Crisp and smooth, the pale yellow beer slid smoothly from the amber bottle and between Danny Williamsí lips, the act of swallowing causing him to nod in response to Chinís comment regarding the basketball game that was playing on the monitor overhead in the bar.
"Looks like Steveís not going to make it," Chin mused, waving off the bartender when he held up a fresh bottle in a silent question.
Danny looked reflexively at his phone, then shrugged. "If something came up, we would have heard. Guess he decided to stay in."
"Somethingís up with him."
At the tone of Chinís voice, Danny glanced over at him. "You mean something other than normal?"
"I mean I wonder if something happened in Vegas; heís just beenÖ off."
Danny mulled the comment over as he took another drink before admitting to himself that, yes, Steve had seemed off-kilter since his trip to Nevada for Maryís wedding.
"Well, either way Iím off; I donít want to watch you cry when the Nets lose."
"In your dreams," Danny called after Chin before turning his attention back to the game.
"Whoís winning?" Danny glanced over at the question from the man who was now sitting on the stool Chin had vacated, automatically doing the normal Ďcop scaní that was second nature to him. White, dark blond, blue, about six feet and one eighty. No visible scars or tattoos though he did have an easy, disarming smile.
"The Bulls, though not for much longer."
The strangerís smile grew at that. "A Nets fan? Glad to meet someone else with good taste."
"There are a few of us on this island," Danny knocked back the rest of his beer in celebration as a smooth three-pointer pulled his team ahead. "Most of who werenít born here."
"Business or vacation?"
"Transplant," Danny said with a rueful smile, motioning for a fresh pair of beers when he noticed the other Nets fanís bottle was also empty. "Moved out here about a year and a half ago."
"I bet you donít miss the winters and thanks." The other man extended his hand, and, when Danny grasped it, extended the grip just a fraction of a second beyond what most people would. "Iím Linus, Linus Caldwell, and yes, my parents hated me."
Danny chuckled, finally drawing his hand back and reaching for his fresh bottle of beer. "Danny Williams and it could have been worse; they could have named you Schroeder."
"Good point, Iíll have to remember that one," Linus laughed, tilting back his bottle, the move causing Dannyís eyes to be drawn to the line of his neck and the motions of his Adamís apple as he swallowed.
They watched the last quarter of the game, idly chatting about the players and cursing the refs when they made idiot calls and finishing off their beer until the easy flow of conversation was interrupted by Linus digging his phone out of his pocket while Danny turned more of his attention to the after-game show to give the other man some privacy.
"Well, there goes my quiet evening," the words were sighed with annoyance, and Danny nodded in empathy.
"Yeah, I know how that goes; Iím amazed my phone hasnít rung tonight either."
"Last minute meeting to go over our presentation tomorrow." Linus paused, seeming to debate something, then pulled his wallet and a pen out of his pocket, scribbling a series of numbers on the back of a simply lettered business card. "Iím out here until Wednesday, and I really hate eating with people I work with, so if youíve got some free time..."
Danny glanced down at the card, part of his mind recognizing the come-on for what it was and not minding. "It would be inhospitable to let another Nets fan eat alone," he mused before grinning, that same part of his mind kicking into gear at Linusí pleased reaction.
"I was hoping youíd say that." Linus slid off his barstool and flicked his gaze over the length of Dannyís body, causing the back of his neck to heat. "I hope weíll be talking soon."
Being that blatantly cruised was somewhat outside Dannyís scope, but he managed a nod, holding up the business card and tucking it into his wallet. He watched Linus ease through the crowd and almost jumped off his seat when he saw Steve coming toward him, brushing past Linus as he stalked toward the bar, seeming to treat the bar as a hostile environment for some reason.
"So who was that?" The question was asked in a demanding, almost surly tone, and Danny gave him a questioning look.
"A fellow Nets fan and where have you been? Chin took off an hour ago."
