Chapter 1: Edwards' Residence, Honolulu, O'ahu, Wednesday evening
(art by Galadriel34)
Danny Williams was two seconds from exploding. Really, the top of his head was going to come right off. Sad to say, this was not an uncommon feeling when he was in the same room with his ex-wife.
Rachel, his—dammit, still beautiful—ex-wife shook her lovely, infuriating head. "Daniel, I know that your work is important to you, and if you choose to let it affect your visitation times with your daughter, that is, of course, your decision. But I hardly see why a change in your schedule should affect our vacation plans." Honestly, her tone said, you are being completely unreasonable again.
Danny hated that tone.
He couldn't let this devolve into one of his and Rachel's usual fights. There was too much at stake. Grace's life is at stake here! Hold it together! Danny told himself firmly. (Funny how his internal voice-of-reason sounded like Steve McGarrett, the most unreasonable human being he'd ever met.) Danny paced up and down, trying to calm the jittering nerves dancing under his skin, fueled by too much caffeine, stress, and a healthy dollop of mortal terror.
He ran his hands through his hair and begged, putting every ounce of earnestness he possessed into it. "Rachel, please. Please listen to me, for once in your life. I shouldn't be here. We can't spare the time, but Steve is giving me this chance to talk to you because he knows I'll be more effective if I'm not worrying about Grace's safety. All I'm saying is that right now would be a really wonderful time for the three of you to take a vacation on the mainland. It's not too soon to start looking into colleges for Grace, is it?" He swung his arms, gestures becoming unintentionally dramatic as the emotion spilled out of him. "Yale, right, Stan? Or maybe Harvard? You can afford the tuition, can't you?" He couldn't help the touch of bitterness in his voice as he addressed his ex-wife's new husband. Ol' Stan seemed to be listening to him at least. He was staring at Danny, his eyes dark and wide, completely ignoring the automatic jibe at his megabucks.
"Oh! You are infuriating! Why do you always have to do this? I don't believe you, Daniel! What gives you the right—" Rachel was winding up to ream him a new one.
Dammit, dammit! They didn't have the time for this. He was such an idiot, he couldn't even get Rachel to do this one little thing, and now his baby girl was going to die, and—
"Rachel." Stan's voice was quiet, but it cut across Rachel's incipient diatribe as if he'd thrown a switch. She turned and stared at him. Stan, in turn, was staring with a strange, intense focus at Danny.
"Danny was saying that it's very important, for Grace's sake, that we take a little vacation right now, and I think that might be a very good idea," Stan said, still staring at Danny.
Stan, of all people, got what Danny technically couldn't say in so many words. Who would have ever thought it? Danny didn't care—right now he was so thankful, he could drop to his knees and kiss Stan's overly expensive footwear. He nodded rapidly, making his hands into guns of gratitude and firing them at Stan. "Yes! Yes, thank you. It's very important. Thank you, Stan."
Rachel's forehead was wrinkling. She wasn't stupid by any stretch of the imagination, but the emotional and conversational undercurrents seemed to have caught her for a loop. She'd obviously been ready to travel down the habitual ruts of one of her and Danny's familiar arguments. "But—"
"Danny, when do you think would be a good idea to start our little vacation?" Stan asked, with a note of urgency. Usually he was so courteous and deferential to Rachel; his interruption left her mouth hanging open in evident surprise. "If we're going to be away for any length of time, I have some business affairs with loose ends that should be tied up," Stan said.
Danny swallowed back the first sarcastic thing that came to mind. Stan was obviously taking this seriously. He needed to take Stan's question seriously as well, and not alienate this unexpected ally in getting his Monkey to safety. He paced again, up and down the length of the cavernous living room in Stan's mansion, one hand rubbing the back of his neck, with brow furrowed, and teeth worrying his lower lip. His sense of urgency (he refused to name it gibbering terror—he was a professional) pushed at him.
"Stan, please trust me when I say that, if it's at all possible, tomorrow would be a great time to get on a plane," he said at last. "The first flight you can get, okay? I don't have any way of knowing— Technology is wonderful these days— You can use the phone and the internet to take care of your business stuff, yeah?" He folded his hands into a prayer for his Monkey and held them out to Stan, half-bowing over them. For his baby, he'd beg the guy if he had to.
Stan blinked at him. "Yes. Yes, of course, if you think it's best. You're right, I can do a lot over the phone or e-mail. Any suggestions about where would be a good place for a vacation?" Stan's voice was cautious, his smile forced-looking.
Rachel suddenly looked sick. The pin finally had dropped. "Oh my God, Daniel! What is it? What—"
And then Danny was hugging her, holding her tightly in his arms and rocking her. He couldn't stand to frighten her this way. He had always hated it. "I can't tell you," he whispered fiercely into her ear. "Rachel, I wish I could. Almost as much as I wish I didn't know myself." He squeezed her and held her back at arms length. "Wouldn't it be a great idea for you all to visit your family, Rach?" he said, more heartily than the suggestion warranted. "You can show Grace all the places you liked to play when you were her age, yeah? Your folks would love it!"
"England? That far aw—" Rachel's mouth twisted.
Over Rachel's shoulder, Danny watched Stan's eyes go wide, then saw him swallow and paste on a sickly smile. "That's a wonderful idea! I'd love to see Elaine and Roger again, Rachel darling. And I'm sure Grace would be overjoyed to see her grandparents."
Danny saw in Rachel's face that she didn't miss the implication--whatever it was that he couldn't tell her would be bad enough that fleeing half the world away from Hawai'i would be a good idea. She began to tremble, just barely, in his arms. But her back stayed straight and she kept her chin up. "Yes, of course," she agreed with Stan, voice shaking slightly. "They'll be very pleased to see Grace, even if it's a bit of a surprise—"
That's my Rachel. Danny squeezed her arms briefly before letting go. Rachel was strong. Now that she was on board, Danny knew that she would do anything to keep Grace safe.
"Rachel, please. I'd like a chance to say goodbye to my daughter," Danny said quietly.
"At this hour, we'd have to wake her— But, yes. Yes, of course, Daniel." Rachel took a step away from him. "Why don't you go up to her room and wake her yourself. Take as much time as you need." They looked at each other, the air shimmering with feeling between them.
Danny backed away abruptly, and Rachel moved to stand next to her new husband again. Stan took her hand and they clung to each other. Danny nodded at them, turned, and headed for the door to the entryway, and the stairs to Grace's bedroom.
"Danny," Stan said, behind him. Danny paused at the doorway, his back to them. "Thank you. Thank you for warn—"
"Everything's going to be fine," Danny interrupted, not turning around. "It's just a precaution. Just a nice vacation, right? I'll make sure everything will be fine," he said firmly.
"Of course, Daniel. You always do." Rachel's voice barely wavered.
Danny nodded again, and didn't look back as he headed up the stairs to say goodbye to Grace. And if his eyes were wet, well, nobody could see, right?
Chapter 2: Old Kalapana Road, Pahoa, Hawai'i (The Big Island), earlier that week—Tuesday morning
The tall woman who answered the door had waist-length, wavy dark hair and a Polynesian-looking face. She scowled at Chin Ho Kelly and all the words he'd prepared dried up in his mouth. Reading about her in a dry Chronicle had not prepared him for the raw power of her presence. Despite the cheesy t-shirt she wore ('Volcanologists Do It Hotter'), and the pink-painted toenails on her bare feet, he could well believe that men had once worshipped her. The muscles in his legs trembled with the effort of not going to his knees
"What are you doing here, boy? Are you so new that you haven't learned the rules yet?" she demanded at last. She opened the door wide and stepped back. "Well, don't just stand there on my porch all day. Come inside."
Chin opened the screen door and came in, following her through a tiny entrance hall and into a small kitchen. She turned and faced him with her back to the kitchen table, and Chin tried to slow the racing of his heart. "My name is Chin Ho Kelly. I know who you are, Auntie. And yes, I know your rules. One on one fighting only. But Kucek doesn't believe in your rules. I've come to warn you: he's coming for you."
She speared him with a sharp glance. "I wasn't talking about my rules, youngster. Yours. What about never contacting your Immortal? What about observing and not interfering?"
Chin felt himself flush. "They said you knew about us."
"Of course." She sat down on the kitchen chair behind her with an inelegant thump, and rested her chin on her fist, elbow on the table, contemplating him. "Another keiki kane nani, long ago, loved me so much he forgot all your rules." She waved her other hand at him. "He was almost as pretty as you. Sit down, boy. What is so important that you feel you must forget those rules as well?"
Chin sat and leaned forward, trying to project trustworthiness. "The rules are important. But they're haole rules, Auntie. You're 'ohana, one of ours. You're more important than rules."
Her face lost a watchful tension that Chin hadn't even noticed until it was gone, and she smiled, dimples showing in her cheeks. "Ah, give me a Hawai'ian for loyalty any day. Very well, youngster. Why do you think I'm in danger?" She gestured with a sweep of her hand. "This is Holy Ground. This entire island is Holy Ground, and none of my long-lived clan can call Challenge on me here."
Chin sat back in his seat. "Even Holy Ground doesn't mean you aren't in danger. You are the third Pele, Auntie. The other two lived on Holy Ground, just like you, and now they aren't around anymore."
Abruptly, Pele stood up. "I'm the fifth. Let me get you something to drink; it's a hot day. I've got mango or guava juice, iced tea, or just iced water, if you prefer. Refrigerators are wonderful things!"
"Fifth? Five Peles? But how—"
"Shut your mouth, a fly could get in it. Yes, five Peles. There were two others before Watchers first came here and began to keep records. My clan's legends say the first Immortal to stand in for the goddess Pele came with the first people to land on these islands." She put her hands on her hips. "A shame, isn't it, that you can't put that in your Chronicles, since you're not officially allowed to talk to me. Now, what did you want to drink?"
"The guava juice, please." He collected his wits while Pele bustled around her modest kitchen, fetching glassware from cabinets and a frosted pitcher from the refrigerator. It was fascinating that Pele seemed to know all about the Watchers, and about a lot of other things, all while seldom ever leaving the island of Hawaii. At least she hadn't left it often that the Watchers had been able to observe—not for the nearly 140 years she'd been "Pele." According to her Chronicle, she'd lived in the same small house, sitting mostly isolated out on Old Kalapana Road, for the last 20 years.
Pele thumped a glass down in front of him, and poured the red guava juice with a flourish before filling her own glass. She took her seat again. "Hipahipa. Drink up."
Chin drank the sweet juice, and waited until Pele had sipped from her own glass to speak again. "Auntie, please listen to me. I wouldn't break the Watcher rules to warn you if I didn't think you were in real danger. Hasan Kucek is very old, very powerful, very clever, and has a reputation for not caring about rules very much when there is something he wants."
He gripped his juice glass in both hands and stared earnestly into her eyes. They were a strange hazel color—browns, yellows, and golds all dancing together with flashes of blue and green that showed when she turned her head or the light struck them just so. "We believe he wants you. In recent years, he seems to have gone on a head-hunting spree, making a point of killing Immortals who took the role of gods. He hunts them down, drags them off of Holy Ground if he must, and takes their Quickenings." He looked down and studied the beads of condensation on his glass. "Kucek booked a flight to O'ahu last month. He arrives at Honolulu International late next week." He took another sip of the guava juice.
Chin nearly dropped his glass, and only just in time managed to get it onto the table. He met those dancing eyes again, and saw kindness as well as laughter in them. He sighed. "You know?"
Pele nodded, dimpling again. "Hawai'ian loyalty can be depended on. I got an 'anonymous' e-mail with Kucek's flight details last month, almost as soon as he booked it. Your Watcher colleagues aren't brave enough, or foolish enough, to come out here in person to warn me, but they manage just the same. Speaking of the Watchers—won't they have seen your visit? Won't you get in trouble?"
"It would be pretty hypocritical of them."
Pele just tilted her head and gave him a look of mischief.
Chin sighed again. "Yeah, well, even if they don't have any problems being hypocrites, they can't just take me somewhere and shoot me. I come from a big family; most of us are cops. And I work on the Governor's task force. My boss would turn the islands upside down to find me if I just disappeared."
Understanding lit in those strange eyes. Pele leaned forward slightly and touched Chin's forearm with the tips of her fingers. All the little hairs on his body stood up. It was like being touched by living electricity. Painless, but somehow terrifying. "The Five-0 task force! Commander McGarrett!" she said. "I've seen his picture in the news. Another pretty young man." She leaned back in her seat and steepled her fingers together in thought. Chin didn't know whether to be relieved she wasn't touching him anymore or to wish she would touch him again.
"Maybe there's a good reason for your visit after all, Chin Ho Kelly," said Pele.
"I've made plans to handle Kucek, when the time comes. I've even arranged for 'backup'. I'm not one of my clan's best fighters with a sword, but I have friends willing to Challenge and fight on my behalf. One will be arriving the day after tomorrow at Honolulu International, and you can use your position on the task force to make sure he's given all official help and cooperation. He's an FBI agent," she explained with a grin.
"And another Immortal?" Chin checked.
Pele nodded. "Matthew knows about Watchers as well, but you can maintain the pretence of official police cooperation if you wish. He will, undoubtedly, play along."
"Okay, I'll meet your friend and help him out if I can. I guess I'm already in trouble with the Watchers as it is. Might as well be hanged for a hog as for a can of Spam." He rubbed his weary eyes; he'd left O'ahu early this morning.
"Chin." She touched his arm again, a fleeting touch, like being brushed with static electricity. "I'd like you to use your position on the task force to help me plan for the worst case scenario."
"I can't, Auntie. I'm willing to interfere enough to warn you, but I can't use mortal police forces to fight your battles. The Watchers can't conceivably overlook that, and it wouldn't be the right thing to do anyway."
Pele stood, her chair making a loud scraping sound on the tile floor. "That is not what I am asking of you. My clan's battles are not the province of mortals. If I am alive or dead next month, it is in the hands of the gods. That is not the worst case scenario I am planning for, Chin."
"I don't understand, then, Auntie." Chin stood as well, and leaned back against the counter behind him, folding his arms.
"You must protect the mortals on this island if the worst should happen, and Kucek should be foolish enough to take my head, or force me to take his, here on Holy Ground. I was not living the last time that Immortals fought on Holy Ground, but my teacher was. She remembered what happened at Pompeii, and told me horror stories of the devastation," Pele said, staring off into memory.
Oh, shit. "We're sitting on a live volcano. We're sitting on five volcanoes! If what happened in Pompeii happens here—"
"Six volcanoes. You forget Lo'ihi. It's underwater, but it will likely erupt as well. This entire island will become a fountain of fire and molten rock so vast that it will be unlivable for generations. The explosion will be visible from space," Pele's hands tightened into fists, and her face grew stony and stern, a goddess' angry visage. "The Hawai'ian people are my responsibility. I haven't slept for trying to figure out how I can get everyone to evacuate, just in case. I could see no way to manage it on my own, and was beginning to decide that I should meet Kucek off of Holy Ground, if he was so determined to Challenge me that he lost all good sense."
Chin licked his lips. "You want me to figure out how to evacuate everyone off the island of Hawai'i," he said slowly.
"Yes," Pele said. "An evacuation from all the islands would be best, but at minimum, this island must be emptied of as many living things as can be managed. I weep for all the wild creatures that may die, but we need to save what and who we can."
"Some story about a bomb," Pele suggested impatiently. "Something else suitably Five-0-ish. Make something up. Whatever will work!"
"You sure don't ask for small favors, Auntie." Chin rubbed the back of his neck, thoughts racing.
She straightened and lifted her chin proudly. "I am Pele. I do not ask favors, child. I demand sacrifice."
When Chin recalled that moment later, he would swear he'd seen flames dancing in those strange, changeable eyes.
Chapter 3: Office of the Governor, Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu, O'ahu, Wednesday, early afternoon
(art by Galadriel34)
"I'm sorry, Steve, but you must know that's impossible," said Governor Jameson. She stood behind her desk as if behind a fortress; the silvery-grey suit she wore might as well have been made of armor.
Steve McGarrett straightened his spine a fraction more. "But, ma'am, how can you not order an evacuation? The risk—"
She cut him off with a motion of her hand slicing through the air. "The cost, Commander, both economic and in possible loss of lives, is unacceptable!"
She softened her tone, her face taking on what Steve privately called her 'motherly' aspect, while the arms folded across her chest signaled the steel that would come out if the softness didn't work. "Don't you see? The State of Hawai'i is still recovering from that false tsunami evacuation. My political opponents would just love to see me call in another evacuation for another false alarm. Chum in the water for the sharks, Steve."
Almost 200,000 people's lives were at stake, and she's worried about her political career? "I can assure you it's not a false alarm, Governor." Steve had to keep trying to make her see reason. "There is a terrorist, and he is on his way here. If he manages to set off a nuclear device in one of our volcanoes, as he plans, the cost to the State of Hawai'i would be far more than that of an evacuation." Chin had spun an alarming series of possible scenarios when they'd had the Five-0 briefing this morning at the computer table.
Jameson frowned. "Rumors and suppositions, Commander. You have not one shred of hard evidence to show me. Not one." She tapped the top of her desk with one finger, as if demanding that he deliver his evidence.
Steve shook his head. "It's been my personal experience, Governor, that sometimes rumors and supposition are all you have to go on when you're dealing with terrorists. If you wait until you do have hard evidence, it's often too late. Detective Kelly said his sources in Interpol were quite sure—"
"Sources which he won't name, and which you can't verify! I don't like this, Steve. There are too many questions here. I can't authorize a wide-spread evacuation of the Big Island on the word of a police detective asked to leave the HPD on suspicions of corruption."
That was a low blow. Steve scowled, and then deliberately blanked his face and assumed a posture of parade rest. If that's the way she wants to play this…. "I trust Detective Kelly implicitly, Governor. If you're questioning my judgment—"
That brought her around the desk, standing next to him to touch his arm. "No, Steve, no. Of course I trust your judgment. But you have to trust mine. I have to weigh a far greater number of considerations than you're taking into account. Some of those include how the press and my political enemies would view my actions—especially if those actions prove unwarranted. Bring me some hard data. Anything." She made eye contact with him before retreating behind her desk again to page through a large black calendar book. "How about this? I'll call a meeting of my staff for tomorrow morning and we can hash out contingency plans. I want you there to brief everyone. If you have some hard evidence by then, I'll be willing to hear it. If it's compelling, I'll order the evacuation."
Steve knew this was the only concession he was likely to get. Discipline made him clamp down on another objection. Pushing now would only make the Governor more stubbornly set on her course of action. His biggest fault during his naval career was not knowing when to back down. It had gotten him in trouble more than once, and it was something he had to constantly work on when faced with recalcitrant superiors. Especially when he was right, dammit!
"Thank you, Governor. I'll be there." He tried to push for one more concession. He just couldn't help it. "I'd be far more likely to get some evidence to show you if I was allowed to call Homeland in on this. They're set up especially to deal with terrorists, ma'am."
"No. Absolutely not. I've already told you, I don't want any federal agencies involved in this."
Yeah. Now her ears were back. He'd known this would happen. "Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry, ma'am." Steve lowered his eyes.
Just before she was about to speak—probably to dismiss him—he said, "There will be one FBI agent on the case, though, Governor." At her glare, he held up a placatory hand. "I didn't call him in. He heard about this from Interpol, and is coming in on his own. Apparently, he's been on the trail of this terrorist for years, like I was with the Hesse brothers—before they killed my father."
That shut her up. Her mouth closed on whatever she'd been about to say with a clack.
"Since he's arriving in Honolulu tomorrow morning anyway, does Five-0 have your permission to work with him?" Steve tried to keep looking submissive and not like he'd won anything.
Jameson sighed her 'I know you're trying to put one over on me' sigh. "All right, Steve. You can work with him. But don't call anyone else in without my express permission."
"Yes, Governor." Steve tried to keep from smiling. He loved to win, even in small ways.
"I want to see you in my office first thing tomorrow morning for the meeting." The Governor was back to looking through her calendar. "My assistant will text you with the time." She sat down at her desk, and lifted a pile of paperwork over to look at, clearly dismissing him.
"Yes, Governor," Steve repeated, and got out of there while the getting was good.
Chapter 4: Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, O'ahu, Thursday morning
(art by Galadriel34)
Kono Kalakaua leaned back against the wall in the arrivals section of Honolulu International and frowned at her cousin, Chin. He was pacing like a caged tiger, back and forth, back and forth.
This case had him really on edge. Not that she blamed him. Terrorists planting a thermonuclear device in one of the volcanoes on the Big Island was a serious threat. It gave her the heebie-jeebies if she gave her imagination free reign, which was why she was trying to concentrate only on what came next in the case. If she thought about this like any other case, she wouldn't panic.
She flicked a glance at the arrivals screen overhead. The special consultant Chin had managed to wrangle from the FBI should be arriving soon. His plane was scheduled to land in five minutes or so, and the board still listed it as 'on time.'
Kono sipped her Starbucks latte and watched Chin's pacing some more. Her cousin wasn't just agitated by this latest case. He was keeping secrets from her again, she could feel it. He'd been acting weird for months, now. Ever since Uncle Min's funeral, when Chin had been invited to join that historical society where Uncle had been a member. Uncle Min was one of the few in their family who, like Kono, had never believed Chin was guilty of stealing money from HPD—and never allowed anyone to pressure him into behaving as if he did.
Kono suspected that it was gratitude to Uncle Min more than anything else that led Chin to accept the invitation and join the society. Kono had asked to join as well, in memory of Uncle. However, apparently membership was very exclusive, because she had been politely but firmly refused, and referred to the society's bi-monthly journal subscription. She'd duly subscribed, but only skimmed the publication when it came in the mail every other month.
Kono had only a casual interest in history; she hadn't realized that Chin was so passionate about the subject. Dedicated enough that he went to the society's closed weekly meetings religiously—even the 'special emergency sessions,' although what kind of emergency historians could have was beyond her.
And then there had been that month-long vacation to Geneva, Switzerland. Chin had never, in her hearing, expressed any desire to visit Europe, much less Switzerland. That curious vacation had resulted in only one postcard to the family, and one to Five-0 headquarters (both with identical images of the Swiss Alps), and not one photograph. "Lost my camera," Chin had offered as an excuse.
The vacation had resulted in one more thing: a tattoo, of a funny-looking y-shape surrounded by a circle of stars inked on the inside of Chin's wrist. For a tattoo, it was kind of boring, actually. And nothing like what Kono might have imagined Chin getting, if he'd ever chosen to get a tattoo.
Danny had teased Chin about the tattoo, and Steve had gotten weirdly intense about it for a while, offering to introduce Chin to his favorite tattoo artists, until Chin's bland disinterest and the pressure of current casework had buried the novelty of the thing. Kono had feigned only mild curiosity at the time, but her pulse still jumped with suspicion whenever she saw a flash of the ink. Chin was wearing more long-sleeved shirts these days, too.
Finally, the screen notice on McCormick's flight changed from 'on time' to 'arrived.' Chin stood at the edge of the security zone, like a hunting dog on point, staring down the hallway as if he could make the man appear by sheer force of will.
Kono pitched her empty coffee cup in the trash and leaned against the wall next to Chin, nudging him and handing him the sharpie-on-cardboard sign she'd made in the car. "Here, cuz. This'll give you something to do. If you don't recognize him right away—which I'm pretty positive you're gonna—he'll see his name and come to us."
"Thanks." Chin nodded and clutched the sign out in front of him.
When they finally spotted him, Matthew McCormick looked fairly unremarkable—a tall, brown-haired haole with a sharp, intelligent face that hid alertness behind sleepy-looking brown eyes.
As Kono had predicted, Chin recognized him and started forward long before she did.
McCormick had been scanning the crowd in Arrivals as he approached down the hallway. He nodded to Chin genially. "Detective Kelly, I presume?" he said. Kono didn't miss the way his eyes widened fractionally when they caught a glimpse of the tattoo on Chin's wrist. Damn it! This stranger was privy to at least some of Chin's secret when Kono herself wasn't.
"Chin Ho Kelly, from the Governor's Five-0 task force." Chin shook McCormick's hand. "It's good of you to come to Hawai'i, Special Agent McCormick. Most people who knew what you do would be going the other way."
Kono vowed that she and Chin were going to have a discussion about that tattoo—and the secrets Chin was keeping—but the reminder about the current threat made her table the issue and simply step up to Chin's shoulder and smile at the FBI agent. "Agent McCormick, let me introduce Officer Kono Kalakaua, also with the task force—and, incidentally, my favorite cousin," said Chin.
Up close, McCormick had a sexy smile, and his soft Southern drawl as he pronounced himself delighted to meet her was very charming.
Kono dimpled back at him, genuinely this time, and turned to walk next to him as she led him out of the Arrivals area. "Do you have luggage to pick up, Agent McCormick?"
"Yes, I have a suitcase and checked my weapons, so we need to stop at baggage claim," said McCormick. "And it's Matthew, please. We're going to be working closely together."
Kono nodded. "It's Kono then, Matthew." She and Chin led him to baggage claim.
Chapter 5: Five-0 Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, Thursday mid-day
Steve didn't know how to take Agent McCormick at first. He could only be glad that he'd come out here from the Mainland, since the Governor still hadn't allowed Steve to call in Homeland Security, or any of the other Federal agencies, for official help on the basis of what he'd reluctantly admitted was an unsubstantiated rumor.
The same Interpol contacts that had brought Chin the rumor of a terrorist determined to plant a nuke in one of Hawaii's volcanoes had also provided an expert on that same terrorist. The expert—FBI Special Agent Matthew McCormick—seemed smoothly efficient, and the way he moved said he knew how to fight. He certainly didn't lack courage—coming here to Hawai'i at all under the circumstances spoke volumes about his dedication. Plus, the way he handled Danny (who was not at his best around Feds, especially nowadays) with patience and amused tolerance said a lot about his even keel under pressure.
At the same time, Steve wasn't sure he liked McCormick. He certainly didn't like the amount of attention that McCormick was paying Danny. Asking Danny if he worked out (in that honey-sweet Southern drawl of his). Asking what sports Danny'd played in school. The interest was a little too personal for Steve's liking, almost as if McCormick was actually flirting with Danny. Forget the way that Danny seemed to preen under the attention, as if he enjoyed the flirtation. Steve was certainly trying to forget it.
And, sue him, but he'd felt a little uncomfortable and under-dressed when the handsomely-suited McCormick had flicked a glance over him, and then at Danny, as if evaluating the office dress code. Danny hadn't missed it, and hadn't missed the chance to rag Steve, or to offer to fetch him one of Danny's extra ties out of the Five-0 locker room, either.
Steve did appreciate McCormick getting right down to business, though.
"This was Melvin Koren," McCormick said. He flicked the photo from the data table up to one of the big screens. It showed a pale, dark-haired man with a scar bisecting part of his face, right next to his eye. The man on the screen wore an arrogant sneer. "A most... elusive individual. One of the most dangerous men you'd ever have the misfortune to meet. Interpol thought him dead many times, only to see him to reappear a few years later in another part of the world, creating mayhem and sowing destruction."
"Can we get a handle on him? What're his motives? Is he some kind of political extremist? Does he do it for the money?" Danny demanded. Steve's eye was drawn to the bulge of his biceps as Danny folded his arms across his chest and glared at Koren's picture.
McCormick shrugged. "He seemed to be something of a general anarchist, Detective Williams. Although he never turned down money or power to my knowledge."
"Wait a minute, I thought Koren was dead. He is dead, right?" Chin asked, leaning over the table toward McCormick.
McCormick raised an eyebrow at him. "I believe so, yes. He certainly hasn't been heard from since mid-February of 1997, and I've personally spoken with a reliable source who claims to have watched him die."
"But never mind Koren," McCormick said, abruptly breaking his staring contest with Chin. McCormick sent another picture up from the data table to the big screen. This one was of a man whose soft-and-gentle-looking rounded face was at odds with the flat, vicious look in his dark eyes. He wore a closely-clipped dark beard and dark hair cut in a short burr. The man was vaguely Eurasian or Middle-Eastern looking, but seemed like he could fit into several different ethnic populations without much note. Like Koren's photo, this photo was a little pixilated, as if cropped from a bigger shot, or taken from a long distance. "Koren's file is in your data packets because of this man. Hasan Kucek, currently calling himself Muunokhoi Kouros, is one of Koren's most diligent and dangerous students." Again, that last word seemed to have a special connotation for Chin, who froze momentarily, then looked down at the data table.
"Okay, then, same question," Danny said. Steve noted him shifting his weight from one hip to the other. Maybe Danny's knee was bothering him again. "What's his angle? What does he want? Why is he doing this?"
"Same answer, Detective Williams: general anarchy," said McCormick. He took off his jacket, and walked to the edge of the room to drape it carefully over the back of a chair. He came back to the data table, and momentarily mirrored Chin's pose, staring down into the various files displayed there, as if they held answers.
"And just what does that mean?" Kono seemed a little hostile with her intonation, especially for someone who'd just a few minutes ago had seemed so chummy with 'Matthew.' She was maybe feeling protective of Chin, who still hadn't looked up from the table.
McCormick sighed, took a step back from the table, and loosened his tie. "It means, Kono, that this man didn't choose the name 'Muunokhoi'—which means 'mad dog'—for nothing. He likes to kill people. He enjoys disrupting peace and order. He's completely ruthless, incredibly dangerous, and has the resources, means, and utter disregard for human life to plant a nuclear weapon in a volcano, as Chin's sources indicated he intends." He nodded at Chin. "Kucek arrives at the end of next week. We don't have much time."
Chin looked up at Steve. "What did the Governor say, Steve?"
Steve rubbed the back of his neck. The meeting with the Governor and her staff this morning had been brutal. The Governor had taken the gloves off. That meeting was still going on behind closed doors. The only reason he'd been allowed to leave was to meet with McCormick—and because it was now his and Five-0's job to stop this nutjob. "I convinced her that this is a serious threat, Chin. But she says she can't declare a state of emergency based on unsubstantiated rumors. She certainly refuses to evacuate all the islands. Says it'll cause a panic that will claim lives, and frankly, doesn't think it will be necessary. She says she trusts us to stop this guy before anything happens." Steve swallowed, hard. That particular burden felt like a ten-ton weight on his shoulders.
"But she's got to evacuate, Steve! All those people—" Chin voice was raw, and he looked anguished, leaning on the data table and looking at Steve with horror.
"I may have convinced her to evacuate the Big Island, if we can concoct some kind of cover story that doesn't involve talking about a nuke, and if I can convince her that a real threat is imminent," Steve said. He shook his head. "Sorry, Chin, that was the very best I could do. We have no evidence, brah."
They'd been lucky that McCormick apparently had a special interest in their perp, and had been following his exploits—and had therefore been willing to come here and help Five-0 'unofficially.' Steve knew what that was like; he'd been willing to follow the Hesse brothers to the end of the Earth, if necessary. Unfortunately, McCormick was the only Federal assistance Five-0 was likely to receive in their investigation. Time and resources were both going to be tight on this case.
"The Governor's definitely not going to invoke the cost and disruption of an evacuation, all based on a rumor of what one guy supposedly intends to do."
He watched Chin and McCormick exchange identical looks of desperation. There was a story there, and he'd get to the bottom of it... later. "In the meantime, we do our jobs. We stop this guy."
Chapter 6: Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, O'ahu, Friday morning
(art by Galadriel34)
After meeting with the federal security director for Honolulu International Airport, Chin and Matthew walked out of the Transportation Security Administrations's offices into the bright sun of a beautiful morning in Honolulu. It had been a royal pain getting the TSA's help without bringing Homeland in on things, expressly against Governor Jameson's orders. Chin had been grateful that Matthew had been present to lend a federal veneer to the meeting.
Matthew had put away his suit jacket and tie, and rolled up his shirtsleeves earlier that morning, and now—out in the brilliant Hawai'ian sun—he donned a pair of sunglasses as well. Chin hid a smile at how 'Miami Vice' the man looked wearing sunglasses and beard stubble.
