when he speaks I can hear his grudging respect for me and my main career. "Then by all means, Commander. Just be advised that if a priority case comes in, I will be calling you and your team back in."

"Yes, Sir. Very good, Sir. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Do you know how long you'll be gone?"

"No, Sir. It could be anywhere from a few weeks to a year depending on the mission directive."

"Who are you leaving in charge?"

"Detective Williams. He's my partner and Chin already defers to him."

"Very well." We fall into an awkward silence and just as I'm about to break it, he says, "Oh, and by the way, Commander, take care over there and thank you for your service." He hangs up before I can even form a response.

"Was that Denning?" Danny's question startles me a little.

Replacing the receiver, I stand up. "Yeah. He's giving us the rest of the day off. But he warned that if a priority case comes up he will call us back."

"You tell him that's fine?" I just raise one brow and approach where he's standing just inside my office door. "Of course you did." He rolls his eyes.

"You call Rachel?"

"Yeah. She's given me permission to get Grace from school."

"What? Right now? What if she has a test or something?"

"Which is why I called Rachel. I don't really need her permission to get my daughter from school."

What he says makes sense. "Okay. So we take her to lunch and tell her then?"

"Pretty much SOP for the Williams family; giving bad news over a nice meal."

"Despite what I said last night, I don't think she'll take this very well." He nods his agreement and precedes me from my office and back into the bull pen where Chin and Kono are going through files on the computer table. "Chin, Kono, we're closing for the rest of the day. Danny and I need to tell Grace and I figure none of us is in any mood to do mind-numbing busy work."

"Oh, I hadn't even though about how Grace'll take the news." Kono's eyes fill with tears at the thought. "Poor Gracie. She loves you so much, Steve. This is going to be tough for us all, but especially for Grace."

I nod. "Denning said that if anything comes up he'll call us back in."

"I'll keep my phone handy," Chin says, throwing Kono a look that says she had better say something similar.

"I'll check mine after each wave. Promise." She holds one hand up like she's taking an oath. Kono's enthusiasm has me chuckling a little. It's times like this that I'm reminded just how young she really is.

With a pat to each of their shoulders, Danny and I exit the building and get in the Camaro again. The drive to Grace's school is done in silence, something that is extremely rare when my partner and I are in the car together.

"Just follow my lead, okay?" Danny says while we're walking up the steps to the school.

"Was planning on it."

"Good."

Danny seems to know his way around and I follow him to the front office where we're greeted by a grandmotherly type woman standing behind the counter. "Morning, Detective Williams." Either Danny comes here often or this woman makes it a point to know each parent on sight.

"Morning, Mrs. Adams. We need to pull Grace from class for the day, please."

Mrs. Adams' face falls. "Oh, no! Nothing serious, I hope?"

Danny shakes his head. "Nothing as dire as you're thinking, I'm sure." He waves me forward to stand next to him. "My partner just got orders that he's deploying and seeing as how Grace has a special relationship with him I thought it would be best to break the news gently and sooner rather than later."

She turns shrewd eyes on me. "You're Uncle Steve, aren't you?" she asks which tells me that she has a personal relationship with each student and that Grace talks about me. A lot.

I nod, even though I know she knows she's right. "Yes, ma'am."

"They're taking you away from protecting the islands?"

"For a little while, yes, ma'am."

"Someone in Washington needs to have their head examined. We need you here."

"And I'd much rather stay but until I retire, they can recall me at any time."

She rolls her eyes and flops one hand like she's shooing a fly. "Whatever." Turning to the desk behind her, she picks up the receiver for the phone and punches in a number. "Yes, Mrs. Howard, I need for you to give Grace Williams any homework assignments she'll need and send her to the office. Her father is pulling her for the day. Thank you." Replacing the handset in the cradle, she turns back to us. "If you'll just have a seat, she'll be right up."

"Thank you." Danny perches anxiously on the edge of a chair.

