Also, I spent two days listening to my entire collection of Springsteen in trying to find the right title for this, only to realize it was a line from Thunder Road. Which I purposefully skipped over because I assumed I knew it well enough not to bother checking it. Yeah, I don't know what's wrong with me either.
Title: Don't Turn Me Home Again
Pairing: Steve/Danny [Danny/Rachel]
Summary: After a rough day of island living, Danny wakes up in New Jersey and learns the hard way to be careful what he wishes for.
Author's Note: A MILLION THANKS to both angelgazing and dremiel, my readers and sounding-boards for this story. YOU HAVE BOTH BEEN INVALUABLE ♥ ♥ ♥
A dream is a bearer of messages to man.
Because Danny's life is a train wreck waiting to happen, the whole thing starts over a corned beef sandwich.
"Mustard," he says, glaring at the guy behind the counter, "is the only acceptable condiment for corned beef. Not relish, not mango-pineapple salsa, not mayo, and definitely not whatever-the-hell-this-is. Mustard and Swiss cheese, how hard is that?"
"I apologize," Steve says behind him. "He's just like this. There's something wrong with him, it can't be helped."
"There is nothing wrong with me," Danny says, "there is something wrong with my sandwich. Which is made from shitty corned beef to begin with, but I was prepared to let that slide, I've come to expect that, a man can make allowances, but this stuff on it--what even is this stuff, you can't expect me to eat this."
"And yet you'll happily eat pretty much everything else on the island, unless it's actually good for you--"
"Hey, hey, back it up, there is no way this could be good for me, this is a fucked up corned beef sandwich--"
"I'm not gonna be insulted by any fucking Haole!" the cook screams, coming out of the back with an AK-47 in his right hand, because he turns out to be a psychotic arms dealer with a culinary passion, who knew? Danny only narrowly avoids getting killed for his love of corned beef, but really, considering the depth of his feelings on the subject, it's basically worth it.
"The #3 is my bestseller!" the perp screams, pinned under Danny's thighs with his hands zip-tied. "People come for miles!"
"Then people don't know what they're talking about," Danny says, digging his knee into the guy's back. "Honestly, that sauce--"
"I'll kill you," the cook growls, "you wait and see, I will come for you--"
"Yeah, there's a good reason for murder," Danny snaps, tightening the zip-tie on his wrists all the same.
Behind him, Steve--who has Danny's favorite tie knotted over the graze wound on his arm, he does these things on purpose--groans and shoves him aside. Four minutes later they've found out that this guy's been dealing weapons in the kitchen because his therapist told him to find a stress reducing hobby, and also that he screams a little when people threaten to break his fingers.
"I wasn't going to actually break them," Steve says eventually, not even wincing as the EMTs bandage the graze wound on his arm. Danny is trying not to look concerned, with limited success. "And, anyway, you got us into a gunfight over a sandwich, so you can't look at me like that."
"Corned beef is sacred," Danny says. "I would fight for it again, I'm just saying."
"What was that thing you said when I first met you," Steve says, "about how you should apologize to people if you get them shot?"
"I got you grazed," Danny points out, "and really it wasn't me, it was the sandwich. But I apologize on its behalf, I'm sure it's very sorry."
And what should happen, from there, is that Steve should bitch about his arm and Danny should bitch about the way he vaulted himself over the counter like it was the fucking Olympics. What should happen from there is that they should fight about Miranda rights and torture being unacceptable and the way Danny is about food, and it starts that way, like it always does. But Steve's crabby about his bullet wound and Danny's crabby because Steve's been shot and things have been tense this week anyway, tense because they're coming up blind on three different cases and because they're still not talking about what they're doing at night when the office is closed.
The short version of a long story is, twenty minutes later Danny's having a fight--a real fight, a knock-down drag out screaming fuck everything fight--with Steve McGarrett in front of the goddamn shave-ice place.
"You know what I just cannot begin to understand," Danny snaps, "is where the hell you get off screaming at me about a teeny tiny bullet graze when I have, to date, suffered two bullet wounds, a concussion, a torn ACL, seven lacerations requiring stitches, more bruises than I can count and an honest to god hair disaster as a direct result of your--"
"Commitment to justice?" Steve asks, dangerous. "Willingness to do whatever it takes to make this island a safer place? Yeah, Danny, I'm a terrible guy, aren't I?"
"Oh, fuck you," Danny spits, "with your sanctimonious Army bullshit--"
"Navy," Steve yells, and really, it takes a lot to make Steve yell like that. Danny almost freezes before he remembers that he is not, has never been, actually fucking intimidated by this asshole, so he holds his ground and glares.
"Whatever you want to call it," he says, "Army, Navy, ninja, whatever the hell you are, I've had it up to here with your--"
"You think I haven't?" Steve demands."You think I'm not sick to death of hearing you go on and on and on about whatever it is this week, whatever I've done or the perp's done or Rachel's done or the whole goddamn world's done to piss you off, like it doesn't get old--"
"Well excuse me that we're not all closed off shut down emotionless SEAL freaks, excuse me that not all of us can hang loose, brah--"
"And it's always that, always, god, Danny, you think I like listening to you trash my home every other day--"
"Well, yeah, of course, I can see how that would bother you because you're always manfully restraining from ripping on Jersey--oh, wait--"
"You don't live there anymore!" Steve snaps, like a slap in the face, sharp and too intense and as fucked up and over the top as he is. "You live here, and if you want to be unhappy about it fine, you do that, you go ahead, but how the hell do you expect me to--"
"I don't expect anything from you, when have I ever said I did, when have you ever even given me the chance to--and anyway how the fuck is it my fault that you are clinically incapable of staying out of my--"
"God, Danny, what the hell do you want from me?"