"Do you really expect to be able hold Kucek in custody?" Chin asked him. The meeting with the airport security officers had been frustrating, but ultimately satisfactory, as they wrangled over jurisdiction. They had agreed to detain Kucek as soon as his flight deplaned.
Matthew raised an eyebrow above the level of his sunglasses. "Of course not. But if he can be slowed down long enough for me to Challenge him before he gets to Pele, that's all we need."
They started walking to the parking spot where Chin had left the car. "We're talking about that, are we? I think I need some caffeine to deal with this. What do you say to breakfast?"
They'd been up all night with the Five-0 team, following leads to known associates of Kucek that might already be on any of the islands of Hawai'i. Kucek wasn't known for following the rules, and had used mortals to carry out parts of his plans against other Immortals before—not that the rest of the team had known they were looking for anything other than a terrorist's accomplices. Chin's brain was struggling against the dragging sensation of going without sleep.
"I would prefer to keep the mortals out of the loop, but I don't see any point in the 'secrets' game when it's just us, Watcher," Matthew said mildly. "And I vote 'yes' for breakfast, although I'd prefer a nap to caffeine. I need to be as rested as possible if I'm going to fight Kucek. From all accounts, he's very dangerous."
They got in the car. Chin turned in his seat to face Matthew, gripping the steering wheel tightly. "How sure are you that you can take him? His Chronicle says he's never even come close to losing a Challenge."
Matthew took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then lolled his head back against the glass of the car window beside him. "Well, I've never lost a Challenge either." He grinned briefly, and then sighed. "I will do what I must, Detective Kelly. I will even cheat if I feel I can't win the Challenge honestly. It pains me to even think it, but my honor is worth far less than all the mortal lives that will be lost if Kucek is allowed to take Pele's head on sacred ground." Matthew suddenly looked rumpled, and tired, and smaller, somehow, after that admission.
"I don't understand," Chin said finally, putting the key in the ignition. "Why are you doing this? Why are you Challenging Kucek on Pele's behalf?"
"The 'why me' question is the easiest to answer. I was friends with her teacher, Miriam. She was a real jewel," Matthew smiled, his expression that of a man lost in memory. "She was a healer the likes of which the world has seldom seen. It was a great loss when the Kurgan took her head." He shook his head, seeming to shake off the memory. "The 'why Pele' question is something I'd thought the Watchers would have figured out by now."
Chin frowned. "If they have, nobody's told me. They have layers within layers, you know."
"No, I don't know, actually." Matthew shook his head again, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. "I don't know much more than what the younger MacLeod told me. Once he warned me about you people, it seemed so self-evident. Of course mortals had noticed our existence through the ages. Some of us are not as careful as we should be. So of course there's a secret organization that watches us, and records our activities. I am relieved that you're just historians and don't feel the need to dissect us. I'm frankly amazed that no government organization is spying on us, in this day and age. Although that is part of why I'm in the FBI, to spot and curtail any tendencies to pursue investigations into mysterious beheadings."
"You may have the Watchers to thank for keeping government investigators off your backs, at least in part," Chin said. He turned the key in the ignition and started the car. "I think we do a lot of covering up for you guys. The world's getting too small, information is too easy to collect and share, at least at the level of governments. Any particular preferences for where to have breakfast?"
"Hm. The food I leave to your discretion. As to the place.... Somewhere I can purchase some appropriate clothing nearby, I believe. I would like to blend in better. And I'll need some inconspicuous way to carry my sword," Matthew said.
Chin pulled out of the parking spot and made his way out of the airport parking. "Sure thing. Hey, how do you guys keep a sword hidden in a suit jacket? I swear, it looks like you pull those swords out of thin air sometimes."
Matthew chuckled. "Stop right there, Watcher!" He pointed a finger in Chin's direction. "From what I gathered, MacLeod's Watcher does not grill him in that fashion!"
Chin grinned at him.
Matthew grinned back. "Let the poor Immortal keep one of his mysteries."
"Okay, if you say so," Chin shrugged. "But tell me this. You mentioned it before. Why Pele?"
Chin caught Matthew's expression out of the corner of his eye. It had smoothed back into thoughtful seriousness. "Well, you know what will happen if Kucek takes her head on Holy Ground."
Chin clenched his teeth at the thought, and nodded.
"But, I gather, you're not aware of what happens if Pele leaves the Holy Ground of her island."
Chin was glad they were at a red light, so that he could turn and stare at McCormick. "Something happens if Pele leaves Holy Ground?"
Matthew nodded soberly. "There is a reason that there has always been an Immortal standing in for the goddess Pele, Chin. There is a reason some of us live our entire long lives on Holy Ground, and that reason isn't always the selfish fear of losing our heads to other Immortals. Sometimes the Holy Ground itself seems to want an Immortal's Quickening in close proximity. Sometimes there are consequences if that Immortal leaves."
Dates from mortal history and Immortal Chronicles were clicking into place in Chin's mind. "Every major eruption! Every time there's been a major eruption on the Big Island, we've been between Peles, or it's been near a time when Pele has been off the island for some reason."
"As you say," Matthew nodded again.
The light changed. "Do you know why?"
Chin had to keep his eyes on traffic, so he couldn't watch Matthew's face, but his voice was somber enough. "No more than you, Watcher. No more than you."
Chapter 7: Fort St. Michael, Isla St. Michael Peninsula, Grand Harbor, Malta; Great Siege of Malta, late summer 1565
Night had fallen at last, but it was still almost as hot as day outside—and with all the torches burning, almost as bright as day as well. Matthew pulled off his helmet, careful of its formerly-bright red plume (even though the feathers were discolored and drooping under the weight of grease and soot), and laid it on the wooden bench by the wall, next to his gauntlets. He brushed absently at his pansied slops, the once-rich fabric now greyed with soot, and studied the suspicious-looking stain just above the knee. It would be difficult to tell it had been blood, he decided, because the slops themselves were—had been—red, and the fashionable slits in the garment hid the spot where the arrow had gone in. In the absence of a wound, it would not be remarked upon, Matthew determined. Many others of his brother Hospitallers' uniforms were in worse shape, the white crosses on their scarlet surcoates hidden under a layer of grey.
He bent to the bucket that sat on the bench, and lifted out a dipperful of water, drinking thirstily. He saved the watered wine for his mortal brothers and trusted to his Immortal constitution to protect him from any ill-humors hiding in the water. After he'd drunk his fill, he dipped a cloth in the water and used it to wipe his sooty face and neck, the cloth catching on the rough whiskers of his unshaven jaw. He was hungry as well, after a long day's battle, but food was being rationed, and his mortal brothers would suffer sooner and more harshly for the lack, so he put the hunger firmly behind him.
"Brother Matteo," Brother Bernard said, startling Matthew, who tried not to show it. Brother Bernard habitually moved with hardly any sound, gliding like a ghost. The sound of his voice was always a surprise.
"Yes, Brother?" Matthew strove to be courteous.
Brother Bernard twisted his hands together, an atypical sign of nervousness. He cared for their wounded, and a steadier, more phlegmatic personage could not be imagined. "Brother Matteo, there are…women in the dispensary," he whispered at last, cheeks red, eyes cast down.
Matthew raised his eyebrows. "Women? Here? Not townswomen, I presume? Whores?"
Brother Bernard blushed a deeper crimson at the mention of the word 'whore.' He shook his head. "No, Brother. They are holy women, of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I believe."
Matthew blinked. "Nuns, then. What do you wish me to do about these nuns, Brother?"
Bernard twisted his hands again. "Nuns should be cloistered, Brother! They have no place here, in the midst of battle. If the Turks should take the fort—"
"They will not," Matthew said briskly. "Do you not trust the wisdom of our Grand Master? He has said Fort St. Michael will hold until the Viceroy of Sicily sends his reinforcements. The Viceroy's own son sits at Grand Master de Valette's dinner table, Brother. The reinforcements will come."
Brother Bernard looked down, frowning. "The fighting is desperate. Some of the brothers say that any of the wounded who can still lift a weapon may yet be asked to return to battle."
"That may be so," Matthew allowed. The fighting was, indeed, wretchedly desperate. The Turks were fierce opponents. "Yet this fort will hold until the reinforcements come. If you do not trust in our Grand Master, Brother, trust in Our Lord, who will not allow the Infidel to vanquish us."
Brother Bernard's gaze skittered to the side, not meeting his eyes. Matthew could see him deciding not to mention that the Lord had allowed the Infidels to seize Fort St. Elmo only recently. Bernard twisted his hands together again. "Nevertheless, Brother, women do not belong here."
Matthew bit down on his impatience. "Well, what do you wish me to do about them, Brother?" Hmm. Perhaps he hadn't reigned in that impatience enough.
"Talk to them, please, Brother Matteo." Bernard ducked his head. "You are better at speaking to women— I mean nothing disrespectful, Brother! I meant— I meant simply that you are a more accomplished speaker than I am. You would be better able to convince them to leave."
Matthew suppressed a sigh, and refrained from arguing that there was no safe place for these inconvenient nuns to flee. He wouldn't get any peace, or any chance to rest, until Bernard saw him making an effort at the very least. It would be easier if he simply acquiesced to Bernard's request. "Very well. Where are they now, Brother?"
"Attending the wounded." Bernard gestured to the archway down into the dispensary.
He had walked through the archway and halfway down the stairs before he realized Brother Bernard hadn't accompanied him. In the shadows of the stone stairs, Matthew risked an amused grin. It seemed that Brother Bernard was more afraid of these women than of the Prior's displeasure for shirking his duties.
The noxious stink of the wounded reached him at the same time as the signature of Immortal Presence. Matthew froze on the stair, and his hand went automatically to his sword. He looked behind him, but there was no one there. Ahead of him, in the dispensary then. Perhaps hiding amongst the wounded. He crept down the remaining stairs, hand never leaving the hilt of his sword.
The torchlight illuminated her face as she raised it to meet his eyes. This woman, this nun, was the Immortal? The gift of Immortality had been a poor joke to this woman: it had caught her perpetually in middle age—and she was neither fit nor was she beautiful. Her face had probably not been particularly attractive even in her youth, but the drooping, lined visage she wore now for eternity was sadly homely. The only saving grace the woman's face possessed was a set of cow-like placid brown eyes with their generous fringe of dark lashes. Matthew still felt the twitch of another Immortal under his skin, and looked further, in the shadow of the first Immortal.
Of course. The other Immortal was also a woman, also dressed as a Carmelite nun, in brown and black, the white of her wimple framing a face that was young and beautiful, in cruel contrast to her companion's. Although with Immortality the look of youth was deceptive, from the way they stood in relation to each other, Matthew judged the older-looking woman was indeed the elder—perhaps they were teacher and student.
He surveyed their surroundings for a moment to be sure they were unobserved before he announced, "Matthew of Salisbury, ladies. I do not know you, and have no quarrel with you."
"Miriam of Jerusalem," the older-looking nun answered, bowing her head briefly. "And my friend, Grace of Lorraine." She indicated the younger-looking woman. "So, you will not be cutting off our heads today?"
Matthew shook his head. "No my ladies, not if you do not choose to Challenge me."
"Easily accomplished. We do not carry swords, Brother Hospitaller," Miriam said, with a small ironic smile.
Matthew blinked his astonishment. They were women, and would stand little chance against a good swordsman in a fight of course, but— "Immortals without swords?"
"We are healers," the younger woman, Grace, spoke up for the first time. "We tend mortals who are sick and wounded. We are midwives; we deliver babies. There is no place for fighting in anything we do." Her tone was crisp and no-nonsense, despite the fact that she continued to linger in the shadow of the older Immortal.
"We mean no offense to you, Brother," said Miriam, a benign expression in her brown eyes. "I am sure you are a superb swordsman as well as a dedicated Hospitaller. It is simply that Grace and I have little skill with swords and choose not to play the Game. As Grace says," she darted a glance and wry smile at her companion. "We are healers. We seek only to relieve suffering."
"But any Immortal could easily take your head—"
"And that is true whether or not we choose to carry swords, my Brother," Miriam said.
Her name had been tickling at the back of his mind ever since she gave it. "Miriam of Jerusalem…. You are Miriam the Jewess!" Matthew exclaimed. If she was Miriam the Jewess, she had been born before Christ Himself! That was a long, long time to survive as an Immortal without carrying a sword.
Miriam bowed her head again. "So am I known among many of our kind. Although I lived amongst the Jews for the length of many mortal lives, I respect all the gods, and serve those gods whose service demands mercy and charity to our fellows. Here and now I am Sister Marian, of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and serve Our Lord Jesu and his Virgin Mother. In their names did Sister Grace and I come to this place, to tend the sick and wounded."
Matthew finally took his hand off the hilt of his sword and rubbed his whiskered chin. "Ah, that may be a bit of a problem, Sister Marian." He sighed. "The Brother in charge of our dispensary, Brother Bernard, objects to your presence here."
"Brother Bernard is lazy and stupid," Grace snapped, her beautiful eyes bright with ire. "He leaves the wounded lying in filth, and does little to comfort the dying."
Matthew blinked. "Ah. I am sure he administers the Blessed Sacraments."
"Yes," Miriam—no, Sister Marian—said smoothly. "And therefore the more mundane work Sister Grace and I do will free more of his time for those most-important tasks."
"I'm sure your work is quite valuable as well, Sisters," Matthew scratched his head, at a loss for how to say it. "However, it's not your work Brother Bernard objects to but— Well, your selves. Specifically, your female presence."
"Then he may consider us 'Brothers'," Grace said tartly. "Surely we do not test his faith, nor the strength of his vows? We have no wish to interact with him in matters of the flesh, unless it is the flesh of the ill or injured that requires succor."
"Surely, Sisters, you must see that a fort under siege, in the midst of battle, is no place for women like yourselves?" Matthew addressed them both, but spoke mainly to Miriam, as the more sensible-seeming of the two. "Do you not fear the rape and violence of the Turk, should Fort St. Michael fall?" It was unthinkable that the fort should fall, but still, these women must consider what would befall them if that happened.
Miriam raised her eyebrow at him. "We do not carry swords, Brother, but that does not mean my Sister and I do not carry weapons. And we are not talented with weapons compared to our own kind, but compared to mortals—"
"The Turk needs to fear us," Grace said, with a tone of menace.
"We have heard it rumored that the fighting is going badly. So badly that soon any of the wounded that can still bear arms shall be asked to return to battle," Miriam said, looking straight into Matthew's eyes. "Is that true, Brother?"
"I do not know it for truth, Sister, but I have also heard those rumors," Matthew admitted.
"If we are allowed to stay, Grace and I can make sure that there will be more men to line your battlements," Miriam said. "I know of ancient healing techniques that were forgotten long ago. We will stay out of Brother Bernard's way. Besides, where would we go? If we leave the Fort, we walk right into the arms of the Turk you are so eager to defend us from."
Matthew took a breath and blew it out. She spoke only sense. And if extra men were able to rejoin the fighting, it would only improve their chances of victory. Mentally, he apologized to Brother Bernard and his sensibilities and resigned himself to enlisting the Prior's aid. "I will speak to the Prior," he promised.
That was not to be the last time or place Matthew would run in to Miriam of Jerusalem, or one of her students.
Chapter 8: Hawaiian Airlines Flight 332, O'ahu, Honolulu (HNL) to the Big Island, Hilo (ITO), Friday morning
(art by Galadriel34)
Steve leaned back in his seat as the plane carried him and Danny to the Big Island. They had an appointment later this morning to see Dr. Ken Hon, a respected volcanologist, at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo. Afterward, he and Danny were scheduled to meet with the director of the US Geological Survey Volcano Hazards Program. He hoped to get a better idea of both exactly what might happen if a nuclear device was set off in a volcano, and which of the Big Island’s volcanoes might be the likeliest target. He had the Governor's permission to brief both of them on the terrorist's plan.
Steve also hoped that the experts might be able to help him concoct a likely cover story so that the Governor could order the evacuation of the Big Island.
He looked over at Danny, slumped back asleep in his own seat, noise-deadening headphones wrapped around his head, hair mussed, shirt wrinkled, tie loosened and askew. Danny had a soldier's ability—or maybe just a dad's—to catch sleep where and when he could, and the 45 minute flight from Honolulu International to Hilo International was long enough for a cat-nap. Steve would catch his own nap on the flight back to O'ahu.
They'd left Kono sleeping on the sofa in Steve's office, staying at headquarters to coordinate any leads that came in from all their work last night. Steve had sent Chin with McCormick to brief TSA and the airport customs and security authorities on Kucek.
Maybe they'd all catch a lucky break, and they'd arrest the bastard getting off the plane and detain him long enough for Five-0 to dig up enough evidence to charge him. If they could have involved the Feds, it would have been easier—the Department of Homeland Security didn't actually need to charge someone with a crime to detain them, practically indefinitely, if they were suspected of terrorism. However, that would mean bringing Homeland into this, which would inevitably result in a media leak and public panic. Just what the Governor didn't want.
Steve worried that a man as dangerous as Kucek would have some backup plan too, some way to escape or elude custody. Best not to rely on luck; it was a sure bet that all the luck in the world wouldn't be enough for this case.
He took another sip of the pineapple juice the flight attendant had brought him. His gaze wandered over to Danny again, and he had to stifle an urge to smooth back the hair that drooped disheveled over his forehead.
Steve was glad he'd allowed Danny to go over to Rachel's on Wednesday night, and make a 'strong suggestion' that Grace and her parents take a little trip. After Danny had come back, the weight had almost visibly come off of his shoulders.
He'd come right to Steve's office and leaned in the doorway. When Steve had looked up from his computer screen, Danny had motioned to him with a 'come here' gesture. As soon as Steve had come around the desk, Danny met him and engulfed him in a hug.
"Thank you, Steven. Thank you. I owe you so, so much," Danny had said, heartfelt. Steve could only hug him back, and say Danny didn't owe him a thing.
Steve swallowed down a surge of emotion at the memory, and deliberately looked out of the airplane window to make himself take his eyes off of Danny. This was the wrong time, he told himself. It was the wrong time to act on the simmering roil of feelings he and Danny had for each other. He knew, he just knew, they'd be explosive together. All the passion they brought to their relationship would find another outlet, and the devotion and loyalty they felt for each other would merge into something even deeper, something for a lifetime.
But now was not the time. Steve promised himself that after they resolved this crisis—and they would resolve this crisis—he'd make the time.
Chapter 9: Five-0 Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, Friday mid-morning
Kono had just finished sending the text and data files to Steve's phone when Chin came into headquarters, carrying a shopping bag.
"Howzit, cuz?" She smiled, happy to see him.
"Howzit, Kono. I thought you were going to sleep for a few?" Chin asked, leaning against the data table, and putting his bag on the floor.
"I did," Kono agreed, covering her mouth to yawn. "And then we had a ping on one of the queries we sent out last night, so I got up to take a look."
Chin straightened. "Anything I need to chase down?"
"Nah. A known associate of Kucek has been using his credit card to buy gas on the Big Island, near Hilo. I tried calling the Boss, but it went to voicemail. He must still be in the air, so I sent him a text and some data so he and Danny can follow up with the local PD once they land at Hilo." Kono stifled another yawn. "Damn. I need coffee. What happened to Matthew?"
"I dropped him off at his hotel so he could change clothes and catch a nap. That is, after we had breakfast." Chin grinned at her when Kono's stomach growled at the mention of food. "And speaking of breakfast, I almost forgot." He picked up his bag and led the way into her office.
Kono followed, sniffing the air hopefully. And, yes! Chin was laying out a carry-out container with food, a bottle of her favorite strawberry-lime Snapple, and a lidded cup of heavenly, heavenly coffee on her desk.
She wasted no time slurping down some much-needed caffeine. "Mmmm. Just the way I like it! And loco moco! I knew there was a reason you're my favorite cousin, Chin." Kono shoveled food into her mouth while Chin wandered back to the data table and looked over the info that had come in on Kucek's associates. She was taking a swallow from her Snapple, and so almost missed it when Chin stiffened in place.
Shit! Kono stood and came up to stand next to him, hastily swallowing her drink. "What is it?"
Chin pointed to a picture from a driver's license on the screen of the computer table. "I've seen this guy, Dr. Simiao Suen, before. His name was Kiem Sun then, though. He's really bad news."
"What'd he do?" Kono took another sip of her Snapple.
Chin shook his head. "I don't remember, cuz. Let me dig around for awhile, and we'll see what I come up with."
"Do you want me to try? I got in around a half hour's nap, but you haven't had any sleep at all." Kono narrowed her eyes at him. "And, from the way you've looked when you came to work lately, I don't think you've been sleeping too good before this, either."
Chin made a dismissive sound. "Wait 'til you get older, cuz. Losing sleep for no good reason won't be the worst thing you'll have to deal with."
"I wish I could tell the family too," Kono said quietly. "I hate having them all walking around, doing their daily thing like it's any other day and nothing might happen."
Steve had let Kono and Chin give strongly-worded hints to their family members that it would be a good time to take a vacation, just as he'd let Danny. Chin and Kono had made the rounds and said as much as they dared, but they belonged to a big family. None of their family had enough money to just pick up and fly to the mainland on a whim of a vacation, especially for something that might be a false alarm. It looked like a couple of them might be taking the hint and planning a trip, but nowhere near all of them.
It wasn't like Chin or Kono between them had enough money to pay for plane fare for all of them, either. She was desperately grateful that Chin had been able to help her pay for a ticket for her mom on a flight out to San Francisco last night. Supposedly, it an early birthday present so that Mom could visit her brother in Berkeley, the Uncle Kono that she'd been named after. If Chin's parents had still been living, Kono wasn't sure how they would have been able to pay for all the tickets.
"It's our job to make sure nothing happens and that it does end up being like any other day," Chin said, frowning.
Kono could only agree.
Chapter 10: University of Hawai'i at Hilo, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Friday mid-morning
(art by Galadriel 34)
Danny liked Professor Hon. Cheerfully earnest, and formidably knowledgeable about volcanoes, he proved to be incredibly helpful, especially after Steve convinced him they weren't kidding about the terrorist threat. He'd shown them a quick video and given them a rundown of the seismic and lava activity and gas emission rates of the Big Island's active volcanoes.
All the members of Five-0 had instinctively realized that it would be an extremely bad idea if a nuclear device were set off in any of Hawai'i's volcanoes. However, when Hon began to detail the possibilities of what might actually happen, Danny's blood ran cold. The professor spouted nightmarish damage estimates and outlined best- and worst-case scenarios with the easy familiarity of an individual who had long understood that the Earth underfoot wasn't as stable as it appeared. It was all kinds of terrifying, if you thought about it. Which Danny was strenuously trying not to do.
Professor 'Call me Ken' Hon offered to go with them to the Hawai'ian Volcano Observatory. "I worked in the Volcano Hazards Program for fifteen years, and the HVO for three. They take me seriously. If I believe your story about a terrorist with a nuclear device, it'll save you time trying to convince them," he said.
"We'll take you up on it," Steve agreed.
Steve was his usual hyper-focused self on this case, almost as if it was any of the other high-profile cases that Five-0 typically worked on. He didn't seem to have that worried, two-steps-from-panicked edge that Danny could feel from Chin and Kono, and knew that he himself carried around from this case. Well, to be honest, that edge had retreated quite a bit once he'd gotten the text from Rachel that she and Stan and Grace had arrived safely in London.
Just when Danny was beginning to believe his own bluster about Steve being a super-advanced military robot who only looked human, Steve did something incredibly thoughtful and caring—like book a weekend at a fancy hotel so that Grace could swim with dolphins, or go against the Governor's expressed wishes for secrecy to allow Danny to get his daughter out of harm's way. It wasn't the actions of a good commander looking out for his troops, or a boss looking out for his team, it was Steve, looking out for his 'ohana, for the people he loved.
It was times like this that he let himself daydream that the connection that he could feel between them could blossom into something more. A deep, caring friendship, sure. This was definitely becoming one of the deepest, strongest friendships of his life, and looked only to get stronger, unless one of them did something incredibly stupid to fuck things up. Which, as he had been brutally taught by Matty only recently, was never completely off the table. He'd thought of his little brother as his rock, as someone he could depend on utterly, as someone who would never betray him. And then Matty had shown him how mistaken he'd been.
Friendship aside, Danny didn't think he was fooling himself when he thought his and Steve's connection had another aspect, a physical aspect. He touched Steve, a lot. Granted, he touched everyone a lot; he was a touchy-feely kind of guy. 'Expressive' was his middle name. But he liked touching Steve. A lot. And he thought Steve liked it too. Danny's gaydar wasn't the best, but the vibe he was getting from Steve made him think that maybe, Rambo stereotypes aside, Steve might be a bit heteroflexible.
All of which led him to indulge in the occasional fantasy, the occasional daydream. Which, he told himself firmly, needed to stay in the land of make believe. Steve was his friend, and that was worth more than a roll in the proverbial hay. And Steve was his boss, which would make anything between them way too complicated. Besides, it wasn't like he would have any chance of wowing Steve with his skills as a lover. Fantasies aside, Danny hadn't done much to explore the gay side of his bisexuality. It had been 'look; don't touch' all his life so far. Too chickenshit to go for it, mostly. And if the prospect of Steve couldn't tempt him off the metaphorical ledge, he doubted he'd ever make the leap.
He and Steve followed Hon out to his SUV, dashing through a sudden downpour. Danny scowled down at his sodden tie and wriggled his toes in his squelching shoes as he got into the back seat. There were a host of reasons anything between him and Steve would be a bad, bad idea.
"Don't worry about an umbrella, you said. It'll just get in your way, you said. Why do I listen to you?" he berated Steve, who was settling into the passenger's seat in front of him.
Steve hooked a—dripping—arm over the seatback and half-turned so that Danny could get the full benefit of his incredulously raised eyebrow. "What? Danny, it's just a little water."
"Just a little—!"
"There are a couple of towels in the back, Danny," offered Ken, wiping his glasses dry with the hem of his shirt.
Dr. Hon's sartorial choices reminded Danny of Steve—cargo pants and hiking boots, topped by a dark-colored tee-shirt with a long-sleeved dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up hanging unbuttoned over that. Ken added a baseball cap and glasses to the ensemble, but basically, it looked like he and Steve both shopped at the Science Guy store, in the Outdoorsy section. Danny wondered how long it would take Steve to get his hands on a baseball cap of his own, and what logo it would sport. He'd bet Kamekona wouldn't miss a chance to advertise his shave-ice empire yet again.
Danny poked around in the rear section of the SUV, which was filled with a bizarre-looking mishmash of scientific equipment and mundane things like shovels and empty paint cans. He handed one torn but dry towel up to Ken, another to Steve, and used two smaller ones to help wring dry his tie and try to reorder his dripping hair.
"Don't worry about it, D," Steve said. His eyes wore a soft expression and his smile was goofy-looking. He was still turned half around in his seat to look back at Danny and, despite Ken pulling out of the parking space, he hadn't put on his seat belt. "You look good, even wet," Steve said. "Maybe even, especially wet."
Danny had been about to lecture Steven about wearing his seatbelt like a normal human being, but that comment left him momentarily speechless. He closed his mouth and swallowed, and then licked his lower lip. Danny resolutely refused to notice Steve's gaze following the path his tongue took over his lip. He most certainly didn't blush.
I used the names of some real people in this fic: Dr. Ken Hon (Volcanologist at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo), Dick Rasp (Chief Interpreter, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), and Pahoa Police Captain Sam Jelsma.
Please note I know nothing about these real persons outside of their websites, and use their names for verisimilitude only, and with great respect.
Chapter 11: Five-0 Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, late Friday morning
Matthew peered down at the photo of Kiem Sun on the data table. "And you believe this man is an Immortal?"
Chin involuntarily glanced over at Steve's office, where Kono had gone back to napping on the sofa. The door was still closed. "Yeah. His first name was Kiem Sun, born in 1276 during the Sung Dynasty in China. He's spent most of his life on Holy Ground of one sort or another around the world." Chin hesitated, bit his lip, and then said it anyway. "He's listed as an associate of your friend, MacLeod's."
Matthew looked up and raised an eyebrow. "Really? Hmmm...." He tapped a pen on his palm. "It's possible. MacLeod's softhearted sometimes—takes in all sorts of hard luck cases in need of 'protection.' How is this Kiem Sun connected with Kucek?"
Chin pulled a file up on the data table. "My sources in Bangkok say that there's rumors of some kind of specialized designer drug Kiem Sun is developing. Supposed to make super-soldiers out of regular troops. He's got buyers lined up from governments to organized crime lords." He tapped on a fuzzy image of a warehouse in Hyderabad—supposedly Sun's—and didn't bother to send it up to the big screen. "Kucek is supposedly his main source for some plant root that Sun needs to make the drug. Apparently, the specific compounds in the root that are needed for the drug are close to impossible to synthesize, at least with any sort of consistency."
Matthew frowned. "Can't he just grow his own?"
Chin shook his head. "The plant seems to need very specific growing conditions to do well, and even more specific conditions for the roots to be any good for Sun's drug." He pulled up a photo of a nondescript scraggly little plant. "Kucek seems to have a lock on all the growers who can reliably supply the root. It's used in some herbal medicines, apart from Kiem Sun's drug."
"Hmph. Don't tell me a good botanist couldn't grow those things in a greenhouse," Matthew said, pulling up a chair and slouching down into it. He'd shaved and changed his clothes, and now looked much less like a mainlander. Chin had taken him to the stores where he bought his own clothes, and Matthew now wore an aloha shirt, jeans, and hiking boots, much like Chin's own. The sunglasses he'd already come with, and they dangled from the open vee of Matthew's collar, ready to don whenever they had to go outside. Chin wasn't sure where Matthew was keeping the sword, but didn't doubt it was somewhere nearby.
Chin shrugged. "Just because he's a brilliant biochemist doesn't mean Sun has enough common sense to hire himself a good botanist. Or maybe he doesn't trust anyone with his secrets."
"I'm going to call MacLeod. See what he has to say about his little friend Kiem Sun," Matthew announced, pulling out his phone. "What time is it in Paris?" he asked distractedly, as he extracted a name from his address book and dialed.
Chin didn't answer him; it didn't look like Matthew much cared.
"MacLeod? It's Matthew McCormick. Did I wake you? Oh, good." From Matthew's dry tone, Chin couldn't tell if Matthew was glad he hadn't woken MacLeod, or glad he had. "MacLeod, it seems we have a mutual acquaintance. Your acquaintance is an herbalist of sorts, I've heard, and he's rumored to be making some sort of designer drug. I'm interested in him in connection with a terrorist I'm hunting for the FBI. I'm told that our herbalist was named Kiem Sun when you knew him."
A spate of sound could be heard as MacLeod responded to Matthew's news. Matthew sat up straight, frowning, and then frantically mimed writing in the air with his pen in Chin's direction to indicate his need for paper. "Slow down, MacLeod! Let me take some notes."
Chin shoved a writing pad at him, and Matthew hunched over his knee with it, scribbling quickly. "Yes. On the temples? I'll make sure to check. Yes. The terrorist? One of us as well, I'm afraid. Hasan Kucek, a student of someone I believe you were once acquainted with as well—Melvin Koren. Yes, I'm aware. That was good work. Wish you could've taken care of my little problem here at the same time, but I'm afraid perfection is beyond us in this life. Of course not. That wasn't a criticism, MacLeod, just an observation. Hmm? I'm in Honolulu. Yes, in Hawaii. What? NO!"
Matthew stood abruptly and began to pace. "I said no, MacLeod! You do not have to come here! I would certainly not appreciate your interference in my investigation, or my Challenge. Do we understand one another?" Matthew's back was very straight as he listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. "Yes. Yes, I will let you know. You have my word. What? I'm working with the local authorities. One of our tattooed friends is on the Governor's task force, and he's been of great assistance. Hmm. Yes, I'm sure he'd appreciate any help from your connections, but kindly keep it discreet, I suspect he's going a bit beyond his mandate. Of course, but I'll be sure to call you in any case. Yes, thanks. You never know what might be useful. Give Amanda my love, the next time you see her, and tell her from me to stay out of trouble. Ha! Yes, well, tell her I'd hate to have to arrest her again." Matthew was smiling again, pacing more slowly, the tension gone out of his posture. "Yes. Thank you, I will. Watch your head as well, MacLeod."
