Rating: standard // PG13
Length: ~2,770 words
Disclaimer: characters belong to CBS Television; no infringement intended. Title from "Summertime Sadness," by Lana Del Rey.
A/N: Because there isn't enough emo in the world, and I had some issues to work through. Written for the 'radio silence' square on my h50bingo card. Thanks muchly to eumelia for the handholding, support, and beta.
He stares out across the water, the waves crashing to shore in an unchanging pattern, and the clouds obscure the sun, painting the sky as gray as the water.
He doesn't respond to Danny's greeting, but turns his head to meet his eyes.
Danny stops next to him, lays a hand on his shoulder, squeezes briefly. Steve reaches up to feel Danny trap his fingers with his thumb and rub the pad over Steve's skin. The soft assurance has Steve suppressing a small shudder. "Babe," Danny says, no judgement in his tone, the term of endearment simple and present.
Steve looks up, meets Danny's eyes again. He has to clear his throat to speak, and it makes him realise how long he's been sitting here. "Danny."
Danny squeezes his shoulder again, says softly, "I don't mind you being maudlin. I do mind you getting chilled. You okay out here?"
The warmth of Danny's hand is seeping into his shirt, into his skin, and it makes the rest of him cold. He hesitates, moves his fingers under Danny's grasp, feels something else clog up his voice.
"If you don't wanna come inside," Danny says softly, "we can stay out here," and leans over him, his free hand sliding down over Steve's chest.
He has to move at that, gets up so he can lean into that touch, and Danny wraps both arms around him, presses his cheek against Steve's shoulder. "Thank you," Steve manages, voice not entirely as steady as he'd like.
"It's just you and me, babe," Danny says, and he presses a kiss against Steve's shirt.
Steve nods at that. Out here, it's always felt like that. He tries to turn that into words, says, "It's the house."
"Babe?" Danny lets him go, tugs on his shoulder till Steve faces him. "Hey."
Danny's voice is too much to bear, feels like too much, and he looks away. "It's nothing." He forces his voice to hold. "Forget it."
Danny gives him a look, showing his disapproval of Steve's coping tactics without voicing it. He wants to tear himself away from that, from Danny's eyes and Danny's insistence and Danny's unyielding affection. He shakes his head, looks back at Danny, lifts his hand to touch his thumb to Danny's mouth.
"Nothing lasts forever," he says, and watches Danny's eyes widen.
"Okay," Danny replies, and clears his throat, "I changed my mind. I do mind if you're maudlin."
"Yeah." Danny kisses his thumb, slender fingers wrapping around Steve's wrist to hold his hand steady. "Do you hate this place? Even if it's only a little bit?"
Steve breathes out. "Yeah. No. It's a place to live." The blood stains are only imaginary, now. "Mary hated it."
"She's not a stand-in for your feelings, Steve." He blinks at Danny's comment, confused. Danny gestures mindlessly. "Did you hate it growing up?"
Danny is too perceptive; he could learn to hate that alongside the affection and the beautiful depth of his eyes. "Does it matter?"
"We're not practicing for the debate society here, Steve, answer me."
"I didn't get a chance."
Danny frowns. "To answer me?"
"To hate it," Steve clarifies. He steps away, walks down the steps to the beach, and he hears Danny follow, knew that he would.
"I don't need you to do this," Danny says, fingers light against Steve's lower back. "Hey, babe, look at me." Steve turns his head. "I don't need you to do this," Danny repeats, "but you--"
Danny bites his lip, clearly biting down on words. "You live with ghosts. I need you to know that, okay, because I'm not sure you do."
"I didn't choose this, Danny," Steve snaps, abruptly, tears away from the fingers he can still feel against his shirt.
"You're not changing it, either!"
Steve stares at him for a bit, wants to yell and get it out of his system, but it serves no purpose here and now. He takes a deep breath, blows it out, stares at the ocean. "If you don't need me to talk about this, then what are we doing here?"
Danny sucks in air, stays where he is, hands on his hips. "You're making this hard on me."
Steve frowns. "What?"
"This." Danny gestures between them. "Loving someone is give and take, I know I don't have the best track record, but yours is worse."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Steve replies, deliberately obtuse.
Danny narrows his eyes, but lets it pass without comment. "If you don't let me see you, what's the point of me being here, babe?"
Steve folds the ache away, the careful stab under his chest bone. "Why can't we live in the here and now, Danny?"
"Because you're not," Danny says, voice soft and heavy. "Because it breaks my heart to see your face, some days."
Steve turns away at that, thinks about walking into the ocean and swimming and never turning back. The Navy would let him, easily, and this, all of it, would be a distant memory. The ache in his chest throbs, once, and he folds it over again.