I find I can't sit still so I pace the office, looking at the class pictures. I can't help but smile when I locate Grace in three of them.

Before long the quiet is broken by Grace's soft voice. "Danno? What's wrong?"

"Everything's fine, Monkey." Danny gets up and hugs his daughter.

"Then why pull me for the day?" I can tell she hasn't noticed me in the far corner of the office.

"We have something to tell you." I say, making my presence known.

Grace looks from Danny to me and I can see her worry over what we'd need to tell her together warring with her desire to rush into my arms. "Uncle Steve?" Grace is picking up on our tension and I can see tears welling in her eyes.

"It's okay, Baby Girl. Danno and I just want to tell you something important and didn't think it should wait until you got out of school for the day."

"Okay." Despite agreeing, I'm sure she's not convinced that it's nothing to worry about. But she takes Danny's hand and allows him to lead her from the building and buckle her into the backseat of the Camaro. "Does Mommy know?"

"Yeah. I had to tell her first because I wanted to make sure you didn't have a test." Grace nods in understanding and then falls silent.

For the second time today, the car is completely silent as we drive through the city. After a few minutes, Danny begins directing me to the restaurant he wants to go to.

The pretty Hawaiian hostess seats us quickly, it's not quite lunchtime yet so the restaurant is almost empty. She throws an indulgent smile our way, I can tell she thinks that Grace is mine and Danny's and that we're out for a family lunch. And I'm more than inclined to let her.

After we give the waiter our drink orders, as well as ordering an appetizer since Danny and I haven't had anything to eat since lunch yesterday, Grace stacks her arms on top of the table and observes us with a look that's much older than her nine years.

"Okay, you two, out with it. Whatever it is, I can handle it."

It's obvious she thinks we're breaking up. Despite the graveness of the news, I can't help but chuckle softly. This earns me a stern glare that I know for a fact she got from her father. "Sorry, Baby Girl." I swallow my laughter. "Just to put your mind at ease, we are not breaking up."

She visibly relaxes and even releases a relieved breath. "Good. You had me worried."

Danny kicks me under the table and raises his brows when I frown at him. "Fine!" I mutter before turning back to Grace and taking a deep breath. "Grace, I, uh,-" I rub one hand along the back of my neck. "I have to go away for a little while."

Her eyes get huge and her lower lip trembles. "Go where? For how long?"

I place my hand over hers. "I'm being deployed and I have no idea how long I'll be gone."

"Deployed?" Big fat tears hover on her lower lids before falling down her cheeks. "Is this because I lied to that lady?"

"No, Monkey," Danny hastens to reassure her. "While you should be punished for that, it has nothing to do with this."

"Then why?" Her soft wail cuts me to the core. Oh, how I wish I could give her an answer. But I don't have one for myself, much less her and Danny.

"Steve's a soldier, Honey. It's the nature of his job that he'll be sent to fight from time to time."

"But we need him here!"

I have to duck my head so she doesn't see my smile and misinterpret it. "Yes, Hawai'i does need me, but so does the rest of the country. My first allegiance is to the US Navy. You know that word, allegiance?"

She nods. "It means loyalty. Like to family."

"Actually," Danny chimes in. "In this instance and when saying The Pledge, it means loyalty to the United States. Steve has pledged his allegiance to the Navy and the SEALs. They have to come first."

"For now," I say, drawing a startled look from him.

"Really?"

I nod. "I told you, I've been thinking of retirement pretty seriously of late. Only reason I haven't retired yet is I want my twenty first. Better benefits."

"How much longer."

"I joined right from high school; military school'll do that to a person, so another three years, come June."

"Three years." Danny looks away, his brow furrowed and I have to wonder if he's regretting becoming involved with me now. There are people out there who wouldn't be able to handle the uncertainty of being with someone from the military.

"You're going to be in danger?" Grace's question brings her presence back to my attention and reminds me that Danny doesn't have just himself to think about in regards to 'us'.

"Yeah, but I'm very good at my job."