He disconnected the call and returned the phone to its holster on his belt. Chin watched Matthew study the pad where he'd scribbled his notes for a moment before looking up. "I'm told to inform you that you can expect communications from one of your colleagues—a Mr. Dawson."
Chin sighed loudly and put his hand over his face. Oh, great. As if he wasn't in enough hot water with the local Watchers. Matthew barked a laugh. "Buck up, Watcher. We need all the help we can get. Now, lead me to your local medical examiner. We need to see if there are any corpses turning up with a particular pattern of injuries."
Chapter 12: Honolulu Harbor, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Autumn 1872
Matthew swallowed the last of the roast pork and wiped his greasy fingers clean on the dark heavy fabric of his trousers. The feast had been wonderful—the fresh food and tropical fruit a welcome change after too long at sea. He picked up his mug from its depression in the sand at his feet, and took a contemplative sip as he gazed at the dancers by the bonfire swaying in time to the native beat of the drums. The night was clear and warm, a blanket of unfamiliar stars lighting the sky, the ocean breezes comfortable, and the sound of the waves on the sand peaceful and lulling.
The song of Immortal Presence had him hurriedly swallowing and putting down his mug. He stood, hand on the hilt of the cavalry sword he still wore on his hip, and scanned his surroundings.
Again, the light of the fire illuminated her face as she looked up and met his gaze. Again, the light did nothing to flatter it, except reflect a bit of light off those placid cow eyes. Matthew gave her a tiny nod, which she echoed, and she approached him. Like the first time they had met, she was shadowed by a younger-seeming woman, another Immortal. Unlike the angelic-looking Grace, this one was one of the natives, plain rather than beautiful, sturdy rather than delicate, although graceful in her movements.
Miriam and her student made their way around the bonfire, skirting the feasting crew of the Gallant, until they arrived at Matthew's side.
"Well met, Brother!" Miriam said, smiling.
Matthew returned her smile. He remembered the first time he'd met her, at Fort St. Michael. Miriam's healing skills had gotten many of the wounded well enough to fight and man the battlements—enough that the fort had held, and the tide had turned against the Turk that late summer in Malta.
"Well met, Sister," he answered. Then, lowering his voice, he advised her, "Here and now, I am called George Matthews, Sister."
She bowed her head briefly in acknowledgement. "And I am Mary Waters. This is my student, Makana Kealoha." She indicated her student with a small nod. The younger woman gazed at him over Miriam's head, taller than her older companion by several inches. Up close, she was still not beautiful by any measure of beauty Matthew had ever been taught to regard, but she was striking, with arresting eyes that caught the light of the bonfire and seemed to reflect not just light, but the spirit of the flames themselves. Copying her teacher, Makana ducked her head in acknowledgement; but she did not speak.
"Are you and your student hungry, Mary? I would gladly welcome you to my…log," Matthew waved at the fallen log where he'd been sitting at his ease. It was nothing like the sumptuous dinner tables of polite society that he'd been accustomed to in his most previous lifetime, but none of the times he'd ever run into Miriam had included fine dining, so he knew she wouldn't mind.
"You are most kind, Brother. We would be delighted to dine with you; you have always been a generous host," Miriam said. She spread her skirts and sat demurely on the log. Her student, dressed in the much less copious native-style clothing, settled close beside her.
Matthew grinned. "It's not my feast, Sister, but Captain Allen won't mind a few extra mouths to feed." He signaled to one of the serving girls, and she brought them plates of meat, bread, and fruit. Another girl brought wooden cups of ale. "I've already eaten, ladies," Matthew told Miriam and her student. "Please, eat."
They set to, eating tidily, yet steadily, as if they had not eaten well in several days. Which may or may not have been the case. Matthew knew he ate the same way—politely and neatly, yet finishing everything on his plate, whether tasty or not. He and Miriam both had gone through too many times of hunger and privation not to take advantage of food when it was offered.
"So, you are a long way from the place we last met, Sister," Matthew said, facing the fire, yet glancing at Miriam out of the corner of his eye. "Portugal, wasn't it?"
Miriam swallowed and wiped her mouth. "Lisbon, yes. I traveled for a while, you know, as we do." The corners of her mouth creased upward. "I had always wanted to go to India, so I went. Have you been there, Brother?"
"No, I'm afraid I have not stopped there as of yet," he said, considering. Maybe he would go, though. It was a place he had never been, and one of the benefits of Immortality was not having to live one's entire life within fifty miles of one's place of birth. "What was it like?"
"It was truly marvelous, Brother! Many wondrous things to see and interesting people to meet. I learned many new healing techniques. Of course it will be easier for you, as a man in that land. But then, all travel is easier for men than for women, even in these times." She glanced over at her student, who was quietly eating and watching the dancers. "You must be prepared to give up meat, especially pork and beef." Miriam waved a pork rib in emphasis. "They have several religions that do not eat animals."
"I assume there is food of some sort, nevertheless," Matthew said, eyeing her ample figure and raising a wry eyebrow.
Miriam snorted. "Yes, of course. You will not go hungry, unless you become a monk or ascetic of one of their religions. Like many religions, some of the devotions there promote fasting. I never saw the point of fasting when food was plentiful, myself."
"I'm sure you haven't," Matthew said, dry. Miriam elbowed him sharply in the ribs, and he snickered.
"What brings you here, then, Sister?" he said, striving for politeness to make up for his teasing.
"Well, there is need, Brother," Miriam said. "The Hawaiian King has recently established a leper colony at Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka'i. Right now, the ships merely take the poor lepers there and practically throw them overboard to swim to shore. They have no housing, little food, and no one to care for their afflictions. I have heard that the Bishop of the Cathédrale de Notre Dame de la Paix, or, as the local brethren call it, the Malia o ka Malu Hale Pule Nui—did I pronounce that correctly, child?" She interrupted herself to look over at her student.
"Yes, teacher. You said it well," said Makana, speaking to Miriam, but looking over at Matthew, those odd eyes gleaming in the firelight.
Miriam nodded. "At any rate, I've heard that the local Bishop plans to send a mission over to minister to the lepers—a priest at least, hopefully more, although no one knows how he plans to choose who to send. I'm sure if I volunteer, though, that I can talk him into sending me along. It has been a long time since I was a nun. I believe I may be a Carmelite again; they were good to me, the last time."
Matthew looked down into the liquid shimmering at the bottom of his cup of ale. "Lepers, Miriam?" he said quietly.
She snorted again, and patted his knee. "Our kind cannot be afflicted, Matthew," she said, equally quietly. "I have ministered to lepers before, and have never taken harm. They are poor suffering mortals, my Brother. The gods have given me the gift of long life and perfect health. I have been blessed with a knack for healing the ill and comforting the dying. How can I not help?" She linked her arm through his and leaned into him a little, comforting and confiding. "My dear friend, you know my philosophy. The gods put us here to serve mankind. That is our purpose, not that foolish Game. But we all serve according to our talents. Your talent has always been the cause of justice, Matthew. You serve your cause well. But you are no doctor, and certainly no nurse. It is not your calling; it is mine. And I must follow where it takes me."
He sighed and took the last sip of his drink. "Don't lecture me, Miriam. I won't prevent you going. It just means that it will be a long time before I see you again."
Miriam patted his forearm before straightening and disentangling their arms. "Yes, but we have the time, Brother. And nothing prevents you from visiting." She said that last with a twinkle in her eyes.
Matthew pressed his lips together to keep from smiling. "Hmm. Yes, well, we'll see. How about your student? Will you be taking her to the leper colony as well?"
Miriam looked over at her student, who raised her head to look at them both, the firelight dancing in the reflections in her eyes. "No. No, Makana believes she has another calling. I wonder…." She tapped her finger to her lips, and put her empty plate down on the sand. "Mr. Matthews, do you have access to a boat? Perhaps you can help us."
Matthew turned to face them both. "I doubt very highly whether I can get any of my acquaintances to ferry you to a leper colony, Mary."
Miriam shook her head with a bit of impatience. "No. I will not be going there yet. Not until I accompany the Bishop's mission. Going without supplies and support would be counter-productive. What I was wondering was if my student and I could be ferried to the 'Big Island' as they call it. To the settlement at Hilo, for preference."
As usual, Miriam surprised him.
"Why would you want to go there? It is covered in volcanoes. I understand that the earth is erupting in gouts of flame even now."
"That is why we wish to go," Makana said, speaking up unbidden for the first time. "Pele requires one of our kind to fill her seat, else she roams around the land, unquiet, and covering it with lava and fire."
Matthew nodded at her, not understanding, but respecting her sincere tone. Miriam's students were always idealistic, dedicated, and almost painfully earnest. He looked at Miriam. "Can you translate that into something I can understand?"
"Hmph! The entire island is Holy Ground, Matthew. It is dedicated to the Goddess Pele. There is a long-standing tradition of Immortals living on the island, being 'Pele' so that the volcanoes become more tranquil. I don't believe they have ever completely stopped erupting—" She glanced at her student for confirmation. "But the eruptions are not as dangerous if there is an Immortal in residence. Sometimes Holy Ground wants an Immortal's Quickening nearby, Matthew. You know that."
"Oh. Yes. I've visited Mt. Aetna." He sketched the squat outline of the crippled Immortal everyone called 'Hephaestus' (his original name forgotten by everyone except himself) in the air with his fingertip. "And the Roque Bentayga shrine at Gran Canaria. There was a little girl there who was one of us, I don't know how old. She had a big black dog the natives called 'Tibicenas,' I believe. They didn't like the girl, and they especially didn't like the dog, but they never bothered them. I don't know what she was called; the natives didn't have a name for her, and she wouldn't speak to me."
"All the Islas Canarias are Holy Ground. That child-Immortal was there when my teacher first took me to visit, long ago. She had a big black dog then, too," said Miriam, shaking her head slowly. "She never spoke while I was there, either, and I never learned her name."
"Perhaps she has forgotten." Matthew shivered, despite the warmth of the air. He looked over at Miriam in sudden alarm. "You don't plan to squat on Holy Ground for the rest of your life, do you, Miriam?"
Miriam shook off her thoughtful mien and swatted him on the shoulder. "You're not paying attention, Brother! Leper colony for me, remember?"
Matthew winced and nodded, reflecting that life had gotten very strange indeed when it was a relief that your friends had chosen to spend time in a leper colony. "But, then—" He looked over at Miriam's earnest student.
"No one knows what happened to the old Pele. But she is gone." Makana lifted her chin. "I can be the new Pele. These are my people. I must protect them!"
"Forever is a long time to be tied to one small place, child," he told her gently. "Especially if you have no need to be on Holy Ground. You're not weak, or crippled, or blind…. Although, I suppose you refuse to carry a sword."
"Not quite." Makana proved that Miriam had taught her the Immortals' old trick of pulling a weapon out of seeming nowhere by producing a heavy machete—almost more of a cutlass than a big knife—and brandishing it before tucking it away. "I am Hawai'ian. The Hawai'ian people are my duty to protect. The Seat of Pele is mine!" Suddenly she grinned, mischief replacing the fey light in her eyes. "I won't need a weapon on Holy Ground, though."
Matthew shook his head slowly. "No, you probably won't. How has Miriam—sorry, Mary—been teaching you to use that thing?"
"She hasn't," Makana frowned. "She doesn't need to. My teacher has been teaching me to live as one of our kind. She doesn't need to teach me how to fight."
Matthew met Miriam's eye, even as he spoke to Makana. "But, if, say, one of her good friends happened to come along, she wouldn't mind you taking a lesson or two from them?"
"You know I won't mind, my Brother," Miriam said softly. "I don't want my student utterly defenseless. Teach her all she can absorb, if you would be so kind. But find us passage to the Big Island as well. Please. It is the call of her heart."
Matthew watched them both for a moment, teacher and student. Neither should have survived long in the Game, and yet they had. He felt a flash of bitter envy for a moment, that Miriam consistently found students who made her proud, even if they were never great fighters, and his last two students—Cory and Carl—were a thief and a murderer. Perhaps it is the teacher, and not the student, at fault.
Miriam's gentle hand on his wrist banished his foul mood along with his scowl, and Matthew stood. "No time like the present for a lesson, then, ladies. Let us find somewhere more private where no one will remark on a lady with an over-sized knife, and tomorrow morning I'll ask my friends if anyone has a boat going to that Big Island of yours."
Chapter 13: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the rim of the Kilauea Volcano Caldera, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, the Big Island, Hawai'i, late Friday morning
(art by Galadriel34)
"Thanks for agreeing to come along with me, gentlemen," Professor Hon said. "I know you need to catch a flight back to O'ahu and get back to your investigation." Hon was leading him and Danny down a staff hallway into main area of the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, which was attached to the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
"We're good, Ken. The rest of our team e-mailed a lead for us to follow up on at Hilo while we're here. A few extra minutes here shouldn't slow down the investigation," Steve assured him.
"Good. As long as we're here, I'd like you to meet my friend, Hana. I think she might be able to help us with some ideas on how to sell this 'imminent eruption' story you want to use for the evacuation," Hon said. "Hana was my best student; she's ABD."
"ABD?" Steve mouthed. He'd heard that term before, but just couldn't place it.
"'All but dissertation'," Danny leaned in and told him sotto voce. "Means she's almost got her doctorate."
"She should have gone ahead and finished her doctorate; then she'd be out in the field, or teaching at University—she knows more about volcanoes and what they're likely to do than many experts in the field. But she says playing guide for the tourists is what she wants to do with her life." Steve could hear the frustration in Ken's voice. "I'm allowed to tell her the truth, right?"
"Yeah, okay, if you think we can trust her to be discreet," Steve said. "But the Governor really wants us to keep a lid on this, Ken. It could cause a major panic."
Ken raised an eyebrow. "And you don't think a story about an eruption will cause panic?"
"Yeah, but it's a case of a danger people are familiar with versus something out of their nightmares." Danny said, grim. Steve frowned, but agreed with him.
The meeting at the HVO had gone relatively well, once the shouting had died down. Steve had been reminded that scientists could be frightened too, as each individual at the meeting had started spouting increasingly horrific worst-case-scenario hypotheses—from volcanic poisonous gases killing all life on the islands, to the seas boiling, to giant tsunamis striking all over the Pacific, to the world's weather descending into a Nuclear Winter.
But Steve knew that he and his team couldn't function—they couldn't stop this guy—if they kept dwelling on worst case scenarios. He'd tried to convince the HVO scientists of the same thing—they had to concentrate on what they could do, and not on scenarios they had no control over. He and Danny'd finally gotten everybody calmed down enough to extract an agreement of cooperation from the Observatory staff that they'd back up whatever story Five-0 needed to expedite the evacuation of the Big Island's population, or as many of the population as would leave voluntarily.
They passed the big observation area with the windows looking out on the Halema'uma'u crater. Steve craned his neck to peer out at the crater before they passed through another 'staff only' door. "Hey, Danno," he said, looking over at his partner. "Have you ever been to see the volcanoes before?"
They were passing by some offices where Hon was peering in, and having the occasional muttered conversations with the staff, presumably seeking out the whereabouts of his friend. Steve had dropped back to saunter next to Danny.
"Nah," Danny said. "Rachel and Stan took Grace a few months ago, but we were busy with that kidnapping thing, remember?"
"Oh, yeah," Steve said, and couldn't suppress a smile.
"Oooh, no, Steven! Put that face away! You do not get to be all smug about leaping from a tall building!" Danny said, his tone indicating he was still actually upset about an incident that was months old.
"I am not smug about jumping off a building, Danny. I'm just happy we saved that little boy," Steve defended himself. "Besides, I'm fine. You caught me. You caught us both." He paused in front of another door back to the main part of the museum so that he could face Danny and grin.
Danny would always catch him. He knew Danny would always have his back.
Danny shook a finger in his face. "It was pure luck that the mattress store was right next door!" He scowled. "That, and the fact that I'm getting pretty good at being able to predict some of your outrageous stunts by now. Actually, I'm pretty worried about that. Is your brand of insanity contagious?"
"Um, guys?" Ken ducked his head back in through the door to glance from one to the other of them. "You coming?"
Chapter 14: Honolulu Medical Examiner Facility, Honolulu, Hawai'i, Friday mid-day
"I didn't know Immortals called each other on the telephone like that," said Chin. They were walking down a flight of stairs to the medical examiner's laboratory, and Chin had finally broken his silence after what seemed to be a lengthy brood.
"Why wouldn't we?" Matthew asked, shrugging. "Immortals that don't keep up with technology fall out of step with the mortals around them. Those Immortals soon lose their heads, Watcher. You should know that from your Chronicles." That idea would never get old, that somewhere there was a book with his name on it, with a record of everything he did. As always, the notion was equal parts creepy and fascinating.
Chin glanced back up at him. "You just seem to turn up on each other's doorsteps a lot."
Matthew grinned. "If you're going to Challenge someone, it's not always a good idea to call ahead and let them know you're coming."
Chin made a rude noise.
"Well, yes, and many of us were born long before such things as telephone and e-mail were ever invented. So we're used to just dropping in on our friends. Habits of a lifetime tend to change slowly, Chin."
How to explain to someone who had never lived it, who would never have to live it, how time and circumstances and choices made could turn last century's friend into this century's enemy and opponent? When it turned out that the annoying braggart you'd beheaded eight years ago had been an old friend's beloved student, it was a bad idea to discover this during a telephone call warning your friend you were coming to visit. Better not to give your old friend time to prepare for your arrival and nurse his grudge. Far better to learn the unfortunate facts from your old friend's lips during a drunken reminiscence. Then you were both caught off guard, and you could protest remorse and beg forgiveness to your old friend's face—while you were both too drunk to be terribly effective with a blade.
Not that this had ever happened to Matthew or anything.
They reached the landing, and Chin opened the door and ushered him through.
"Now, be patient with Dr. Bergman, Matthew. Max is not a field Watcher, he's just an archivist. He's never expected to actually see an Immortal, much less meet one. You'll probably make him a little nervous, and Max is a little... eccentric... to begin with," Chin warned him quietly.
Interesting. The things he was learning about Watchers from the facts Chin let slip. Simply because Matthew already knew about Watchers, and had spoken to MacLeod's, Chin seemed to assume he knew a lot more about the organization than he did. Matthew smiled winningly. "I'll be as gentle and harmless as a lamb, Chin. Don't you worry."
Chin cut a glance his way as they walked down a hallway of open office doors, the inhabitants busy clattering on computers or speaking on the telephone. "Now you've got me worried!"
As they approached the closed door at the end of the hall, a faint sound of piano music wafted from it. Matthew cocked his head at the sound. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks movement, if he was not mistaken. Not badly played, either.
Chin swung open the door.
The music hit them like a tidal wave of sound. Matthew stopped still as soon as he cleared the doorway, and put his hand on Chin's arm so that he wouldn't interrupt the man in the lab coat and glasses. The little man's clever fingers were energetically dancing over the keyboard of an upright piano crammed against the wall of the office.
Matthew was absolutely charmed. The music was quite good, and he was strongly reminded of visiting some of his brilliant scholar-inventor friends in the 19th century, when the presence of a piano in their study, or library, or even laboratory would be a barely-remarked-upon eccentricity, or in some cases a matter of course.
The pianist in the lab coat swept to the conclusion of the movement, and Matthew began to clap. The man—it must be Dr. Bergman—leapt from his piano bench as if given an electric shock. Bergman turned to face them, one hand splayed dramatically over his heart, glasses askew.
Matthew smiled his most charming smile, and stepped forward, hand outstretched to shake. "You must be Dr. Bergman! That was brilliant, sir! Very good indeed."
Bergman blinked owlishly at him even as he automatically shook hands. "Ah. Thank you."
"Max, this is Special Agent Matthew McCormick," Chin said. "I just called a few minutes ago and told you we'd be down to see those corpses you had to show us, remember?"
Bergman straightened. "Yes! Oh, yes. Step this way, gentlemen. It's most curious—" Suddenly he stopped his scurry for the lab door at the other end of his office and turned to peer at Matthew, blinking and fiddling with his glasses. Matthew noticed the ring on his finger, with the Watcher symbol on it. No tattoo for this little genius, then.
"You say your name is Matthew McCormick." Bergman's eyes widened behind his glasses. "The Matthew McCormick?!"
Matthew ignored Chin's groan and glance toward Heaven and swept the doctor a courtly bow, complete with some flourishes from an invisible feathered hat. "At your service, kind sir." He thickened the Southern accent a bit.
He met Bergman's startled glance as he straightened."I first heard Mussogorsky's Pictures in 1922," he said, smiling brightly. "The Maurice Ravel orchestral arrangement, of course."
Bergman tugged the lapels of his lab coat. "I was first exposed to the Lawrence Leonard 1977 arrangement for piano and orchestra, and the recording by Tamas Ungar; but I prefer Djong Victorin Yu's amended Ravel version from 1993."
Matthew nodded. "Mmm. But the Leonard arrangement was very good too."
Bergman returned his nod. "Oh, of course." He turned back to the door. "As I was saying, gentlemen, in response to Detective Kelly's call, I began to look over our backlog of work, if you will, and I believe you'll agree that my findings are quite startling."
As they followed him through the door into the lab, Matthew exchanged glances with Chin. He waggled his eyebrows at the Watcher. Chin rolled his eyes.
Chapter 15: Halema'uma'u Crater Overlook, Kilauea Volcano Caldera, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Friday mid-day
They eventually found Ken Hon's friend, Kahananui Kaiwi, lecturing a bunch of tourists at the overlook for the Halema'uma'u crater.
"Halema'uma'u is known as the traditional home of the goddess Pele—goddess of lightning and volcanoes," Hana told the milling tourists with a bright white smile. "As of November 2009, a lava pond has been visible in a hole in the floor of the Halema'uma'u vent. This vent is a crater in the floor of the larger Halema'uma'u Crater—which is in the floor of the larger Kilauea caldera," she said. "You can think of it as a crater within a crater within a crater. Like one of those Russian nesting dolls—a volcanic matryoshka," she grinned again, a brilliant white flash of teeth.
She was the kind of woman who, objectively, was not in the least pretty, but in reality was gorgeous as all get out. Danny exchanged a glance with Steve, and they both raised their eyebrows in appreciation of Hana's statuesque charms. She was certainly rocking that park ranger outfit.
Once she caught sight of Ken, she wound up her lecture for the gaggle of tourists quickly, and sent them on their way to the museum gift shop. She bounded over to Ken, unfairly tall and brimming with aloha spirit. "Dr. Hon! Howzit?" She wasted no time giving her old professor a hug. "Who did you bring to see me today?" She turned her beaming smile on Steve and Danny. Danny felt almost blinded, like he was standing in a particularly bright ray of sunshine.
Ken performed introductions. Steve and Danny agreed to call her Hana and shook her strong, calloused hands.
"I'm afraid we're here for business, not pleasure, Hana," Steve said. "Is there somewhere private where we can talk?"
"Sure. Walk with me," Hana said, and led them down one trail, then another trail that was chained off with a 'staff only' sign. "This good enough?" she asked when they'd walked a few yards down the trail.
Danny shivered a little in the wind. It was friggin' cold out here! Hellish climate. Just as soon as he'd gotten used to Hawai'i being hot, it got freakishly cold.
Hana listened gravely as Steve explained about the terrorist and exchanged a frowning look with Ken. She appeared to believe them instantly and without question, probably because they came with her mentor. "I agree with you, gentlemen," she said, frowning off into the distance. "If the worst was to happen, I'd be happier if the entire state was evacuated off to the mainland, but that's probably too much to hope for. It will be difficult enough to get all the civilians off the island of Hawai'i itself. We can't just say one of the volcanoes is going to erupt, you know."
"Why not?" Danny asked, folding his arms. That had been the best excuse short of the truth that Five-0 had been able to drum up on short notice. It had to work!
"Hmm. Well, do either of you remember Mauna Loa's big eruption of 1984?" Hana looked curiously... guilty... when she asked this, as if the eruption had been her fault or something.
Danny shook his head. "Nope." He raised a hand, pointed at himself. "Haole, relatively fresh from the mainland."
"I do." Steve's voice was unusually quiet and sober, and Danny turned to look at his downturned face. Steve put his hands on his hips and stared at the rocky ground in front of his boots. Danny suddenly wanted to stroke away the worry lines that were painting Steve's face. He tucked his own hands behind his back, to avoid temptation.
"I was eight years old, but I remember," Steve said. "We lived on O'ahu; it was on the news all the time. The lava came within four miles of Hilo."
Hana nodded. "And people evacuated to get out of the way of the lava, but the entire population didn't leave the island. From 1983 to '91, we had lava flows repeatedly invading communities all along Kilauea's coastal southern flank." She swung an arm out, presumably toward the south, in illustration. "The 1990 lava flow from the Kupaianaha vent destroyed and partly buried most of Kalapana, Kaimū, and Kaimū Bay. The lava buried eight miles of highway and destroyed nearly 200 houses. We lost a visitor center here at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park."
"Yeah," Hon said, seeming to get Hana's point. "And just this March, a crater floor collapsed at Kīlauea, with lava blasts up to 65 feet high, and a bunch of earthquakes since then."
Hana shook her head and looked from one to the other of them. "The people on this island are used to volcanoes. You're going to have to come up with more than a volcanic eruption as an excuse for your evacuation, gentlemen."
"Great. Just, great." Danny threw up his hands in frustration. They'd apparently come out here for nothing. "Dammit! We've just wasted the day here."
"Danny—" Steve's hand on his shoulder brought him back to earth.
"Sorry," he apologized to Hana and Ken, embarrassed that he'd been rude. "Don't pay attention to me. My fuse is just shorter than normal with this terrorist... thing." He shivered as another gust of wind plastered his still rain-damp clothes against him.
"Oh! No, I'm sorry." Hana grimaced in sympathy. "You must be cold. I'm just so used to it out here that I don't think about people not being acclimated—well, except for the tourists. Come on this way, we'll get inside where it's warmer."
Great. Lumped in with the tourists.
They trudged back to the Jaggar, Steve's hand on his arm, or back, or shoulder most of the way, Steve's worried glances evaluating him for—Danny just knew it—hypothermia or frostbite or something. "I'm fine, Steve," he hissed, when he'd finally had enough. "Just irritable."
"I'll say!" Steve snapped, but smirked at him in the next minute to show no hard feelings before he fell a step or two behind.
Chapter 16: Honolulu Medical Examiner Facility, Honolulu, O'ahu, Friday mid-day
(art by Galadriel34)
"As you can see, this specimen has the pattern of bruising you mentioned, Matthew," Max said, pointing out the marks on the corpse of a Yakuza gang member.
Huh. It was 'Matthew,' already. Chin was beginning to question the wisdom of introducing Max and the oh-so-charming Immortal.
Matthew bent near the end of Max's pointing pencil to peer at the marks at close range. From Chin's vantage point further back, they looked like thumbprint-sized bruises on each temple. "Hmm. And you say you have several more victims like this in your morgue?" Matthew asked.
"Yes." Max nodded vigorously. "And, as you stated, they all also seem to have expired as a result of massive cerebral hemorrhages." He moved to the lab bench next to the wall and pulled up files on the computer. "I have taken the liberty of skimming through our records of individuals who have died of cerebral hemorrhage and have also been implicated in criminal activity. There have been a disturbing number of cases."
"Can you send me those files, Max?" Chin asked him.
"Yes, of course." Max typed some commands to give the Five-0 computers access to the files. He looked over his shoulder and glanced between Chin and Matthew. "And you say that the cause of these hemorrhages is a reaction to a particular designer drug?"
"We think so, Max, yes," said Matthew, hand on his chin. "How many victims have you been able to identify? How old are the cases—how far back does this go?"
"There have been twenty-nine victims that I have been able to positively place within the parameters we have discussed," Max said, hands clasped behind his back like a schoolboy. "There have been a few other cases of violent, criminal behavior followed by sudden, unexplained death, but I have not been able to positively link them to our profile for this drug."
Chin exchanged glances with Matthew. "Want to explain that, Max?"
"Oh! It is simply that there were additional circumstances that complicated reaching a satisfactory conclusion," Max said, going back to his computer and bringing up a file, then a photo of a corpse. "For example, this individual suffered considerable blunt trauma to the head. That could have been the cause of his cerebral hemorrhage, despite the suggestiveness of the distinctive bruises on his temples." Max indicated the bruises on the image of the corpse on his computer monitor with the tip of his pencil.
"Shit!" Chin straightened from his slouch against one of the lab benches. "That guy was from one of our cases. The diamond smuggling ring."
"Did you get any of his confederates in custody? Maybe we can question them about this fellow—tell us if he was using drugs and who his dealer was," suggested Matthew.
Chin shook his head, slowly dawning horror in his gut. "No. Can't do that. They're all— Damn. They all killed themselves. We thought they were just really inept. That guy—" He pointed at the computer monitor. "He drove off a bridge. The other three got into car accidents, or— One of them fell down a flight of stairs, didn't he, Max?"
Max startled. "I, ah." He blinked. "I had believed that to be a euphemism for a bit of over-enthusiasm from Commander McGarrett."
Chin rubbed his weary eyes. "No. Kono and I were chasing him, and he literally tripped and fell down a flight of stairs. But I'm wondering now if he had that brain hemorrhage thing while he was running, and that's what made him fall. Crap. That case was three months ago!"
He looked up at Matthew. "That means that Kiem Sun has been in Hawaii, laying the groundwork for Kucek's arrival, for months now."
"He's been building an army of drugged mortal slaves with super strength and unquestioning obedience, and gathering financial and physical resources, unhampered, for at least that long," Matthew agreed, looking ill. "Pele won't be expecting mortals, Chin. Especially mortals with the kind of drug-enhanced strength and speed that Kiem Sun will command."
"We cannot interfere." Max backed up several steps in reaction to Matthew's glare. "I am sorry, Matthew, but we cannot." He looked to Chin. "Haven't you told him our rules?"
"He knows them," Chin told Max. "And he knows I'm willing to bend them. I'll explain why later, Max, but this is more important than a fight between Immortals." He swallowed around a dry throat. "Besides, Five-0 can certainly track and take down this drug crime ring. I think even the Watchers would allow me that much."
Matthew scowled. "You gentlemen may not be able to interfere, but I have no such problems. I am going to see Pele." He took off, walking quickly out of Max's lab without a backward glance.
"Thanks. I'll talk to you later, Max," Chin called over his shoulder as he dashed off in Matthew's wake. He tugged his phone out to call Kono and get her caught up with the sanitized version of the latest information. He needed her to start analyzing those files from Max while he tried to keep up with a very angry Immortal.
Chapter 17: Dining Room, Volcano House Hotel, Kilauea Crater, Hawai'i (the Big Island), 1911
"I'd be delighted to arrange a tour of the plantation for you, Mr. Salisbury," Davies said, waving his cigar expansively.
Davies' voice faded to inconsequential background noise in Matthew's perception as he heard the song of an Immortal Presence. He scanned the hotel dining room as unobtrusively as he could. Yes, the entire island of Hawai'i was Holy Ground, but it never hurt to be aware of where other Immortals might be lurking.
The dining room of the Volcano House hotel was full of people attending the fundraiser, the murmur of their voices and clink of their dinnerware making a gentle background roar of sound. The men were mostly dressed in formal coats and tails, with one or two testing the fashion waters with the sporty new tuxedos. Next to the black and white backdrop of the men, the women's colorful silk evening gowns and glittering jewelry made them stand out like peacocks on a lawn. Amongst the crowd, he had difficulty discerning another Immortal scanning for one of their kind.
Matthew smiled when he caught sight of a familiar face amongst the waitresses. "If you'll excuse me a moment, Davies?" he murmured, wiping his lips with the napkin and rising from his chair. Davies' reply sounded polite, but was completely irrelevant, because Matthew was already leaving the table and crossing the room.
The other waitresses fluttered and bobbed curtsies at him as he approached Makana. It's 'Pele' now, he admonished himself. Although he was reminded of the immortal everyone called 'Hephaestus,' after the volcano god at Mt. Aetna, and wondered if someday, he would be only one of a handful of individuals alive who'd remember Pele's mortal name.