"Steve." He ignores Danny, but Danny never lets up. "Steve, fuck, come on."
He looks over his shoulder, meets Danny's eyes. "Which is it, Danny?"
Danny looks almost helpless. "I love you," he says, and there's nothing in his voice but that.
"You love me, but you can't be with me? Try a different track."
"Fuck you," Danny shoots back. "I want to be with you, you know I do, did I ever let you doubt that? I want to be in your life, and if you didn't make it so fucking hard on anyone to get close to you, I'd be fucking everywhere."
"Maybe I don't want you everywhere." He swallows away the pain in his throat at those words.
"Are you trying to make me walk out and never come back?"
He turns fully to Danny, throws his hands out. "I don't know, Danny, I didn't start this conversation!"
"You're a fucking piece of work, Steve, jesus." Danny doesn't turn and walk away, that's what got them here in the first place, and Steve can't decide if he wants Danny to stay or go. "Here's what I think is going on."
He can't help the bitter sarcasm that flows out of him. "Oh, yeah?"
"Yeah," Danny snaps. "I get that you're fucked up. I also get -- no, don't interrupt me -- that you were fucked up long before the Navy got their hands on you. Is that your big dark secret? I don't know, because you never fucking talk to me." He sucks in a breath. "I know we live in a world that seems to think true love is magically knowing what your partner wants, but I've always thought communication was more effective for that sort of shit."
Steve shivers, can't stop it, has to lock his knees to keep from taking a step back.
"You," Danny continues with a stabbing finger, "don't communicate. I can't tell if that's because you're really here for the fucking, or if you don't know how, or if it's because the mere thought of communicating scares you shitless."
He wants to say something, casts around for words and comes up empty.
"I want to trust that you love me." Danny's words hang heavily between them. "I really do, Steve, I thought I did, but you-- you get like this and I don't even know what's inside your head."
He clenches his hands. "I can't tell you."
"You can't hide behind the Navy as a way of life!" Danny yells. "Seriously, Steve, you think I'm buying that bullshit? You think I never take a look around that house--" he gestures at it "--and wonder why you never smile in any of the pictures on the fucking wall?"
He does take a step back, then, can't stop himself, feels the urge to run so strong he nearly does it.
"You think I don't look at your face some mornings and wish you'd just talk to me?"
He opens his mouth without thinking. "Fuck off."
"You think I'm that easy? That I just walk away? Let me tell you a secret, my friend, if that's all it takes I wouldn't fucking be here. Talk to me, damn it."
Steve grits his teeth, tries to speak, tries to stop himself from moving away. "I can't," he says finally, the fight seeping out of his body, and he's backing up, turning around, heading back to the house. He finds his car keys, picks them up without stopping, hears Danny yell behind him, but he doesn't turn back.
He drives east, up into the mountains, away from the city and noise, and after half an hour his phone rings. He ignores it, lets it ring out until voicemail picks up and there's silence again.
It starts up again when he parks high up Tantalus Drive, the city sprawling at his feet as he leaves the car and the ringing of his phone behind.
He imagines Danny yelling into his voicemail, imagines Danny breaking it off right in this very moment. He knows it's not something Danny would ever do.
The distant gray of the ocean, the shining steel of the city, the green of the mountainside. It's been his home and he left it behind, found it again and wants to leave, some days. He leans back, lies down in the grass and stares at the sky.
In the distance, his phone starts up again. He thinks about getting up to answer, but he doesn't.
Sunset sucks the light out of the sky, and the clouds obscure any stars. When he finally gets up, he's stiff with cold and his phone has been silent for an hour.
Five missed calls. One voicemail.
He sits in the car, thinks about listening to it, about not listening to it, about never going home again.
He presses play. "Okay, so here's the deal," Danny's voice is calm, much calmer than Steve thought he'd be, "I could track you and find you or something, but I'm not going to because we're both adults and you clearly need your space, so-- Just let me know you're okay, Steve, all right, because I worry about you."
He dials, listens to the beeps and the rustle as Danny picks up. "Steve?"
"Yeah. I got your message."
"Thanks for calling," Danny says, quiet.
He runs a hand over his face. "Danny, I--"
"Babe," Danny interrupts, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pushed you, I--"
"I need to say this," Steve says, cutting him off. They're both silent for a few seconds.
"Okay," Danny replies hesitantly.
"I love you." He sucks in a deep breath. "That's not something I'd run away from, okay?"
"Okay," Danny says again.
"If I... If I don't talk, it's because I... I never have."
"You don't understand."
"No, I don't." Danny sighs. "I want to, does that help?"
"I guess." Steve squeezes his eyes shut for a second. "Danny, I didn't... growing up, I didn't..." He knocks his fist against the steering wheel in frustration. "You weren't wrong."