"So you've never been injured?" Damn but she's sharp.

"No, I have been injured but since I haven't been given a medical discharge it's never been that bad." I get up, pick her up and sit down in her chair with her in my lap.

But before I can continue, the waiter returns with our drinks and chips and queso. "Have we decided what we want?" What is it about nurses and wait staff that makes them use the royal 'we'?

"Yeah," Danny says, handing him the menus none of us actually looked at. "We'll have three burgers, medium, with fries."

"Alrighty then. Be back with your food shortly."

"Uncle Steve?" Grace's voice brings my attention back to her.

My heart breaks at the sadness in her pretty brown eyes. I hug her tight, resting my chin on her head. "It'll be fine, Baby Girl. You'll see."

"No, it won't!" she wails, drawing looks from the few occupied tables. "You won't be here!"

Danny and I share a relieved look over her head. I was worried she thought I might die or get seriously injured but she's only going to miss me. "Baby Girl, look at me." I urge her to sit back so I can see her face. I wipe the tears from her cheeks with my thumbs. "I'm one of the best at what I do. And I can guarantee you the men they'll send with me are just as good, if not better. I'll be home before you know it."

"Not the same." Leave it to a child to refuse to see the logic.

"I know, Ku`uipo, but I have to go." We hug a few more minutes while Danny and I have one of our silent conversations. "Hey," I say, gently pushing her back by the shoulders. "We can write and I'll call when I can."

"How can you do that if your location will be classified?" Danny asks.

"The letters will get routed through Pendleton since that's the base I'll be attached to for this. And the calls, well, I don't know the specifics but they have a way to keep them from being traced."

"So you won't be taking your personal sat phone?" I was unaware Danny knew I had one.

"Not for this mission, no."

"Why not, Uncle Steve?"

"Because I have a feeling I'll need to be totally distraction free while in the field."

"I'm gonna miss you." Grace buries her head in my chest and wraps her arms around my waist.

"I know, Gracie. I'm gonna miss you, too." I kiss her hair and find myself doing a repeat of what I did with her father last night: inhaling deeply to try and capture her scent for my memory.

"And Danno, too?"

I chuckle. "And Danno, too." I spy the waiter approaching with our food so I set her back in her chair before resuming my own seat. "Hey." I tap her hand to get her attention. "You know I love you both, right? And I will do my best to come home to you."

She nods. "We love you, too, Uncle Steve."

Lunch is eaten in almost silence. When we do talk it's about nothing of any importance other than the fact that we're making a memory, or sharing one, that we'll all hold tight to during our however long separation.

Due to Rachel having a part-time job while Grace is in school, and because today is all about Grace, we go back to my house and hang out on the beach, building sand castles and swimming in the surf. Eventually Danny makes Grace go inside to do her homework. She grumbles but does as she's told.

Danny and I stay out on the lanai, just being together, both trying to not count the hours until I'm getting on a plane for the mainland.

After about an hour, Grace pokes her head out to ask for some help. We both try but she pushes Danny away, saying, "Uncle Steve knows more geography, Daddy. He's traveled the world."

Danny puts his hands up and backs away, saying, "Fine. Let him help. I'll go cook dinner. Any requests?"

"Food," Grace and I say at the same time.

Danny just rolls his eyes. "Comedians," he mutters and walks into the kitchen to start dinner.

Dinner is just as silent as lunch was and way too soon we're in the Camaro with Grace driving toward Rachel's house.

Rachel has the door open before we've even gotten out of the car. Grace refuses to walk, insisting I carry her. I don't mind. Before this little girl came into my life, I never had much use for children. But now I can't seem to get enough of her.

She wraps her legs around my waist and her arms around my shoulders and buries her face in my neck. She's crying again, I can feel her tears on my skin, and her small choked off sobs wrack her tiny frame. "Gracie, Baby," I murmur against her hair. "You'll make yourself sick."

Her next breath is deeper and hitches a little but the one after that is steadier. While I can still feel her tears falling, she's stopped sobbing.