It comes out half furious and half unsure, like he's honestly asking, like he really doesn't know, and Danny hates him a little for making him feel like such a bastard. But mostly, mostly Danny hates him for asking, hates him because he doesn't know the answer, because there isn't an answer--Danny wants Steve to back the fuck off and close the fuck in, wants Steve to leave him alone and never, ever leave him alone. But there's no way to say that, no way for him to answer that question with Everything, McGarrett, what do you think we're fighting about here, because he's a little bit of a coward, maybe, and not afraid to admit that.
What he says, then, even though he doesn't really mean it--what he says is, "I want off this goddamn island." Steve's face goes cold and blank like it does on his worst days, with the worst criminals, and Danny does mean it suddenly, can't seem to shut himself up. "I want to be back in Jersey with actual goddamn seasons and real pizza and sandwiches that don't get you shot at, I want my kid back, I want to never look at another beach or palm tree or fucking pineapple again, and maybe that's not what you expect, McGarrett, but that's what I want, alright?"
"You know what," Steve says, suddenly calm like burning, calm in a way that itches under Danny's skin, "I'm not doing this with you right now."
He stalks off to the car and Danny's going to let him go until he remembers whose car it is, that it's his fucking car, and runs after him. Steve's already inside, doors locked, when he catches up, and he smirks up at Danny in a way that's a little too self-satisfied to be genuine.
"It's my car," Danny points out. "This is theft, asshole."
Steve actually laughs, sharp and dangerous, reminding Danny of the guy he was those first few weeks after his father died, all rough edges and raw aches. Underneath his stupid, boiling fury he recognizes that this is pointless, that they should just fucking talk about this like the adults they claim to be, but he doesn't care. And anyway it doesn't matter, because cruelty must have been the lesson they taught after torture in the SEALs, if Steve's face is anything to go by.
"What're you gonna do," he says, "arrest me? Go ahead, do it if you're gonna do it, come on. You gonna book me, Danno?"
Danny stares at him, so fucking pissed off he can't even breathe, panic eating at him under the anger, and Steve's grin widens until it looks painful. An expression Danny can't begin to comprehend--disappointment or something like it--flashes briefly in his eyes, and is gone just as fast.
"That's what I thought," he spits, and peels out of the parking lot, leaving Danny behind.
"Trouble in paradise, Haole?"
Danny glances up, a hand over his eyes to shade them from the sun, and groans. It's not enough to be left on the beach by his partner after a gigantic public fight, not enough to have Chin and Kono's cells go directly to voicemail and be forced to call Rachel, oh no. No, his life would never allow him such an easy out, and as such he's faced with Kamekona.
"Could we not?" Danny says. "I'm sure this is really entertaining for you and whatever, but I'm having kind of a bad day, so if you could just--"
"Seems to me like someone's not appreciating what he's got," Kamekona continues, sitting down on the bench next to him. It groans a little under the extra weight and Danny can feel his headache mutating into a full-on migraine, he can feel it in his bones.
"Oh good," he says, "a lecture. I was hoping for one of those, really, thank you so much, I'll just settle in, then. You want me to take notes?"
"He'elele ka moe na ke kanaka," Kamekona says, clapping him on the back. "You should remember that."
That clap on his back hits hard; Danny feels his skin itching there, like the beginning of a bruise is already forming, and sighs.
"That's great, Kamekona," he says, "that's really great. You want to tell me what it means?"
Kamekona shakes his head, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth, because apparently today is national Everyone Is Impossible day.
"Look it up, Haole," he suggests. "Your ride's here."
Danny glances up. Sure enough, there's Rachel behind the wheel of her Cayenne, smirking at him under a pair of designer sunglasses. Danny hopes against hope that she's not going to be ridiculous about this, even though he knows too well it's a pipe dream. He waves goodbye to Kamekona, who is looking oddly self-satisfied, and slides into the passenger seat.
"You could have sent a driver," he points out.
"And you," Rachel says, putting the car in gear, "could have called a cab, or a squad car. Seeing as you didn't, I can only imagine that you wish to talk to me about whatever it is that's got you in such a state."
Danny spends a moment struck dumb by his own stupidity and then groans into his hands. "Okay, well, I'm an idiot--"
"This is news to you?"
"--but I definitely do not want to talk about," he finishes, glaring. "So if you could just…just sit there, okay? Quietly. Until we get to my apartment."
"Mmhmm," Rachel says, doubt heavy in her tone, but she does actually go silent. This is great for all of four seconds, and then Danny, to his own horror, discovers that he wants to talk about it.
"Goddamn it," he growls.
"You know," Rachel says, laughing now, "the thing about being married to someone for ten years is that you do actually get to know them. Come on then, out with it, I haven't got all night."
Danny opens his mouth and shuts it again. Partially it's just because it's bizarre, the desire to talk to Rachel about anything other than Grace, visitation, and their ever-fluctuating hatred for one another. Mostly it's because he doesn't know how to explain "Well, I'm semi-casually sleeping with my partner," without making her run for the custody lawyers.
She sighs like she's she's several steps ahead of him and pulls the car to the side of the road. "Daniel," she says sternly, "I sincerely hope you don't imagine me blind enough to be unaware of your relationship with Commander McGarrett."
