The Actual Words

Title: The Actual Words
Author: Jilly James
Fandom: Hawaii Five-0, NCIS
Characters: Steve McGarrett, Danny Williams, Tony DiNozzo
Pairing: Tony/Steve
Genre: slash
Prompt: Steve McGarrett
Word Count: 2,000
Summary: Steve finally sees his life settling the way he wants it. Save for one vital piece.
Warnings: No beta, off-screen death of minor characters, some violence

– – – –

“Come to Hawaii,” Steve said impulsively, then wished he hadn’t. He’d promised to stop asking this question. Finding opportunities to talk to Tony was difficult enough with the six-hour time difference, and rehashing this subject wasn’t a good use of their infrequent phone calls.

The silence went on for an age, and Steve started to wonder if the error was bigger than he thought. But then Tony sighed and said. “I’ve requested transfer to Pearl, but… it’s not likely. It’s a plum position, and, fundamentally, Vance doesn’t like me.”

Steve rubbed the back of his head, burying his frustration. “Your team has the highest solve rate in the agency. You passed Gibbs’ team, what? Six months ago?”

Nine,” Tony corrected after a beat.

“So why the grudge?” He’d never gotten a clear answer on this and he just didn’t understand how Tony could lead the most successful team at NCIS—even one of the best in the entire alphabet soup—and be so reviled by his boss.

I guess it comes down to a bad first impression, and it’s apparent that there’s literally nothing I can do to change his mind.” There was more to it. Steve could hear it every time Tony’s job came up.

Steve blew out a breath. “Babe… why do you stay?” At the long silence, full of secrets, Steve backpedaled. “Sorry. I just–” He broke off feeling frustrated. “I miss you.”

I miss you, too,” Tony said softly. “And I need to go to bed.” It was after 0100 for Tony, and Steve could hear the fatigue in his voice. “I’ll talk to you soon.” Before Steve could say anything else, there was a click and the line was dead.

He tossed the phone on the footrest and rested his head in his hands. He’d promised he’d stop pressuring Tony about leaving DC, and he’d done it anyway.

A cold drop of water hitting his shoulder made him start and he looked up to find Danny extending a bottle of beer. Steve accepted it and leaned back in the deck chair, looking out at the sunset. Danny took the seat next to him.

“How much did you hear?” he asked after a swallow of beer.

“The last of it.” He could practically feel Danny’s gaze. “You said you weren’t gonna do that.”

Steve winced and took another drink. “I know.”

“What’s going on in that crazy head of yours, Steven?”

Frowning, Steve tried to decide what to say, but with a one-shouldered shrug, he decided to go for the truth. “I’m in love with him, and I’m tired of 5,000 miles of earth and ocean between us.”

“Have you told him that?” Danny prodded. When Steve made a face, Danny snorted. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Question is, McGarrett, why not?”

“I don’t think he’s ready to hear it,” Steve replied honestly.

“You’re an idiot,” Danny remarked idly.

“You would say that.”

“So, tell me… why aren’t you moving to Virginia?”

Steve blinked and looked over at his partner. “What?”

“Why does he have to come to you?”

Scowling, Steve stared back over the ocean. “I’m happy here,” he began, going for honesty no matter how obnoxious it sounded. “But, yeah, I’d give it up for him if his life was great and he couldn’t bear to let it go. But, for fucks’ sake, Danny, he’s miserable there.”

“So, you’ve decided he has less to lose and therefore he should be the one to make the big sacrifice?”

Steve shot Danny a glare. “You make me sound like an asshole.”

“You are an asshole,” Danny agreed affably.

“Are you saying that I should pack it in and move to DC?”

“I’m not saying that. Not even a little bit. And, really, Gracie has way better comprehension skills.”

Steve grabbed a towel off the back of the chair and chucked it at Danny. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that there’s two things you need to know… what would give him incentive to come here, and what’s keeping him there. Tell him you love him. Hell, propose. Do whatever crazy thing you’d do to keep the man you love. You should excel at figuring out crazy.”