"Steve," Rachel greets me when I approach the door. "Here, I'll take her." She reaches for Grace but she just tightens her hold.

"It's okay, Rachel. I'd like to put her to bed, if I may?"

"Of course." She ushers me in with one hand and waves it toward the stairs. "You know where her bedroom is." I cross the threshold and head up the stairs.

"Did she have any homework?" Rachel asks Danny.

"Some. Steve helped her with it."

"Don't you think-?"
She starts and I stop just out of sight of the foyer, curious as to what she's trying to ask.

"No, I don't think anything, Rachel." Danny's tone tells me he knows where she's headed with that question and he doesn't like it. "She doesn't spend any more time in his presence than mine."

"Easy, Danny. That wasn't my question."

"Then what were you going to ask?"

"I was going to ask if you thought that
maybe she was becoming too attached."

Danny sputters for a second or two. "You have got to be kidding me! My daughter is not becoming too attached to my boyfriend. Or is this your way of telling me that you lied about not having issues with this."

Rachel sighs. "I didn't lie, Daniel. I am very happy for the two of you and have absolutely no issues with you and Steve being a couple. It's just-" The rest of Rachel's statement is drowned out by Grace's pitiful, "Uncle Steve!" and her tugging on my neck to get me moving.

"Okay, Ku`uipo, okay," I murmur, continuing on my way to her room.

While she changes into her nightgown, I step out into the hall. "All done, Makuakane." Grace steps out into the hall wearing a Disney Princess nightgown and my heart soars at her calling me that again. "Need to brush my teeth now," she says, heading for the bathroom.

I follow and lean against the doorframe, watching. Once again, I feel a pang of longing to have what Danny does: this beautiful little girl as his daughter. If - when - I come back, I'm going to seriously talk to him about us adopting. After we discuss making our relationship as official as possible, that is.

When Grace goes to spit and wash her brush, I stop her. "It hasn't been three minutes yet." She throws me another one of Danny's looks from the corner of her eye but continues to brush her teeth. "You want healthy teeth, don't you?" She rolls her eyes but nods her head. "Thought so. It's not so bad, is it?" She shrugs then spits and looks at me before rinsing her brush. "Go ahead."

After she finishes brushing her teeth she turns to look at me with her brows raised. It takes a minute but I finally realize she needs to use the toilet so I grin sheepishly and close the door, walking back toward the stairs to give her a bit more privacy. I'm hoping Danny and Rachel are still talking in the foyer but when I get within hearing distance I can't hear anything. A quick peek around the corner shows that they've left the area, probably took their conversation to another room so that Grace won't accidentally overhear.

"Uncle Steve?" Grace's voice from behind me startles me and only my training keeps me from jumping.

"Ready for me to tuck you in?" She nods and takes my hand for the walk back to her room.

Grace's room is the stereotypical nine year-old girl's room: pink walls, frilly canopy bed with Disney Princess sheets and dolls everywhere. I should feel awkward surrounded by all this girly stuff but I don't. Maybe it's because I want so very much to be the father of a little girl just like her or maybe it's because it reminds me of when Mary and I had a better relationship than we do now and would play tea party in her room.

Grace climbs under the covers on her bed and I pull them up to her chin. Smoothing the hair off her forehead, I kiss her there. "Want me to read you a bedtime story?"

She shakes her head. "No, make one up."

"Make one up?" She nods, mischief shinning in her eyes. "Does Danno make up stories for you?"

"Yeah. What did you think I meant when I said he talks about you back when we first met?"

"Oh? He makes up stories about me?" I point at my chest. She giggles and nods her head again. "Okay. Move over a little." I push on her shoulder a bit to get her to scoot over enough for me to lie on the bed next to her on my side, facing her.

"Okay, let's see…" I rub my chin, thinking of what I can make a story out of. Suddenly I know just what to say. "Once upon a time, there was a princess named Princess Grace-"

"Uncle Steve!" she interrupts me with a giggle.

