Steve stared out the window into lush garden behind the shop. He’d read a placard describing the history of the old building that now sold local arts and crafts, and he felt the loneliness of the place invade his sensibility. The shop had been built in the late 19th Century by a Japanese immigrant who opened a tailor shop, and worked there for a half century after his wife died. Steve pondered that although the world seemed to come to Hawai’i in modern times, before travel was made so easy it must have been a lonely place indeed.
He reflected on how it was almost impossible to feel lonely on O’ahu. Not only because there were over a million people living there, but also because of the closeness of his ohana¸
and now his closeness with Danny. He thought about how it was ironic that Danny should fall in love with him on an island that is among the best for those seeking escape and solitude.
His ruminations were soon broken by the keeper of his affections. Danny looked perplexed, with a trinket in each hand.
“Would Gracie like this hot pink candle in a coconut shell or this carving of a kitty?”
Steve saw that the shop was empty, and the shopkeeper distracted, before catching Danny off guard and pulling him into his arms. “I love you, Danno.”
Danny squeezed his arms quickly around Steve before wriggling from his grasp. “I love you too, you handsy oaf. Now help me decide.” He motioned with the two objects like they were on a balance scale.
“Both.” Steve said.
“Both?” Danny asked, incredulously. “You want me to spoil that girl?”
“One from you, one from me.” Steve said. “Can’t let you spoil her all by yourself.”
Danny smiled in defeat. “All right babe. I’ll go have these wrapped.”
Steve smiled. He knew Danny would have gotten them both anyway.
The sun hung low in the sky as Steve jolted awake to Danny’s hand on his shoulder. He was sprawled in a chaise on the lanai of their suite. Danny was perched at his side, facing him on the chaise, a smile spreading across his face and his hand drawing down Steve’s arm. His hair glinted in the sunlight, seeming even more gold when backlit by the golden sky of the late afternoon sun.
“Hey you. You were out for almost four hours.”
Steve twisted and popped the joints in his back. “I guess paddle boarding the Wailua River this morning was more exhausting than I thought it would be.”
Danny stifled a laugh. “In the entire time I have known you, I have never once known you to take a nap.
Steve shrugged. “You look so sexy in that shirt. So what will we do on our last night on Kaua’i?”
A wave of self-consciousness swept over Danny’s face as he looked down at the purple aloha shirt adorned with large white hibiscus. “I made reservations at Roy’s
. I cannot believe that you talked me into this, and two others at Hilo Hattie
“I’m surprised you could be talked into it.” Steve muttered.
“I think you’ll find you can talk me into a lot of things.” Danny leaned in and kissed him. “All I need is the right motivation.”
“Oh yeah?” Steve grinned, lifting Danny onto his lap. “What else motivates you?”
Danny tousled Steve’s hair. “You’ll have to find that out for yourself. Come on,” he said, getting up.”Take a shower, you still smell like the river. I’ll take your lei out of the fridge if you want to wear it tonight.” Danny breezed back into the room while Steve grunted out of his chair.
Danny was fixing his hair at the mirror and he swatted Steve on the butt as he slipped past him toward the bathroom. Steve was convinced this would be a most enjoyable evening. While he almost never had dessert, he was looking forward to indulging in a chocolate soufflé.
The meal was excellent. Steve had misoyaki glazed butterfish and Danny even tried some, proclaiming it the best fish he’d ever eaten. He’d told Danny when ordering he’d have to order his own chocolate soufflé if he wanted one, because he couldn’t be sure what he’d do if he saw an extra spoon coming at his precious dessert from across the table, even if it was his partner’s.
They’d made a lot of progress on the mechanics of returning to O’ahu as a couple as well. They discussed boundaries and work rules and loads of other mundane items that Danny brought up, out of years of experience working in law enforcement that Steve hadn’t even considered. Danny proved to be a genius at the inner workings of the legal system from an enforcer’s point of view, and Steve was thankful that he had someone with working knowledge on his side.
“The most important thing,” Danny pointed out between bites of soufflé, “is that you can’t protect me, Steve. You can’t tell me an assignment is too dangerous when you wouldn’t have before because you weren’t in love with me then. You can’t shield me from harm, because I’d lose my effectiveness as a cop.”