Ignoring the last, Steve considered for a few seconds. “And what about what’s keeping him there?”

“Maybe he has something to prove,” Danny said evasively.

Eyes narrowing, Steve watched Danny’s body language and facial tells. “You know something!”

“Maybe.” Danny leaned forward, bracing his arms on his legs. “When you met him, what… eighteen months ago? You were so ridiculously smitten, I worried about your judgment. The team was still gelling and… yeah. Anyway, I called in some favors to find out what his deal was.”

Steve just stared. “You’ve known all along what’s going on with my lover and didn’t say anything?”

Danny raised his eyebrow in a supercilious way that really annoyed Steve. “You didn’t ask. And it’s the worst kept secret in DC, so you could have found out in a heartbeat.”

“I was not going to investigate him,” Steve groused. “But interrogating my partner for the information he clearly already has is something I’m completely comfortable with.” He glared at Danny.

“You don’t scare me, Steven.”

“I should.”

Danny snorted. “I’ll give you the short and ugly of it. You want more, you’ll have to man up and ask your boy toy.”

“Danny,” Steve growled.

His partner waved him off. “Highlights: investigation into a domestic terrorist cell. Tony’s partners deliberately left him without backup, could have gotten him killed.” When Steve started to ask a question, Danny glared at him. “Highlights, Steven. Don’t interrupt. Ultimately, the two agents were disciplined but that was after Director Vance tried to brush the whole thing under the rug; guess one of the agents in question was his buddy’s daughter. DiNozzo escalated it, which, by the way, didn’t help his reputation in some circles.

“Vance apparently told Secretary Davenport that Tony was incompetent, and that had something to do with the procedural breach. Like, what the hell? How that explains leaving your partner exposed in the field I do not know. But Davenport basically told him to prove it, and DiNozzo was given his own team. The whole experiment was monitored by SecNav’s office to make sure Vance wasn’t being underhanded. You met Tony while he was on leave between the clusterfuck and getting his new team.”

Steve’s mouth was hanging open and he was so stunned, he didn’t know how to react. That explained so much about his lover.

“I’m hungry.” Danny got to his feet, but paused by Steve’s chair. “I like Tony, and I get what he’s doing. I might do the same.”

“And what the hell is that?” Steve growled.

“I think he’s making everyone eat their words, and making Vance look like an ass. It’s probably just a bonus that the two agents Vance revered, and was so determined to keep, apparently can’t hack the job without DiNozzo, and literally, no-one will work with them.”

Danny disappeared into the house, but Steve stayed in his chair, watching the waves and thinking.

– – – –

Two weeks later, Steve still wasn’t certain how to talk to Tony about the things he’d learned. They’d only managed three phone calls in that time, and Steve was actually considering moving to DC.

Danny came into the office and shut the door. “You’re moping.”

“I’m not moping. I’m thinking about moving.”

Blinking in surprise, it took Danny a couple of seconds to reply. “You really are the master of missing the point, Steven.”

Steve just raised a brow.

Talk to him.”

“And say what?”

“Just tell him whatever crazy is going on with you! And seriously, what crazy is going on with you?”

Steve rolled his head to the side letting the bones crack. “You know, when I met Tony, I knew it was the real deal, but I could tell he needed time. It wasn’t too long before I was thinking about leaving the Reserves so I didn’t have to keep our relationship secret. Then DADT was repealed, and it was like some glaring sign that I was going to get what I wanted in life. I could have Tony and stay a SEAL. And I, admit, I selfishly wanted Hawaii, too.”

“You idiot,” Danny said mildly. “Just tell him all that. Be honest and see what he says. I could tell from across the room that Tony has more than the usual baggage allotment. So, you need to step up and use actual words.” He got to his feet. “And this is the end of me interfering in your big gay love affair. Get your shit together, get your man, or I’m gonna ask Tony for a job, because he can’t possibly be as neurotic as you.”