"What? You asked for a story, I'm giving you a story." She shakes her head and bites her lip to show that she wants me to continue. "Now, where was I?" I tap my chin with a finger. "Oh, yes!" I snap my fingers. "Once upon a time there was a princess named Princess Grace. Princess Grace was the prettiest princess in all the land." Grace chokes on her laughter. "If you don't want to hear my story…" I say, starting to sit up.

"No!" She grabs my arm and tugs me back into place. "Please continue."

"Princess Grace was much loved by everyone, especially her mother, the Queen, and her father, King Danno. Now, there came a time when the King and Queen decided they couldn't live together any longer and the Queen took Princess Grace and moved to the other side of the kingdom. King Danno couldn't stand to be apart from his Princess so he moved as well.

"Shortly after King Danno moved, he hired a new bodyguard from the neighboring kingdom. This bodyguard was a former soldier in his kingdom which is why King Danno hired him; he knew he would be well protected. And that when Princess Grace was with them he didn't have to worry so much about her safety because his bodyguard promised that he'd protect her with his life." Grace's eyes fill with tears and I can tell she knows where I'm headed with this story but she doesn't say anything, just snuggles closer.

"After a while, Princess Grace fell in love with the bodyguard, and he with her. But it wasn't a romantic love; it was that of a father and daughter. In fact, Princess Grace began calling him 'father' in his native language, when they were alone of course so as to not hurt King Danno's feelings.

"There came a time when the bodyguard was called back to his native land. His former king needed him and since he stilled owed him his allegiance, he had to go. Princess Grace was very sad, King Danno and his bodyguard had just started acting on feelings they had for one another and now King Danno would be alone again.

"The old soldier promised Princess Grace that he would return but she still didn't want him to go. 'Who will protect my Danno?' she asked. 'Who will love him? And make him happy?' The old soldier told her he would be back, that he loved them both more than life and they were everything he could ever have hoped for in this life. He reminded her that he had made a promise to his old king and that he's not a man who goes back on his word.

"Eventually the day came that he had to leave. Princess Grace cried and held on to his hand until they got to the border between her kingdom and his. They hugged, he kissed King Danno, and then he rode over the border to be greeted by some of his former friends who were still in the king's service.

"Princess Grace cried everyday for her Danno's bodyguard, she prayed and prayed that he'd return safe and sound.

"Months went by and even though everyone around her, even King Danno, was beginning to give up hope of his return, she never did. She believed deep in her heart that he would return.

"And then he did return. And there was much celebrating in the kingdom. For not only was he returned safe and sound but the laws had been changed and the old soldier and King Danno could now marry. And they did. And everyone lived happily ever after."

"Oh, Makuakane!" Grace cries, throwing her arms around my neck. "That was the most perfect story, ever."

"So glad you liked it." I rub her back and close my eyes, fighting my own tears.

"Hey, now," Danny says as he walks into the room. "Steven, why is my daughter crying?"

"Because he just told me the loveliest story ever!" Grace tells him, sniffling and wiping her nose on her hand.

"I see," Danny says, but I can tell he doesn't really. "Did you brush your teeth?"

Grace nods. "Yes, Sir. Uncle Steve even counted for me."

"Counted?" Danny frowns at me.

"Made sure she brushed them for three minutes."

"Of course. Must have healthy teeth." Danny approaches the bed and I get up so he can sit next to Grace. "Your mom has said you can come over as often as you want between now and when Steve has to leave. So I was thinking we'd pick you up every day after school, our schedules permitting of course, have dinner, do homework and then back here for bed. Except for the weekends. Those we'll spend at Steve's. How's that sound?" She nods, tears falling silently down her cheeks again. "Oh, Monkey." Danny gathers her against his chest and I can't stand to watch any longer so I step out into the hall.

Leaning back against the wall, I close my eyes and will myself to not cry until I'm alone. I have to be strong for everyone around me.