"Cat called andĖ"
Danny groaned to himself at that. "Never mind, I donít want to hear the gory details of you two using government equipment and my tax dollars to have phone sex."
"Hey!" Steve actually looked offended by the idea, and his expression morphed into a familiar expression that was just one step away from the one where the vein throbbed in Steveís forehead. "It wasnít like that."
"Fine, Steve, whatever." Suddenly Danny wasnít in the mood for arguing or playing twenty questions. "And itís late, Iím beat, so Iím out of here." He stood as he spoke, digging for his wallet again and tossing a twenty on the bar to pay for the remainder of his tab. The white edge of Linusí card caught his eye as he went to shove the billfold back in his pocket, and he retrieved it, trading his wallet for his phone.
"Night." Steve sounded confused, but for once Danny didnít let that bother him as he dialed the number on the card and waited for the line to connect.
Danny had a date.
Steve sat in his shadowed office, the hum of the air conditioning system the only sound in their headquarters, and turned that particular nugget of information over and over in his mind. Oh, it wasnít as if Danny had said anything to any of them, but he had asked for a couple of hours off, and it wasnít to do anything with Grace. The fact that he wouldnít say what he was doing had led Steve to finally realize that he had a date Ė with the prick from the bar.
Heíd seen them talking, seen the too smooth bastard give Danny his business card, but heíd never, never imagined that Danny would call him. Too late, too fuckingĖ
"Hey." The single word drew him out of his reverie and had him focused on the doorway to his office where Danny lounged, looking relaxed and comfortable in dark jeans and an untucked white button-down shirt.
"What, no hello?" Danny chuckled when Steve just stared until the fact that there was no way that Danny could have grown a mustache and goatee in the four hours that heíd been gone finally registered with him.
"Turk?" he asked warily, his eyebrows going up when the other man grinned and stepped inside the office. "What the hell are you doing here?" The last was asked as he stood and walked around his desk only to find himself pulled in for a hug and a resounding kiss.
"Hello to you too," Turkís eyes were bright with humor, and he released Steve to lean a hip on his desk. "And to answer your question, Iím in town for business, and I wanted to see if you were free for dinner. Tried to call you, but thereís that small problem that you arenít listed."
"It comes with the territory." Hoping it would get his mind to stop whirling, Steve rubbed his forehead before focusing on Turk again. "So, is Linus here as well?"
"He had plans for tonight plus he doesnít like police stations," Turk laughed before crooking a finger at Steve. "Címon, let me buy you dinner for old timesí sake."
"Yeah, yeah, we can do that. I know some good places." Turk showing up on top of Dannyís date had Steve in a mental and emotion mix-master, but he forced himself to grin and bear it; after all, it wasnít Turkís fault that he hadnít followed through on his plans after returning to Honolulu after their night in Vegas.
"How about I pick?" Turk suggested. "I seem to recall you suggesting a few spots last time we met."
"Sure. Tell me where you want to go and Iíll drive."
Turk shook his head at that, a grin quirking his lips and causing his mustache to catch the light, highlighting the golden-brown hairs there. "How about we just meet there, less temptation for either of us that way, right?"
"Yeah, right," Steve answered faintly, nodding when Turk suggested a place then dropped the bomb that he already had reservations for them in an hour and that heíd meet Steve there.
"I swear I must be going insane," Steve muttered once the other man was gone though even as he spoke, he was shutting his computer down and pulling open the drawer where he kept clean shirts so that he could change.
"So what would have you done if I was working tonight?" Steve asked curiously before he forked a bite of his moi and dal into his mouth, enjoying the fishís flavor.
"Wept bitter tears?" Turk offered with a laugh before shrugging. "Iím a big boy, Steve; I think I could have found a way to entertain myself."
"Iím familiar with the way you entertain yourself," Steve said dryly, his tone causing Turk to snicker.
"One-track mind. I meant in a sufficiently wholesome way Ė at least until Linus got back to the room."