Danny can't help himself; he chokes on his own spit.
"What," he says finally, "I mean…I mean…what? How could you possibly--"
"Well, quite aside from the fact that I've actually spent time in your mutual company," she says, like just the way they talk to each other is indication enough, oh god, "our daughter sat me down last week and asked if my feelings would be too terribly hurt if you decided to marry Steve."
"Today is the worst day," Danny tells his hands, burying his face in them again. "The worst day ever."
"Yes, well," Rachel agrees, and puts the car back into gear. "Go on, then, tell me how badly you've cocked this up, I'm sure we can figure something out.
And, god help him, Danny does. He really shouldn't--he really shouldn't--but it's not like he can talk to Kono or Chin about this, not like he can call up his brother in Jersey and hash it all out. This is the kind of thing he'd turn to Steve for, except for how it is about Steve, and as it turns out Rachel is his next best option.
He only means to tell her about the fight, but instead it all spills out, he can't stop talking, never could control his stupid mouth. He tells her how it started, by accident in the aftermath of a bad case, and how it's continued, a barely-kept secret neither of them knows how to discuss. He tells her that he maybe wants more, but doesn't know how to be sure, doesn't know how to ask for it; he tells her about the way Steve looks at him sometimes, across the office or over a rifle sight, like he hates him.
"And now we're having public screaming matches," he finishes, sighing, "so maybe I should just accept that I've permanently screwed myself out of a good thing, right? Because we're not going to be able to work together if we can't--"
"Danny," Rachel interrupts. Her voice is kind, for once, and that if nothing else startles Danny into shutting up. They're sitting in the parking lot outside of his apartment, and Rachel reaches out and puts a hand on his arm, smiles at him.
"Do you know what the hardest part of living with you was?" she asks. "Aside from the dirty socks, obviously, and your temper, and your absolute inability to restrain yourself from talking about your job--"
"Can we skip ahead?" Danny says, wincing. She laughs, light and easy, and he remembers all over again that he doesn't hate her anymore, hasn't in months.
"You have a terrible habit of saying things you don't mean and meaning things you don't say," she says, her tone bordering on gentle. "And your Commander McGarrett doesn't seem to be any more in touch with his emotions than you are, as terrifying as that is. You might consider talking to him, Daniel. Without assuming the worst beforehand."
Danny's not sure what it is--his cop instincts, his natural paranoia, all the time they spent locked in battle--but he looks at her, hard, seeking signs that she's trying to sabotage him somehow. But it's just Rachel, whip-smart and too insightful, the way he remembers her from their best days. It makes something in his chest ache, a sharp pull in requiem of what was between them, and when it fades he's surprised to find he's just grateful.
"Yeah," he says, reaching for the door handle. A muscle in his back twinges; either Kamekona clapped him harder than he thought or he's getting too old to tackle rogue arms dealers over lunch. "Yeah, maybe. Thanks for the ride."
"Anytime," Rachel says, and looks as surprised as he is to realize she means it.
He takes the stairs to his apartment slowly; his back hurts more and more with every step, sharp spikes of pain that creep up the back of his neck, leave him breathless when he gets to the top. He's not sure what's happening as he fumbles for his keys and lets himself in, collapsing onto the couch. It isn't even folded out, and he wants some water, some painkillers, his bed, but all of those things are out of his reach.
He wants to call Steve too, maybe dance around apologizing and yell at him about the car, but he's asleep sitting up before he can finish the thought.
"Gooooooood morning New Jersey! It's a balmy 33 degrees out there, so make sure you bundle up this morning. We'll be playing the Boss after the break. Be sure to stay tuned to 105.5: WDHA, The Rock!"
Danny groans and rolls over, swats at the alarm by dint of muscle memory alone. He's sore all over, aching in places he didn't even remember he had muscles, and something's tugging at the back of his mind. Fuzzily, he remembers the arms dealer, the conversation with Rachel, the fight with Steve, and is already reaching for his phone to call the stupid bastard when his brain catches up to what's he's just heard.
Danny's eyes slam open, and then immediately closed again. He takes a deep breath, wills himself not to scream, and very carefully reopens his left eye, which…
Oh, god. It's his bedroom. In his house. In New Jersey.
"This is a dream," he says out loud, mostly to convince himself it's true. "It's a fucking dream, Danny, breathe."
He pinches himself, closes his eyes again, and reopens them for the third time to the same scene. This is when he begins to panic in earnest.
Next to him, someone shifts, and Danny rolls over in relief to ask Steve what the hell is going on. Obviously he's having some kind of memory issue--head wound, that's probably what's happening, Steve probably forgot to check his six again in the wake of his crazy need to maim and kill, and Danny probably had to cover him and suffer his second Steve-related concussion, and that's why he can't remember what they're doing here. Steve will have an explanation, something about cleaning up the rest of the Salvo family, maybe, or a fucked up attempt at a vacation gone awry, and then Danny can stop having heart palpitations and go back to bed.
Only when he actually focuses on the person next to him, it is Rachel.
It's not the most dignified moment of his life, but Danny shrieks and launches himself out of the bed. "What the fuck?" he demands. "Rachel, oh my god, what happened, why are you here, Stan is going to kill you--Stan is going to kill me and I won't even be able to blame him, what--"
"Well," Rachel says, circles heavy under her eyes and disdain in her tone, "I must admit, this is a new one. Would you care to enlighten me as to who Stan is, or is this some kind of entrapment ploy?"