"Steve?" Rachel's voice pulls me from my thoughts.

"Rachel." Her name comes out a bit sharper than I intend.

"You heard."

"Didn't mean to. But when it comes to Grace-"

"Yes, when it comes to my daughter, I will do what I think best to protect her from heartache."

"And yet you're allowing her to spend even more time in my presence; to become even more attached."

She ducks her head. "That was Danny's idea. He told me that she loves you like a father." She raises her head and the look in her eyes gives me a chill. "She doesn't love my husband as much as she loves you. Why is that?"

I shrug. "Maybe because I'm not trying to replace one of her parents?"

Rachel's eyes narrow on my face. "How dare you? You have no idea what goes on between them."

"No I don't but I do talk to Grace and if a nine year-old can tell that an adult is trying too hard, then they're trying too hard. She doesn't need another father; she has one that she loves very much. If Stan would step back and just try being her friend, instead of her father, then maybe she'd like him more."

"He's trying his best."

"No, Rachel, he's trying to replace Danny. And that's not right. You have to see that. You have to see that trying to keep Grace from the people she loves will just break her in the end."

Rachel tips her head back and appears to be thinking about what I said. "I never realized just how much you love them."

"Neither did I until I saw those words on a piece of paper."

"Is it difficult, leaving loved ones behind?"

I shrug. "Never done it before. I had virtually no relationship with my father and sister when I was deployed for the first time. And it hadn't improved any with any of the other deployments. So this is all new to me." I swallow thickly and drop my gaze to the floor. "I had been hoping I wouldn't be recalled. We're not as actively at war as we once were; we're not sending new troops over there just ones that have been before as back up, so I didn't think this would happen."

"As a SEAL, were you included in the active fighting? I mean what we see in the news? With the regular troops?"

"No. SEALs tend to do specialized missions."

She nods her understanding but before she can say anything, Danny comes out of Grace's room. "She wants to tell you good-night, Steve."

I step back in and share a few more hugs and kisses with Grace before leaving Rachel's house.

"So, where to?" I ask, pulling the Camaro out of Rachel's driveway.

"Your place is closer."

"My place it is, then." I turn the car in the direction of my house.

Danny stares out the window the whole drive, not saying anything. If this was a normal day, I'd be worried about his silence but given what's going to happen in two weeks, I don't find it troubling at all.

We spend the rest of the night lying in each other's arms, trading kisses and building up memories for the long lonely nights to come.

The following two weeks are beyond hectic with a case that came up the very next day and didn't get wrapped up until the day before I was scheduled to leave. Due to that I end up forgetting to update Mary's information in my file as well as my will stating Danny as my beneficiary. All our free time is spent with each other and Grace. I do my best to make sure Grace is happy and not crying; would much rather remember her happy, smiling and laughing.

The day before I'm scheduled to leave for Pendleton, there's a going away party for me at headquarters. Everyone is in attendance, minus Mary. Grace spends most of the party in my lap, sniffling into my collar.

"I'll be back." I rub her back soothingly.

"You sure?"

"Yes, Keiki."

"I don't want you to go."

"I don't want to go but I have to."

"I miss you." She turns her head and rubs her nose against my chest.

"I miss you, too."

"Grace?" Rachel enters the conference room. "It's time to go, Sweetheart."

Grace sighs and slides off my lap. "Okay, Mommy." She gives me one more tight hug. "Love you, Uncle Steve."

"Love you, Baby Girl." I don't want to let her go but know I must. With one hand on Grace's shoulder, I stand up and lead her to where Rachel's standing.

"Grace, would you go wait for me by the door?" Rachel points out the conference room window toward the front door. Grace nods, turns and tugs on my sleeve to get me to bend down so she can kiss my cheek before slowly walking out of the room. "Steve…" Rachel wrings her hands.

"Rachel." I refuse to make this easy for her. I may not be a parent but I can see where she's coming from.