"Hello," he said as he reached her, forgoing any name at all until he knew what name she was currently using. "It's good to see you again." The waitress uniform Makana wore was simple and hardly fashionable, but her straight posture and graceful carriage put it in competition for elegance with any of the fancy silk gowns of the Society matrons in the dining room.
She scowled at him, hazel eyes flashing beneath the servants' cap she wore. "You are mistaken, sir," she said coldly, and gave him a brief curtsey. "We have never met. Did Sir wish for another drink?" Although the words were polite, Makana's tone and expression were just short of insulting.
Although mightily confused, Matthew knew better than to pursue anything in public, in front of witnesses. "Your pardon, Miss," he said instead. "I mistook you for the daughter of an old friend." He turned and went back to his table and the interrupted dinner with Davies. But he wondered all evening what had happened to Makana. As far as he knew, they had parted on good terms. And Makana's teacher, Miriam, and he were still dear friends. Perhaps Makana had quarreled with Miriam? Matthew could hardly credit it. No one quarreled with Miriam—at least, not for very long.
After the dinner and the speeches, after promising Davies that he'd visit the man's dratted sugar plantation, after writing a generous check that he presented with a flourish to Dr. Jaggar for the founding of his new Volcano Observatory, and finally, after the end of the whole tedious social affair, Matthew was finally free to slip out and try to find Makana.
The formal black coat and tails, with its white bow tie and white waist coat, that he'd worn for the fund-raising dinner banquet was hardly the most practical of garments for skulking around the outside of the servants' quarters, but Matthew managed it. He kept to the deepest shadows whenever possible, and relied on centuries of practice in stealth.
Finally, the thrum of Immortal Presence that told him that he'd located Makana—Pele. He stood uncertainly in the shadows outside the tiny shack, worrying the brim of his silk top hat in his hands. What was he to say? Just because he and Miriam were friends, it didn't put Miriam's student Makana under any obligation to like him. Even if he had taught her a bit about how to use that big knife of hers in a fight, and even if he had been instrumental in procuring a boat to get her to this volcanic patch of Holy Ground, he'd never believed Makana owed him anything.
But. But he'd thought they were friends. Or, at least, not enemies. Matthew didn't know what he'd done to merit the greeting she'd met him with earlier at the restaurant. Perhaps it was just that his greeting had threatened her mortal cover.
It was a dark, moonless night, so he had the white fabric of the nightdress she wore to thank for catching sight of her so quickly—that, and the hyper-alertness that sensing Immortal Presence always gave him.
"What are you doing here!?" she hissed at him. He supposed the white shirt he wore made him fairly visible in the darkness as well.
Matthew tucked the hand holding his hat behind his back as he presented her with a short bow. "Your pardon for disturbing you, Makana," he said quietly. "It's Miriam's friend, Matthew. I wasn't sure if you recognized me, earlier. I didn't wear a mustache when we met, the first time." He gently twirled one end of his waxed mustaches. He typically preferred to go clean-shaven, but a good mustache was quite fashionable right now, and it changed his appearance enough that it was worth the effort of its upkeep.
Makana snorted and folded her arms across her bosom. "I recognized you," she said. "But I didn't realize you were this foolish. How could you act so familiarly to me in public? I'm an unmarried woman, and we'd not been properly introduced. Do you want me to lose my job?"
Matthew grimaced. That had been stupid. If she had been mortal, Matthew would never have just walked up to Makana and said hello like that—or at least not if he'd believed her to be a woman of virtue. That he frequently did just that with Miriam was no excuse. Miriam often went as a nun, and looked considerably older and more matronly than he did—and, in addition, she habitually greeted him as "Brother"—so that his impropriety was generally overlooked. "I apologize, Makana. You're right, that was foolish of me."
Makana stood taller, and wrapped a white shawl more firmly around her shoulders. "It was," she said, uncompromising. "And so is this. If your merely speaking to me will sully my reputation, what do you think will happen if someone was to see the two of us alone together, outside of my quarters?"
Matthew ducked his head. "Again, my apologies. I'll leave you now, then." He took a step back.
"Wait." Makana's tone was clipped, impatient. "As long as you're here, what did you want from me?"
He looked up at her again. "Why, nothing, really. Just to say hello. It has been years since we've seen each other, and I thought to greet another friendly Immortal."
Makana snorted again. "Friendly Immortal. Is there such a thing?"
Matthew shifted his weight and fidgeted with the chain on his watch-fob. "You've met others of our kind, I take it. They respected Holy Ground, at least, didn't they?"
"Yes they did," Makana said, nodding briskly. "And if they didn't remember, I reminded them." Suddenly, she brandished her big machete in her fist.
Matthew couldn't help it—he grinned. "Good for you! Showed them some of the tricks I taught you, eh?"
The machete disappeared as quickly as it had been drawn. "Some of them thought I would be easy prey. A woman they could bully off of Holy Ground, so they could take my virtue before taking my head. I taught them otherwise." She turned her face away as if gazing off toward the red heart of Kīlauea, but looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Yes, your 'tricks' helped. Thank you."
He nodded. He hadn't really done it for her at the time; he'd done it to please Miriam. Makana didn't owe him any thanks.
"So," she said, still facing away from him and glancing out of the corner of her eye. "If you're not here to take my head, why were you at that wretched dinner?"
"What do you mean, the fundraiser?" Matthew fiddled with the brim of his hat, unsure why this woman's anger made him nervous, unsure how he could tell she was still angry, despite the more civil demeanor she showed him. "And I wouldn't take your head, Makana. I don't forget this is Holy Ground, and besides, you're Miriam's student. I wouldn't hunt your head for her sake alone. Anyway, I don't challenge Immortals who have done me no harm unless they've broken the law or abused mortals."
"Oh, you don't, eh?" Makana paced a few steps away, then whirled and stepped up close to him. "What about mortals who abuse other mortals, eh?" She poked him in the chest with one pointy finger. "Do they get a free pass? Do you support them?"
"Please tell me what is upsetting you about me attending the banquet tonight," Matthew said quietly, jaw tight with growing impatience. He was tired of being in the wrong, and now for something he didn't even know about.
Makana waved her arm in an angry gesture. "That banquet was organized by Thurston and his cronies! The same white men who deposed our Queen, Liliʻuokalani, Ma ka Lokomaikaʻi o ke Akua, Moʻi Wahine o ko Hawaiʻi Pae ʻAina . How can I look kindly upon you when you break bread with the oppressors of my people?!"
"Shh! Keep your voice down!" Matthew hushed her. They both looked around them for observers. Fortunately, it seemed nobody had decided to take a stroll by the servants' quarters, and the servants themselves either hadn't heard, or were ignoring them.
"Makana—" Matthew began, then stopped and bit his lip. "I try not to involve myself in the politics of mortals. There's nothing we can do to change them, and they'll only bring pain to an Immortal that tries." Not that the same argument had made any difference to his last student, Carl. Carl had known the politics of slavery first-hand, and hadn't lived long enough as an Immortal to see for himself the wisdom of staying out of mortal affairs. Matthew spoke over Makana as she opened her mouth to voice the inevitable objection. "Wait, please! Nevertheless, I swear to you—I swear—that I knew nothing of this situation. I was here merely because I met Frank Perret in Italy. Perret is a friend of Jaggar's, you know."
Makana settled back on her heels and folded her arms, listening once again. "And why did he—and you—come to be here all the way from Italy? He's an American, isn't he?"
"He is," Matthew agreed. "But he's fascinated by volcanoes. We were both in Naples when Vesuvius erupted. Something happened to the Immortal who resided at Vesuvius—I don't know if some fool tried to take his head, or what happened, but Hercules was gone and Vesuvius nearly destroyed Naples."
"The Immortal at Vesuvius was called Hercules?" Makana asked, curiosity filling her voice.
Matthew shrugged, and managed a small smile. "Well, that was the god whose seat he claimed. I'm not sure any Immortal who knows his real name—or even if he knew it. He was a simpleton—whether from birth or through accident while he was mortal, I don't know. I suspect his teacher parked him at Vesuvius and told him to wait there for him, and he did—for two centuries or more, as far as I'm aware. I went looking for him after the eruption, and didn't find him. I ran into Perret instead. One thing led to another, and we became friends. Perret was corresponding with Dr. Jaggar, who was telling him all about Kīlauea. He and Jaggar began to talk about setting up an observatory at the rim of the Halema'uma'u crater."
"They spy upon Pele's own home," Makana's tone was bitter.
"I know," Matthew responded, apologetic. "But that was why I did come, you see. Perret started talking about coming to see Halema'uma'u and I knew I'd get to see you again if I came along. He came to see the volcano. I came to see Pele."
Makana lifted her head, and Matthew could see the glint from her eyes. "Why did you come to see me, then? You traveled half-way around the world, haole."
"I thought… perhaps we could be friends." Matthew shrugged. "Immortals can be friends; I have some amongst our kind. Miriam is dear to me, but I haven't run across Miriam since I last saw you together. I thought any student of Miriam's would be someone extraordinary, someone I'd like to cultivate as a friend."
Makana shook her head, but there was a smile on her face now, and a tension Matthew had only half-consciously been aware of was gone from the air—as if the volcano had decided not to erupt, after all. "No one can truly know my teacher and not be her friend," she said fondly.
Matthew smiled in return. "I know."
Makana cocked an eyebrow at him. "I suppose if Miriam likes you, you must have something to recommend you."
Matthew's smile broadened. "I do."
A barked laugh was Makana's reply as she flapped the end of her shawl at him. "Shoo! Go back to the Volcano House and to your room to get some sleep. Meet me tomorrow in the daylight and figure out how to get an introduction like a decent gentleman. Even though I'm a 'native' and a servant here, I've managed to preserve a good reputation that I don't wish to see tarnished."
"Very well," Matthew replied, and bowed as courteously as if she was a pillar of polite society instead of a machete-wielding Immortal. "And I suppose tomorrow I can get you to tell me the story of how you came to be working as a servant here—for the very men you hate for what they've done to your people."
"I might." Her eyebrow was imperious. "It may be as simple as the need to keep an eye on my enemies, lest they do my people more harm."
He nodded gravely. "Because you are Pele, and the Hawai'ian people are yours to protect."
"You understand, then." She turned to go inside. "Good night, haole."
"Good night, Pele."
Chapter 18: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the rim of the Kilauea Volcano Caldera, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Friday early afternoon
(art by Galadriel34)
They ended up at the conference table in the main room at the HVO. As well as him and Steve, Ken and Hana had called in the Chief Park Interpreter, Dick Rasp. Rasp was there at Hana's request, on the theory that since he dealt with the tourists all the time, explaining volcano-related phenomena to civilians was something of a specialty. At the rate they were letting people in on the secret, Danny thought pretty soon that the only people who wouldn't know would be the terrorists.
"Do you really think a prediction of multiple-eruptions is the way to go?" Ken asked Rasp. "Outside volcanologists are going to try to shoot down that theory right away."
"Yeah, but we're the ones on the spot. All the experts here are part of the plan, or should be. We'll present a united front, and that will slow outsiders down, no matter what they think they know," argued Rasp.
"I agree," Hana said. Her phone rang, loud in the pause between their voices. Danny watched her absently switch it to vibrate and send the call to voicemail and glanced at his own phone to make sure it was on vibrate too.
Hana leaned forward to continue her argument and rapped the table with a knuckle. "We're not defending a thesis, Ken. Our story doesn't have to stand up to long-term academic scrutiny. We just want to gain some time. Time, and an excuse to evacuate. If we present this story to the local authorities, especially if we have the Governor's backing," she waved at Danny and Steve. "We'll have the evacuation well underway before—"
Suddenly Hana stopped talking and looked up, eyes searching the edges of the room as if she'd heard something. She stared at the door momentarily, but by the time Danny turned around, there was nothing to see in the small window inset in the conference room door.
The discussion continued, the other scientists chiming in with logistical or technical points that they'd have to keep in mind to make the plan work. Steve was curled over a pad of paper, brow furrowed, taking notes as they talked and stopping them now again to repeat something he wanted to jot down.
Hana had faded back from the discussion, Danny saw. After a few minutes, she got up quietly. "Excuse me, gentlemen. I have to use the restroom." She walked purposefully and directly out the door.
Danny got up too. "I'll be right back," he murmured to Steve, before following Hana out the door.
Hana had turned down the hall in the exact opposite direction from the restrooms, Danny saw, closing the door silently behind him. She was striding down the hall and suddenly turned, catlike, and dashed out a door to the outside.
Danny sped after her, as quietly as he was able to. He was able to stop—just—and stay behind the doorjamb as he recognized her voice, raised in an angry hiss, just outside the door.
"This is not the place! This is Pele's own home—this is Holy Ground, you fool!" she said. What made her words extra-startling was the big-ass machete she brandished in her right fist.
The guy she addressed was shorter than she was, nondescript, East Asian-heritage—in Hawaii that didn't necessarily mean he was from elsewhere, but that didn't rule it out, either—dressed in typical tourist garb of shorts, sandals, and a loud aloha shirt.
Something about him made Danny's brain itch. And it wasn't just the sword the guy was casually holding, either—although that should have been enough to make anybody do a double-take. Danny recognized this guy from somewhere; he just couldn't place where.
The other guy narrowed his eyes at Hana, chin held up arrogantly. "You are the fool, if you believe I plan to challenge you here. I don't plan to challenge you at all." And then he switched to another language entirely. Danny wasn't sure, but he thought it might be Mandarin. Too bad Steve wasn't here—it was Steve that knew some Mandarin. Danny didn't know a word. He was going to start studying Mandarin really soon, though, 'cause it would have come in really useful right now.
It looked like Hana knew Mandarin-or-whatever too, and she answered the guy in the same language, in the same angry hiss she'd been using before. The other guy sneered and postured, and Hana got angrier and angrier. It almost looked like he was trying to provoke her into a fight.
And suddenly, he apparently said something particularly nasty, to tell from Hana's expression, then bounded away.
Hana snarled something in return, about to follow, when Danny decided enough was enough, and poked his head out the door. "Hana— Shit!" Stupid, Daniel! That machete had come awfully near to giving him a really close shave.
Hana glared at him. "Williams. Stay out of this. It's not your concern. At least, not yet." And with that cryptic statement, she ran down the path and around the corner of the building, in pursuit of the sword-wielding tourist guy.
Crap! Follow, or go get Steve? Both, Danny decided, hauling out his phone and punching in the speed-dial for Steve even as he pelted out the door after Hana.
I used the names of some real people in this fic: Dr. Ken Hon (Volcanologist at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo), Dick Rasp (Chief Interpreter, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), and Pahoa Police Captain Sam Jelsma.
Please note I know nothing about these real persons outside of their websites, and use their names for verisimilitude only, and with great respect.
Chapter 19: Five-0 Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, Friday afternoon
Kono scowled as she sorted through the new data from Max. She knew it was important for someone to correlate all this information, but she wanted to be out there doing something. She also couldn't help feeling jealous that Chin had so quickly paired himself with Matthew on this investigation. Why was she left out? Is it because I'm the rookie, or because I'm the girl?
She paused over one perp's file. Isaia Apulu's last known residence was in Pahala, on the Big Island. That Dr. Simiao Suen/Kiem Sun character had been sighted on the Big Island, too. Hmmm... Kono started pulling up records of Apulu's known associates who were also from the Big Island.
Huh. Some of those guys were also among the suspiciously deceased on Max's list. Kono bet that at least some of these other associates of Apulu's listed as still being on the Big Island would also have taken Dr. Sun's mystery drug. She wondered if the morgues and mortuaries on the Big Island were also full of dead men with similar bruises on their temples. Something for Danny and the Boss to follow up on. And if that last thought was a little vindictive, then so be it. Their upcoming tedium was nothing compared to the tedium she'd just let herself in for.
Kono put in a request for the files of all known associates of all the dead perps on Max's list. She grimaced. She had a lot of sorting and correlating to look forward to. Oh, joy. Paperwork.
Sometimes it sucked being the rookie.
Chapter 20: Parking Lot of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), the rim of the Kilauea Volcano Caldera, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Friday afternoon
"I don't believe it!" Danny waved his free hand, and tucked his pistol back into its holster, apparently in order to better gesture with both hands. "Where the hell could they have disappeared to? There is nothing except lots of volcanic rock for a million yards in any direction, and two adult human beings have completely vanished!" His arms spread out wide, Danny turned in an emphatic and all-encompassing circle. Steve thought it was cute, but wasn't going to say anything to Danny about it.
There was another place the two suspects could be. "I'm thinking the parking lot, maybe behind one of the cars." He jerked his head toward the parking lot and raised an eyebrow at Danny.
Danny slapped his forehead. "Right!" He drew his pistol again and began to advance toward the parking lot. "But how could they have made it over there so fast that I never saw them? I was right behind Hana."
Steve patted Danny's shoulder, and urged him to lower the arm with the pistol. "Let's do this on the down-low, D. There's too many tourists milling around. We don't want to spook 'em." Danny must be really stressed if Steve was the one urging caution.
Danny nodded tensely and held his pistol pointed down along his side.
"Okay, you go to the left, and I'll come around the building from the other direction," Steve told Danny. Steve knew he could go around the long way faster. "Meet you around front."
"Careful, Steve," Danny said over his shoulder, as he started around the building. "They're carrying some really big pig-stickers on 'em."
"You too." Steve nodded and proceeded at a rapid, controlled jog around the far side of the Jaggar. He kept his gun down at his side. There were too many tourists milling around to risk an accidental shooting.
When he got to the front of the building, neither of the suspects was in sight anywhere in the parking lot. Steve had suspected this would be true—if someone had been out there with a sword, many of those same milling tourists would have been screaming and running around in a panic.
He met up with Danny, who'd obviously reached the same conclusion, because he'd holstered his gun and was yanking down the knot of his tie with a frustrated growl.
Steve holstered his own gun, and walked up to Danny. "Didn't see anyone?"
"No. Not our suspects, anyway." Danny smoothed back his hair, which was coming out of its gel-controlled coif with the help of the wind. "Almost shot one of the stupid geese, though."
"The Nene are endangered, Danny!"
"I didn't shoot the goose, Steve. I said I almost shot it. The damned thing came out of nowhere and honked at me."
Steve pressed his lips together to keep from laughing at Danny. "The sword guy is probably long gone by now," he said instead.
"I wonder what the hell Hana was doing with him?" Danny said. "Could she be involved in this terrorist thing somehow? They certainly didn't appear to be friends, anyway."
"I don't know. Let's talk with Dr. Hon and see what else he can tell us about Hana." Steve clapped Danny on the shoulder and they fell in step back toward the museum. "Lemme call Kono and have her get in touch with the local PD for us. Have them on the lookout for sword-wielding crazies." Steve pulled out his phone.
Danny seized his hand holding the phone at the wrist, his grip almost overly-tight. "Steve! That's it!"
Steve looked over at Danny, letting a raised eyebrow ask his question for him.
Danny let go of Steve's wrist and pointed at Steve's phone instead. "That! That's where I saw the sword guy before! His picture was with the information Kono sent us earlier. The guy we were supposed to see if we could track down."
Steve began to nod. "That associate of Kucek's."
"Yeah, him. I'm positive that was him," said Danny, nodding as well.
"Then I want an APB out on him," Steve said, starting to dial before they went into the HVO.
Before he had finished dialing, the phone rang in his hand. It was Kono.
Chapter 21: Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, O'ahu, late Friday afternoon
Chin sat quietly in the departures lounge of Honolulu International, watching Matthew McCormick pace back and forth along the aisle, like a very large predator in a very small cage. It was unnerving. Chin wondered if the Immortal realized his civilized mask had slipped, just a little, and the very dangerous killer inside was peeking out and frightening the civilians.
Matthew had been upset on their way to the airport, but his agitation had gotten exponentially worse when his calls to Pele's phone kept going to voicemail.
Matthew wasn't doing anything overtly dangerous in the middle of the airport. Nothing that would prompt anyone to call airport security. But Chin was nonetheless glad that they'd been forced to check their weapons into baggage before going through the security checkpoint. Over the last ten minutes, the travelers who had been sitting near Matthew's pacing path had all found reasons to move at least two seats away.
It was a relief when his phone rang and gave Chin something to do with his hands. Be careful what you wish for, Chin told himself as he checked the caller ID and saw it was Steve. His boss could be a very dangerous individual on occasion as well.
"Hey, Steve," Chin answered, deliberately casual, slouching down in his seat.
"Just got off the phone with Kono," Steve said. "She told me about the new lead you're following up. She also said you're on your way over here to the Big Island?"
"Yeah. Matthew wanted to see if he could get a better line on Kiem Sun. He thinks he's the key to getting Kucek." Chin felt a presence over his shoulder, and out of the corner of his eye, saw Matthew settle into the seat next to him.
"McCormick might be right about Kiem Sun." Steve's voice was grim. "Danny saw him. He was threatening a local volcanologist we were consulting with, a Ms. Kahananui Kaiwi."
Chin sat up straight, his heartbeat thundering in his throat. "Kiem Sun was threatening Pele?"
Next to him, Matthew leaned almost on his shoulder. Chin bowed to his unspoken demand, and put the phone on speaker so they could both hear.
"Huh? Who's Pele? You don't mean the goddess Pele?" Steve sounded suspicious.
"Uh. Sorry, Steve. I know Ms. Kaiwi. At least, I've met her a couple of times," Chin lied as quickly and creatively as he knew how. "Some of her friends call her 'Pele'. It's kind of a joke," he said weakly.
"Because she gives tours of Pele's home, the Halema'uma'u crater." At least Steve sounded like he bought it.
"Yeah," Chin said. "That's right. What happened to her?"
"Goddam!" Chin swore. Next to him, Matthew clutched the armrest of his seat so hard it creaked.
"Danny said it looked like she and Kiem Sun were arguing—in Mandarin, as far as Danny could tell—and then they both took off before we could find them. Get this—they were both carrying swords."
"Imagine that," Matthew drawled, though the tension in his face could cut through stone.
"McCormick?" Steve asked sharply.
"I meant to tell you, Steve, I put you on speaker," Chin explained. "When Matthew heard me mention Kiem Sun, he wanted to listen in."
"Right," said Steve. "Listen, Chin, Kono already sent me the new data on your lead. We know what to look for now. You don't need to make that flight. Danny and I can handle things here and leave you free to chase down other leads as they come up."
"I am a federal officer, McGarrett. You do not have the authority to direct my investigation. My flight boards in a few minutes. I intend to be on it," Matthew growled, then sprang up and began to pace again, more aggressively than before, if that was possible.
Chin switched the phone off speaker. "Sorry about that, Steve. Matthew's a little worked up," he said. "He's pretty sure Kiem Sun's critical to this case, and he was already worried that Sun had gotten to Pe— Ms. Kaiwi. We think Sun and Kucek may be after her. We think she knows something they need."
"Any idea what?" At least Steve was willing to listen.
"Uh, not precisely. Maybe having to do with her area of expertise." Best to be discreet while talking in a public airport. Matthew's somewhat alarming presence meant that Chin had a buffer of empty seats around him, but it wouldn't be a good idea to let civilians overhear anything that might cause rumors.
"Yeah, good thought. Any idea what the deal is with the swords?"
"Nope, you got me there," Chin lied. "I think it's a secondary concern to the effects of this drug that Sun's peddling. From what I've been able to find out, before it eventually kills the users, it gives them super strength, super speed, and unquestioning obedience to whoever gave them the drug in the first place. Matthew's afraid that Sun's building Kucek an army." He left the reason why unsaid, mindful of where he was again.
"Not at all," Chin agreed. "Hey, Steve, they're calling us to board the plane. I gotta go."
"Okay, brah. I'll see you soon." Good. It seemed that Steve was resigned to Matthew crashing his end of the investigation, and to Chin tagging along. That was a relief. Chin hadn't wanted to decide between his duties as part of the Five-0 task force and his duties as a Watcher.
Chin turned off his phone, and followed Matthew as he joined the line for boarding. He was not looking forward to being cooped up on a small plane next to the Immortal, no matter how short the flight. Suck it up. You were the one who thought it would be interesting to be a Watcher when Uncle asked you, he told himself, and followed his assigned Immortal onto the plane.
Chapter 22: Old Kalapana Road, Pahoa, (The Big Island) Hawai'I, late Friday afternoon
The little house on Old Kalapana Road had been trashed. It wasn't cluttered, and had clearly been neat as a pin prior to the break-in, because the disturbance was evident. There had obviously been a fight here, and a nasty one.
Danny folded his arms across his chest as he walked through the rooms, careful not to touch anything. The Hawaii County PD's forensics crew swarmed over the little house, photographing and cataloging evidence.
Evidence like the splatter of blood that painted half an area rug and part of the adjoining wall at the rear of the living room. Danny bit his lip, wondering if Hana had been the victim, if it was her blood, or if the blood had belonged to one of her attackers. Somehow, he had no problems envisioning the cheerful park ranger defending herself with that machete he'd seen her with last.
Steve loomed over his shoulder. "Anything?"
Danny shook his head. "I'm not a blood spatter expert. Whoever it belonged to is taller than me, but Hana's also taller than me. Don't say it!"
"What?! I didn't say anything!" Danny didn't have to look over his shoulder to see Steve's Outraged Innocent Face.
Danny flapped his hand back so that his knuckles lightly smacked against Steve's bicep. "The short joke that was right on the tip of your tongue. Don't deny it! I know you were thinking it. And you," he pointed to one of the techs, who was snorting laughter through his nose as he attempted not to look up from his work. "You shut up. I get enough grief from him." He smacked Steve on the arm again and weathered the responding "Ow!" and the advent of Wounded Face (Danny didn't have to see it to know it was there).
"Come on. Let's go outside and let these guys finish up." Danny tugged on Steve's sleeve to get him moving, and they walked out onto the small lanai. The back yard was tidy and well-kept, some fruit trees, some grass, a couple of old lawn chairs propped by the door to the lanai. Beyond the cleared area of grass, the yard was surrounded by scrub forest, trees and shrubs making a shaded, insect-laden wall around the property. Steve wandered around the periphery to the back of the yard, behind a big metal storage shed. Danny followed him.
Behind the shed, the grass gave way to trampled dirt, and a thing that looked like a metal sculpture with bicycle tire sections grafted onto it. Steve walked around it.
"Do you recognize it? What is it? Modern art? Some kind of equipment rack?" Danny asked, as he tilted his head and tried to visualize what it might be used for.
Steve shook his head. "It's a Kendo dummy, Danny. It's used to help you practice swordwork, where to aim your blows." He moved through what looked like a martial arts kata, swinging an imaginary sword, and Danny could suddenly see the places on the dummy where the sword was supposed to land. He didn't need too much imagination to put Hana in Steve's place, swinging that oversized knife of hers.
"From the way the dirt is trampled, she practiced back here fairly often," Steve said, looking at the ground.
"You took the thought right out of my head," Danny told him. "Let's see what's in the shed."
The shed was unlocked, so Danny and Steve snapped on evidence gloves and slid open the doors. They opened easily.
Huh. Half the shed held the expected gardening supplies and equipment. The other half looked like a stockroom for a martial arts store. Everything was clean and organized. Danny had a feeling that Hana really liked the saying 'a place for everything and everything in its place' because the little shed was an illustration of that.
"That's funny." Steve had ducked halfway into the shed to peer at the martial arts equipment.
"What's funny?" Danny followed him, tucking in close with a hand on Steve's side to steady himself.
He could feel Steve's ribs, the muscle and bone moving with Steve's breath, the heat of his skin through the thin material of Danny's glove and underneath the cotton of Steve's t-shirt. Danny could feel it when Steve's breath quickened underneath his hand. His own breath sped up in response.
Inappropriate. Unprofessional. This is not the time, Daniel. Danny took his hand away slowly and took a step back out into the sunny yard. He cleared his throat. "Hmph. Ah, yeah. What did you notice?"
Steve straightened up out of the shed, his throat working a couple of times before he opened his mouth to answer. "Um. The equipment." He gestured at the martial arts gear—wooden staffs, rattan practice swords, punching bags, knives, a wooden dummy roughly shaped like a person's torso with what looked like a detachable head, Chinese and Japanese-style swords in decorative sheaths, and a large collection of machetes in a greater variety of styles than Danny had been aware even existed. Steve didn't meet Danny's eyes, but he licked his lips, and his nipples were stiff, poking up visibly under the tee-shirt.
Not the time. Danny tore his eyes away from Steve's chest, forced himself not to even glance at Steve's crotch, despite wanting to check out if Steve's pants were as tight as Danny's felt now.
"What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing. It's not what's there, Danny. It's what isn't there. No protective gear. No mask, no helmet, no padding. Nothing at all. That's kind of strange, when you're practicing with any martial arts equipment, much less with live steel. I've never seen a collection like this without any protective gear outside a museum," Steve said.
Huh. That was strange. Danny ducked into the shed again, looking for some kind of storage chest or an old suitcase or something that might hold the protective gear.
Steve leaned in behind him, and lost his balance for a second, staggering forward a half-step and resting his hands on Danny's waist and hip to steady himself. A frozen moment later, Steve hissed, snatched his hands back as if Danny were on fire, and backed out of the shed completely.
Okay. That was it.
Danny stepped out of the shed and grabbed Steve's wrist, not looking at him. "Come here."
He tugged and maneuvered Steve behind the shed again, out of the line of sight of the cops currently swarming all over the house.
Danny looked up into Steve's face, getting right into Steve's space. "Steven. Are we doing this?"
"What do you—"
"Don't even pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, Steven John McGarrett, or so help me, I'll put you over my knee!" Danny reached forward and cupped his hand over the tent in Steve's cargo pants. "This!"
Steve gasped and jumped backward, landing with his back against the shed, crouched a little, hands cupped over his groin, face beet red. "Danny, jeeze! Keep that up and you'll make me come."
"Fuck!" Danny spun on his heel and stared off into the scrub trees surrounding the property, concentrating on the remembered sulfur stink of the volcanoes, the last visit he'd taken to Max's morgue, the fish guts he'd had to wade through to catch a perp a few cases ago. Finally, he was under control enough to take a deep breath and ask, "You okay?"
"Yeah." Steve's voice was gravel-rough, as if he'd just—no, no, no, not thinking about that right now.
Danny turned back around, carefully.
Steve was standing with his back to the shed, arms folded around himself as if he was cold.
Danny cleared his throat. "We, uh, we can't ignore this anymore, Steven." He gestured between Steve and himself, both of them flushed, both still aroused. He and Steve had always flirted. Since the day they met, practically. His fantasies aside, Danny had figured it for sparks that livened up their friendship, something to add a little spice, and thought that it would never go further than that. But lately... gradually, things had been getting more and more intense. A lot more intense.
Steve nodded. "Obviously." He met Danny's gaze. The expression in Steve's eyes was hot, devouring. Danny saw more than lust there, though. My God, there was so much more.
Danny looked away. "We need to discuss it. Before we do anything stupid. Rachel... Rachel ripped my heart out, Steve." Rachel had torn his heart to shreds, and his brother Matty had just destroyed his ability to trust, both in the people he loved, and in his own judgment about them. "I can't— And now's not the time."
Steve nodded again. "You're right. We have to take care of this," he jerked his head toward the house to indicate the case. "No distractions."
"Agreed. No distractions," Danny said. Well. That agreement had been way too easy to get. Something was settling in a hard little ball in Danny's stomach. He couldn't make himself meet Steve's eyes again. He turned to walk back to the house.
Steve grabbed his hand. A jolt travelled up Danny's arm, as if he'd gotten an electric shock. He stopped dead still and turned to look up at Steve.
Steve brought Danny's hand up to his lips and kissed the knuckles, right through the evidence glove. Danny imagined he could feel the warmth, the moisture, the softness of Steve's lips in addition to the pressure of the kiss. "After this case is done, though, Danno, we're gonna talk. You and me. Okay?" The look in Steve's eyes. Oh. The look in his eyes! Danny's fingers were tingling, still feeling the kiss, and Steve hadn't let go of his hand yet.