“Danny, if I was going to do that, I’d have been doing it. I’ve loved you from the beginning.”
Danny beamed and raised both his hands as though he were to pat Steve’s cheeks across the table. “Look at this guy! What a line!”
They left the restaurant with their arms around each other’s waists.
They spend no small amount of time getting back to their room. Steve had a comfortable buzz, and he knew Danny had drunk even more. He felt a semi erection creeping up behind him as Danny wrapped his arms around him while he fiddled open the door of their suite.
“What’s that I feel, babe?” he smirked.
“It’s only because I have to piss like a racehorse.” Danny squirmed past him as he opened the door but Steve wrapped his arms back around his partner as they staggered toward the bed and flopped onto it, knocking Danny’s duffle bag, which he’d begun packing before they left for dinner, onto the floor.
“Gotta pee, do ya, partner?” Steve laughed, as he pinned Danny to the bed. “How about I tickle it out of ya?”
“Stop, stop!” Danny squealed. “You’ll be sleeping in a wet bed if you keep it up! Stop!” He wriggled away from Steve for the second time and darted toward the bathroom.
Steve laughed at himself and slumped back on the bed for a moment while he heard a groan of relief Danny, and a steady stream tickling the porcelain from the bathroom. After a moment he rolled off the bed and picked up Danny’s duffle bag from the floor, noticing two blue boxes from Na Hoku had fallen out. Danny must have picked them up while he was napping.
He opened the first box and couldn’t help but smile his broadest smile when he saw the koa wood slipper pendant
that was similar to the one he had noticed in the window on their first morning on Kaua’i. He knew Gracie would love it, and Danny’s thoughtfulness warmed his insides. Danny sure was taking a long piss, but Steve quickly opened the second box, and nearly pissed himself right there. He was still staring at the three diamonds on the white gold engagement ring
when Danny came out of the bathroom having already shed his shirt and pants. “Oh, shit.” He said, his jaw dropping.
“Oh shit’s right.” Steve said, looking up. He was furious. Danny’s intentions had been made painfully clear, for it was not a man’s ring he was staring at in the box. He tried to focus on Danny but the tears he hadn’t noticed were welling up in his eyes had streaked down his cheeks, but not before more followed and blurred his vision.
“Steve, listen, it’s not what you-“ Danny started.
“You don’t get to say anything!” Steve exploded.
He stood there for a second, fuming, before Danny started again. “You don’t understand…”
“No, I understand.” Steve thundered, his face ashen. “Give Rachel my congratulations.”
He wiped his eyes so he could see a clear path away from Danny, and he bolted for the door, vaguely hearing a desperate plea for him to stay so Danny could explain himself.
Steve ran until he realized he was hyper dehydrated from the alcohol. Thankfully he found himself in front of Sueoka Market in Old Koloa Town. The running hadn’t cleared his head, but it had kept thoughts out of it. He didn’t want to consider Danny’s betrayal, or the fact that he’d obviously just been used for sex – not even sex! What was his game, Steve wondered. If it was just sex, then why all the “I love you” shit on top of it? He felt foolish. Foolish to have entrusted his heart to a man who was clearly not over his ex-wife; foolish to think that any negative outcome wouldn’t affect their working relationship. He bought two large bottles of water, downed one, and clutched the other in his hand as he picked up speed toward the church.
He hopped over the low lava rock wall, and proceeded to the headstone he hadn’t seen in nineteen years.
“Aloha, Mom.” He sat down on the grass.
“I screwed up big time you know. I fell in love with a man who’s not in love with me, but for some reason he likes to act like it. Oh, by the way, I love men sometimes. Maybe all the time, actually. I’m not sure about that yet. I don’t just love
people, you know. I bet you know, actually. Bet you knew I mean. They say parents always know, even if you don’t tell them. I bet Dad knew too. Oh, this is for you.”
He took off the white ginger lei and draped it over the headstone.
“How did you do it with Dad?” he asked. “I know he must not have been that easy, but you stuck it out for all those years.”
Steve thought about how the headstone was mostly just a marker. There hadn’t been much left to bury, but she’d specified she wanted to be lain to rest on Kaua’i. She was his connection to this land, and he felt almost as though the earth ran in his veins, which is why he’d been so keen to bring Danny here. But that was all over now. Danny was clearly just sporting before taking the plunge, again, with the same woman.