"Sorry I underestimated you," Steve laughed, realizing that he was glad Turk had shown up; it gave him something to think about other than what Danny was doing Ė that was until Danny and the guy from the bar walked into the place looking far too cozy for his peace of mind. "What the hell?"
Turkís eyebrows rose, and he glanced back over his shoulder toward the other side of the restaurant where the two men were being seated. "Thatís..."
"Danny, yeah." Steve knew his tone sounded petulant, but he couldnít help himself, just as he couldnít help but feel relieved that the other two men were sitting across the room from them and that Danny was looking at Turkís back, not his face.
"So it didnít work out between you?"
"No, I..." Steve waved one hand vaguely before pinching the bridge of his nose at Turkís incredulous expression.
"You never told him?"
"It just wasnít the right time." The food left on his plate suddenly looked much less appealing, and Steve pushed it away from him with a sigh while Turk continued to stare at him unbelievingly.
"In two months it hasnít been the right time?" He picked up his beer and drained the glass. "Chicken."
"I am not!" The words were out of his mouth before Steve realized how juvenile they sounded. "Besides," he snuck a glance at the other two men, his brow creasing at the way they were leaning toward each over the small table, "itís too late now."
"Christ." Turk rubbed his jaw as he studied Steve, making him feel as if the other man was plotting something very unpleasant for him. "If youíre going to be an idiot about it, be my guest." His phone must have vibrated because he reached for it and glanced at the screen.
"Whoops, Linus is done early; I need to get going." He eyed Steve wryly before shaking his head. "At least Iíll sleep better knowing one of us got laid tonight. Have some dessert; maybe itíll ease the sting."
"What sting?" Steve asked, that damned whirling confusion crashing in again as Turk stood and tossed a bill onto the table before leaning over, smacking him hard on the back of his head and kissing his half-open mouth.
"That sting, chicken." Shaking his head, Turk sauntered out of the restaurant, leaving Steve staring after him. Eventually Steve realized that he was half-standing and dropped back into his chair, aware of the gazes of most of the patrons and resolutely not looking over in the direction of the table Danny was sitting at.
"That looked like it hurt," Linus mused, glancing back at the menu, at least until the fact that Danny hadnít answered registered with him.
"Yeah, it did," Danny said faintly, unable to keep from staring at the table where Steve was sitting watching the short, blond man stride toward the door Ė the short, blond man who had kissed him.
Amazed that the guy wasnít flat on the floor with the imprint of Steveís fist in his face, Danny dragged his attention back to his tablemate, all thoughts of what might happen that evening gone from his mind in light of what he had just witnessed.
"He looks familiar," Linus mused, his eyes narrowing as he studied the man at the other table. "Hey, wasnít he at the bar where we met?"
"His name is Steve; weíre partners." Dannyís tone was resigned, and he looked down at the menu though his appetite had fled along with Steveís date.
"Partners?" Linusí eyes widened almost comically as horror filled his tone. "I didnít Ė I mean I wouldnít Ė You should have said something!"
His over-reaction was almost humorous, and Danny managed to dredge up a smile. "Work partners, notĖ" He saw his hand rising to punctuate the statement and quickly lowered it again. "Not anything else. I never even knew he was anything other than straight."
"Maybe he thinks the same about you." Linus shrugged before examining the menu again. "Either way, it looks like that date didnít go too well."
Thankfully, Danny was saved from answering by the arrival of the waiter.
"Youíre right. Heís an idiot; theyíre both idiots."
"Only if they ignore it after tonight."
"Címon, letís head back to the villa; I have plans."
"You always have plans. Do these involve the two of us and a balcony?"
"Damn right they do."
"If I get shot again, Iím going to kill you."
The parking lot outside of Dannyís apartment complex was as worn and faded as the buildings it fronted, but it did provide cover in the form of the heavy vegetation that surrounded it. The shadows from the palm fronds shifted in the wind, and Steve took half a step back to stay in the darkness, waiting for the familiar sound of Dannyís carís engine, the knot of worry in his gut expanding as the minutes ticked by and he didnít hear it.