She sighs and I can tell she knows I'm still angry about the conversation I overheard between her and Danny two weeks ago. "Look, Steve, you have to understand-"

I don't let her finish. "Oh, but I do, Rachel. But it doesn't seem that you understand. Grace is like a daughter to me. Until her and Danny came into my life I thought I'd be alone for the rest of my life."

"I do understand, Steve. And I'm glad she has you. I just think she's become too attached."

"Too attached? I love her father and am planning on spending the rest of my life with him. Seems to me she should become attached since I'll practically be her step-father."

"But you're just a-" She stops talking so quickly I'm afraid I might get whiplash.

"Tell me you didn't just almost call me a temporary fixture in her life." I'm starting to get pissed.

"Steve-" She starts again.

I hold up one hand. "Don't even."

"You have no idea-!"

"I think I do. So we're just going to agree to disagree on this because you're never going to see this from my side and I refuse to see it from yours. Especially if it means I don't get to be around Grace."

"I'm just trying to protect my daughter."

"I get that, I really do. But you can't tell her who to love and the more you try to keep her from those she loves, the more she'll come to resent you."

Before she can respond, Danny pokes his head in. "Everything okay in here?"

"Yeah, everything's fine, right Rachel?"

She stares at me for a second before nodding. "Yes, everything's fine." She turns and walks from the room, pausing in front of Danny before stepping around him and out the door.

I watch through the window as she walks across the bullpen and out the main door with Grace and try to not feel like I'll never see that little girl again.

"Babe?" Danny approaches where I'm still standing near my spot at the conference table.

"Everything's fine, Danny."

"Why don't I believe you?"

I shrug, reaching out to pull him closer as I sit back down in my chair. "Rachel's just trying to protect Grace, is all."

"Well, she needs to stop trying to push us away to do it."

"Hm, yeah." I wrap one hand around the back of his head, pulling him into a deep kiss.

The kiss quickly turns pornographic, per usual, and Danny wiggles as close as he can on my lap in the chair. We both forget just where we are until Chin's clearing his throat pulls us apart. "You two do know that everyone can see you, right?"

Danny gets up from my lap a bit unsteadily and walks from the room in a daze and I can't help feeling rather proud of myself for being able to break him apart so thoroughly. Deciding I want to mark the occasion of our first kiss in the office, I pull out my knife and carve a half inch gash in the wood at the edge of the table near my chair. I'll know what it means, even if no one else does.

Danny and I spend the night together in the same way as all the previous nights since we found out about my deployment: wrapped around each other talking and kissing. In the morning, I make sure I don't wake him when I get out of bed to get dressed.

Once ready to leave, I approach the bed and press a gentle kiss to his shoulder, knowing it'll wake him. "Wha-?" He opens sleep bleary eyes to stare at me. "You're dressed?"

"Yeah. It's time for me to go."

He frowns, it always takes him a few seconds to catch up before he's had his first cup of coffee. "You don't want me going with you to Hickam?"

"Sorry, Danny. I don't want to remember you standing on the tarmac. I want to remember you like this: all sleep tousled and fucking sexy as hell."

"You can't say things like that right before you're to walk out the door," he grumbles and I can tell that as soon as I'm gone he'll be asleep again. Or sooner judging by how his breathing is starting to even out.

"Hey, D," I whisper.

"'m 'leeping."

"I know. Just want to say, I love you and I'll call when I can after I arrive at Pendleton."

"'kay. Love you, too." And he's gone back to dreamland. I chuckle softly at how easily he falls back to sleep.

A horn sounds outside just as I press a kiss to his stubbled jaw. With one last look at the man sleeping in my bed, I pick up my seabag and exit the house.

Party three

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-05 04:21 am (UTC)
huntress69: Danny (DannoLovesYou)
From: [personal profile] huntress69
I wanna jump in this fic and hug them both to pieces. Looking forward to the next part. And why not Jedi? I gave Sam and Dean of SPN the middle names Weir and Garcia. And I hope the 'J' remains a mystery in canon.

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