Danny swallowed. "Yeah. Okay." His voice was only a hoarse whisper, but Steve must have heard, because his face looked like Christmas had come early.
"You and me," Danny said more strongly. He took a step back, toward the house. Steve released his hand and let him go.
Chapter 23: Five-0 Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, Saturday morning
Kono smothered a yawn against the back of her wrist. She'd caught a nap on the office couch again, but hadn't bothered to go home to actually sleep. Instead, she'd spent much of the night correlating the known associates of the drug victims, both the list of victims she'd gotten from Max, and a partial list she'd gotten Max's help to obtain from the Big Island's Medical Examiner office.
There were a whole lot of victims. And these were just the ones they knew about. Consequently, there were a lot of known associates. A lot of those were also victims, and she was getting an idea about where their creepy drug lord found his victims. The connections started getting even clearer after she began charting the victims and their associates out on maps.
After Chin and Matthew had landed at Hilo airport last night, and she'd heard from the Boss about the missing park ranger, she'd started to look for concentrations of victims and associates on the Big Island, correlated with locations where it might be convenient to hide a kidnap victim—or dump a body. Probably not what anybody wanted to think about, but it had to be contemplated, if it would lead them to their perp.
Kono gnawed her thumbnail as she considered the map on her screen and added a few more data points. This Sun, who had caused all this chaos already, wasn't even the big fish. When Kucek finally arrived, how much worse would things get?
She shivered and rubbed at the goose bumps on her arms. Stubbornly, she went back to her data, looking for the patterns. Sometimes good old-fashioned research was the key to breaking a case.
She made a screencap of her map and sent it, with a short note, to the Boss. Maybe he'd notice something that Kono had missed. One of them would figure it out. They were Five-0. They would get these guys.
Chapter 24: Town of Hilo, Hawai'i (the Big Island), September, 1944
Matthew parked the jeep across the road from Hilo Hospital. He pushed his cap back on his forehead and used a handkerchief to mop his sweating brow before getting out of the vehicle. He grimaced at the stain on the handkerchief when he was done—back at Camp Tarawa in Waimea, the sand and volcanic grit got into everything, a fine layer even coating the skin. Just now in wiping it off, he'd probably made a streak on his forehead a shade lighter than the rest of his face. Matthew sighed. He looked a sight, but there was no helping it. He resettled his cap correctly and got out of the jeep.
He jogged across the street and made his way into Hilo Hospital. He was in uniform, and an officer; it was no problem getting in. Getting to see Pele was another matter.
"You don't understand, Sister," he told the elderly nurse at the reception desk. "I'm not just any Marine. Elizabeth Keahi is my niece, my sister's child."
Sister Mary Grace looked him up and down, dubiously.
Matthew flushed. "Well, she was adopted, obviously. Ma'am, I'm General Mitchell's aide over at the Fifth Division Marines at Camp Tarawa. Most likely we'll be training for a few weeks and then the Navy is going to send us out there," he waved in the direction of the Pacific. "And I may never get a chance to see any of my family, ever again."
The nun folded her arms across her narrow chest and frowned. "Young man, you'd be surprised at the variety of sob stories I've heard. I'm not letting you in to see one of my girls and that's—"
"I don't need to come in, Sister," Matthew interrupted. "You can have her come out here. Please let me speak to my niece, if only for a few minutes. We won't leave your sight, I promise. Look, my eldest sister and her husband, Dr. Delacorte, moved out here years ago to work for the Archdiocese. At the start of the war, Miriam moved back to the mainland—back home to Louisiana, in fact," he purposely deepened the faint Southern accent he still used, and tried flashing a quick, dimpled smile at her. "But Bessie was grown by then, and wanted to help in the war effort, so she's working here. When I found out she was so close to camp, I had to take the opportunity to see her."
"You're Miriam Delacorte's brother? I knew Miriam. She and her husband ministered to the sick on this island for years. Bessie never mentioned that Miriam was her mother." Sister Mary Grace's scowl seemed to soften around the edges. "Her adopted mother. And she's definitely never mentioned you."
"Bessie wouldn't trade on Paul and Miriam's reputations like that," Matthew said earnestly. "She wouldn't want favoritism. And I'm not surprised she never mentioned me. She doesn't talk about her family at all, does she?" Matthew tried his best to look innocent and trustworthy.
"No. No, she doesn't. You seem to know her, at least." The old nun shook her head, but let out a tiny smile. "Very well, young man, wait here."
Her heels clicked on the tiled floors as she strode briskly away, and Matthew settled on a nearby bench to wait. He got out a cigarette and lit it, spending some time puffing contemplatively at the ceiling.
The song of Pele's Immortality warned him, so he had enough time to put out the cigarette and stand, holding his cap, as Pele came into view, following in Sister Mary Grace's wake. Her face looked anxious and tense—likely she was worried about sensing another Immortal—until she caught sight of him. Then, it was like the sun came out with her smile.
"Matthew!" Pele squealed, and ran into his open arms. Matthew let himself have his fill of hugging her. He'd barely recognized her—she was too thin, her glorious hair was coiled into a tight bun, and the stiff white nurse's uniform disguised her figure.
Finally, he pulled away, keeping his hands on her shoulders, and looked at her for a minute. "Dearest Bessie. How have you been? Are you eating enough? You're so thin."
Pele laughed at him. "Oh, Matthew, I'm fine. Come, sit with me." She drew him back down to the bench. In the background, Matthew saw Sister Mary Grace settle watchfully behind her desk. The bench was far enough away that she wouldn't be able to listen in if they spoke quietly, though.
"Do you have a cigarette?" Pele asked him. "I can smell the tobacco on you. Come on, I haven't had a smoke in ages."
Obligingly, Matthew pulled out cigarettes for them both out of his pack, and lit hers for her. He had to grin at the blissful expression on her face as she took her first hit.
Pele shook her head. "I know," she said softly, chuckling. "For over a hundred years, I never knew what tobacco was, and then it seems I got addicted in a week."
Matthew nodded. "It was the same thing for me with indoor plumbing."
She grinned in acknowledgement and took another puff.
"So, how are you getting along?" Matthew asked her. "We haven't been the best at writing to each other, lately. I've had to change identities more often than I like these last few decades. But that's no excuse, and Miriam has already scolded me. Are you still angry with me for what I said? I did apologize. It was a thoughtless thing to say, and none of my business besides. I can apologize again, if you like."
"Peace, Matthew. It's forgiven and forgotten—at least as much as we can forget things," she said, voice low. "I'm not still angry with you. How could I stay angry with you? You're 'ohana. Family."
That tightened his throat. Immortals generally didn't have too many lasting connections in their lives. Sometimes friends, more often enemies, the occasional student. But that simple thing that most mortals took for granted—family—was almost completely denied them. For Pele to use that term to describe their own bond meant the world to him. It was one of the reasons he clung so fiercely to Miriam—when she called him 'brother,' she meant it.
Pele shook her head, blowing smoke through softly pursed lips. "No, it's just been the War. Since the bombing, it's been so difficult here. It's changed life utterly. I've never seen so many new people so quickly before; I'm not used to it. It's been a little difficult to adapt."
"Have there been other Immortals?" he asked, a little anxious, if he was honest with himself. He would gladly Challenge on her behalf, but he couldn't always be around to protect her.
"A few." She shrugged. "They were usually just passing through, and too busy with whatever they were doing for the War to bother with me. Besides, Matthew, we're on Holy Ground."
He let that pass. They'd had the discussion about the relative safety of Holy Ground more than once. "We're all busy with the War nowadays, in one way or another, if only in trying to stay out of it. The thing about a Great War that swallows the world, is that there are blessed few places to escape it."
"You didn't even try to escape it, did you?" Pele nodded at his uniform. "How quickly did you enlist?"
Matthew took a drag on his cigarette and waved the question away. "It was a good opportunity to take on a new identity, and I needed to get out of North America for a while. How about you?" He waggled his eyebrows at her uniform. "Doing your part, too, I see."
"Oh, yes, changing sheets and cleaning bedpans," she said, more than a touch bitterly. At his surprised expression, she sighed and stubbed out the end of her cigarette in the ashtray by the bench. "I'm a 'Native,' Matthew. They're not going to trust me with actual responsibilities with the patients. As it is, I'm lucky not to be scrubbing the floors or doing the laundry. Sometimes I'm allowed to sit with the dying and call for the priest when the time comes. When I have time, I read to some of the patients to give them some distraction. They're often surprised that I can read."
Matthew didn't know what to say. Like many of Miriam's students, Pele was a good healer, and capable of far more than they were allowing her to do in her current position. Yet the realities of being an Immortal meant that she had to blend in, and couldn't appear to be too remarkable—the last thing she needed was to be unique, memorable. Silently, he offered her another cigarette from his pack, and lit it when she accepted.
Pele took a long drag on it, and then looked down before leaning forward to touch his forearm. "Tell me, have you seen Miriam lately? In her last letter, she said that Paul passed away in the Spring."
Matthew nodded soberly. "Yes, I saw her before I left California. She's taking his death hard, Dearest." Miriam had taken a mortal husband, Paul Delacorte, a doctor from New Orleans. Delacorte been in his forties when he and Miriam had married—a second marriage for the widowed Dr. Delacorte, who'd had a grown son as his best man. Matthew had been delighted to give the bride away as her younger 'brother.' He'd known Miriam to occasionally take a lover, but she'd never married before in his memory. Even her great joy on the day hadn't made the homely Miriam a beautiful bride, but apparently love made her handsome enough, if the adoring look on Delacorte's face had meant anything. Matthew had been satisfied she was in good hands.
Pele bent her head lower, sorrow furrowing her brow. "They were so happy when they were here, Matthew. They went all through the countryside, visiting the sick—some of those people had never seen a doctor before. Between Paul and Miriam, they made such a difference in so many lives." She took another drag of her cigarette, exhaled a cloud of smoke gustily. "Paul knew about Immortals."
Matthew blinked. "Miriam told him?" She rarely told mortals about her Immortality, he knew; she wasn't in their lives long enough that they'd be able to tell she hadn't aged. It was the same for him.
Pele looked up at him and shrugged. "He'd suspected something. He was a doctor, and they'd been married twenty years. Besides, they were here fifteen of those years, and he hadn't seen me age either." She shrugged again. "I couldn't stay away from my teacher when she was on the same island with me—it would have been too hard on us both."
She dragged deeply on her cigarette, and then blew a long stream of smoke up to the ceiling. "Miriam asked my permission, and finally sat him down and told him while I was there." Pele smiled wistfully. "He actually took it fairly well. Better than some of the lovers I've told."
Matthew just shook his head, taking a drag on his own cigarette. He'd never told a mortal lover about his Immortality. It was too great a risk. But apparently Miriam had judged Paul worth the gamble. No wonder she was so devastated by his loss. When this war was over, Matthew promised himself, he'd go find Miriam and drag her into some kind of adventure to take her mind off her loss. "Maybe I'll take Miriam to Africa," he said aloud.
Pele brightened, nodding. "She'll like that. Miriam told me about her previous travels in Africa once. It sounds exciting." Tied to the Island of Hawai'i for the whole of her Immortal span of years, of course Pele would regard travel as exotic and exciting instead of the irritation and inconvenience it often was.
She poked him in the arm. "Speaking of which, Sister said you were here from Camp Tarawa. Are the rumors true? Do those jarheads actually have a lion in the camp?"
Matthew dropped his head back and laughed, glad to have something to laugh about at last. "Good old Roscoe! Yes, yes, it's true. Those boys are crazy. Some of them bought a lion cub from the zoo before we left California, and they snuck him on the ship with them when we were shipped out here. Roscoe's full grown now, a big male lion. He's pretty tame, though; they keep him well-fed. He 'sings' with the band at the USO whenever they play." He grinned at Pele's giggles.
Pele shook her head as she put the stub of her second cigarette out. "Oh, I just bet he does. I'd pay to see that." She glanced over at Sister Mary Grace. "Don't suppose you could sneak me into the camp so that I can get a peek at Roscoe?"
"Oh, no, you don't, little sister," Matthew warned her, smiling nonetheless. "The trouble we would both get into would never be worth it. Roscoe's not all that remarkable. Just imagine a very big tomcat."
"Come on, Matthew! When would I ever get a chance to see another lion?" Pele cajoled. "It's not like I could go to Africa with you and Miriam."
"You could though, little sister. You could." Matthew reached out and squeezed her hand. "Find a replacement. You've done this a long time. There's a big world to explore. We could travel together for a while."
"No. No, I really couldn't." Pele shook her head firmly. "This is my burden, Matthew. I knew what it entailed when I took it up."
"That doesn't mean you can't take a vacation, child! Look, after the war is over, I'll come back here and volcano-sit for you a few decades while you take Miriam to Africa."
Pele looked at him with fondness. "That is a very generous offer, Matthew. And, one day, I might take you up on it. It's not that day yet, though. Thank you." She leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
The Marines Matthew was with at Camp Tarawa in Waimea eventually went on to fight at the Battle of Iwo Jima. And yes, they did really sneak a pet male African lion named Roscoe into camp with them when they came to Hawaii. Apparently he liked to "sing" with the USO.
Chapter 25: North Glenwood Road, 'Ola'a Forest Reserve, Mountain View, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Saturday late morning
Danny was tired of McCormick's shit.
"What is your problem, huh?" He twisted in around in his seat so that he could glare at McCormick in the back of their rental truck. "We're doing everything we can! We're following every damn clue, okay?" McCormick was getting on his last nerve, behaving more like a family member of their possible kidnapping victim rather than a professional law enforcement officer. Granted, the worst possible scenarios—figuring in a nuke and volcanoes—were pretty dire, but McCormick had known that before ever coming to Hawaii.
"We have the chance to save a woman's life, and you're pissing and moaning about McGarrett driving too fast—that's my problem, Williams," McCormick snarled in return. For a second, Danny actually thought that the man would come over the seat to do him some violence. Seldom had he met anyone with a temper as hot as his own, and it startled him.
Luckily, Chin, sitting next to McCormick in the back seat of the Ford F-150, was able to restrain the agent with a "Matthew, enough," and a hand on the other man's forearm. McCormick subsided with a glower, looking like a surly teenager.
"Kids, are you going to stop fighting, or am I gonna have to pull this car over?" Steve sang out, looking like he was trying to lighten the mood. It wasn't working.
"Danny, have some patience please," Chin said, the serious tone of his voice matching the expression on his face when Danny glanced over his shoulder. "Matthew knows Hana. They're friends, and he's worried about her. We only think Kucek wants her for the information on volcanoes she has. He could easily kill her if he doesn't think she's being helpful enough."
"Is that why you came to Hawai'i, McCormick?" Steve asked, glancing back in the rearview mirror. "Because of Hana? Why didn't you tell us this in the first place?"
For a minute, Danny thought McCormick wouldn't answer. The other man was staring out of the window at the landscape—pretty much a wall of trees right now, as they drove the two-lane road toward the 'Ola'a Forest Reserve, where Kono's latest intel said they might locate Kiem Sun, or Dr. Simiao Suen, or whatever Loud-Tourist-Shirt-Guy-Who-Talks-Mandarin's real name was. And they were going down this hilly road at a brisk and patently unsafe clip, as per Steve's usual driving, especially when on a case. There were dirt roads in Danny's future, he could just feel it!
Finally McCormick spoke, still staring out the window, but obviously not seeing anything—in the present, anyway. "Hana is only one reason I came out here. I have been trailing Kucek. He's been sowing a path of destruction for too long, and he has to be stopped. And if I can protect Hana in the meantime, that's a big bonus for me." McCormick leaned his forehead against the glass of the truck's window. "Hana was close to my sister, Miriam," he said softly. "Miriam practically raised her. She was always a favorite of mine, but ever since Miriam's death, Hana's been even more dear to me. She's family. I can't just sit and do nothing while she's in danger."
Danny swallowed. McCormick's words were filled with pain, both experienced and anticipated. Danny had been there before, when a case intersected with his personal life, with family. It sucked. He glanced over at Steve, who was making a close relative of Aneurism Face. Steve knew, from very personal experience, the depths of how bad this could get for McCormick. Danny let himself rest his hand on Steve's where it curled over the gear shift. Steve glanced over and met his eyes soberly. Then Steve's expression firmed with resolve before he put his eyes back on the road in front of them.
Danny slid his hand away from Steve's warm skin and hooked it around the back of his seat. He leaned over so that he could meet McCormick's gaze. "I'm sorry, man. I know it's hard. We'll get the guy, though. You'll see. We're Five-0, McCormick. We don't stop until we get the bad guys."
McCormick nodded at him in acknowledgement. "I believe you. I just hope we get them in time to save Hana."
Chapter 26: Hidden Marijuana Plantation, 'Ola'a Forest Reserve, Mountain View, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Saturday mid-day
They seemed to come out of nowhere. There were dozens of them. They just kept coming and coming, like creatures out of a horror movie. But, Chin reminded himself, these were men. With possible criminal connections, yeah, but that didn't mean that they weren't individuals, with families. Like that growling Hispanic-looking guy coming toward him now—the guy with the dead eyes and the expressionless face. He was someone's son, someone's brother, someone's husband or father maybe. Chin reloaded his shotgun and shot the guy in the chest anyway, grateful that he and Matthew had brought their weapons from O'ahu.
The one good thing about this was that he and Matthew were there as backup for Steve and Danny, who otherwise might have been overwhelmed by sheer numbers, as Kiem Sun had no doubt intended when he sent his drugged zombie-like minions after them.
Chin ducked behind a tree as one of the zombies threw an axe at him. He felt as well as heard the chunk. Shit! Splinters and bits of bark burst from the impact point. Chin wiped the sweat from his face and took some deep breaths, centering himself.
A shout from Danny brought Chin around the other side of his tree, shotgun up and ready.
Danny struggled between two of the zombies, one tugging on each of his arms, using him as the rope in a one-on-one tug-of-war. Danny's clothes were torn and disheveled, hair wild, gun completely missing. Maybe the zombies had taken it from him—or maybe it just ran out of ammunition Chin thought, with a sinking heart. His own ammunition was dangerously low. Even so, he'd have used it all up to rescue Danny, but he didn't have a clear shot. A shotgun was an area weapon, not a pinpoint weapon. The one thing Chin absolutely required was a clear shot.
"Danny!" Steve was fighting off three opponents, hand-to-hand. He was holding his own, even against their drug-amped strength and speed, but he'd caught sight of Danny's predicament. Even as he fought, Steve tried to angle closer to Danny. Dammit, Steve! If he didn't pay attention to his own battle, Steve was going to get himself killed, and then he'd do Danny no good whatsoever.
Danny was still bucking and struggling with his two. Chin started running toward him, weaving through trees, saplings, and brush. If he couldn't shoot the damn zombie guys, maybe he could use the shotgun as a club.
"Chin! Behind you!" Matthew's call came from somewhere to Chin's right, where he'd been fighting in Chin's peripheral vision. Instinctively, Chin ducked and turned. The machete swung from behind him sliced thin air instead of his neck. Chin used his momentum to roll forward and take the machete-wielder out at the knees.
It turned out the shotgun did make a satisfying club. Chin straightened, refusing to see the man whose brains he'd just bashed in as anything other than one of a zombie horde.
He looked around, about to head back to Danny, and saw that the situation had improved somewhat. Danny had somehow maneuvered himself so that he and his opponents were entangled in a big shrub. Danny was getting scratched and bruised by the plant, but so were the guys he was fighting with, and for the moment they were unable to drag him away—or rend him limb from limb, it was hard to tell their purpose.
As Chin surged forward, Matthew leaped on one of the men at the end of one of Danny's arms. Chin noticed that Matthew wasn't using his pistol either. Maybe it was out of ammunition, too.
Matthew did have a knife, though. One he didn't hesitate to use, slitting the throat of the man he'd jumped. The blood from the zombie's throat sprayed all over Danny. Guess Matthew's saving the sword for other Immortals. Makes sense, he doesn't want to risk damaging it outside of an Immortal Challenge, Chin thought distantly, as he brought the butt of the shotgun up to smack the jaw of the skinny Filipino-looking guy yanking on the end of Danny's other arm.
"Jeez!" Danny exclaimed, shaking the blood from his now-free arms and wrapping them around himself. "Thanks, guys. I think."
Chin noted with satisfaction that the guy he'd struck fell, and furthermore stayed down. He looked unconscious. Chin wondered if the brain hemorrhage had set in yet. Just how long do the effects of Kiem Sun's drug last? Do the victims always get a brain hemorrhage?
He looked over at Steve, who had just downed the last of his attackers left standing with a solid, bone-crunching mule kick. Steve looked disheveled and bruised. As he did himself, no doubt, Chin mused, glancing at the deep bruises on his arms and the tattered remains of his right sleeve. He still had too much adrenaline in his system for anything to really hurt yet, but he was going to feel this fight tomorrow. He wasn't as young as the other two Five-0 members, and he certainly wasn't anything close to an Immortal, to take a beating like this and just walk away from it like nothing had happened.
Chin's thoughts were interrupted by the shouts of the police in the distance, and the thumping of the police helicopter overhead, the wind from the rotors sending the vegetation whipping around as if in a typhoon.
Finally! The cavalry arrives at last. Chin looked around. Matthew was wiping his knife clean on the clothing of the man he'd killed. Danny was yanking off his blood-soaked tie. Steve was crashing through the undergrowth toward the rest of them. Chin didn't see any more of Kiem Sun's drugged minions standing. He carefully set his shotgun on the ground and raised his hands above his head, badge held up, so that the incoming officers wouldn't mistakenly shoot him. A little late, but better late than never.
Chapter 27: South King Street, in front of the King Kamehameha Statue, Honolulu, O'ahu, Saturday mid-day
Kono crossed South King Street with the rest of the lunchtime crowd. Back at the office, her vision had begun to blur from staring at the computer screen for so long. She'd unilaterally decided, as the sole remaining Five-0 member at Headquarters, and, therefore technically The Boss, that it was officially her lunch break. She had time to walk over to her new favorite quick-lunch spot, the Fresh Garden Deli on Merchant Street, and get a sandwich to bring back to her desk. The walk itself would wake her up and get her blood moving a little.
Automatically, her gaze swept the crowd of tourists milling by the King Kamehameha Statue. What's Kamekona doing here? The big guy was manning one of his ubiquitous street carts, selling shave ices to the tourists. But doesn't he have minions—ahem, employees—for that now?
She made her way over there, and stood in line behind a harried-looking haole tourist and her three children, waiting patiently until the youngest girl had finally made her mind up about what flavor she preferred. Finally it was her turn.
"Howzit, sistah!" Kamekona greeted her with a smile.
"I'm good, Kame. What's da scoops? What are you doing out here?" Now that she was here, maybe she should get a shave ice. Something cool and sweet sounded pretty good right now. "You have mango flavor?"
"Of course! My mango brok da mout." Kamekona busied himself getting her order. "Bobby called in sick, and I no have nobody try cover his shift. It's tough bein' the boss sometimes."
The way Kamekona leaned down to scoop the shave ice gaped his shirt at the collar. Kono got a glimpse of a tattoo on his chest, just below the collarbone. It looked suspiciously familiar. It looked like Chin's new tattoo! What the everliving FUCK?!
She kept a smile on her face, and tried to keep her voice casual. "Hey, Kamekona, have some new ink there?" She scratched the spot beneath her own collarbone in illustration.
He handed over her shave ice and smiled genially. "Nah. I've had it a while. Just usually cover it up. Everybody's not like McGarrett, always flashin' his tats."
She poked a spoon in the ice and fished out her wallet to pay. "Does it mean anything? I've seen that symbol tattooed on other people before."
His genial expression didn't waver as he made change for her, but somehow his gaze seemed to sharpen. "It just means 'long life,' little kaikuahine. It's a pretty common symbol. Hey, is your cousin Chin around?" He jerked his head in the direction of Five-0 Headquarters.
Moving aside so the next customer could have his turn, Kono shrugged. "He's out at the Big Island this afternoon. On a pretty big case right now."
Kamekona nodded. "Do me a favor, will you? Next time you talk to Chin, ask him try his e-mail. Tell him it's da kine."
Quickly swallowing a mouthful of mango shave ice so she could talk, Kono tried not to choke. "You sent him an e-mail?"
Kamekona made change for his current customer, then see-sawed his hand at her. "Like dis; like dat. Not 'xactly. I didn't send it, but I know he gots one. Just tell him to check it, 'kay? It's important."
"Fo' shua! 'Kay den, brah." Kono made herself turn away, and waved back at him as she headed out again toward her sandwich shop, but her mind was whirling. Kamekona lurking outside Five-0 headquarters seemed just a little too coincidental. And what about the mysterious e-mail? And what was up with that damned tattoo?! Chin had a lot of explaining to do when she caught up with him.
Chapter 28: Pāhoa Police Station, Kea'au-Pāhoa Road, Hawai'i County Police, Hawai'I (the Big Island), Saturday mid-afternoon
"Hey, you want a soft drink?" Chin asked.
Danny looked up from tying the laces on his borrowed sneakers. Let's face it, these things have been sitting in the Hawai'i County PD lost and found for over a year. You're not 'borrowing' anything, Williams, you're wearing these babies home. "Yeah, Chin, thanks. Coke, if they have it. None of that diet crap, either. I want all the calories and caffeine I can get right now."
"You've got it." Chin slicked back a lock of still-wet hair as he shoved cash into the soda machine and punched in his selections.
They'd all gotten showers at the HPD locker rooms, and a change of clothes scavenged from the long-term items in the lost and found bin and from donations from fellow cops. Since Danny's clothes and shoes had been pretty much ruined, and still stank of trampled marijuana plants from that wretched firefight with those drugged goons, he was pretty grateful for the sweatpants and sneakers he was wearing, and even for the HPD softball league t-shirt. Go, Sharks!
Chin had kept his own boots and jeans, but wore a gaudy aloha shirt some tourist had long-ago abandoned to the lost and found. He brought his sodas over to the table Danny had commandeered in the Pāhoa Police Station break room.
Danny popped the tab on his Coke with a flourish and tapped Chin's Seven-Up with his own can. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," Chin said, and they both chugged a swig of their sodas. Ah! Cold, fizzy, caffeinated goodness. Just what he needed right now.
The crackle of plastic brought Danny out of his soda-induced reverie long enough to stare hungrily at the bag of corn chips Chin had torn open and left on top of the table.
Chin noticed the direction of Danny's stare. "Go ahead, Danny. Have some." Chin chomped on a chip just as his phone rang.
Danny listened shamelessly and scarfed up some Doritos while Chin leaned back in his seat and filled Kono in on recent events.
Danny was starving. When he thought about it, he and Steve hadn't stopped to eat all day. Maybe he could talk his partner into getting a late lunch or early dinner once Steve and McCormick had gotten out of their meeting with Pāhoa Police Captain Jelsma.
Chin wrapped up his conversation with Kono with an "Okay, Cuz. I'll do that right now." He ended his call and grabbed another chip out from underneath Danny's greedy hands. "Kono says 'hi,'" he told Danny. Danny nodded, his mouth full, and Chin promptly bent his head to his phone again, probably checking his e-mail now.
Danny blinked tiredly and slumped down in his seat. He was so very glad that he wasn't in charge of this fiasco, and it was Steve stuck in Jelsma's office. All Danny'd had to do was give his statement. He was beat and beat up. He was covered in cuts and bruises, and—he picked some stubborn plant sap out from under his fingernail—still smelled vaguely herbal, despite the earlier shower.
"Fuck!" Chin swore, sitting bolt upright and staring at the screen of his phone as if it had personally offended him.
"What? What is it?" Chin's exclamation had Danny sitting up and taking notice. Chin rarely cursed—in fact, the entire Five-0 team had the cleanest language of any cops that Danny'd ever worked with before, and with a former Navy officer as a boss, that was a huge deal. To be honest, it felt a little creepy sometimes, like they were all starring in some police-themed action television drama, where you had explosions, but not the "oh, shit!" that usually accompanies said explosions. But mostly, Danny was grateful he didn't have to monitor his friends' language around Grace.
Chin didn't answer; his face gone intent and mostly expressionless while his eyes scanned over the e-mail on his phone that had prompted his outburst.
"What's going on, Chin?"
Abruptly, Chin stood up, pocketing his phone. "Come on, Danny. I have to talk to Steve and Matthew. This shit just got worse." He took off, out of the break room at top speed.
Danny paused for half a second to scoop the chips back into the package and bring it, and the remains of his soda, along as he double-timed it in Chin's wake. He had a feeling that junk food was all the dinner he was going to get.
Chapter 29: The Dolphin Bay Hotel, Hilo, Hawai'i (the Big Island), March 1984
"Good morning," Matthew greeted the front desk clerk of the Dolphin Bay Hotel. It was an older property, not one of the fancy hotels with an ocean view, but it seemed very pleasant and had a lovely garden. "Do you have rooms available?"
"How long will you be staying, sir?" The man's nameplate read J. Alexander, Manager.
"Let's say a week right now," Matthew decided. "I'll let you know if I need to extend my stay."
"Just one person?"
Matthew nodded. "Is it possible to check in now?"
The manager frowned for a moment. "Well, check in is officially at 3pm, but we may have a room ready. Let me call housekeeping and check. If we don't, I can hold your bags for you while you see the sights or have lunch. I can recommend some local restaurants if you'd like, sir."
"Actually, I'm looking to meet with someone who works here," Matthew said. "Well, she worked here the last time I heard from her; it was some years ago. Is Ms. Kalani here?"
Alexander raised his eyebrow. "Hmm. One of our maids is Noelani Kalani. I can call her." He looked a bit doubtful.
Matthew smiled. "That's her! It would be good of you to call, thank you. Tell her that her old friend Matthew is here to see her, please."
The manager frowned, but picked up the telephone at his desk and dialed housekeeping. "Olina, is Noelani available? Thank you, yes, if you could fill in for her and send her to the front desk. An 'old friend' of hers is here to see her, a Matthew—?" He looked up at Matthew.
"Rogers," Matthew supplied, as he passed over his credit card for the man to enter into his records.
"Rogers," the manager repeated. He hung up the telephone and began to process the paperwork for Matthew's stay. "She'll be up shortly," he said. In a quieter voice he murmured, "This is Holy Ground, sir. We want no trouble here."
Matthew stared at him.
Alexander's lips firmed. "I know what 'old friend' means," he said. "Noelani is 'ohana here. We don't put up with anyone who intends to bother her. As I said, the whole island is Holy Ground and you can't start anything here. Don't even try. I have a pistol and will shoot you as often as it takes."
Matthew quirked a smile. "Relax. I don't want trouble." He raised both hands, palms up. "Promise. I really am an old friend. It's nice to see she has friends here as well."
He turned as he felt the song of Immortal presence, just in time to see Pele walk cautiously in the door of the lobby.
"Matthew!" she said, a broad smile on her face. It was the only warning he got before she flung herself into his arms. Hopefully the hotel manager's worries were assuaged.
"Dear one," he murmured into her hair, hugging her tight. "It's so good to see you!"
She held his hand once he released her and turned to her employer. "John, may I have the next few days off? Matthew and I haven't seen each other in too long, and we have a lot of catching up to do. I'll make the time up and I'll owe you a favor."
The manager shrugged. "As long as Olina doesn't mind. It's her you'll owe the favor." He paused, and then continued, obviously uncomfortable. "Noelani, I'd prefer if you 'caught up' with your friend off the hotel property. I'm sorry—I don't mean to imply anything improper. It's just that you know how easily a hotel can get a dubious reputation."
Pele threw back her head and laughed. "Oh, John! Don't worry. Matthew is not my ipo." She shook her head. "We'll catch up at my house, never mind."
Matthew trailed behind her as she bounced out the door, grumbling that while he had no particular wish to be her boyfriend, he'd prefer it if the very notion wasn't a cause for such hilarity.
Chapter 30: Pāhoa Police Station, Kea'au-Pāhoa Road, Hawai'i County Police, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Saturday mid-afternoon
It was bad. It was really bad.