"What?" Danny cries. He's cold, dancing around on the floor in bare feet and boxers, chilled air slipping in around that window he always said he was going to fix. "Stan is your--what the hell are we--we're supposed to be in--"
"And good morning to you too," Rachel snaps, rolling her eyes. "Since I'm obviously not going to be afforded any more sleep, I'm going to have a shower. If you could abandon whatever game this is and get Grace ready for the bus, I might consider appreciating it."
She grabs her robe from where it's hanging on her side of the bed--Why is the robe here, Danny thinks frantically, why is the bedspread the same, we moved out years ago, what the fuck is going on--and walks into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. He sees a glint of gold on her left hand as she pulls the door shut, which doesn't make any sense; their wedding bands had been gold, but Stan had bought her platinum, just another sign of his unending superiority.
Then Danny looks down at his own hands and sees his wedding ring, battered from ten years of police work and bad blood, and does actually release a whimper of terror.
He's still married. He's still married. Jesus fucking Christ.
Gracie's hair is short.
He knows that's not the most important thing here--fuckfuckfuck where am I says Danny's hindbrain, an unending caterwaul of panic, but he ignores it. His daughter is in front of him, dressed already in a sweater and jeans, nothing like the uniform she has to wear at school on the island, so he can't think about anything else. Anything else is just going to have to wait.
Her hair is cropped close, hanging to just below her ears, limp and loose. He remembers her being five years old and getting gum in it, remembers how they'd had to hack three inches off to get it out--she'd cried and cried, clinging to his shirt, begging the poor girl with the scissors to stay away from her, please. She loves her hair, Gracie does, loves when Rachel French braids it, loves wearing it loose, asks Kono to tie it with ribbons at the office. Gracie's always loved her hair.
He stares at her, agog, a thousand subtle signs screaming wrong in the back of his mind, until she frowns at him and says, "Danno?"
Even her voice is off, too quiet, almost scared. Danny's heart breaks a little just from that.
"Hi, Monkey," he says, crouching low. "You want breakfast?"
She smiles at him, but it's not her normal smile. It's sad, her eyes dark, the way he remembers her being towards the end of that last terrible year, when he and Rachel couldn't keep their problems from spilling out around her. Danny's felt guilty about that for years, about the way she sniffled into her pillow even in sleep and couldn't let go of her rattiest toys, like they offered her a security he, they, couldn't.
He's been so angry for so long, so furious at losing her, so bitterly entrenched in all the things he gave up when Rachel moved her away. He's never thought about what it would have done to her to stay like this, to be surrounded by it constantly--about how much more it could hurt her to have to watch it fall apart and fall apart and fall apart.
"Yeah," Grace says. "Can I have cereal?"
"Can you have cereal," Danny repeats, dazed. Then something kicks in--some basic fatherhood instinct that's ingrained in his bones--and he grins at her with confidence he doesn't feel. He picks her up, throws her over his shoulder just to hear her laugh, and deposits her at the kitchen table.
"Can I have cereal, she asks," he says, rummaging around in the cupboards. The bowls are where they always were and his hands freeze over them, at this unfamiliar familiarity, for half a second. "Like I would ever deny my baby her Cocoa Krispies, c'mon, who do you think I am--"
"Daddy," Grace says, confused, "I can't have those, it's a school day."
"What the hell are you doing?" Rachel says, breezing in from their bedroom. Her hair is up in a towel and there's still water on his face, but she snatches the bowl and the cereal box from him, glaring. "Oh, good, thank you ever so, make me look like the bad guy again--"
"I'm just giving the kid some breakfast!" he protests, stunned.
"You know I don't like her to have this much processed--oh, why do I even bother," Rachel snaps. She slams the bowl down on the counter and pulls a box of Raisin Bran out from behind the toaster. "Of course it doesn't matter what's healthy for her, so long as you're the favorite, right, Danny?"
"No, no, you never do," Rachel says, pouring milk into the bowl and putting it down in front of Grace without pausing in her tirade. "It's always, 'I forgot,' or 'You're being ridiculous,' or 'a little bit of sugar isn't going to kill her,' but so help me, it's always me that has to be the law, even though you know I hate that--"
"Rachel, Jesus, I'm just trying to--"
"You know what, I'm not doing this with you right now," Rachel says, which--Danny isn't even sure what they're doing, except for how he's entirely sure, remembers picking stupider fights for stupider reasons with her before the end. And Steve had just, that's what Steve had…fuck. "Can I trust you not to give her a bloody cookie if I go get dressed?"
"Fine," Danny snaps, unable to control his tone, and Rachel pauses to shoot him a particularly vicious glare before she goes back into the bedroom.
Which leaves Danny in the kitchen with his daughter, gobsmacked, staring at her with mild horror as she quietly eats her cereal.
"Sorry, baby," he says, "your mom and I--"
"It's okay," Gracie says, soft and unsurprised. "I'm used to it."
Grace gets on the bus, Rachel goes to work, and Danny sits down at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. He's--okay. He's in Jersey and he's still married and he's--he's going to have to figure this out. A small, logical voice that he doesn't want to listen to is saying things about amnesia, saying that he's obviously just woken from some kind of dream, but that's impossible. He can't have dreamed up Kono and Chin, can't have invented Rachel's divorce lawyers and Stan and the brutal pain of packing up this house, can't have simply imagined Steve McGarrett and his crazy eyes and chiseled jaw and roundhouse kick--
"Steve," Danny says, frankly shocked it took him this long to realize it. Steve, Steve's been everywhere, Steve will know what to do here--Steve will have something, some option for him. Danny finds his cell in the bedroom, his old one, plugged into the charger. He dials with shaking fingers, the futility of this already registering, and holds the phone to his ear.