"About which bit?"
"Not everything is down to the Navy."
Danny doesn't respond immediately. "Babe," he says softly, and he sounds choked up.
"Are you still at the house?"
"Yeah. Want me to go?"
"No. Stay. I'm coming home."
"I'll be here," Danny says simply.
He parks the car in the drive and gets out, and Danny opens the door, looks at him, and Steve lets himself be pulled close. He wraps his arms around Danny, buries his nose in Danny's hair for a moment, breathes in and out.
"Come on," Danny says, steps away and tugs on his shirt, "I've got food."
It's easy, human, to sit down in the kitchen and eat, and Danny tells a story about Gracie and a stray kitten, smile on his face as his hands sketch out events. When they're done, Danny shoves his plate away and says, "We need to talk, Steve."
He presses his palms into his eyes, but nods. "I know."
Danny tugs one of his hands away. "I don't want to push you into something you don't want."
"But it's something you want. Need."
Danny thinks that over a second, then nods. "Yes."
Steve looks at him. "So that's the choice."
"If you can't give this, I don't want to make you," Danny says. He runs a finger over the back of Steve's hand, absently, like he's not aware he's doing it. "But I guess I'm telling you I need more from you than I'm getting."
For a moment, it's like staring into an abyss, like the abyss stares back, and Steve wants to get up, move away, pace around the kitchen. He forces himself to stillness, forces his legs to stop twitching. Danny's finger stills as if he notices the tension. "I hear you," he says, looks at Danny. "Okay?"
"Okay." Danny quirks a brief smile.
"And I--" He has to look away, stares at the table top. "Danny, I-- I smiled growing up, okay? Maybe not always, but I was happy."
"Okay," Danny says again.
"I mean, I wish my dad had been around more, that he hadn't sent me and Mary away, of course I do, but I get why he did it." He looks up, meets Danny's eyes again. "I'm not fifteen any more."
"I didn't say you were," Danny replies, voice calm. "But I can see the damage it left on you."
Holding Danny's gaze hurts. He tries to speak, but fails.
Danny's hand is on his. "Babe, you still with me?"
Steve nods, bites his lip, shakes his head as his throat closes up. When Danny stands and puts a hand on his shoulder, Steve buries his face against Danny's shirt. He feels Danny card his fingers through his hair.
"I've got you," Danny says, his voice rough. "I'm right here."
"I..." He turns his head to be heard, keeps his cheek pressed against Danny's stomach. "I don't know what to do."
"I know," Danny says above him, "but we'll figure it out."
He wants to drown in Danny's surety, but he can't. "It hurts," he forces out, his voice threatening to break on him.
"Yeah, babe, it does. Keeping it inside hurts more, trust me."
Steve pulls back a little, feels colour spread on his cheeks. "Fuck."
Danny strokes his hand over Steve's hair, and he leans back in, feels the warmth of Danny's skin through his shirt. Danny stays right there with him, until Steve finally pulls away and stands. His body feels like it used to after a mission, stiff and sore. Danny keeps a hand on his shoulder, squeezes gently.
Steve quirks a smile, tries to shake off his embarrassment.
"Come on," Danny says, "it's clearly a night for a mindless action flick and hanging out on the couch." He prods Steve, and Steve twists away, grabs Danny's fingers. "Yeah, all right, whatever, go on." Danny shoves him in the direction of the living room. "I'll throw some popcorn into the microwave and do the dishes."
"You don't have to--"
"No, but I want to. Now shut up before I'm forced to kiss you."
Steve goes, trudges to the living room and turns on the tv. It takes a few channels before he finds something Asian and fitting Danny's description, and he leaves it running as he sags into the pillows.
Danny comes out ten minutes later, two bottles of beer in one hand and a bowl of popcorn balanced in the other. He puts them down on the table before settling on the sofa. "You wanna come over here?"
Steve frowns. "What?"
Danny holds out an arm, and when Steve shifts closer, pulls him up against his chest until Steve is sprawled across the couch. It's remarkably comfortable to rest his head against Danny's chest, to feel the warmth of Danny's hand over his stomach. "You good?"
"Yeah." He glances up at Danny. "Yeah, I'm good."
"Excellent." Danny finds the remote between couch cushions, turns up the volume. When he leans over and retrieves the beer bottles, Steve accepts his and takes a careful sip, keeping half an eye on the screen.
The movie keeps his interest for a bit, but then alcohol and exhaustion combine. He feels Danny tug the bottle from his hand, gives it up unresisting. His eyes slide shut, and the last thing he sees is Danny's indulgent smile.
Sequel: Stars In The Morning Sky