Steve knew that, just from the expression on Chin's face, even before he opened his mouth to tell them the news. He just couldn't process how bad it was, for a moment.
"Say that again," he ordered Chin, as if that could change the news.
Chin's expression got even more grim, if that was possible. "My sources in Indonesia tell me that the man assigned to keep an eye on Kucek was found dead—they fished him out of a river this morning, their time. Their medical examiner was willing to guess he's been dead anywhere from a few days to over a week—apparently, until they do an autopsy, it's hard to say more precisely, between the damage the body sustained and the water it'd been in."
"Gods' Wounds! That means no one's actually seen him for a week!" McCormick's face was deathly pale. "We've been monitoring the airport, and counting on having someone tell us when he got on the plane on the other side—"
Chin nodded. "And he could already be here by now. He didn't even have to come by air. He could have hopped a flight to Mexico or Southern California—anywhere close enough, really—and taken a boat here."
"And they took Pele this morning." McCormick looked down, his hand gripping the back of the chair he was standing next to so hard, it looked like he'd tear the cloth.
"Pele is the nickname her friends called Ms. Kaiwi," Chin told Captain Jelsma, who'd tolerated the interruption to his meeting quietly enough. "Because she gave tours of Halema'uma'u, you see. We think she's the closest thing to a volcano expert that Kucek's men could get their hands on. She may have information that's critical to Kucek's plan."
"Kucek's that terrorist you told me about, McGarrett." Now Jelsma looked ill. "You're saying he might be here, on Hawai'i, right now—" he said, looking at Steve like he didn't want to hear what he knew Steve was going to say next.
"I have to call the Governor," Steve said, pulling out his phone to suit action to words. "We're going to need to evacuate the island."
He looked over at Danny, standing by the door, absently clutching a soda and chips in his hands, and met his eyes. Danny nodded. Whatever Steve needed, Danny'd be his backup.
Steve blew out a breath. Having Danny at his back braced him, made him able to do whatever he needed to do, even this. He dialed the Governor.
I used the names of some real people in this fic: Dr. Ken Hon (Volcanologist at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo), Dick Rasp (Chief Interpreter, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), and Pahoa Police Captain Sam Jelsma.
Please note I know nothing about these real persons outside of their websites, and use their names for verisimilitude only, and with great respect.
Chapter 31: Private Boatslip on Hilo Bay, Hilo, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Saturday night
"Be careful! I would not have her damaged more than necessary!" Hasan Kucek's voice rang out in the darkness over the water. Kiem Sun winced at the volume and looked around. It would be the worst bad luck right now to have an inconvenient tourist pop up to witness what they were up to.
However, Kiem Sun noted with satisfaction, his followers did not even glance up to acknowledge the other man's command as they struggled with their awkward burden—Pele was a tall, well-built woman, and they'd wrapped her body in a canvas sail to disguise it—down the pier to the boat ramp. The fool does not realize that my mortal servants obey only me. As soon as Kiem Sun had access to enough quanla root outside of Kucek's control, the other Immortal's usefulness would come to an end, and then he would find out how loyal Kiem Sun's faithful mortals were, and how useful for subduing enemies. Speaking of subduing enemies....
"Why do you care how damaged Pele is?" Kiem Sun asked. "You intend to take her head anyway."
Kucek turned to glare at him, swift as a mongoose. "She is not Pele!" Kucek barked. "Do not offend the Goddess by referring to that imposter by Her name, especially on Her own Holy Ground."
Kiem Sun held up both hands and took a step away from Kucek. "Very well! As you wish." Religious lunatic.
Kucek snorted, as if he'd heard Kiem Sun's thought, and faced the ocean, and his boat, again. "I wish the imposter to be in condition to fight, once she comes back to life. If she is damaged beyond the wounds your minions inflicted to kill her, she will take longer to heal. I do not wish to wait so long to do battle, now that I am so near my goal."
"You intend to Challenge her?" Kiem Sun raised an eyebrow at Kucek, newly impressed by his idiocy. "Why not simply take her head while she is... incapacitated?" Frankly, with Kucek's bloodthirst for this female Immortal, Kiem Sun had been incredibly glad he hadn't had to talk the religious fanatic out of slaying her immediately on Holy Ground. That had been something he was prepared to avoid at all costs, even to losing the source of his quanla root.
Kucek raised his own eyebrow back at Kiem Sun. "I am not a coward, as she is." And as you are, his expression seemed to imply. Kiem Sun was used to ignoring these slights to his character.
"I intend to Challenge her fairly, off the Holy Ground the coward uses to protect her from the Game," Kucek continued. "The Goddess Pele will favor me for Challenging the blasphemer who dares impersonate her. There is no doubt that I will be victorious."
"Of course," Kiem Sun said, placating him. "She has probably not fought a Challenge in centuries. It will be an easy victory."
"I will not be victorious because the coward has not practiced," Kucek sneered. "But because I am right, and my cause is just."
"As you say," Kiem Sun said placidly, and kept himself from taking another step away from the lunatic. Best not to show fear, or even discomfort. He was well aware that Kucek despised him for spending so much of his life on Holy Ground, and would probably try to take his head the moment Kucek didn't find him useful anymore.
The sooner Kucek and his victim got on his boat, the sooner Kiem Sun could get his own boat back to Honolulu and wrap up his business with the smuggler he'd located there.
"Once her Quickening is mine, I will sail north, and meet a tanker I have contracted to take me to Thailand," Kucek told him, equilibrium apparently restored. "I do not need your assistance for my business there. We can meet again in Jakarta, at the usual place, in four months."
Kiem Sun pursed his lips. "Very well. You will have the shipment of quanla root delivered to my warehouses in Manila?"
Kucek nodded. "As we have agreed."
"Farewell, then," Kiem Sun said, and waved Hasan Kucek away as he swaggered down to his boat.
He signaled to two of his followers, the two he'd brought with him from Manila. "Follow that man. Obey his orders," he commanded them. They nodded and followed Kucek. There was little danger in giving Kucek a few mortals to crew his boat. They were among the group who had been under the quanla root drug's influence the longest. The others had all died, and these were due to fail soon. It would be miraculous if they lived long enough to get Kucek to his rendezvous, but that was his problem. He'd as much as said he didn't require Kiem Sun's assistance for this upcoming portion of his trip.
This latest batch of test subjects had so far survived the longest under the drug's influence, although with a moderate loss of the enhanced speed and strength. Once he got the next shipment of quanla root, he would adjust the new formulation's proportions again. Kiem Sun's initial trials had perfected the drug's effects on speed, strength, and obedience. Now he could focus on enhancing the health and longevity of his subjects as well.
Kiem Sun put his hands on his hips and breathed deeply of the clean, fresh Hawai'ian air. This had been a very successful trip, despite the minor annoyances of the mortal police forces. He couldn't wait to get home to Manila and resume his experiments.
Chapter 32: Seaside Hotel, Hilo, Hawai'i (the Big Island), Monday mid-day
Setting in motion the mechanisms of a major evacuation was unpleasant enough on its own, but it also wrought hell with their investigation. The search for Kucek was hampered by the inevitable traffic jams and the confused masses of people changing their previous routines. Anyone could slip under the radar in that mess.
Chin ran a knuckle over the fine, nearly-invisible, itchy stubble on his face. He'd caught another shower, but hadn't bothered to shave. Putting any kind of surveillance on the Big Island's harbors or airports (whether with PD forces or the few Watchers they had available) was just a joke. Between the confusion and volume of extra traffic, such a task was impossible. Besides, all of the Hawai'i County PD officers were tied up with evacuation efforts.
He switched the muted television on, and channel surfed until he found the news. He stared blearily at the silent pictures: people in line at bank machines and stores; lines of cars on the roads; talking-head news anchor; clip of an interview with the university volcanologist, Dr. Hon; clip of planes taking off at the airport, clip of people standing in line at airport security; clip of archival footage of Mauna Loa's 1984 eruption; and then, another interview clip, this time—as the crawl underneath the image informed him—with the director of the FEMA Pacific Area office, Colby Stanton. Chin pressed the off button on the remote and put it back on the desk. The news wasn't going to give him any insights on how to catch up with Kucek or find Pele. It was barely keeping him awake. Shit. He rubbed his sore eyes.
The Watchers weren't involved in coordinating the evacuation, but... the Watchers on the Big Island knew the real reason they were evacuating, not the eruption story that the HVO had cobbled together to release to the public, or even the supposed terrorist plot to which Steve and select government officials were privy. The Watchers on the Big Island simply were gathering all their loved ones and getting as far away as they could, as swiftly as they could.
Chin didn't blame them, really, even though it made his job all the harder. He stifled a yawn. Since the Hawai'i County PD and every other local law enforcement agency had their hands more than full, Five-0 had made an effort to stay out of their hair, as much as possible. The four of them—Steve and Danny, himself and Matthew—had rented two adjacent hotel rooms with a connecting door at the Seaside Hotel (they gave government rates) in Hilo as their local base of operations. They were using one room as an impromptu office, making copious use of the coffee machines, and the other room for showers and catnaps. He found himself occasionally helping Matthew in his efforts to keep his sword properly hidden away in the close quarters. Luckily, Danny and Steve were both too busy and too tired to be very suspicious of the behavior of someone they considered an ally.
He looked over at Steve and Danny, slumped against each other on one of the double beds, where they'd fallen deeply asleep while looking over files. Chin had tidied away the paper and otherwise left them alone. Both were fully dressed except for shoes, but it wasn't like their clothes could get all that much more wrinkled. They'd both gone from sitting up against the headboard to more-or-less lying on their backs, and looked almost like they were... cuddling. They were angled toward each other, pressed against each other from shoulder to thigh, adjacent arms loosely tangled. Danny's face was tucked up against Steve's neck, and the side of Steve's face was mashed into the top of Danny's head, possibly drooling into his hair. Briefly, Chin debated taking a picture, for later blackmail potential. It made him smile a little to see his teammates close and comfortable with each other, even in sleep. Very little could make him smile right now.
Chin found he missed Kono quite a bit, but was also glad she was still back on O'ahu. Kono was far too observant. Back on O'ahu, he'd caught the look in her eye that said she'd put several disparate items of information together and was only waiting for a more convenient time to grill him about them. It wasn't that Steve and Danny weren't observant—if they stayed in close quarters, it was only a matter of time before they noticed something—but Kono knew him, knew him from the perspective of family, as well as work. It was far harder to conceal anything related to himself from her.
Speak of the devil.... His phone vibrated with an incoming call—Kono. He picked it up and went into the other room, where Matthew was hogging their commandeered laptop and mainlining coffee, to take the call.
He waved at Matthew, who looked up briefly from his fierce perusal of the computer screen, and settled on the bed, shoving a couple of pillows between his back and the headboard as he tapped on his phone's image of Kono's smiling face. "Hey, Cuz! You got anything for me?" Chin flipped open the pizza box on the nightstand, retrieved the sole remaining slice of pepperoni-cheese, and took an experimental bite. Room temperature and greasy, but not actively nasty.
"Hey—" Kono croaked, and stopped to clear her throat. Chin knew she hadn't been sleeping much either, coordinating information as it came into the office, sending them leads to track down, and once or twice—to her loudly voiced consternation—having to meet with the Governor to update her on Five-0's lack of progress.
"I've got something, Chin."
Chin sat up straighter, and shoved the half-eaten pizza slice back into the box. "What is it?" From her tone of voice, it sounded like it was an important lead.
Matthew could apparently read the tone of his voice as well as Chin could read Kono's, because he shot up from behind the desk and loomed next to the bed, impatience in his vibrating stance. He'd had way too much coffee.
"That Dr. Simiao Suen guy used his credit card again. You won't believe it; he's on O'ahu now! He's renting a boat out of Honolulu Harbor. Is this guy arrogant, or what?"
Chin leaned forward, wanting to leap out of his skin, and barked into the phone. "Kono! Tell me you're not going after Kiem Sun by yourself!"
There was a loud thump, then a scrambling sound from next door. His shout must have woken the rest of the team. Chin couldn't feel sorry about that, no matter how exhausted they were.
"Kono? Kono, you sent the HPD out to follow up on this... right?" he wheedled.
Steve and Danny scrambled in from the other room to hover over him, wrinkled and disheveled, on the opposite side of the bed from Matthew. Steve's forehead was creased with concern.
"I'm taking SWAT with me." Kono's voice sounded resentful, as if he was forbidding her from going to the beach. "There's no way you guys can get back in time to help me catch him. Don't worry, Chin. I can handle myself." Chin hissed in exasperation. He would bet his next paycheck that Kono already had her bullet-proof tac vest on, and was double-checking that her favorite guns were loaded.
Steve snatched the phone from Chin's hands. "Kono, no! You are not to go after Kiem Sun without us." He scowled at the phone as Kono answered him. Chin clenched his hands into fists in futility.
Steve shook his head as he said firmly, and a bit too loudly, "NO! You're not going. That's final. Of course you're capable! I don't doubt your abilities. Don't you see? It's a trap. Kiem Sun's luring you out there to have his goons kill you! He did it to us out here at 'Ola'a Forest. We almost didn't make it, Kono." He lowered his voice. "Please don't make me have to visit your mom, and tell her you got killed when Chin and Danny and I weren't there to back you up."
Chin perked up. Low blow, Steve! he thought, with definite approval. An appeal to family was a strong one to any member of Five-0, and Kono would know Steve was not bullshitting.
"Of course you can direct the operation." Now Steve's voice was conciliatory. "Just let SWAT and HPD take point, okay? No contact, Kono. Promise me. Okay, good. Fine."
Yes! He managed to rein her in! Chin sagged back against the headboard in relief.
"You know... if he's gone to the effort of luring you into a trap, that means he wants you out of the way for something else he's planning," Steve continued, thoughtful. The hand not holding the phone rubbed at his stubbled jaw. "Or else you were already getting close to something he'd rather you stayed away from. Have you been uncovering any promising leads just before the credit card notice came in?"
Danny patted Chin's foot and jerked his head at Matthew to herd them away from Steve. They both followed him to the desk on the other side of the room.
"All right, guys. Let's pack all this up. Our fearless leader's gonna want to get back to O'ahu as soon as he gets off the phone," Danny said, sotto voce.
Chin nodded. "You get the files in the other room, and I'll pack up the computer equipment," he told Danny. "Can you gather our personal effects, Matthew?" That would give Matthew a chance to get his sword packed away with minimal observation.
Danny just nodded and went into the other room. Matthew hovered a moment as Chin began to shut down the computer and gather cables.
"I don't know if I should leave the island," he murmured to Chin.
Chin cocked his head to show he was listening as he closed the laptop and began to pack it away in its padded bag.
"If Kucek's taken Pele to O'ahu, then my Quickening is the only one on this Holy Ground, the only thing holding back an eruption." He sighed, and pressed his lips together. Chin could see pain in those brown eyes before Matthew looked down at his hands. "I want to save Pele. And I want to Challenge Kucek and Kiem Sun for my own sake, now that they've angered me. But Pele would tell me that my duty is to protect the mortals here. She dedicated her life to their protection. Should I pursue justice, or obey her wishes?"
Chin lowered his eyes for a minute. An Immortal asking a Watcher for advice! How often does that happen, I wonder?
Chin finally met Matthew's gaze. "Can't you do both? As an FBI agent, you're uniquely skilled and situated to 'pursue justice' of the mortal or Immortal kind. But it doesn't take any skill or training to hold down the fort here, does it?" He gestured to Matthew's phone. "Why don't you call some of your Immortal friends and ask them to take a little Hawai'ian vacation? As long as they get here in a couple of days, it should be okay. The island's half-evacuated already."
A broad grin flashed over Matthew's tired face. "Chin Ho Kelly, you're a genius!" he exclaimed, and slapped Chin on the back.
Chin returned a weary smile. "All part of the service." He shoved the computer power cable into the bag.
Chapter 33: Hilo, Hawai'i (the Big Island), March 1984
Lunch had been a home-cooked meal, served informally on the lanai of Pele's house. Afterward, he let the conversation dwindle, tales of mutual acquaintances dying on his lips as he looked out over her back yard, picking at the seam on his pants leg.
"What's wrong, Matthew?" Pele said quietly. "You're making me nervous."
Matthew sighed deeply, but didn't pretend he wasn't aware what she was talking about. "Miriam's gone, dear one," he said. He didn't believe in sugar-coating things. "An Immortal known as the Kurgan took her head on the East Coast of the US." He glanced up to see her face still, the life and color draining from it. "I came to tell you as soon as I found out."
Pele's hands clenched into fists on her thighs. "Tell me you killed him."
Matthew shook his head. "Not that I wouldn't like to, but I have no idea where he is right now." He hesitated, but he'd always told Pele the truth and he wouldn't balk now just for the sake of his pride. "Besides, the Kurgan is very powerful, and said to be a strong and potent fighter. I don't know that I can take him. I would have Challenged him to protect her, but now that she's dead…." He shrugged. "Miriam wouldn't want me to lose my head just for revenge. If I meet him and think that I can take him, I'll take my chances. But I won't go headhunting, dear one."
Pele shook her head, over and over, tears streaming from her eyes and her dark hair whipping her face. "He can't—" she choked out. "He can't be walking the earth while Miriam is dead!"
She leapt to her feet, her chair knocked over with a sharp bang on the floor of the lanai. Her cutlass was suddenly in her fist—a trick Matthew himself had taught her. "I will go headhunting. I will kill that bastard. Miriam is worth a thousand of the likes of him!"
Pele tossed Matthew an enraged, distraught look, and then stormed through her house, slamming her own front door on her way out. Matthew finally overcame his shocked immobility to follow her. When he got to her front door, she had hopped into her little white Ford Escort and shot down the road in a roar of dust.
By the time he'd gotten transportation and followed her to the airport, she'd already taken a flight to Honolulu. Thinking only to prevent Miriam's student from getting herself killed, Matthew took the next flight and followed her.
That same afternoon, a red glow appeared in the crack on the floor of Mokuaweoweo, the summit caldera of Hawai'i's largest volcano, Mauna Loa.
Chapter 34: Hasan Kucek's Boat, Pacific Ocean near Hawai'i, Monday afternoon
Pele came to life with a harsh gasp. She'd been stabbed in the heart and her head had been bashed in. Healing from heart or head injuries always made her nauseated. Combined with the rocking motion underneath her, and the blast of Immortal Presence, it was too much. She couldn't stop herself from vomiting the contents of her stomach almost immediately, even though that left her much too vulnerable to the other Immortal.
Despite the fact that said Immortal was the one most likely responsible for her current condition, she was allowed to vomit in relative peace. That didn't mean she was safe, though. As soon as she spit the last of the bile from her mouth and turned to face the Immortal, she saw the squared-off point of his dadao sword aimed at her face.
"Hasan Kucek, I presume," she said, as dryly as possible, considering the circumstances. "We're off of Holy Ground, at least. I had feared that you didn't have that much sense, to be honest. I'm pleased to have been mistaken. Wait— We're not near Lo'ihi, are we? It's underwater, Kucek, but it's still Holy Ground, we mustn't take any chances. Did you hear me?" The anxious spike of her voice betrayed her nerves, but it was important, dammit. She was quite aware she was going to die here, but there was no need to take everyone and everything on the Big Island with her out of carelessness.
Kucek's grim visage stared at her, not responding, or maybe refusing to respond. The end of his sword never wavered.
She shifted her weight, testing to see if he would allow her to get up. His reaction was to take a step back—only one, but it was in a direction away from her, so Pele would take it. She rolled her head gingerly, feeling the bones in her skull settle as the blinding headache bled away, stretching the muscles in her neck.
Kucek allowed that as well. Greatly daring, Pele began to get up to her feet—slowly, watching Kucek's eyes. The look in them was as flat and expressionless as a snake's. She regained her feet, gripping the bench behind her to steady herself, spreading her stance wide to balance against the rocking of the boat. It had been centuries since she'd felt the sea's endless heartbeat beneath her.
Beyond Kucek's forbidding scowl, the sky was the blue of dreams, placid and bright with sunshine, only a scattering of pearly white clouds to disturb the seamless peace of it. All around them, the sea's surface glittered with reflections of the sun. Just below the gleaming surface, the deep midnight-blue-green of Mother Ocean waited, both patient and ever-moving. I'll see you soon, Mother.
"Well?" Pele said at last, tired of waiting. She was never as patient as Mother Ocean.
Kucek's scowl smoothed out and he saluted her with his sword. "I Challenge you. There can be only one!"
What an arrogant prick! Who says that 'there can be only one' crap anymore? Pele put her hands on her hips and looked Kucek up and down; she was taller than he was. "I don't call this a Challenge, little man. There's only one of us with a sword here. If you insist on murdering me, go ahead and get on with it. Don't pretend you have any honor."
His eyes narrowed at that, and he gestured with his sword at the bench behind her. "There is your weapon, blasphemer."
She hated to take her eyes off of him, but if he wanted to kill her, he was going to do it whether she was watching or not. She glanced at the bench behind her and, yes, her favorite machete was lying on it, on top of a towel smeared with blood. Kucek had at least had the courtesy to wipe off her weapon for her before the blood of her opponent dried on the blade. Mortals. Insanely strong, incredibly swift mortals. I knew he might use mortals to do his bidding and steal me from Holy Ground, but these men had been more-than-mortal in their abilities. There had been no way to prepare for that. Aloud, she said, "I am no blasphemer, Kucek. I honor the Gods, even the new Christian one."
His sneer was comic-book-villain perfect. "You dishonor the Goddess Pele, by impersonating Her!"
"I serve Pele! I protect Her island, Her people!" Fists clenched, she advanced a step toward him, stopped only by his raised sword. She raised her chin. "You know nothing, Kucek."
"I know that you are an impostor, who uses the Goddess' name, and a coward, who hides from the Game on Holy Ground," Kucek said, all righteous arrogance. "Pick up your weapon, woman!"
"I lived on Holy Ground in order to serve my Goddess, you idiot. I don't care about your stupid Game." Pele reached behind her and picked up her machete. "If having a weapon in my hand makes my murder more palatable to you, then by all means. We both know you're stronger, faster, and have undoubtedly killed countless Immortals more formidable than me."
"If you had not malingered on Holy Ground for centuries, you would not be at such a disadvantage in the Game," Kucek answered, settling himself into a fighting stance.
"I told you, I care nothing for your idiotic Game! It's nothing but a death cult, designed to pretty up the fact that the stronger of us prey upon the weaker, all for the acquisition of power you would either not know what to do with or abuse. Who was your teacher? He obviously taught you to fight and kill like an Immortal, but what else did he teach you?"
For a moment, Kucek's expression froze, and then settled into harsher, angrier lines. "Koren taught me that only the strong survive! And that women only have one use—on their backs—and no place in the Game. Shut up, woman!"
He swung his sword with the deadly suddenness of a cobra's strike, but she managed not to be where the stroke was supposed to land. That wouldn't work for long in the cramped confines of this boat. With nowhere to run to escape, and against a stronger, deadlier opponent like Kucek, Pele still expected to die, but now she was seized with a fierce determination not to give her Quickening up easily, to make it as difficult and unpleasant for Kucek as possible. And to lecture him the whole time.
"My teacher was Miriam the Healer. She served Isis, Akeso, and her sisters Panacea, Hygeia, and Iaso." She twisted away from Kucek's next strike, but not completely. The tug she felt was the sharpness of his sword slicing through a swatch of her hair. The dark strands blew away on the light breeze. "Thanks," Pele told him brightly. "It's been years since anyone gave me a good haircut."
With a snarl, he bore in on her, a fury of strokes hammering at her defenses. She was able to swing her blade up to block each time, but only just barely, and he rocked her back into a crouch. If he kept up the onslaught, either her blade or her arm would break soon.
She saw an opening and kicked out at his knee. Kucek swore and stumbled, and Pele was able to eel past him, so she was no longer trapped against the bow of the boat. "As you can probably tell, Miriam wasn't much of a fighter, and didn't teach me to fight as an Immortal." Miriam had been honest with her. "My child, the skills I will teach you will not help you survive very long, not while other Immortals still play their wretched Game. If you wish to learn to fight, I have friends who will take you on as a student for my sake. They can teach you to fight much better than I ever will." But Pele had refused to leave her, although she hadn't refused the occasional fighting tip or trick that Miriam's friends had shown her. Pele had never met an Immortal with so many friends, both mortal and Immortal, as her teacher Miriam.
Kucek's next swing cut her left forearm deeply enough that the blood ran down her hand, making her grip slippery. She switched to a one-handed grip on her machete, and backed away from him. "But Miriam taught me to live as an Immortal. Did you ever wonder, Hasan Kucek, why the gods permit us our long lives? Why we live so much longer than the mortals? Why there are so many of them, and so few of us?"
He didn't answer, but hesitated, and tilted his head, as if he wanted to hear. It occurred to her that he could have easily beheaded her before now, and was likely toying with her, as a cat toys with its prey. Maybe he secretly wanted to hear what she had to say. Maybe he wanted to hear what Miriam had taught. And whether he wanted to or not, Pele was going to tell him before he finished her.
"The rumors you have heard are true, Child. It is rare, but there is such a thing as a Dark Quickening, may the Gods preserve us both from such a thing. That is another reason why I refuse to take part in the Game—even if you defeat an evil Immortal in battle, his evil Quickening can defeat and subsume yours afterward, in the battle of spirit that takes place after the battle of swords is finished. But remember, just as there is such a thing as a Dark Quickening, there is also the possibility of a Light Quickening. I have seen it. Darius of Paris was not always a holy man of peace." Miriam's counsel rang in her mind, Pele's dear teacher's voice as clear as if she was still standing beside her. "Although my skills with a sword are not what our kind counts as adequate, Child, I can teach you to be formidable in the battle of will and spirit. Perhaps there your Quickening may overcome your opponent's, so that yours may be the drop of light that fills the well of his soul to overflowing."
"Answer me, Kucek! What is the role of mortals? What will you do when you are the 'only One' Immortal left alive?"
Kucek stopped short and looked at her as if she was a simpleton. "I will rule the world! That is the Prize, the goal of the Game, woman." He waved the hand that didn't hold his weapon. "The mortals are good for nothing but servants. That is their role now, and at the end of the Game."
Pele shook her head sadly. "But if mortals mean so little, and there are no Immortals left, won't you be lonely? What will be the point of Immortality with no one to share it with? What will you do with the world once you rule it? Don't you see, Kucek? The Game is a lie, a self-serving story Immortals tell each other so that the strong may prey upon the weak. And those who covet power see mortals as the weakest of all, the biggest prey." Pele dodged a swipe from Kucek's sword; by his scowl, she'd annoyed him again. She backed away another step in the constricted confines of the boat.
"Miriam taught me that we're long-lived so that we can learn from the experience of many lives, and serve as teachers to mortals. We're physically resilient and can survive dangers that might kill or injure mortals, so that we can protect them. We are so few because we are destined to care for the mortals we share this earth with, not to overwhelm them with our numbers. We are the servants of the Gods, Kucek, and our destiny is to care for humankind, not to rule them."
"Shut up, woman. You know nothing. Nothing of the Game. Nothing of battle. Nothing of survival." With each of Kucek's shouts, he landed a blow. He was done playing with her, she saw, and Pele couldn't move fast enough to dodge most of them. Her arms and shoulders—and chest and back—ached from blocking his strikes; the blade of her machete was scored with nicks and chips. Still, she hated to be told to shut up.
"I have lived my life in service to something greater than myself! Can you say the same, little man?"
That was a mistake.
Pele could admit, in her private heart, to some arrogance of her own. It had not served her well. His next blows knocked her down, snapped her blade, broke her wrist.
The light of triumph glittered in Kucek's eyes. He raised his sword for the beheading stroke.
"Please." Pele was not too proud to beg. Not for this. She rose to her knees, holding her broken—mending, but not quickly enough—wrist in her other hand. "Please, Hasan Kucek. For the Goddess." He hesitated. Pele rushed to continue. "She requires an Immortal Quickening to reside on her Holy Ground; if not, She grows angry. The volcanoes—there will be a major eruption, at the cost of many lives. If you must take my head, at least go back there. Only for a while! Only until another can be found to fulfill the Goddess' requirements!"
Kucek shook his head, reluctantly, it seemed. "I was mistaken, woman. You are not a blasphemer. It appears you truly seek to serve the Gods. But you are only a woman, so it's no wonder you have fallen into error. The Gods do what the Gods do. Mortal lives mean nothing. Our task is the Game, and we must not stray from it. There can be only One." Pele watched as the strong muscles of his shoulders bunched and released.
Oh, Goddess, forgive me my failure! Miriam, beloved teacher, if you can hear me, guide my Quickening!
There. There was the deadly flash of the blade, beyond it the dreaming blue of the sky, the endless stretch of the sea, the light of the—
Chapter 35: Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Monday late afternoon
Matthew followed the back of McGarrett's travel-wrinkled shirt off the plane, Chin Ho Kelly pacing at his side. When Matthew had first been told about the Watchers, then introduced to MacLeod's Watcher, Joe Dawson, he'd wondered about the obvious affection and esteem MacLeod held for the mortal whose job was basically to spy on him. That affection and esteem had reassured him, though, that the Watchers were not a current danger to him or his kind—or, at least, not in MacLeod's estimation.
Now that Matthew found himself with his own Watcher—well, his own known Watcher at any rate; he supposed he'd had unknown, unsuspected Watchers before—he understood MacLeod's attitude a little better. Chin Ho Kelly was a solid, dependable presence, watching his back. A mortal who knew who he really was, what he really was, and understood some of his needs and motivations. A mortal who could truly help him, within the strictures of his own rules and code of conduct. Someone he could talk to, who was not a potential rival, who would never Challenge him for his Quickening. Someone who was quickly becoming a friend.
Matthew had seldom told his mortal friends or families about his Immortality. He was surprised how... freeing it felt to have a mortal friend know, what a difference it made, not just to him, but to the whole of their relationship.
He didn't feel like he had to protect Chin against other Immortals, either. Chin's job as a Watcher involved tracking down Immortals, so he knew how to handle himself around them, and could probably take down an evil Immortal if it came down to it. Better stay on his good side, then! Matthew felt a brief frisson of fear, remembering MacLeod's cautionary tale of Horton the rogue Watcher and his minions.
He turned his head to glance at Chin as they arrived in baggage claims. Chin caught his eye, gave him a tired smile, and patted his shoulder. "You look beat," he said. "You want to sit on the bench and watch our stuff while I pick up your bag for you?" Matthew felt that frisson of fear again, because the other man would be in possession of Matthew's sword if he did that.
Don't be a fool. He's not another Immortal; there's no reason he'd want your sword. And he's been trying to help Pele. Chin is nothing more or less than he seems—a good man, trying his best to do two difficult jobs and balance his time and attention between them fairly.
He made himself settle on the bench and return Chin's smile. "Thank you, Chin."
"Hey, why don't you both relax for a minute, guys," McGarrett said. "Danny and I can get the bags."
"Sure thing, Steve. Thanks." Chin thumped down on the bench beside him, momentarily graceless. The Watcher rubbed the back of his neck, stretching it out. Matthew relaxed, and let his gaze drift.
After a while, he nudged Chin with an elbow. "Hey, Chin."
"I didn't realize. How long have they been together?" Matthew tilted his head toward McGarrett and Williams by the baggage carousel. He frowned briefly; that might cause some trouble, in time.
Chin straightened and raised his eyebrow at Matthew. "They're not 'toge—' Oh." He had finally caught sight of McGarrett and Williams, standing, or rather, leaning—against each other—by the slowly turning line of baggage. Chin tilted his head, studying them. "They're just tired out. I think. I mean, Steve and Danny have always had an intense friendship. And Danny is handsy with everyone, you've seen that. But I didn't think they liked each other... you know, romantically."
"Whatever you say," Matthew told him indulgently. It was pretty amusing to see Chin all flummoxed.
"Hmph. I'll ask 'em about it." Chin flapped a hand. "After. After we're done with all of this."