“I love him. He doesn’t love me.” Steve tried it on for size. “I love him. He doesn’t love me.” He came to a realization and sighed. “I love him.”Even with this damn mess, I still love that asshole. Even if he ends up married to someone else, I’ll still love him. Damn it, this isn’t how this was supposed to be.
He sat staring at the headstone for a long time, and then got up and turned to leave. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a familiar looking blue Mustang lumbering up Poipu Rd. He ducked behind the lava wall, even though the row of trees in front of the church gave some pretty adequate cover, although he was sure Danny was scanning the countryside for him and not running to the store for the munchies. It touched him that Danny was out looking for him, but it also infuriated him, because he knew Danny wasn’t sober.Whatever. Danny’s a grownup. He’s not going to get a DUI for driving the speed limit in Koloa at midnight on a Thursday night.
Steve hopped the lava rock wall again and ran on toward the Pacific.
Steve wandered for hours, without any specific aim. Unable to face Danny yet, he stayed away from the roads because he was almost sure Danny wouldn’t stop looking until he found him, which confused him. The game was up. What else did he have to explain?
He wandered all the way down to Spouting Horn and back to the rocky beach where he and Danny had spend the previous morning snorkeling. He sat on the rocks, where he’d cuddled with Danny nearly 48 hours previous, wondering if he’d ever do it again. He stared out over the waves, which were becoming harder to discern now that the moon had set. He liked to think that whenever he was here on Kaua’i, by himself on a stretch of rocky shore that the waves that came in while he was here belonged to him. The waves never turned off when he left – they would keep crashing on shore until the end of days, but the brief periods that he was here—those waves would be his forever.
He knew it was foolish, but he was trained in night swimming, and he had the sudden urge to go into the water. The alcohol had worked through his system and he had a bit of a headache, and felt the water would help. He rose and pulled his shirt over his head. He almost stumbled getting his cargo pants and underwear over his slippers, but he knew he had to keep those on if he was going to be stepping into water he couldn’t see the bottom of. He knew he could get arrested for skinny dipping, it was illegal throughout the state, but again, in Poipu in the hours just before dawn he wasn’t terribly worried. He tossed his clothes onto a bush separating the rocky beach from Lawai Beach Rd and waded into the surf.
The surf was gentle yet, he felt a tug of the undertow. The moon was still full, and although it had set it undoubtedly continued to have some effect on the tides. Lights were beginning to blink on at the adjacent condo complex, and the first hints of graying light were finding their way across the Eastern horizon.
He felt defeated, not even wanting to swim, but the water felt good on his body, which ached slightly from the last several hours of cross-country hiking. He floated out across the swells, not quite caring if he floated out to sea.
He was in the middle of the small cove when he vaguely heard the thud of a car door slamming. He sat up and let his legs float down beneath him and he saw Danny stumble through the bushes and down to where the waves were breaking on the shore.
“Steve!” He shouted. “Get back in here before you get arrested for public indecency!”
“No!” he shouted back. “Go away Danno!”
“No!” Danny shouted back. Steve could tell he was grumbling to himself, and panic rose in his chest when he realized Danny was taking off his own clothes.
“Dammit Danny.” He said to himself. “Stop!” He barked. “Danny! It’s not safe! Stay there.”
“Fuck you, McGarrett. I’m coming after you!” Danny shouted back.
Steve began to sprint back to shore, but he was weighted down by his hiking slippers. All he needed was for Danny to step on a sea urchin in the dark and he’d never forgive himself. The panic continued as he watched Danny pad into the water, jerking up a foot having stepped on something sharp, but he continued into the water, and Steve knew he’d have to stop the progression himself.
Danny was in water up to his nipples by the time Steve got to him, and he immediately pulled him to his chest with his arms tight around him. “Pick your feet up!” he ordered, beginning in a shout, but remembering he didn’t need to anymore, ending softly.
“Why?” Danny was confused.
“Danny, this bottom is covered in sea urchins and God knows what else you shouldn’t be stepping on. That’s why I told you to stay on shore.”
“Oh.” Danny said softly. “I thought you just didn’t want to-“
“I don’t.” Steve said.