He resisted looking at his watch, fearful that only a few minutes would have passed since his last check, then let loose a heartfelt sigh of relief when the silver Camaro pulled into the lot and Danny climbed out Ė alone.
Moving quietly, he walked up behind the other man as Danny unlocked his front door, stopping several feet in back of him so as not to end up being punched in a reflex action. "Danny."
The blond spun, surprise morphing to some unreadable emotion, and Steve closed the distance, stepping into Dannyís personal space and sliding a hand behind his neck so that he could kiss him. Muscles turned taut against him before suddenly relaxing as Steve found himself half-devoured by his partnerís hungry kiss Ė at least until Danny got his hands against his chest and shoved him backwards.
"You ass!" The words probably would have had more impact if they had been shouted, but it was late, and somehow Danny must have realized that having the neighbors peeking out at them wasnít in their best interest because he hissed the words instead of yelling them. "What the fuck is going on here?"
Steve opened his mouth to answer, but Dannyís tirade rolled on, now accompanied by the flurry of hand motions that at one time he had thought were a Jersey thing but now knew was simply part of Danny. Somewhere in the midst of that thought he must have missed a question because Dannyís complexion changed, probably turning redder though under the yellowish security light it looked orange.
"What, your date walks out on you so you show up here?" Danny demanded, barely leaving himself time to breathe in the torrent of words. "Iím not your fucking consolation prize."
The two quiet words seemed to dam the tide of Dannyís wrath, and he stared at Steve, his eyes narrowed into thin slits. "You know?"
"Youíre not the consolation prize, Danny." Steve swallowed hard, hoping the other man would listen to him. "Youíre the prize."
"Do you read freaking Harlequin books in your spare time or something?" Danny snapped, causing Steve to fight the urge to take a step backwards as he fisted a hand in his shirt.
"No, donít answer that, and was thisĖ Why the hell didnít you do that months ago?"
Apparently Danny wasnít too anxious for an answer to that question either because he pulled Steve in for another kiss even as he reached back, opened his apartment door, and dragged Steve inside.
A low-level buzzing dragged Danny from his exhausted sleep, and he flailed around to cause it to stop, his hand encountering a warm body beside him, a fact that drew him further from sleep as he remembered the events of the prior night.
Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to Steveís low-voiced, curt answers to whoever had called him then groaned as he heard Steve say, "Weíre on it."
The bed dipped, and Danny opened his eyes to find Steve leaning over him, his expression more relaxed and open than he could remember seeing it. "Hey."
"Yeah," Steve sighed before stretching. "High profile B&E."
"Youíd think the crooks would be more polite and allow us at least one morning to bask."
"Bask?" The word was sputtered out, and Danny fought laughter himself as he watched Steve strain to keep from snickering.
"Yes, bask. Now whatís going on?"
"Someone stole the Burton Taylor diamond necklace."
Danny stared at him. "The what?"
"The Burton Taylor diamond necklace, apparently it was stolen from the vault of a rented estate last night."
"So someone who was visiting the island brought some hellishly expensive necklace with them, and it got stolen?" Danny groaned and flopped back onto the pillow. "I donít know if I hate the thieves or the idiots who buy expensive toys and donít secure them more."
"Oh, they secured it; someone or someones managed to get through it all."
"Please tell me that we have time for a shower."
"Together or separate?"
Danny chuckled at the question and shook his head. "Separate; if we go in there together, itís going to take even longer, and one of us will end up with a concussion."
"And to prove a good host, Iíll let you get the first go at the hot water."
Steve snorted out a laugh that was muffled when Danny sat up enough to lick a kiss into his mouth before shooing him toward the bathroom.
Less than half an hour later they were dressed and on their way out of the door, Danny handing Steve the keys to his car without being asked, both of them climbing inside just as a jumbo jet passed overhead on its way toward the mainland.
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