Matthew frowned involuntarily at the reminder, sobered. Chin grimaced at him, gaze apologetic. They both looked up at the sudden movement as McGarrett strode quickly toward them, phone pressed to his ear. Williams was in his wake, carrying their scant baggage.
"Yeah, Ken. Okay. Right. Well, it's not like we can keep it out of the news. Thanks for the heads-up." McGarrett made a face as he hung up.
Williams pulled up even with him at their bench and put down the luggage. "What's that face for, Steve?" he asked, pointing at McGarrett.
"What? What face? What are you talking about?"
"That! That face right there!" Williams pointed emphatically. "That's your Something Awful Happened, And I Don't Know What To Do face. What happened, babe?" Williams' voice lowered, and he touched McGarrett's wrist with the tips of his fingers, leaving his hand there as he looked up at the other man.
Matthew was a little out of patience with the flirting. "What's going on, Commander McGarrett?"
McGarrett looked around them, as if to gauge how close the nearest member of the public was to their little group, then knelt down on one knee next to Chin, tugging Williams' shirt until the other man leaned in close, hands braced on his thighs.
"I just heard from Dr. Hon," McGarrett said in a soft voice, pitched low, not to carry. "It seems our cover story was a little too good. They just had the beginnings of what they believe might be a major eruption at Kīlauea, and the HVO's been measuring seismic activity at Mauna Loa as well. The eruptions could happen any time now."
Matthew rocked back in his seat. "Pele." He felt lightheaded, curiously empty. This much volcanic activity was too much for Pele simply being off of Holy Ground. She must be dead; Kucek must have already taken her head. Oh, Pele, my dear. You were counting on me, and I've let you down. Miriam! Oh, Miriam, I'm so sorry. I promised you I'd protect your student, and now I've failed you. That evil man has Pele's quickening now, just like the Kurgan got yours. I should have protected you both so much better. Matthew put his face in his hands, heart-sore.
"What's that, McCormick?" Williams asked. "What did you say?" Matthew couldn't summon the energy to deal with him.
Luckily, Chin handled it. "Leave him alone, Danny. Matthew thinks Kucek must have killed Hana Kaiwi."
"How does he figure that? What does Hana have to do with what Dr. Hon just told me?" asked McGarrett, worry in his voice, and a little urgency.
"Matthew thinks it means he got the information he was after about the volcanoes from her," Chin told his boss, lying smoothly.
"And that means that now he doesn't need her anymore, so he must have killed her?" Williams guessed.
Matthew pulled himself together and nodded. "I believe so, yes."
McGarrett's mobile face contorted itself into a severely pained, yet oddly determined, expression. "What do you think that means in terms of our... worst case scenario, McCormick?"
Worst case? For a moment, Matthew didn't follow, and then he realized: the cover story he and Chin had come up with for the possibility that Kucek would take Pele's head on Holy Ground. At least that's no longer an issue.
He shook his head. "I don't believe nu—" At the narrowing of McGarrett's eyes, he transitioned to: "I don't believe our worst case scenario is likely any longer. Kucek's principle aim was always to cause havoc and disruption, not necessarily to employ any particular weapon." Matthew shrugged. "If he's found a way to cause major eruptions in several volcanoes at once, that sounds like an enormous amount of chaos right there."
"You're saying his task is done," Williams' brow was furrowed. "And now he's going to be getting out of Dodge, isn't he?"
"Yes," Matthew said, letting growing rage color his words. "And I want to catch him, and Kiem Sun, before either of them gets away."
Chapter 36: Corsair Airplane Wreck, two miles off the coast of Hawaii Kai, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Tuesday afternoon
(art by Galadriel34)
Steve followed the mooring line down, bubbles drifting past his facemask as he descended gradually. The currents in this area were a little erratic, so he was being careful. Despite what Danny claimed, Steve knew when and where to play things safe.
The Corsair airplane wreck, just two miles out from the Koko Marina, was a popular tourist dive-spot, so it was tricked out with permanent mooring lines and every convenience for diving. It was a bit of a challenging dive, at least for amateurs, but Steve had routinely made much more challenging dives during his tenure with the SEALs.
A group of tourists diving at this spot earlier this morning, along with their diving guides, had reported finding a headless corpse wedged against the sunken old WWII airplane. Steve figured the corpse had been dragged there by the current.
HPD had called in the information, as they typically did with the more spectacular-looking cases, in case Five-0 was working on something related. That had lead to Steve agreeing to make the dive and help retrieve the corpse, with Chin driving the boat, McCormick (who'd professed some diving experience) standing by as a backup diver, and Danny along as general gofer and moral support. Kono would have come as well, but McCormick's special volcano expert was arriving at Honolulu International, and Chin had talked her into picking him up. Steve had wanted Danny to go along with her, initially, but Danny had put his most mulish expression on, and his tone had brooked no arguments as he'd insisted that "I am coming along, Steven, because you yourself said that I'm your backup. If this is another one of Kiem Sun's traps, you'll need your team around you. McCormick should go run his own errands."
McCormick had been adamant about coming along to retrieve the body, however. Steve had been equally as insistent that he himself be the one to do the initial dive. He suspected who McCormick expected to be down there, and nobody should have to see a good friend in the condition the ocean's denizens would have left a corpse. If Steve had possessed the authority to order McCormick away, he would have.
Steve was increasingly growing concerned about something else, too. When the news about the body had first come in, Chin had shot a concerned glance over to McCormick, who'd paled and gritted his teeth. Steve wasn't the only one who'd noticed that Chin and McCormick were hiding something—something related to the case that the both of them knew and weren't sharing with the rest of Five-0. Danny hadn't missed the exchange, and neither had Kono. Holding back info sure as hell didn't sit well with Steve, but for now he was biding his time before confronting Chin about it. Danny claimed not to understand why, but Kono did.
McCormick shouldn't be holding back information relevant to the case, but he was an outsider, and inter-agency politics being what they were, maybe he had his reasons. Not that Steve wasn't going to chew him a new one, Federal Agent or not. Chin was different. Chin was 'ohana, one of their own. For him to be holding back critical information was a kind of betrayal. Steve was giving him a chance to come clean on his own before he had to confront him with it. He was basically giving Chin lots of rope; he hoped Chin didn't hang himself with it.
The mooring line Steve was following eventually connected to a big anchor on the ocean floor near the downed plane's tail. This far down—80 feet—the light from the bright sun above still managed to penetrate through the clear water, although visibility wasn't anything like it was on the surface. The airplane wreck was a distinct, bulky presence just 20 to 30 feet below him, with sea life swimming unconcernedly around it, barely bothered by Steve's presence. Thousands of colorful fish darted around, some of them obviously using the wreck as a base.
The body was quite obvious, pale in contrast to the plane's dark contours, legs entangled with the plane's bent propeller. It was a woman's body, her arms out-flung and waving gently in the current along with her torn clothes, almost graceful. A fish was nibbling experimentally on the stump of her headless neck.
Steve swallowed and blew out a breath hard. Poor tourists. Bet this ruined their vacation. The bubbles streamed out past his face mask, momentarily obscuring his vision. The corpse was still there when he could see again. This time he could see a moray eel, which probably made its den in the wreck, sinuously making its way toward the corpse, intent on an easy scavenged meal.
Steve swam his way over to the corpse, unhooking the neat package of the folded body bag from the clip at his diving belt. He was glad visibility down here was as good as it was. Even though SEALs didn't do body retrievals as a rule, he'd done one or two before, and in much worse conditions, with lousy visibility. Poor visibility made things much, much more difficult.
He made his way around the plane wreck so that he was in front of the body. Steve shooed away the eel, evading its snapping jaws before it slunk back into its nest in the cockpit of the wrecked plane.
He looked over the corpse. Usually a corpse was horizontal, and he'd kneel down next to it near the center mass to maneuver it into the body bag. Typically, he'd just roll the corpse partly onto his lap, spread the body bag out on the sea floor or river bed below it, then roll the corpse back onto the bag. This one would be a bit more awkward.
First, he opened the body bag out and reached around the corpse's hips to spread the top half of the bag out behind the corpse like a big cape. He secured the rest of it between the corpse's legs and the plane propeller where they were entangled. Rigor mortis had set in, so the corpse's out-flung arms were stuck in that position. It would be impossible to fit into the body bag that way.
Steve swallowed again, and said a mental apology to the woman whose corpse he was about to manhandle. He grabbed the torso firmly in one hand, and shoved down hard on the left arm, the drag of the water making the entire procedure twice as difficult. He winced as he felt the squishy crunch of the tissues breaking, but the arm came down. This was why he seldom volunteered for body recovery. Steve wasn't normally all that squeamish, but something about breaking limbs stiff with rigor reminded him queasily of preparing and deboning chicken prior to cooking it. He wouldn't be able to eat meat for days after this.
He repeated the procedure with the right arm, noting the bruising around the wrist. Defensive injury, most likely, if this victim is who we think it is. And that was extremely likely, since the corpse was wearing the park ranger's uniform he'd last seen on Hana Kaiwi. There were a number of cuts and tears in the uniform that spoke of possible torture, or at least a really vicious fight with edged weapons.
Steve reached around behind the corpse in a horrible parody of a hug, trying to pin the arms he'd just gotten lowered to its sides, and dragged the body bag over the top part. He noted that the stump of the neck was sliced pretty cleanly through, not hacked, and that there didn't seem to be as much blood as he would have thought. More blood would have brought sharks, which wouldn't have left much of the corpse to retrieve.
With a mental shake, Steve told himself to stop trying to play medical examiner. Max was good at his job, and he'd be able to tell Steve every clue the corpse had to reveal. Carefully, Steve worked the zipper closed over the top half of the body, encasing it and keeping the arms from drifting in the current.
Now, the legs. After considering for a moment, Steve pulled some cording out of his diving belt, and lashed it around the top half of the corpse encased in the body bag, securing it to a propeller blade. It wouldn't be a good idea if he freed the corpse's legs only to have the whole thing float away. Valuable evidence might be lost.
Slowly, carefully, Steve worked on dislodging the corpse's legs from where they'd become entangled in the propeller blades. That had obviously happened before the worst of the rigor had set in, because they were good and stuck now.
Shit! Steve shoved, increasingly harder, at the boot on the corpse's foot where it was wedged at the base of the propeller blade. With a non-decompression dive this deep, he had maybe 15 minutes bottom time, and that was rapidly running out.
He took a deliberate breath and made himself still for a moment, then forced himself to slow down as he got back to work. Haste would only lead to errors, and he wasn't a rookie diver, to make a rookie's mistakes. He took his knife from his belt, and used it as a lever, to pry gently at the boot until it slipped free of where it had gotten stuck. Slowly—too slowly—he pried one leg, then the other, free.
Steve was glad of his forethought as the corpse tried to drift away on the current as soon as the legs were freed. He'd been unconsciously adjusting to the current this entire time, steadying himself against the propeller blades when he had to push or shove his burden. He wrestled the rest of the body bag around the bottom half of the corpse, and carefully pulled the zipper closed around it.
Now to get it up to the surface. Steve lashed the rest of the cord around the body bag, and clipped the end of the cord to his belt, just in case. He grabbed one of the handles and tugged gently, floating the bag over to the mooring line. The thing was maybe ten to fifteen pounds of negative weight, not terribly heavy, but awkward.
Swimming the body bag back to the mooring line at the plane's tail, Steve caught sight of thousands of spaghetti-thin garden eels, sprouting like grass from the sandy ocean floor, waving in the current.
The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out, floated through his mind. Steve shuddered briefly, and hated his brain.
He couldn't wait to get back to the boat, and Danny, who'd find something to tease him about, or argue with him—anything that would take his focus outside of his own thoughts again. Right now he longed for Danny like he'd long for warmth on a freezing day.
Discipline, Steven. You can do this. Piece of cake. He used the mooring line to work his way gradually toward the surface, making a safety stop at five meters for three minutes. Steve had no desire to experience the bends.
He'd underestimated how much the awkwardness of his burden would tire him out. By the time Steve spotted the bottom of the boat looming in the water above him, exhaustion was pulling at his senses. It could have had something to do with the lack of sleep he'd been working under for days now. The SEALS had trained him to work with little sleep, to function on fumes and push through exhaustion, though, so he was able to get to the surface with body bag in tow.
There. There was Danny's beloved face leaning out over the side of the boat. "Steve! Steve, you okay? You were down there a long time. Did you go shopping or something? Guns & Ammo open an outlet store down there?" The I was worried, part went unspoken.
"I'm okay," Steve answered, once he'd gotten the breather out and the face mask pushed up. Grimly, he hung on to the body bag, unwilling to let it get away from him after he'd gone to this much effort. "Help me get this on board, will you?"
McCormick appeared next to Danny, and lowered a Stokes basket overboard. Carefully, Steve got the body bag situated into the basket, and secured it in there. He waved at McCormick and Chin, who'd shown up to help with the hauling, that they could start pulling the ropes and get the basket and its burden aboard.
He treaded water, steadying the basket as they slowly levered it up, the water draining out of the body bag in a gush. Steve stayed well away from the stream of it, contaminated as it was from the corpse. One last sharp jerk, and the basket slid onto the deck of the boat. Steve swam for the ladder to climb back on board. God, he'd kill right now for a hot shower.
Danny was there to help him into the boat, help him out of his breathing gear, the tanks suddenly heavy again, and help him out of the rubbery diving suit and fins. Danny wrapped Steve in a big towel, and a warm, hard hug that sadly didn't last long enough for Steve's liking. Then Danny was wrapping Steve's hands around a miraculously hot cardboard cup of coffee.
I think I'm going to have to marry him, Steve thought fuzzily, leaning sideways against Danny's warm bulk as he slowly drank the coffee, its warmth seeping into him gradually. He was glad DADT was finally a thing of the past, because there was no way in hell Danny Williams would be anyone's dirty secret.
He almost dozed off there, despite the caffeine he was ingesting, in that moment of growing warmth, returning comfort, fleeting peace. Steve realized he'd been dozing as Danny's arm stiffened around him—when had Danny put an arm around him? Steve struggled to sit up, wondering where the coffee cup had gone, and looked up into McCormick's grim face.
"Was it her?" was all McCormick said, his face a mask of tension and dread. That meant he hadn't looked into the body bag.
Thank God for that, Steve thought, even as he sighed and scrubbed down his face. Danny's arm tightened around him for a moment before it dropped away. Steve didn't dare look over his shoulder at Danny. His game face was on, and he couldn't afford to disturb it.
"I think so," he told McCormick honestly. "The corpse was wearing the same uniform I saw Ms. Kaiwi wearing the last time I saw her." Steve hesitated, but there was nothing to do but say it. McCormick would find out anyway, and he was an officer of the law—he'd probably seen worse, though maybe not in a friend. "I can't make a positive ID though. The corpse didn't have a head."
McCormick took the news badly, but not as badly as Steve had feared. His chin sank to his chest and he sighed. "It's her, then," he said, his voice rough and creaky. He turned his back to Steve, facing the water, and brought a hand up to cover his eyes. Chin came up to join them, grave and solemn, standing quietly at McCormick's side.
McCormick heaved a deep, ragged breath, then another. "It's Pele. It's her. There's no head, Chin."
Chin slung an arm around McCormick's shoulders. "I'm so sorry, brah."
McCormick shook his head, wordless, and took another shuddering breath.
"I'm sorry, man," Steve offered sincerely. "Listen, I'll go back down in a little while, look for the head." He ignored Danny shifting his weight next to him on the bench. Sometimes it was the little things that helped you get closure when a friend got killed, Steve knew. If finding the corpse's head would help McCormick, then it was worth the trouble of searching for it. Ordinarily, Steve would have left this whole body recovery thing for the Coast Guard or HPD divers anyway, but McCormick's desperation and grief had moved him. It still did.
"No." McCormick shook his head and wiped his eyes. He finally turned back to Steve, and looked at him and Danny out of reddened eyes. "Don't bother to look for the head, Commander. You won't find it. Kucek keeps them. As trophies."
Son of a bitch! McCormick needed to stop holding back details that might affect the investigation like that! But Steve couldn't find it in himself to work up a sufficient head of ire. He was too tired, and McCormick looked too sad and beaten.
Instead, he addressed Chin. "Get this boat moving, Chin. I want to get back to the Koko Marina and get this body bag delivered to Max, ASAP."
"Sure thing, Steve." Chin patted McCormick's shoulder and moved off toward the wheel of the boat. Soon enough they were underway, heading back to O'ahu.
McCormick moved to the stern of the boat, where they'd secured the body bag, and sat on the bench next to it, looking down at it sitting by his feet. Steve didn't want to imagine what he was thinking about.
"Come on, babe," Danny's voice roused Steve from his own contemplations, and the touch on his shoulder got him facing in Danny's direction. "Here, I know you love to be an exhibitionist, but put some clothes on, okay?" Danny held some dry clothes out to Steve, and his eyes were very kind.
"Thanks, Danno." Anything else Steve wanted to say would have to wait for another time.
Chapter 37: Arrivals, Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Tuesday afternoon
(art by Galadriel34)
Kono felt as if she was spending way too much time at the airport, lately. This latest trip was a favor to Chin, although not in Chin's company. She glanced up to look at Kamekona's placid face, arranged into what she thought of as his "Aloha, tourists!" expression. Why Chin had sent Kamekona along to pick up Matthew's volcano expert was as much a mystery to her as why Five-0 was involved with them in the first place. Surely Hawai'i's own volcano experts at the HVO were much more well-versed in the behavior of the Big Island's volcanoes.
Said volcanoes were currently filling every available news channel on every television monitor at the airport with coverage of the massive eruption of first Kīlauea, and now Mauna Loa. Flights in and out of the Big Island had all been cancelled, and the remainder of the increasingly panicked evacuation was proceeding via legions of boats of all kinds. Flights in and out of Mau'i and O'ahu were becoming more and more problematic, as the eruptions were flinging volcanic ash into the atmosphere that played dangerous havoc with jet engines.
At least the errand got her out of Five-0 headquarters. After several days manning the fort by herself, it felt exceptionally crowded there right now, even though they only had one more person than usual hanging around. McCormick filled all the available space quite adequately, however. He was a vast, gloomy presence, alternately brooding and depressed about his friend, whom he believed dead, and intensely, demandingly focused on finding any sign of Hasan Kucek or Kiem Sun. It didn't help that the Boss was almost as manically focused on bringing in Kucek or Sun. Steve wanted to do something constructive, and there were already teams of experts working on the evacuation of the Big Island, experts who had asked the Governor politely but firmly to make sure that Five-0 kept their noses out of an area where they had no proficiency.
The lead she'd had on Kiem Sun the other day had turned into a trap, as Steve had predicted. HPD's SWAT team had engaged in a desperate battle with Kiem Sun's drugged 'zombies,' as everyone was calling them now because of their seeming imperviousness to pain, lack of rationality, and lack of responsiveness. The drugged men—and a few women, here and there, but it was usually men—were single-focused, almost inhumanly strong, and nothing short of almost deadly force seemed to stop them. As long as they were conscious, they attempted to fulfill their goal, despite sometimes massive injuries. And, to a man, they'd all either died fighting, or shortly thereafter from massive brain hemorrhages, leaving not a one available for questioning.
A movement from Kamekona next to her pulled Kono from her brood. He waved, then waved again toward the crowd of people heading out of arrivals, a huge grin wreathing his face. "Joe! Hey, Joe!"
Kono caught sight of an older haole in a wheel chair aiming a broad grin at Kamekona. The guy had a white beard and mustache as well as a thick sheaf of white hair, and wore a simple golf shirt and khakis. He cradled a guitar case in his lap like it was a baby. Behind him, pushing the wheelchair, was a skinny, pale, dark-haired haole wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and navy tee-shirt with "University of Glasgow" emblazoned on it. He was talking animatedly with another haole guy walking next to him, also dark-haired, but with a bit of a tan. The second dude also dressed like a grad student in jeans, tee-shirt, and sneakers, with a baseball cap perched on his head. His grey tee-shirt bore a logo that featured a person's face, in profile, wearing some kind of old-style helmet, surrounded by the words "Sigilum Universitatis Islandiae."
Kono had seen that logo in the news somewhere....oh! That was the logo of the University of Iceland. Huh. She'd never met an Icelandic guy before. He was tall, well-built, and, despite the eyeglasses he wore, had movie star good looks.
"Hey, Kamekona! Wow, man, have you changed!" the older guy exclaimed, blue eyes alight. The Glasgow student parked the older guy's wheelchair near the wall, out of the way of the stream of people heading out of arrivals, then he and the other guy stood so as to block anyone else from bumping into the chair.
Kamekona pealed out a delighted laugh, and bent to give the old guy in the chair a warm hug. "Shoots, Joe. You know me small kid time. I grew up! It happens, you know."
The old guy—Joe's smile took on a bit of an ironic cast. "Yeah, growing older happens to the best of us." He glanced back and up at his companions. "Mac, Ad— ah, Ben, please meet Kamekona. The last time we met in person, he was considerably smaller. Kame, this goof is my, ah, nephew, Ben Dawson, and this other joker is Duncan MacLeod." He pointed out each man with the handle of a cane he'd unhooked from the arm of the wheelchair. Not Icelandic, then, Kono thought, as she gave MacLeod another look-over.
Kamekona exchanged handshakes with the men and then swung an arm out to indicate her, game-show host style. "And may I present the lovely Officer Kono Kalakaua, part of the Governor's Five-0 task force."
"Aloha!" Kono greeted them with a small wave and a big smile, remembering her Hawai'ian hospitality.
The younger men exchanged grins, and made charming quips as they each shook her hand. The older guy smiled indulgently and, as he took her hand, mentioned, "You're Chin Ho Kelly's cousin, aren't you?"
Kono blinked, startled. "Uh, yeah. Where do you know Chin from?"
Joe tilted his head at her. "I haven't met Chin in person, actually, but we've exchanged a lot of e-mail. A fellow historian." He waved one hand in an expansive gesture and Kono caught sight of a distinctive tattoo on his wrist. Joe caught her looking, and his eyes just twinkled at her, knowingly. Somehow, she found that she didn't want to hit him for it. She didn't know why.
"Chin mentions you all the time in his e-mails," Joe continued. "He's pretty proud of you."
Kono just nodded, her curiosity about the tattoo on hold for the moment. She had a feeling that Joe might actually tell her the truth about it when she asked, if she was patient and picked the right time. "Well, the feeling's mutual. Hey, I'm sure you guys have luggage, right? Let's go pick it up."
The group made its way to the baggage claim, Joe complaining half-heartedly to his nephew that he didn't need the wheelchair, and that he could manage just fine, dammit.
"We can ditch the chair once you've had a chance to rest for a few hours outside of a tin can of an airplane, preferably in a bed," Ben answered. Joe batted him on the shoulder with his cane.
"So, which one of you is Agent McCormick's volcano expert?" Kono asked finally, as they waited for their luggage to emerge on the carousel.
MacLeod raised his hand and wiggled his fingers, eyes dancing behind the lenses of his glasses. "That would be me. I'm with Nordvulk, the University of Iceland's Nordick Volcanological Center. I was on-staff for the eruption of the Grímsvötn volcano this spring, and for Eyjafjallajökull last year. I understand Kīlauea and Mauna Loa suddenly began to erupt?"
So, that's how you pronounce Eyjafjallajökull. Kono nodded. "Yeah, but I'm no expert. You'll have to talk to the guys at the HVO. Can I ask, though, why are you here, Mister—or is it Doctor—MacLeod?"
"Just 'Duncan' or 'Mac' is fine. Are you kidding?" MacLeod gave a little chuckle, pushed back the brim of his baseball cap, and quirked one thick eyebrow at her. "They're volcanoes! It's what I do!"
Kono shook her head. "Not what I meant, brah. Why does Agent McCormick want you here?"
"Oh." Mac gave a little flirty-looking shrug. "Matthew and I know each other through a mutual friend. I think Matthew collects 'experts' and I'm just his volcano guy." He shrugged again, broad muscular shoulders moving easily under the tee-shirt. "All I know is he offered to pay for my trip. I guess he'll let me know what he wants once I get on site. I'd like to get over there. I've heard the flights out are cancelled, though. Any idea how I can arrange transportation?"
She twisted her mouth in thought. "Frankly, with the evacuation and all, I'm not sure how we're supposed to get you out to the Big Island. You're sure you need to be there?"
Mac nodded. "As soon as possible."
"I know somebody who can get you a boat," Kamekona piped up, his arms full of luggage that he'd just tugged off the conveyor belt. He deposited three suitcases at Joe's feet.
Of course, Kono thought. That's why Chin sent Kamekona along.
Mac smiled at him. "Thanks, man! That would be perfect. If you give me an hour or so to get Joe and Ben settled at a local hotel, I'd appreciate it if you'd take me to your boat contact."
He nodded at Ben, who had also come from the luggage carousel, carrying another suitcase, and two other cases that were longer and narrower—maybe for golf clubs or something.
Joe knocked his cane against the side of wheelchair, making a clanging noise and getting their attention. "Mac, take Ben with you. I can chill in a hotel room by myself for a few days. I'm a big boy. Been takin' care of myself for a while now."
Mac and Ben exchanged glances. Ben put a hand on Joe's shoulder. "You'll take your meds, right?"
"Yeah, yeah, 'mom'." Joe grumbled as he shrugged his shoulder away.
Mac folded his arms. "Promise, Joe."
Joe scowled up at him. "I said I would!"
"Don' worry. I'll look in on him, brah!" Kamekona nudged Joe's arm and grinned down at him. "Nuthin' says we can't have a poker game or two while I'm checkin' on you, right, Joe?" he muttered, sotto voce.
Joe brightened, and straightened up in his chair, clutching at his cane and guitar case and looking innocently from one young man to the other. "See! I'll be fine. My old buddy Kamekona will be looking in on me!"
Ben snorted, but he was grinning at Joe, so Kono figured he trusted the older man to Kamekona's care. Still, she was a police officer, so she should probably issue the warning for his own safety. "Ben, listen, even if Mac has to go, it's probably not safe for you."
Ben hitched a shoulder up, a smirk on his face. "Thanks for the advice, Kono. But wherever Mac goes, I go. We're partners."
The warm glance they exchanged answered the question about what kind of partners they were. Jeez! All the cute ones are either gay or taken! It also answered Kono's unasked questions about what Ben was doing tagging along after McCormick's volcano expert. But why did Ben bring along his obviously disabled—and possibly ill, if that comment about medication was serious—uncle? And while she was wondering, "What do you do for a living, Ben?" Kono asked, curiosity winning out over politeness.
Ben's smirk broadened. "Oh, I'm a doctor."
Chapter 38: H50 Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, Wednesday morning
(art by Galadriel34)
"Remember when I tracked 'Dr. Simiao Suen' using his credit card to rent a boat out of Honolulu Harbor, and it turned out to be a trap?" Kono asked everyone in the room in general, not looking up from her laptop screen.
Danny leaned against the doorway of the main room and made an interrogatory sound as he chewed on a malasada, ignoring Steve's pained grimace and the unspoken junk food lecture contained within that expression. At the data table, Chin and Matthew straightened from their huddle over lists of suspects on O'ahu with any possible drug connection that might lead them to Kiem Sun. Steve had briefed the Governor that they suspected that Kucek had done his worst and that the nuclear scenario was no longer on the table. That was a good thing, obviously, but Five-0 still intended to catch the sonofabitch. Not to mention Sun, who was a tremendous threat in his own right, and who seemed to be more trackable right now.
Steve had been right, that boat rental had been a trap to lure the police away from what looked like a major drug deal with all the major organized gangs on the island of O'ahu. Danny would bet that most of said crime lords had made very lucrative deals with Kiem Sun for some of his special potion. He didn't want to imagine what it would be like in a couple of months, when every two-bit minion of those crime lords was racing on Sun's zombie-juice, super-strong, super-fast, and super-dangerous to any cops that crossed their paths.
Kono clicked on something, nodded to herself, and then looked up. "Well, the initial setup may have been a trap, but the boat rental was still valid. And it's still due to go out this morning from Honolulu Harbor. It's a pretty big boat."
And with most of the boats on all the islands being pressed into service for the evacuation of the Big Island, it had to have taken pretty big bucks to keep a boat ready and waiting for today's rental. Definitely hinky. Danny swallowed his bite of malasada and tossed the rest of it in the trash, not hungry anymore.
Steve was suddenly in action mode, nodding and striding over to the desk Kono had commandeered. A good night's sleep after that body retrieval yesterday had re-energized the whole team, and they'd all come in early and ready to go again. Hana Kaiwi was in Max's capable hands now, and whatever clues her corpse could be made to yield waiting until Max could finish his autopsy. They'd been waiting around for Max's report, actually, trying to drum up new leads in the meantime.
"That's a good lead, Kono," Steve said briskly. "But it may also be another trap. Danny, I want you to call HPD and get SWAT out to Honolulu Harbor again to back us up. Chin, get in touch with the medical examiner's office. If Max has any relevant findings to this case, I want him to send the information to our phones as well as the HQ server. Kono, I need you to—"
"I'm going with you, Boss." Kono stood up, almost vibrating with tension. "Don't make me stay behind again. Please."
Steve raised an eyebrow at her. "I was going to tell you to go to our armory and get out the heavy duty weaponry. If Sun's got his zombie hordes running around, I don't want to run out of ammunition again."
"Got it!" Kono smiled at him like the sun, and dashed out of the office.
Chin was already on the telephone with Max's office, and McCormick had disappeared into the loaner office they'd assigned him, probably gathering his stuff.
"And what are you going to be doing, kemo sabe?" Danny quipped at Steve, as he headed for his desk to arrange for HPD backup.
"I'm calling the Governor's office," Steve said heavily, pulling out his phone to suit action to words. "She asked me to give her staff a heads up the next time we know we're going to be 'staging a shootout at the OK Corral' or something like that." Steve rolled his eyes.
Danny went into his office and, since his back was now to Steve, let the grin take over his face. Steve was actually arranging for backup and warning the Governor instead of blindly charging into action. Would wonders never cease?
Chapter 39: Honolulu Harbor (near Pier 38), Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday morning
(art by Galadriel34)
Danny leaned back against the wall of the building, trying to catch his breath a little. What a morning!
Thanks to Kono's dogged work at researching the financials, Five-0 had concentrated their efforts on Pier 38, where the boat that Sun was possibly renting was docked. Steve thought that Sun would surround himself with a buffer of his zombie minions, so he'd directed SWAT and the HPD to converge on Pier 38. Meanwhile, he had the Sand Island Coast Guard Base station ships at both exits to Honolulu Harbor, in case Sun managed to get to his boat. Finally, he had the Five-0 team (plus McCormick) park their vehicles in the parking lot next to the Best Buy on Alakawa Street and come up on Sun from behind. (Crossing the Nimitz Highway during the tail end of rush hour had been… interesting.) Danny thought he saw some of Steve's SEAL training there: plan A, B, C, et cetera, one plan falling into place should the previous plan fail to achieve the objective.
And, miracle of miracles, it had actually worked! The HPD officers and SWAT team had engaged with the two dozen drugged minions that Kiem Sun had surrounded himself with as a buffer. Five-0 had almost, almost been able to catch Sun right there, next to Nico's restaurant. At the last minute, something had alerted Sun, and he'd looked up, directly at McCormick, and bolted like a rabbit with a greyhound on its tail.
Then they were back in the territory that all of Five-0 was comfortable and familiar with, a straightforward foot chase after a fleeing suspect. Holy Cannoli, the guy could run! He ran through the parking lots, and then across the Nimitz Highway like it was a back country lane.
Steve was right on his tail, of course, closely followed by McCormick—Danny could tell how personal this was for the FBI agent: the expression on his face as he ran after Kiem Sun put Steve's primal 'on the hunt' face to shame. Next was Kono, swift and relentless, and then himself and Chin, bringing up the rear, dodging speeding commuters.
At first it seemed like Kiem Sun was headed for Alakawa Street, but then he swerved toward the Nimitz shopping center, and down into the entrance to the parking deck that faced the highway. Steve, still hot on Sun's heels, signaled to Danny and Chin to go around the other side of the building and cut off his escape.