He looked into Danny’s eyes, which drooped in hurt. He was still furious at his partner, but that did nothing to quell his urge to kiss him. But he wasn’t going to get off that easy.
“I don’t want to hear about how you’re going to marry someone else.” Steve finished, the words burning in his throat.
“Look at this, Steven.” Danny unwrapped his left arm from around Steve and held his hand in front of his face. The engagement ring glinted from where it was loose around his thumb.
“What makes you think I want to look at that?” Steve huffed, averting his eyes.
Danny’s eyes brightened. “I don’t think you looked close enough, Steven.” He smiled.
Steve didn’t look at the ring, but into Danny’s eyes. “What do you mean? That’s a woman’s ring.”
“Like I know how to buy an engagement ring for a man!” Danny protested. “Look at it, Steve. Where’s Rachel going to wear this, around her neck? Look at how big it is.”
Steve looked again. It was on Danny’s thumb
, and it was too big even for it.
Danny was barely audible. “It’s for you, baby. For you.
Steve searched Danny’s face, but the only thing he could see in the man’s eyes was steely resolve, and a silly smile on his face.
“What?” It was all he could manage.
Danny rolled his eyes. “I’d get down on one knee, but I’d drown. Give me your hand.”
Steve complied, feeling Danny’s weight settle onto his legs, which he’d wrapped around Steve’s waist. Danny slipped the ring on Steve’s finger. A fraction tight, but otherwise a good fit. Steve knew little about gemstones, but he reckoned he was wearing about a carat. He didn’t even want to think about how much this would have cost Danny.
“Steve?” Danny whispered.
Steve looked up at Danny.
Danny seemed at a loss for words. “Marry me? I don’t care if it’s not legal, just-“
Steve interrupted him with a kiss. When he broke away, Danny didn’t miss a beat. “Is that a ‘yes’?”
“Yes.” Steve smiled. “Absolutely yes.” He kissed Danny again.
Danny chuckled. “This wasn’t quite how I pictured this happening.”
Steve looked at Danny inquisitively as he began to wade back toward shore with Danny in his arms, while the first rays of sunlight began to illuminate the waves.
“Well, I sort of figured we’d have clothes on.” Danny shook his head.
“Well, I suppose it’s the end, not the means, right Danno?” Steve joked.
“Could I have expected anything different from you, Super SEAL?”
Steve shook his head.
“But you have to promise me one thing, Steven.” Danny said as Steve set him down on dry land.
“What’s that?” Steve asked.
“No more jumping to the worst conclusion and running off again, ok? You’ve done it twice to me now. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to chase after you every time, but I’m getting old – give a guy a break!”
Steve laughed. “I’ll do my best, Danno.”
Auntie K. was waiting for them in the jet bridge with a pair of plumeria lei when they disembarked at Honolulu International late Friday night.
“Ho'omaika'i 'ana!” she exclaimed, proffering each of them with a lei, a hug, and a kiss on both cheeks.
“Oh, you heard, eh?”
Auntie K. smiled. “You have quite the fan club waiting for you outside security.”
Steve and Danny exchanged glances.
“E hele kakou!” Auntie said. “We’re holding up traffic!”
They chatted with Auntie a bit about their time on Kaua’i as she escorted them down to baggage claim. Steve held Danny’s hand tightly; the new diamonds on his finger making him feel unnecessarily flashy. The terminal was nearly empty as their flight was one of the last arrivals of the evening, but there was a definite crowd waiting for them at the foot of the escalator down to baggage claim. Jenna, Kono, Chin, Kamekona, the Governor, and several other mutual friends from HPD and the State Government, and even some of Auntie’s coworkers from Hawaiian Airlines who knew Steve were waiting for them, each wearing with a lei and carrying two more.
Steve picked out Kono from the crowd, because she was the first one to spot them, and she squealed, releasing the floodgates of Alohas and hugs and congratulations. Steve managed to slip the bag containing the Bubba Burger to Kono before being covered in flowers.
Steve looked down at Danny, whose face he could barely see over the stack of lei around his neck.
“Does it feel like home now, Danny?” Steve smiled.
“Because you’re here.” Danny shot back. “Forever. Kau a kau.”