Before Steve could tell Danny exactly where he could go, Chin came in, his expression unusually tense. “Steve…” he said haltingly. “There was a bombing.”

Steve immediately got to his feet while securing his sidearm. “Where?”

“The Navy Yard. NCIS Headquarters.”

It felt like Steve’s heart stopped.

Chin and Danny were saying something and Kono was suddenly there, but Steve was grappling for his phone and hitting one of the presets.

“Answer,” he said urgently. “Come on, Tony, answer the phone!” He repeated the litany over and over until he got voicemail, then he redialed.

Danny touched his arm. “Give us the number, Steven.”


“Let us trace his phone.”

They all wound up in front of the plasma while Chin ran Tony’s cell number and Kono somehow got them military satellite images. A blinking dot appeared right over a large field of rubble.

Steve could only stare and hit redial. He wanted to call someone, ask for a favor, anything, but the bombing had barely been thirty minutes ago, and he knew that no one would have any information yet. There were 5,000 miles between them and was literally nothing nothing he could do but wait.

Kono tried to take the phone from his hand, but he held onto the lifeline. “You can’t keep calling, Steve. They need the signal to find him in the event that he’s trapped, and if the phone is ringing constantly, it will drain the battery.”

All he could manage was to stare, but he let the phone slip out of his grasp. He wound up watching the news coverage.

The TV flicked off and he almost came unglued. The images of rescue crews were the only link he had to Tony.

“Steven!” Danny barked. “We need to go. There’s a plane waiting for us, and I’ve got your stuff.”

Steve realized Governor Denning was there, keeping back, but watching closely. When Steve caught his eyes, he nodded. “Go. Take as much time as you need.”

– – – –

The ten-hour flight was torturous. They were on a private plane—he had no idea how that had been arranged—and it allowed for them to get updates on the search and rescue. Tony’s team were in the part of the building most affected by the blast, and while their location had been confirmed, their survival had not.

Steve just stayed focused on getting there. On seeing Tony again. On making everything right.

In the end, Steve was there and helping when they pulled first the team, and then Tony from the rubble. His lover was battered and bloody, but unbelievably alive. Two of his team members hadn’t been so lucky.

And Steve was there when Tony woke after surgery, confused and in pain. He was there when Tony learned his probie and his SFA had died, along with many others that Tony counted as friends.

He waited through the grief and heartache and kept the words simmering inside, until two weeks later, he finally said, “I love you, and I’ll stay here if you want me to. But I have to ask just one more time… Please let me take you home.”

Tony smiled at him and finally said, “Yes.”

– – – –

Author Note:

The Big Short is a short-story challenge on Rough Trade based on thematic or character prompts. The maximum word count for themes is 1k, for characters it’s 2k. They are not beta’d. I re-read them looking for errors but that is all.

Each short story is complete as is. They will not be expanded on, there will be no sequels, they are probably not connected to anything else, and they are not intended to prompt other writers. If you find inspiration in them, that’s lovely, but please write your own thing. My works are not up for adoption.


  1. Heartbreaking beautiful – wonderfully written – thank you so much for sharing

  2. So many emotions after reading this.

  3. Oh, this is so good. I love Danny berating Steve and giving him information he needed. I love Tony rubbing Vance’s nose in his success.

  4. Oh, my heart!!! *wibbles* Thanks for this. 🙂

  5. Great story and I love how Tony got his own team.

  6. Brilliant

  7. So glad I found you via Rough Trade! Love the way you fix Tony and NCIS.

  8. I really loved this. And I can see by Tony making a much bigger success of his new team than his old team he’s not only rubbing it in Vance’s face but also in the face of his old team. Loved how Davenport told Vance to prove Tony was incompetent and had his office monitor things to make sure Vance didn’t do something underhanded. In the end, his little golden boy and his friends daughter were proven to be the incompetent ones.

  9. Beautifully written piece.

    One I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

  10. Damn, that makes me cry every time I read it. Fantastic piece, Jilly. Thanks so much!

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