"This call cannot be completed as dialed," says a voice, tinny and computerized. "Please hang up and try your call again."
Frantic, Danny tries the number for Five-0 headquarters, tries Chin and Kono's cells. The first two are disconnected, but Kono answers after three rings.
"Kono," Danny says, "oh, Kono, thank god, it's Danny--"
"Danny who?" Kono asks. She sounds exhausted, and Danny remembers that it's four in the morning in Hawaii. He feels bad about that, but not bad enough to shut up.
"Danny Williams," he says, desperate. "Kono, come on, you know me--look, I'm in trouble, okay, I'm back in Jersey and I'm--"
"I'm sorry," Kono says, "but I don't know who the hell this is. I think you've got the wrong Kono, brah."
"No," Danny says, "no, I don't, I really don't, Kono, please, I need you to go down to Five-0 headquarters and check my flight logs, I need you to get Steve--"
"Where?" Kono says. "And who? Seriously, man, I'm trying to sleep here, I'm on shift in an hour and a half, either give me a good reason to--"
"On shift?" Danny cuts in. "We don't--is there a case, Steve's gotta be crazy to be calling you in for, what, a six AM-- "
"I don't know who Steve is!" Kono says. "But I'm a cop, okay, so when I tell you I want you to get off the phone I mean get off the phone."
"For fuck's sake," Kono says, and hangs up on him.
Danny has exactly four seconds to process this before his phone buzzes in his hand. He picks it up without a word, holds it to his ear, and is badly startled when he hears James McNally say "Williams? Where the hell are you?"
"Captain?" Danny breathes.
"No," McNally says, "it's somebody else wondering why you're 20 minutes late to work, yes, of course, Williams, what's wrong with you? Now, either you tell me where you are or you get your ass in here, because--"
"Yeah," Danny says, on his feet already, propelled by instinct and memory more than anything else, "yeah, Captain, sorry, sorry, I'll be there in ten."
"See that you are," McNally growls, sounding mollified, and disconnects.
The drive to the station is as familiar as breathing, which actually makes it weirder--Danny takes the curves too fast, like he's going to be outrun the sense of unease threatening to engulf him. The radio is set to WDHA, but he has to turn it off after five minutes, because hearing Jim Monoghan's well-worn prattle makes him want to throw up. He drives by his mother's house, solid and real like he was never gone, drives by Gracie's school and the public park. His car, the same as ever but two years older, rattles even more than he remembers, and he has to smack the dashboard three times to get the heat working properly.
This isn't my life, he thinks wildly, this isn't my life, this isn't my life, but he parks in his spot and walks into the building anyway.
And, the thing is…the thing is it is his life, to a certain degree. His desk is in the same place it always was, the water cooler hasn't moved an inch, there's still a mostly-empty box of Dunkin' Donuts sitting on the intake counter. Mikey, his partner, greets him like he's never been gone, and McNally gives him shit for being late, and when he throws himself into the case files, desperate for the distraction, the welcome bliss of proper police procedure settles over him like a blanket.
He reaches out, once, while they're in the middle of interrogating a suspect, to put a restraining hand on Mikey's arm. Mikey looks at him like he's grown a second head and Danny realizes that Mikey's not going to punch this guy or hold him out the window or threaten him with ninja moves, because Mikey isn't Steve.
It's a more painful thought than it should be, really. For all he bitches about Steve's refusal to play by the rules, he never thought he'd miss it.
Then there's the thing at the end of the day. Danny's halfway through a report on the interrogation, not seeing any reason being completely fucking unmoored should keep him from being a decent cop, when Mikey taps him on the shoulder.
"Five o'clock, buddy," he says.
"So," Mikey says, slowly, like Danny's a crazy person, "you have to go home."
Danny stares at him; in all his years on the force, he'd never once left the office before six. "And why is that, exactly?"
Mikey throws his hands up in the air. "Really, man, don't do this to me. You can't make a guy pick up your slack for a year and a half and then pull this shit--do you want me to give you the speech you gave me? About saving your marriage for Gracie's sake? It was very heartfelt, I don't know if I'll be able to it justice, what with the waterworks and--"
"I did not cry," Danny snaps, because regardless of his memory gaps, he knows this much is true. "I do not cry ever, there is no circumstance in which I would have cried, what the hell--"
"Yeah, yeah," Mikey says, rolling his eyes. "Talk less and drive more, alright? The last thing I want to hear is you bitching about Rachel tomorrow."
"Not like this'll stop him," the kid at the next desk grumbles. Danny doesn't even know this guy--he's a rookie, too new for Danny to remember--but he slots that detail away for later. If he and Rachel are unhappy enough that he's talking about it to rookies at work…
"Shut up, Camden," Mikey says. It comes out easily enough, with just a hint of that rough protectiveness Danny had come to rely on over the years. Steve, the crazy bastard, would have barked it, and Danny is stunned to realize he misses that too, that he's gotten to the point where things being done the right way is actually unsettling.
He does say his goodbyes, though, less out of familial duty and more because he wants the time in his car to think, and heads out.
