Third Times The Charm
Steve could count the number of real
relationships he's had on one hand, and that was not including the
'friends with benefits' he had going with Catherine. He supposed most
would consider it rather sad, but Steve had never been comfortable
opening himself up to the hurt that a romantic entanglement could bring.
Hence the reason he ignored the recent subtle hints Catherine had been
dropping about bringing their friends-with-benefits arrangement into
something more emotional and permanent. She had been fine with it before
the Enterprise had been decommissioned and she had been reassigned, but
now she wanted more than Steve was willing to give. He had learned
better after the second time his heart was broken.
The first one had been Joey Halakaua who had lived next door. They had only been five when they first met, but Joey had been his best friend and the most amazing person ever. Or so he had thought then. They did everything together. They went swimming, they climbed trees, they played soldier, they learned to hunt together, and even spent nights camping under the stars in each others yards. Joey was the first person besides his parents that Steve had ever felt this close to. It didn't matter that they were both boys, or that they were only five. Steve just knew they were meant for each other. They were everything to each other, friend, brother, and in the minds to young to understand, they were perhaps more.
Only by the time they were ten it became apparent that Joey no longer needed Steve, that he no longer wanted to be more than Steve’s friend. Where Steve still thought girls had cooties, Joey thought they had become entrancing. Steve had still been Joey's friend, running around together after school, playing pee-wee football, but during the day at school Steve had begun to notice Joey paying more attention to the girls and to the native Hawaiian kids in their class. He had started to realize in the hidden part of his brain, that he wanted Joey to be more than a friend, more than a brother. And by the time Steve was old enough to realize that girls didn't have cooties, that Joey was still the person he loved most, the person he would rather kiss on the playground, Joey had decided that he didn't want a kid like Steve, a haole, to be his friend. So when Steve had finally gotten up the nerve to kiss Joey when they were 11, Joey had punched him hard enough to blacken his eye and leave Steve with his heart broken for the first time.
The second one had been Katie Nicholson, a haole born and raised on Oahu just like Steve. A girl he thought of as safe to let himself love. Katie wouldn't leave him because he was a haole. Katie wouldn't punch him and call him filthy names because he had kissed a boy. Katie smiled and laughed like the sun was alight inside her, full of warmth that radiated out of her, warming the dark space that lingered in his heart from Joey's betrayal. Katie was probably the single most caring person he had ever met. No one seemed to hate her, even the kids that hated haloes.
He had met her when he was 14 and still edgy over his best friend suddenly deciding he hated Steve for who he was born as. Katie had been in the same school as him since pre-school and had heard all the rumors Joey had spread about Steve trying to rape him, not that any of them had been old enough to understand what that word really meant. She hadn't care, just smiled, offered him a hug and told him to ignore what was being said and everyone else would all tire of it. She had been the first to really know he liked boys and girls equally and didn’t tease or belittle him. She helped him to accept himself and helped him hide the truth until he was ready for it to be more than a rumor.
He took Katie with him to the petroglyphs he father took him to. He taught her to surf so well that it was like making love with the ocean. They spent hours together talking, watching movies and learning the fine art of kissing. She was the first girlfriend he ever had, and at 15 she was the one he lost his virginity to. They had gone with a group of their friends to a campsite out at the park to spend the weekend celebrating two of the kids birthdays. They managed to convince their parents that one of the other kids parents would be there to chaperone them and Steve had taken the opportunity to ask her if she would like to make love to him. So when the others weren’t looking they had snuck out of camp and headed closer to the waterfall Steve knew was nearby, and there they gave themselves to each other.
He would have married her when they were old enough, at least he had thought so then. Only fate had other plans for them both and only three weeks after they lost their virginity to each other Katie was killed by a drunk diver as she walked home from a late drama club meeting.
After that Steve closed himself off from the possibility of a relationship with anyone else. Two broken hearts in such a short time left him feeling unbalanced and cast astray into the ocean. He ignored the flirtations of the other kids at school and focused on football, exceeding any and all expectations anyone had of him playing. And by the time he was 16 his football record had broken all previous records at the school. Only his world feel apart again, reinforcing his belief that trying for any emotional relationship was doomed to fail. At 16 his Mother died and his Father sent him away.
It wouldn’t be until a decade had passed before he open his wall even enough to make a real friend. He was in the Navy at that point and for the first time since his Mother’s death and his Father’s betrayal, he was willing to make a friend. He let Catherine Rollins become a friend and she slowly became the closest thing to a romantic relationship he had had since Katie died. True he wasn’t willing to let her be more than a friend-with-benefits. But it was more than what he had allowed himself in years. At least until he met a loud mouthed Detective from New Jersey.
Steve was already in his thirties by the time he had finally forgiven his Father for making him leave. He was in his thirties when he finally let himself go home. And it was in his home, in the shadow of his Father’s death that fate threw him a curve ball for the first time. He had been comfortable with his life. Comfortable knowing he had someone to relieve his tension with in a sexual manner. He was comfortable with moving from one place to another, hunting down terrorists and gun runners. He was comfortable being a Navy SEAL, hiding away that part of himself that Joey Halakaua had awoken as a child.
But Danny Williams changed that. Danny Williams made him feel. He made Steve feel alive and vibrant in ways that he hadn’t since he was fifteen. He made Steve wasn’t to open up, to share the pain and the fears that festered in his broken soul. He made Steve want to be a better man, a better friend, a better boyfriend. He made Steve want in a way he hadn’t let himself want in years, decades even. Steve wanted him more than he had ever wanted anyone. He wanted Danny to want to be his friend, his partner, his lover. He wanted Danny to respect him, trust him and love him. He wanted to touch Danny and share in the vibrant flare of life and love that just seemed to radiate off the man. He wanted Danny to look at him with those eyes he only shared with Grace. And if that wasn’t bad enough he found that he wanted Danny to want to share Grace with him. To be a part of her life as she grew older. He wanted to be a part of their little family. He wanted them to be his family.
And so, after sharing three years of ups, downs and everything in between…after countless carguments, rants, bullet wounds and rescue missions…after new betrayals and broken hearts, Steve finally accepted that he loved Danny. He begged whatever deity was listening to make the third time the charm. To make Danny want him, need him and love him as desperately as he did Danny.
And so, one day in August, not long before Grace’s 12th birthday, Steve approached his closest friend, the man who was his partner and his brother, and asked him to take a risk on Steve. And for the third time in his life he let himself be vulnerable in front of another person, to share his love with them. He cupped Danny’s face, his eyes begging for understanding, and leaned in to kiss him as he had Joey all those years ago. Only this time there was no black eye, no rumors, no hate filled looks of disgust. This time there was warmth, friendship, acceptance and even love. This time there was a happy ending.