He's leaving at five every day. That means that--well, he'd had a fight with Rachel, towards the end, about his work schedule. She'd said he needed to spend less time at the station, he'd said she needed to be less selfish, and they'd screamed about it until Gracie came to the door, eyes wide and terrified, and shut them both up. He'd come home to find Rachel packing a week later.
So maybe he'd taken her seriously, in this…world, reality, whatever it is. Maybe his panic over the whole thing, over losing Rachel and keeping Gracie happy, had broken that way instead. He'd cut back at work to be home more, but it obviously hadn't worked, because the unhappiness in his house this morning was thick and palpable, weighed on him all day.
It's the same when he gets home, that unhappiness, hanging heavy over every second. He sits through a nearly silent dinner, noting the way Rachel glares when he so much as scrapes his fork against his plate too loudly, and helps Gracie through her homework. She has trouble with problems that wouldn't have given her a second's pause in Hawaii, and that more than anything makes his voice catch in his throat.
"Goodnight, baby," he says when he puts her to bed. "Danno loves you, alright?"
"Yeah," she says softly, and for all he never cries, he wants to as he turns off the light.
He spends two weeks like that.
It goes against his every instinct, leaves the detective in him screaming to push harder, to figure this out, but he's not sure what choice he has. This is his life, for better or worse--the fact that he finds himself waking disappointed every morning, feeling wrong in his own home, is something he'll just have to work through. He fights with Rachel nearly constantly, more a reaction to his own unease than to her, though it's easy enough to fall into the pattern of less than friendly bickering.
He sleeps next to her at night and feels terrible about it, feels like they're cheating on people he seems to have invented, and is relieved beyond belief that they still seem to be suffering from the bed-death he recalls. She turns towards him in her sleep sometimes, old habits dying hard, which leaves him waking with her soft and smooth under his hands. It's nothing like waking to Steve's rough wall of muscle, not in the least because Steve's SEAL ass was always up before him, grinning at him from the next pillow. Rachel sleeps on while Danny extracts his hands, smelling faintly of the strawberry shampoo she always liked, and makes noises in her sleep Danny had all but forgotten about.
Some mornings Danny wakes before the alarm, caught by the grainy sunlight filtering through the still-busted window. He brushes Rachel's hair out of her eyes then, looks at her sleep-slack face and remembers loving her like burning, loving her so much it was hard to bear. He doesn't now, tries to but can't, and in some ways it's worse than the raw loss of her was. He knows he should work with her, should at least attempt to recapture that sense of solidity, but he can't eradicate the memories he's not even sure are real. He can't forget her face across from him in the courtroom any more than he can let go of the way he'd rattled around their empty home once she was gone. The fact that it's full again, full of dishes he hasn't seen in years and photos he'd smashed in anger, doesn't really help.
He misses Kono, her reckless kindness and blind enthusiasm, misses Chin's sharp wit and sharper eye. Mostly, though, he misses Steve. It's a constant, piercing ache, hits him when he's not expecting it, winds him out of the blue. He never thought proper police procedure would leave him feeling bereft, but it does now. He never thought he'd wake up panting, in his bed next to his wife, and feel alone.
But this is his life, for better or worse. This is his life and he has to adapt, because he's got a daughter and a job and a marriage, and his memories might be uncooperative but there's no denying that this is real. He swallows his--his grief, that's what it is, he's mourning people he maybe never knew, what does that even mean--and does what he has to do. He's home for dinner and working cases and meeting Mikey for beer. He's going by his mother's house and picking his daughter up from play dates and it's fine, really, it's not what he wants but it's fine, he's not happy but it's fine, and then one morning he's coming back from a coffee run and stops dead in his tracks.
There is a man in front of him, maybe 15 paces ahead, with the edge of a hideous tattoo peeking out from under his sleeve. He's got broad shoulders and close-cropped hair, and Danny knows those swirls of ink, knows that purposeful walk and that stupidly tight ass.
"Steve," he calls, his breath catching in his throat. "Steve!"
He turns, and for a second the buoying relief carries Danny past all the subtle errors in him, all the ways he's off. Then his brain comes online, and Danny stares, agog. It's Steve, alright, but he's too thin, even thinner than he was the first time Danny met him. His muscles stand out in stark relief from the rest of him, and there's a faded scar cutting across his left cheek that's never been there before. He looks leaner and meaner than Danny remembers him, and even his stance is strange--guarded, like he's waiting for fight or flight, like he's on the taut edge of a wire positioned for a fall.
His eyes are hard and furious, not even the edge of a smile around them, and Danny has half a second to think He doesn't know me before he's being slammed into the hood of the nearest car.
"You have four seconds," Steve hisses against his ear, "to tell me how the fuck you know who I am," and it takes all of Danny's self control not to break down and scream in the middle of the street.
Steve, because he is a distrusting paranoid bastard in any reality, actually hauls Danny to the police station with his arm twisted behind his back before he'll believe he's a cop. It's only after McNally starts screaming that Steve lets him go, and even then his eyes are narrowed and his hand is on his gun. Danny is torn between being really fucking irritated and really fucking relieved, although a small part of him--a very small part--had relished the contact so much that it wouldn't have cared if Steve broke his arm.
"So you're a cop," Steve says. "That still doesn't explain how you know who I am."
Danny, figuring he has about four seconds before Steve shoots him, does some quick thinking. Five-0 doesn't exist, he's made enough calls to be sure, which means that Steve never started it. There are a lot of potential reasons for that (Danny's not really on the up about the rules of the time-space continuum, but he's smart enough to know most of them would be beyond him), but the easiest one, the one that seems the most likely, is that Steve hadn't come across a mouthy cop in his garage. No mouthy cop meant no fight over jurisdiction, no fight over jurisdiction meant no call to the governor just to be an asshole, no call to the governor meant no Five-0, the end.
Of course, there are a thousand other ways it could have gone, a thousand other things that could have happened, but Danny's not really in a position to think through them all right now. He swallows hard, takes a calculated risk, and says, "I knew your father."
The effect is so instantaneous that Danny almost feels guilty. Steve's face opens up for a second, shock and curiosity and pain flashing across it before it closes off into blank distrust again.
"Explain," he barks, "now."
"Whoa, whoa, hello," says McNally, waving his hands. "Not sure if you got this while you were trying to break my detective's arm there, but I am actually Captain of this precinct. I'm thinking I'm gonna need an explanation before you get one, alright?"
Steve makes a noise low in his throat, a frustrated half-growl that Danny had previously associated with blowjobs, and pulls an ID out of his pocket. He's got something several shades angrier than Aneurysm Face on--Apocalypse Face, Danny thinks wildly, or maybe No Seriously It's a Real Tsunami This Time Face--as he waves it mockingly in front of McNally's nose.
"Captain Steve McGarrett, U.S. Navy," he snaps. "I'm tracking an international fugitive who was last seen here twelve hours ago, I'm taking over your precinct for the duration."
"You can't do that," says McNally.
"You got promoted," says Danny, before he can help himself, and immediately regrets it. Steve wheels on him again, ignoring McNally entirely, and narrows his eyes so far they're practically slits.
"And how," he says, "do you know that?"
"I knew your father, okay, I said that, don't look at me like that, I'll explain, just, Jesus," Danny says, and yeah, alright, maybe he's babbling a little. It's hard to keep a lid on his thoughts with Steve in front of him like this, angry and strange but still Steve. He wants to reach out and run a thumb along the scar on his cheek--he wants to bury his face in Steve's neck and breathe him in, see if he still smells like sand and surf and Irish Spring.
Instead he holds up both hands, a conciliatory gesture to Steve's control issues, and gestures towards one of the interrogation rooms.
"C'mon," he says, "you can even cuff me, if that'll make you feel better, just--just, lookit, let me tell you about it, okay, and then if you still want to do whatever violent thing you're clearly thinking of doing to me you can go ahead."
Steve stares him down for a second, and everything--McNally's shouting into the phone about jurisdiction, Mikey's "Danny, my man, what's going on," the hushed whispers between the rookies--fades out around them. His eyes are still blue-green, still flecked with brown for all they're devoid of recognition, and Danny's fingers actually itch with the need to touch him.
"Yeah," Steve says finally, "yeah, alright," and lets Danny lead him to the door.
He doesn't tell Steve the truth.
Well, how the fuck could he tell Steve the truth? Suspension of disbelief is all well and good, but Danny somehow doubts that Steve's likely to take "I knew you in another reality" as good enough reason to keep him alive. And that is, upsettingly enough, the obvious goal here--Steve's clearly even more apples short of a basket than he was in Hawaii, is all-too-obviously hanging by a thread. He twitches at little noises as they talk, jerks his eyes toward the door every six seconds, holds himself too taut; Danny hates it, hates him, hates everything as he sits there and lies.
He tells Steve he'd met his father on vacation a few years ago, when he'd blown out a tire on the side of the road. He cobbles together details about the man from Steve's descriptions of him, is able to make it sound convincing because of Steve's trust in him, and that, more than anything, makes him feel like an asshole. Steve listens to him almost greedily, desperate for any news of his dad. Danny keeps it as brief as possible--they'd gotten to talking, Mr. McGarrett had bought him a beer, they'd exchanged numbers and parted ways.
"He said he was working a delicate case," Danny finishes, shrugging. "Said it wouldn't hurt to have a cop on the mainland on his call list. We kept in touch; I was really sorry to hear that he'd passed. When I saw you, I just…I thought I'd express my condolences, you know? That's all."
"But," Steve says slowly, "you knew me on sight. How--"
"He sent pictures," Danny says, hoping against hope that Steve doesn't ask to see them. He should--but doesn't--expect Steve's poker face to crack again, leaving him looking at Danny almost hungrily.
"He did what?" Steve says, and Jesus, who is this guy, his voice almost cracks on it. Danny stares at him for a second, wrestles down the desire to kiss that expression off his face, and can't help but throw him a bone.
"He was so proud of you, man," he says. This Steve obviously needs to hear it--whatever this Steve has been through in the last year, getting closure on the topic of his father clearly hasn't been part of it. "He talked about you all the time, you and your sister. I've never seen a guy so proud of his kids."
"Huh," Steve says. He coughs hard and looks away; the line of his neck stands in sharp relief against his black-shirt. He's pale--or pale for Steve, anyway--and Danny notes that there's another scar there, peeking out near his collarbone.
"Thanks," he says finally. He stands, and his eyes are red around the edges, the way he always looks when they're working a case that gets him in the gut. Danny sticks his hands in his pockets to keep from poking at him, bites his tongue against some kind of distracting joke. "That's--thanks. Sorry about the, you know."
"Don't worry about it, babe," Danny says, quiet. He freezes the second the endearment comes out of his mouth, but this, apparently, is just the same--Steve doesn't even register it, clearly assumes it's just a Jersey speech tic he can ignore.
"Yeah, I'll, uh, I'll let you get back to work," Steve says. He coughs again, and oh, Jesus fucking Christ, Danny'd only meant to make it a little easier on him, not actually break him down in the middle of the Jersey PD interrogation room. He wonders how long it's been since Steve was on the receiving end of any kindness, how long it has to have been since anyone just talked to him, for this kind of reaction to crop up.
"Sure," Danny says. "That's--yeah, I probably should. But let me know if you need help on this…on catching whoever it is you're catching, alright? My guys don't like new people so much, but I'm around if you, uh, need me or anything."
Steve doesn't say anything, just nods curtly in acknowledgement and slips out of the room.
Danny sits at the table, staring down at the wedding ring on his left hand, for a long time before he gets up.
He reads Grace a story that night, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and tries not to notice the way she doesn't laugh when he does funny voices for each of the characters. She's asleep before he's even halfway through, out cold against the pillow, and he presses a kiss against her forehead before he turns out the light.
"Danno loves you," he says, and it echos back at him in the quiet room, mocking him in the darkness.
Rachel's at the kitchen table when he comes out. She's drinking tea from that chipped mug she always loved so much, the mug he threw into the wall in a fit of vindictive rage the night she left him, and wearing one of his t-shirts. It's too big on her; it hangs down over her bare thighs, a sharp contrast to the laptop open in front of her, casting her face in blue-green light.
"Rachel," he says, and when she looks up her eyes are sharp, like she's waiting for a fight. "What're you working on?"
"Why do you ask?" she says, suspicious.
Danny breathes out hard through his nose. "Curiosity?" he suggests. "General interest in your life? You know, the usual."
"An interest in my life," Rachel snaps, "is not exactly the usual," and Danny just can't take it anymore, can't hold it in any longer.
"What happened to us?" he asks. He means it to come out--well, he's not sure how he means it to come out, actually, but he certainly didn't intend for his voice to break on it that way. "I mean, when did we--when did we get like this? We used to be so…god, Rachel. Where did we…when did this happen?"
She sighs, stirring her tea. The spoon clinks against the side of the glass and Danny thinks about Steve saying "I like tea," in her mansion in Hawaii, thinks about the way she smiles at Stan. This isn't his life, this can’t be his life, but he wants her answer anyway. He's wanted to know for years, if he's honest with himself, but it was one of those questions he never got up the courage to ask.
"I don't know," she says finally. When she looks up at him again the anger's bled from her face, and she smiles, a sardonic little curve in the dying light. "I don't know that I ever knew."
He stoops down then, leans across their kitchen table, the grain of the wood itching against his palm. He kisses her as gently as he knows how, parting his lips easily against hers, running his free hand through her hair. It matches up with his memories of her, the ones he hasn't beaten to death in the wake of what's happened between them, but it's off, too. He wants to be kissing thinner lips than these, wants to be swearing and laughing about Miranda rights, wants to be looking up into Steve's smirking face with the sound of the waves at his back.
She's the one who pulls away, in the end. It's been too long and not long enough, and she rests her hand on his cheek, still warm from the teacup. He stares at her, at the creases around her eyes, at the way she's biting her lip to keep it from quivering, and aches from his toes up. He wonders how he could have gone through a whole divorce with this woman, could have watched her pack their things and take their daughter and marry someone else, and missed this. She looks so sad he feels like drowning; she looks so sad he wants to die.
"Rachel," he says, "god, Rachel, I'm so sorry."
"That makes two of us," she whispers. Her accent's clipped, her voice is strained and shot to hell, and Danny wants her to be happy in ways he hasn't since she first started to slip away from him. "But I suppose it's rather late for that now, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Danny says, "yeah, I guess so."
She sighs again, a low, long-suffering sound, and closes her laptop. He takes the teacup from her and puts it in the sink, and she nods at him and slips towards their bedroom.
When she shuts the door, he doesn't try to stop her.
Steve's in his driveway the next morning.
Danny didn't sleep that well, okay, because the couch wasn't exactly comfortable and reminded him far too much of his shitty apartment in Hawaii. He kept jerking awake, relief wild in the back of his throat, and realizing he was still in Jersey.
He'd never expected that to be such a disappointment. He'd never expected that to keep him up at night.
In any case, the point is that he comes out of his house and Steve McGarrett is leaning against his car, grinning in that cock-sure way he does right before he does something really stupid, and Danny more or less trips down the stairs. He's tired, and he's not expecting it, and it's such a shock to his system that his legs just kind of stop working right. He pitches forward and only misses faceplanting because Steve's got a hand on his shoulder, on his waist.
"Alright there, Williams?" he says, pulling back as soon as Danny's balanced. Danny finds himself longing for the handsy mess that is his Steve, but he nods anyway, shakes himself off.
"Yeah," he says, "yeah, I'm fine. What're you doing here?"
"Well," Steve says, "the way I see it, I need a partner. This guy I'm tracking down--Victor Hesse, that's his name--he's good about tapping into a network of people that know the area. My father trusted you, so I figure I might as well, you know?"
"Just to be clear," Danny says, swallowing to keep his voice from catching at the surrealism, "and not that I'm objecting or anything, but I just want to know--do I have a choice in this, or are you railroading me into working with you like I'm your personal property?"
"The latter," Steve says, wild grin still in place. "Now get in the car, we've got things to do this morning."
"You can take the asshole out of Hawaii," Danny mutters to himself, walking around to the passenger side of the car, but he's grinning like a maniac.