Danny groaned, but veered left to go the long way around the front of the shopping center, the traffic from the Nimitz Highway making a background song to the drumming of his heartbeat.
He and Chin swerved right around the corner, pounding down the side street next to the shopping center, eyes peeled for Kiem Sun to come out of one of the parking deck exits.
Despite being alert, they almost missed it. They'd been darting around pedestrians, both tourists and locals alike, as if they were obstacles to be avoided, narrow-focused on spotting their quarry. One of Sun's zombie crew blindsided them.
If they'd had time to think about it logically, there was no reason for Sun to have concentrated all his forces right on the pier, and there was no reason for them all to have engaged the HPD officers. So, one of the 'shoppers' turning around and tackling Chin to the ground shouldn't have come as the shock that it did.
Danny turned his head at Chin's shout, and then turned around to go back to where Chin and his attacker—who looked like a young woman in a sundress, but fought like a tiger on PCP—were wrestling on the ground.
"POLICE!" he shouted. "Break it up! Hands on your head! Hands on your head, ma'am!"
The woman completely ignored him, and the gun he had pointed practically in her face. Yep, one of Sun's zombies. Any normal person would have responded to him in some way by now. Her eyes were locked on Chin, her hands were around his throat, trying to choke him or bang his head into the pavement or something.
Dammit! Danny should shoot her! Shooting her right in the face would get her off of Chin and get them moving again. It wasn't as if Kiem Sun's poison wasn't going to cook her brains and kill her anyway. But he couldn't. He just couldn't point blank shoot a girl who looked like she still might be in high school. He jammed his pistol back into its holster and reached out to try to drag her off Chin.
In a ninja move he must have picked up from Steve—or possibly Kono—Chin twisted and bucked the woman off him, then hauled off and punched her in the jaw. More like pistol-whipped her, because his hand happened to be holding onto his gun. She dropped like a stone. Chin snarled, stuck his pistol into his belt, whipped some zip ties out of his jeans pocket, and began to secure her wrists behind her back.
"Go, Danny, go!" Chin urged, hair wild around his face, throat already starting to bruise. "I'll catch up."
He was right. They couldn't let Kiem Sun get away and keep doing this. Danny turned and ran again.
He ran past the tan Hawaii Pacific Health building on the right, grateful that at least there would be medical help nearby for his impending heart attack, and past the little strip shopping center on his left. There was maybe one more parking deck exit onto this street.
There! On the right, where the tan Pacific Health building ended and before another building—green this time—started. Chin should have the first exit covered. Danny ducked into this one. Just inside, he leaned back against the wall and panted, trying to let his eyes adapt to the dimness after the bright sunshine outside, trying to catch his breath again. After a few moments, he ran forward again, hugging the wall on his right side.
Danny hadn't gotten ten feet into the parking deck before Kiem Sun ran right up to him. Guess it's my lucky day!
He blocked the guy's path, bringing his pistol into firing position. "Police! Stop right there! Hands on your head!"
For a tenth of a second, Sun looked startled, and then he shifted into action. Danny didn't see what Sun did, but suddenly— Suddenly there was a thing. A thing. Sticking out of Danny's chest. It was… Ow!
He wasn't sure how he got there, but he was lying on the hard concrete floor of the parking deck, looking up into the dimness of its ceiling. The sounds of traffic and birdsong were in the distant background. The drumbeat of his heart in the foreground was missing though, and there was this pressure on his chest. Breathing. Breathing would be nice.
It was getting dark. Hadn't it just been morning? Maybe…maybe there was a storm coming.
Chapter 40: Parking Deck, Nimitz Shopping Center, Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday morning
They'd almost had him, almost, at the pier, and then something spooked Kiem Sun and he took off. And, boy, was he a fast little fucker! Steve would catch him, though. He had a good feeling about it.
When their quarry ran into the parking deck, Steve sent Danny and Chin around to block the exits and followed, McCormick hot on his heels. Maybe he shouldn't have been so surprised that McCormick was so driven to get Kiem Sun—Steve knew what it felt like to be eaten alive with the need for vengeance, after all.
Their first hurdle was literally a hurdle—a car pulled into the lane between him and a fleeing Sun. Steve just let his momentum take him, and clambered onto the car's hood, over the roof—ducking to keep from bashing his head on the parking deck ceiling—and leapt off the trunk.
Kono and McCormick had been slowed down a little more by the vehicle, so when Sun's drugged henchmen attacked them—in hindsight, Steve should have expected him to keep some in reserve—Steve was already a couple of yards ahead.
He hesitated for a moment, older training urging him to achieve his objective, newer training (with the curious sound of Danny's voice in his mind) urging him to back up his fellow police officers.
"Steve! Go!" Kono urged him, propelling one of the attackers backwards with a roundhouse kick to the middle of his sternum. Another glance showed him McCormick beating the crap out of the other guy—with a normal perp, that would have been it, but the drug-fueled zombie just kept getting up and coming again and again. HPD had found that you pretty much had to kill them or knock them out cold to keep them down. Even if you managed to break both their legs, they'd keep crawling after you.
Steve went. He trusted that Kono would soon follow.
His hesitation cost him, though. He barely caught sight of Sun disappearing around a corner on the left. Dammit! Steve put on another burst of speed.
He nearly slid off his feet when his boots hit an oily slick spot on the concrete as he rounded the corner, but a hand on the wall to his left steadied him enough to continue his forward momentum. Then it was downhill, down and around.
He was just far enough behind Kiem Sun not to see him as he rounded the next bend, but he could hear the thuds of his running footsteps. Then Steve heard Danny's voice: "Police! Stop right there! Hands on your head!"
A grin stretched his face. Danno! We got him. His Five-0 one-two punch!
The smile fell when he rounded the corner. Danny was down. Danny. He was on the ground. And Kiem Sun was standing over Danny with a motherfucking sword!
With his next breath, Steve had his weapon out and was emptying the clip into Sun, taking a step closer with each shot, completely forgetting to identify himself as an officer of the law or to order him to drop his weapon. He dropped it all right. The sword clanged to the concrete as the .45 bullets tore into Sun's center mass, one after the other. But the son-of-a-bitch hadn't gone down yet.
Sun was bleeding profusely from four or five wounds that should have left him barely able to crawl, that should have killed him, and yet he smiled an evil smile, bent down over Danny, pulled a huge knife out of somewhere, and put it to Danny's throat.
"Commander McGarrett. We meet at last. What a wonderful servant you shall make." Sun choked a little as he said it, and blood painted his lips and teeth, but he still smiled as he wiped his chin with the back of the hand that wasn't holding the knife. With that same bloody hand, he fumbled around in his jacket pocket and pulled out a little metal vial. He tossed it toward Steve's feet. "Put your gun down, Commander, or I will cut the detective's throat. Then take a good swallow of my little medicine. Your immunity and means will come in very handy to get me off this gods-forsaken island."
Steve held up his hands, palms out. "Just relax. I'm putting the gun down. See?" He slowly crouched to put the pistol on the concrete floor of the parking deck. He was out of ammunition in the clip anyway. Steve calculated how fast he could go for his backup weapon, and if he could kill this bastard before Sun killed Danny. "You've got to know you're never getting off this island, Kiem Sun. Yeah, we know your real name." Steve nodded at Sun's perplexed expression. Stall. Stall and maybe the bastard will bleed out in the meantime. "Listen, even if you drug me with your zombie juice, you've got to know that my immunity and means won't count for shit once the police know I'm compromised."
"But I shall have a window of opportunity before they know, won't I?" Sun smiled wickedly again, the blood painting his teeth making it gruesome. Then he tightened his hand on the knife, and a line of blood sprang out on Danny's throat. Sun's face tightened into a snarl. "Drink it! Now, McGarrett."
Danno! Oh, God, Danny! There was another knife sticking out of the center of Danny's chest, buried to the hilt. Steve hadn't noticed it before—it was slim, and much smaller than the pigsticker Sun had at Danny's throat—but now it loomed large in his vision. That dark stain on Danny's shirt was blood. The dark pool that Danny was lying in was blood. Danny's fingers were twitching slightly, as if he was trying to raise his arm, to fight back. Slowly, Steve fumbled for the little bottle and began to unscrew the cap.
The shot that rang out behind him nearly deafened him. A bullet hole blossomed right between Sun's eyes, partially obscuring his stunned expression as he toppled backward.
Steve dropped the bottle and leapt forward out of his crouch, shoving Sun and his knife roughly out of the way and bending over Danny, trying to get a pulse. "Danny! Danny, stay with me, Danny."
Kono was next to him in the next moment. God bless Kono and her stellar marksmanship! She got on her phone. "Officer down! Officer down at the Nimitz shopping center. We're in the parking deck, green level, near the Hawaii Pacific Health building. There's another man wounded as well, the suspect. Yeah. Good. We'll see you soon." She turned to Steve. "They say a bus from Queens Medical will be here, ETA seven to ten minutes, Boss."
Steve nodded. "Thanks, Kono. Good shooting." The pulse was there, but thready. Danny's breathing was shallow and labored. He was lying in a rapidly-spreading puddle of his own blood, dark and wet, and his fair face was notably paler, even in the dim light of the parking garage.
Steve treated Danny for shock. He didn't dare remove the knife because it might make the bleeding worse. Steve pulled off his outer shirt to drape it over Danny's torso, then his tee-shirt to pack around the wound, try to slow down the bleeding.
Danny's eyes opened slightly, slivers of silvery blue peeking out between drooping lids. The small puff of breath was Danny trying to laugh, if the twitching at the corners of his mouth was anything to go by. "Heh. Any excuse to take off your shirt, huh, Steve?" It was the barest whisper of sound, but Steve would take it.
"Well, you know how it is, Danno. It's not like your dress code is doing you much good. The tie didn't protect you from the big honkin' knife." Steve's voice cracked. He concentrated on packing his tee-shirt carefully around the wound without disturbing the knife.
Danny's fingers twitched again, as if he wanted to raise his hand. Steve gripped it in his own, careful not to hold too hard. "What is it, D? What do you need? Ambulance is coming. We'll get you help soon, partner."
Danny's thumb brushed back and forth over Steve's knuckles. "S-sorry," Danny whispered, the ghost of a breath, the bare crescent of his eyes gleaming in the dim light.
Steve leaned closer to listen. "Sorry? What do you have to be sorry about, Danny? We got him. We stopped Kiem Sun. Everything's fine."
Faint humor twitched in the corner of Danny's mouth, in the miniscule crinkle at the corner of his eye. "Not him. You. I was a coward. Love you. Second-best thing in my life." Danny's eyes closed.
No! No, Danny, no. I don't want to hear it like this. "Stop it, Danny," Steve warned him, voice cracking again. "Ambulance will be here any minute. You'll be okay."
Danny moved his lips. Steve leaned over him again. "What is it? I didn't hear you. Danny?"
Danny moved his lips again, sound making it out this time. "—ell Grace. Danno loves—"
Danny's face went slack. Beneath Steve's frantic touch, he could barely feel Danny's pulse. "No, no, no! Danny, stay with me! I won't tell her. You'll have to tell Grace yourself. Do you hear me? Danny!"
Kono touched his shoulder. "Boss, I'm going to run into the Pacific Health and see if I can get a doctor."
Steve pulled himself together enough to nod. "Good idea, Kono. Go!"
"Not really," McCormick's voice was unusually loud and echoing as he came trotting out of the parking deck, looking extremely disheveled. Moving so swiftly that the action was difficult to see, he threw a knife—past Steve's startled eyes and directly into the chest of Kiem Sun…who had been in the process of getting up.
"What the—!" Kono's startled exclamation mirrored Steve's thoughts exactly. Nobody should be able to get up after a .45 drilled through his brain. Nobody.
McCormick strode over and crouched down by Kiem Sun's body. He grasped the knife hilt and, with a vicious motion, shoved the knife in deeper. He stood up again, and put his hands on his hips, frowning. "We could use some duct tape or something to make sure that stays in there until I'm ready to deal with him."
Steve blinked, and opened his mouth, but found nothing to say. His attention veered swiftly to Danny when he couldn't feel a pulse under his fingers anymore. "Kono! I can't feel a pulse! Get me that doctor!"
"Bad idea," McCormick said, putting a restraining hand on Kono's arm. "I have a better plan." He leaned over Danny and pulled Kiem Sun's knife out. A gush of fresh blood fountained from the wound. Danny stopped breathing.
Steve had leapt for McCormick and was kneeling over him with his hands around the man's throat before he could think. "What! The fuck! Were you thinking!" he demanded, squeezing McCormick's throat for punctuation.
"Steve! Matthew? What's going on?! Oh, God, Danny!"
It was Chin, looking like ten miles of bad road, his throat swollen and bruised, blood and bruises all over his face—but his eyes were locked, wide and disbelieving, on Danny's prone form. Steve felt drowned in anguish yet again as he looked over at Danny's body. Danny was dead. Danny was—
With a move Steve had never seen outside the military, McCormick broke Steve's hold around his throat and knocked him over, rolling aside and getting up in one smooth motion. He held Steve's gaze warily, hand to his throat, as he said, "Chin! Chin, Williams will be okay. He's one of us."
Chin seemed dazed, but like he also understood. "One of— He's like you, Matthew?"
"Yes," McCormick nodded, businesslike. "And I assume your friends have called an ambulance, so you'd better move fast, or you'll have a lot of covering up to do."
That seemed to jerk Chin into action. He stumbled over to Danny's body. "Kono, Steve, help me move him!"
"What the ever-living—? What's going on? What is Danny one of? Explain! Now!" Kono growled, her words an exact mirror to Steve's thoughts. Steve stood up next to her and added his glower to hers.
McCormick continued to look at Chin, but jerked his head to indicate Kono and Steve. "It's too late to hide from them. They're more likely to believe us if we show rather than tell."
Chin swallowed. "What's your plan, Matthew?"
McCormick smiled a flinty smile and turned to Steve and Kono. His eyes were burning—as if his thirst for vengeance hadn't been slaked yet, Steve recognized with a jolt, in the midst of his own despair. He knew that look, from the inside. Of course. Kucek's still out there.
McCormick turned and knelt on Kiem Sun's prone body, so that his knees pinned down Sun's arms. He looked over at Steve and Kono again. "Paying attention, children? This is what will happen to your friend." With a tilt of his head, he indicated Danny.
Swiftly, he yanked the knife out of Sun's chest with his left hand. In his right hand, seemingly out of nowhere, he produced another freakin' sword!
Steve's eyes jerked to where Sun's sword had landed. It was still there on the parking deck floor. He scrambled over and picked it up, looked over at McCormick. Who nodded at him, seeming to approve.
Then all eyes locked on Kiem Sun as he gasped, chest arching slightly as his lungs expanded.
"How can—? He was dead!" Kono exclaimed.
Kiem Sun's eyes sprang open at the sound of her voice. Steve licked his lips. He had seen some pretty weird shit in some obscure corners of the world, but this topped everything. Sun had been dead. But now, he's obviously alive. His gaze flicked to Danny. Danny, who was still motionless, still lying in a pool of his own blood, still not breathing. He looked back over at Sun.
Sun's eyes were opened wide, and Steve didn't blame him. McCormick knelt over him, pinning him to the ground, the tip of his sword at Sun's throat. "Where is Kucek?" McCormick growled. "Tell me now, or you never get up again."
What kind of threat is that for a man who can't die? Steve wondered. Then it came to him—unless…unless there is a way he can die, and McCormick knows it.
Kiem Sun swallowed, obviously believing the threat McCormick leveled at him. In a halting voice, he gave a vague location to McCormick, something about a boat and a rendezvous with a container ship headed to Thailand. Steve didn't listen very hard, his attention focused on Danny again. Maybe there's a trick to it. Does it have to be activated somehow? Maybe it's another drug that Sun developed. Maybe— Danny, hang on!
McCormick said a polite "Thank you," to Kiem Sun before putting the knife back into his heart. With another gasp, Sun died again. Like a frickin' magic trick.
McCormick turned to Chin as he got up. "Keep him dead until I get back."
Chin began to shake his head. "I can't inter—"
"Hell yes you can, Watcher! You're in it up to your neck! Do it, or I take his head right now and your friends can be at ground zero for his Quickening!" McCormick snarled.
"Dammit, Matthew!" Chin clenched his hands into fists.
"Wait a minute!" Steve felt no compunction whatsoever about interrupting their little drama. "What about Danny? You implied he'd come alive again, like Sun." Steve pointed to Sun's corpse. "What do we need to do? Is it a drug? A procedure? What the hell is a Quickening?"
McCormick just shook his head. "He'll be fine on his own, McGarrett. Just wait. The first time often takes longer." He jerked his head toward Chin. "Chin will fill you in. I've got to get a hold of Kucek. My window of opportunity to get him is running out." He stowed the sword, again seemingly into nowhere, and turned to walk away.
"Matthew, wait!" Chin cried.
McCormick looked over his shoulder and smiled at Chin grimly. "You've got your work cut out for you, Watcher. Tell them whatever you want, but you'll want to keep your friend out of the hands of any medical professionals. I'd cancel any ambulances, if I were you." He began to stalk off again.
"Just wait one minute!" Chin demanded, grabbing for McCormick's arm.
"Not now, Watcher. I've got a Challenge to make." McCormick said sharply, yanking his arm out of Chin's grasp. Steve was ready to tackle him to the ground again if Chin needed McCormick's help with Danny.
Chin didn't even look Steve's way, though. He just took a deep breath, spread his open hands, and addressed McCormick. "Matthew, please wait. One minute."
McCormick nodded curtly and folded his arms in front of himself.
Chin ran a hand through his hair and turned to Kono. He took her hands in his own. "Kono, do you trust me?"
Kono looked a little dazed, but nodded at Chin.
Chin nodded back. "Then go with Matthew. Help him out. Do whatever he tells you. I'll explain later. Trust me, please."
"What are you doing? I don't have time for this!" McCormick slashed his hand through the air in a gesture reminiscent of Danny.
Chin grasped McCormick's shoulder and shook him a little. "Stop reacting and think! Five-0 has immunity and means, Matthew. Kono can help you catch up to Kucek where you might not be able to on your own. I trust her, Matthew. You can trust her too. You want to catch the bastard, don't you?"
McCormick seemed to think about it for the space of two heartbeats. "Very well." He stalked off, out of the parking deck exit.
"Go, Kono! Stay with him," Chin pointed after McCormick. "But if he catches Kucek, get way out of the way."
Kono gave him a hard look, and then followed McCormick.
Chin finally turned to face Steve. Steve folded his arms across his chest and gave a significant glance to Danny, at his feet.
Chin ran a hand through his hair again—it looked pretty disheveled. Again, Steve's eyes were drawn to the line of bruises around Chin's throat. He must have tangled with some of Sun's zombies.
"Okay, Steve," Chin said at last. "I promise to explain everything, but right now we gotta move. It's a miracle we haven't had civilian witnesses to all this already. I need to call and redirect the ambulance to pick up the zombies I've got out front."
"There are some in the parking deck, too. Kono and McCormick ran into 'em on the gold level," Steve told him, willing to give Chin some slack.
Chin nodded. "Thanks for trusting me, Steve. I need you to go get your truck. Do you have a tarp and some duct tape in there, so we can secure the bodies?"
"Yeah. I think so."
"Good. I'll drag them out of sight behind that dumpster there." Chin pointed, and grabbed Sun's wrists to start dragging.
"Here." Steve laid Sun's sword next to Danny's still body. He patted Danny's lax hand. He'll come back. I've got to believe that.
"I'll be right back," Steve said to Danny as much as to Chin. He turned and headed back into the parking deck, to cut through to the exit nearest Alakawa Street, where he'd left the truck. Just before Chin disappeared around the side of the dumpster, Steve turned to him. "And, Chin?" Steve waited until Chin was looking at him. "I expect some answers."
Chin pressed his lips together and nodded. "I know. You'll have them."
Chapter 41: Alakawa Street, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday late morning
Kono followed Matthew to his rental car. "So, where are we going, brah?"
Matthew turned to her, an impatient look on his face. "To get that bastard, Kucek. Get with the program, Officer Kalakaua."
Oh, that's how it's gonna be, eh, Matthew? Kono lifted her chin, folded her arms, and settled deliberately against the side of the car, blocking him from being able to open the door. She was silent a moment, watching him trying to control his temper, forming fists and then deliberately releasing them, over and over.
"How are we gonna catch him, then, Special Agent McCormick? He's got to be making tracks by now."
Matthew sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Kucek took a boat out of Hilo Bay. He's on a heading to a rendezvous with a container ship going to Thailand. I need to get to someplace that can rent me a boat as soon as possible. Maybe they'll even give me Kiem Sun's boat, if we explain he's under arrest and won't be needing it. Can we please get in the car now? Or—" He hiked a thumb over his shoulder. "I could just walk to the pier, if you prefer."
Kono raised her eyebrow. "If you're planning to rent a boat, you'll never catch up to him in time. He's got too much of a head start. You know that, right?"
Matthew slammed a hand on the roof of the car forcefully, then leaned on that arm, looming at her a little. "Then what do you suggest, Officer Kalakaua?" Matthew asked, with strained politeness.
Kono refused to flinch. She shrugged instead, deliberately casual. "I've got a buddy with a helicopter. He can help us out."
She could see him think about it. Abruptly, he straightened, fished around in his pocket, and tossed her a set of keys. "Good idea. You drive."
Kono hid her grin as she slid into the driver's seat.
Chapter 42: Parking Deck, Nimitz Shopping Center, Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, late morning
If he ever had reason to hide a body again—and, if this was anything like the rest of his career with the Watchers was going to be like, he might well find himself in this situation again—Chin decided he was gonna call Steve.
Steve pulled up in his truck, cool as a cucumber, and parked next to the dumpster. He wore sunglasses and he'd donned a baseball cap from somewhere. Still shirtless, with his tattoos, sturdy boots, and cargo pants, he looked like a construction worker, not the semi-famous leader of Five-0. Steve pulled a tarp from the back of his truck, along with a roll of duct tape. It was Steve who secured the knife in Sun's chest with the duct tape, then proceeded to expertly bind the Immortal's arms and legs with duct tape as well, trussing him so well that there was no way he'd be able to get loose, even if he did come back to life.
Chin struggled with his Watcher conscience for a while, then duct-taped Sun's mouth, and patted him down for weapons. He found a couple of knives, a gun, and a garrote, all of which he confiscated. He also found a couple of metallic-looking vials in one pocket, and held them up for Steve's inspection, eyebrow raised.
"Yeah, that's the zombie juice," Steve confirmed. "He wanted me to drink some. I tossed it down somewhere." He scanned the floor of the parking deck.
Chin nudged him. "I found it." He held up the vial he'd found.
"Good. That stuff's the new crack. I don't want any of it getting out on the street," Steve said darkly.
Chin wrapped Sun up in the tarp while Steve got a blanket and what looked like old towels out of the truck.
When Chin had secured the ends of the tarp with more duct tape, he looked over at Steve, who'd wrapped the blanket around Danny. Steve was thoughtfully rolling a towel into a bolster around Danny's neck. When Steve brushed back a lock of Danny's hair with his fingers and kissed Danny's forehead, Chin had to concede that Matthew had been right—they were together. He was going to have a talk to them about keeping secrets from the team when this was over.… Well, on second thought, maybe he could let it slide….
Chapter 43: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, late morning
Kono drove very fast and with maniacal intensity through the busy Honolulu traffic along the Nimitz Highway, talking on the telephone at the same time with someone named John, presumably her friend with the helicopter.
Matthew twitched despite himself at the near-misses in traffic, which Kono seemed to dismiss without any alarm. It annoyed him. He could admit to himself that he'd also have been annoyed at a slower, safer, more reasonable driving speed. At the same time, if they died in a car wreck, he'd have lost his chance to get Kucek, and would have to explain to Chin about how he'd gotten his favorite cousin killed. Not to mention the messiness of an inconvenient public 'death.'
Thus, it didn't take much to push him beyond annoyance into outright anger again, when he saw that they were pulling into the main gate of Pearl Harbor-Hickam. "Officer Kalakaua." He was trying to be patient, he really was, but his fuse was growing ever-shorter. "Why didn't you mention that your friend was associated with the US military?"
Kono cut a glance over at him and gave him another one of her infuriating shrugs. "You didn't ask, brah. A tourist helo isn't gonna cut it. Only a military helicopter has the speed and range we need to catch Kucek. That's what you want, right?"
Kono gave a cheerful thanks to the gate guard and drove through onto O'Malley Boulevard without stopping for directions, in a way that said she'd been on base before—often.
"I want to catch Kucek, yes," Matthew told her, finally. "But I don't need the US military involved."
"It's not the whole military, it's just John. He's cool, brah," Kono assured him. She drove through the base with an easy familiarity, and onto an airfield. They pulled into a parking spot near a large hangar. Kono got out of the car. Matthew, perforce, followed.
Matthew tried not to clench his teeth too hard. She meant well, he assured himself. She probably did this kind of thing all the time on that task force of hers. She just had no idea of the secrets he had to keep. Matthew wished that Chin had let him go alone, or had come with him himself, instead of sending his well-meaning cousin.
Around the other side of the hangar there was a large military helicopter, obviously ready to go, with a brace of military personnel in flight suits nearby, discussing something over a clipboard. One of the men saluted the other briskly before he turned and left, and the other returned the salute somewhat more lackadaisically. Kono jogged toward the second man.
He was a tall slim Caucasian with a narrow face and dark, not-terribly-military-looking hair. He smiled broadly at Kono as she called, "Hey, John! Howzit?"
"Hey, Kono!" John accepted Kono's enthusiastic hug a little stiffly and carefully patted her back, but his grin stayed intact. "How you doin'?"
Kono stepped back, her grin broad as well. "Great, now that I get to spend time with you!" Matthew frowned at the flirting. Not that it was, strictly, his business, but the man was old enough to be Kono's father. Matthew didn't think Chin would approve, and he didn't want to be caught in the crossfire if his Watcher got annoyed. He caught sight of the pilot's name patch over his breast pocket: Col. J. Sheppard. Great. Not just military, but a high-ranking officer. Matthew's frown deepened into a scowl.
"And this Gloomy Gus is FBI Special Agent Matthew McCormick. Matthew, this is Colonel John Sheppard," Kono introduced them.
"My apologies, Colonel," Matthew stepped up and offered his hand, trying to crease his face into a polite smile. "We're in the middle of a sensitive case, and Kono sprang you on me without a lot of warning. It's pleasant to meet you, nonetheless."
Sheppard nodded and shook hands. "Agent McCormick."
"I have some reservations about your assistance, I'm afraid, Colonel, although I surely appreciate it." Matthew stepped back and spread his hands apologetically. "It's just that this case has some security aspects that I'd rather not share with the Air Force at this time. You know how inter-agency politics are."
He cut a glance at Kono that promised trouble as soon as they were alone. This little detour wasn't saving him time, it was costing him time. If Kono's friend had been a noncom that could have been convinced to keep things quiet, there was a chance that Kono's idea might have had some merit. As it was, there was no way this officer wouldn't try to involve himself and get brownie points for his career. High-ranking military officers were always consummate politicians, in his experience.
Sheppard nodded affably. "No problem, Agent McCormick. Don't worry about the inter-agency stuff. Just taking the new helo on a little flight, giving my pal Kono a joy ride. Nothing official happening here." He grinned at Kono again, and now Matthew saw it wasn't precisely flirty, or rather, it was an impersonal flirting that Sheppard probably dispensed equally to everyone in his vicinity. Kono didn't seem to take the flirting seriously either, although she hadn't stopped smiling back at Sheppard. They seemed to genuinely like each other.
Sheppard lost his genial aspect for a moment and narrowed his eyes as he graced Matthew with a shrewd look. "I've been working on classified projects for most of my career, McCormick. I know how to keep my mouth shut. If Kono wants me to keep this trip under my hat, I will." He brushed a hand a little sheepishly over his wild hair. "Metaphorically, I mean."
Kono punched him lightly in the arm. "Do you want the ride, Matthew, or not? I don't want to waste any more of John's time if you're wussing out."
Matthew huffed in frustration. He could feel Kucek slipping away by the moment. This whole thing was very ill-advised, and letting the military have even a whiff of Immortals or their business was incredibly, stupidly dangerous... yet, who knew when he would have the chance to take that son-of-a-bitch Kucek's head again? Rage and the hot thirst for vengeance rose up in his throat and threatened to choke him. Fuck! He'd done more idiotic things before and survived. "Very well," he said finally. Then, remembering his manners, "Thank you, Colonel. I appreciate the trouble you're going to."
Sheppard hitched up one side of his mouth. "No trouble. I owe Kono some favors. Why don't you guys go with the sergeant and get suited up while I start the preflight? We should be ready to go in about ten minutes."
"Thanks, John!" Kono beamed, and darted in to kiss Sheppard on the cheek. The Colonel just grinned and waved at a sergeant standing at the door to the hanger. "Sgt. Hernandez, get these guys kitted up, will you?"
"Yessir! This way, ma'am, sir."
Chapter 44: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, late morning
Chin knocked on Steve's door. "Steve! Steve, it's Chin, open up!"
He'd had a lot of reservations over Steve's plan to bring Danny and Sun back to Steve's house, but he hadn't had a lot of time to argue at the scene. The ambulance had just arrived, and Steve had taken off in his truck, sunglasses and baseball cap temporarily disguising him as the head of Five-0 from the emergency services personnel.
Chin had to direct the ambulance crews to the captured zombies, and deal with Manny Baga, Sun's Watcher—who was a little excitable, to say the least. It had taken him a while to extract himself from the situation at the harbor, especially since he was the only member of Five-0 left on the scene for HPD to deal with. With deep gratitude, he'd spotted Phil Martinez and unloaded Baga on him, after many promises to keep in touch and keep them both in the loop as to what was going on.
He knocked on Steve's door again, a little impatiently. A thousand scenarios for how something could have gone wrong were flashing through his brain, leading to the hundreds of ways Sun could have come back to life prematurely and escaped, or killed Steve, or Danny, or Steve and Danny—
"Okay, okay, hold your horses!" Steve opened the door abruptly. "I was cleaning up the bathroom and had to run downstairs."
Chin frowned in confusion as he came into the house. "I hate to ask, but— Steve, why are you cleaning your bathroom now?"
Steve led him into the kitchen. "Well, it got kinda wrecked when I cleaned Danny up." He opened the door to the refrigerator and stuck his head in. "Hey, Chin, you want something to drink? I've got OJ, lemonade, iced tea, water… hmm, I think I'm out of beer."
Chin opened and closed his mouth a few times. Steve was acting really… weird. Oh, what the heck! "Some lemonade would be great, Steve, thanks."
He waited for Steve to get glasses and fill them with lemonade, then took a sip, before asking, "So, why did you have to clean Danny up?"
Steve's eyebrows shot up. "He was covered in blood! You do know Danny, right? What do you think he'd have to say about waking up covered in blood?" Steve nodded his head decisively, not waiting for Chin's answer. "Nothing I'd want to hear, that's for sure. And besides, I didn't want to get blood all over my sheets."
Chin managed to swallow his sip of lemonade—instead of choking on it—only with some difficulty. Finally, he cleared his throat a few times and asked, voice strangled, "You put Danny in your bed?"
Steve put his glass down on the counter and folded his arms in front of his chest. He lifted his chin defensively. "Mary's room has a bunch of junk on the bed, and the guest room sheets were musty. I don't mind Danny using my bed. When is he coming back to life, anyway? You never said. He's not gonna rot first, is he?" Steve's face took on an alarmed expression as he contemplated that possibility.
Chin raised a hand out in a 'stop' signal. "Hold on, hold on! No, he's not going to rot." At least, I hope not. I've never read about that in any of the Chronicles…
"Oh, good. That's good!" Steve grimaced and rubbed his hand up the back of his neck. "So how long does it take for these guys to come back to life? You promised me answers, Chin, remember?"
"I know, Steve, I know. I promise I'll tell you everything I can. Where'd you put Sun, by the way? You didn't leave him out there in the bed of your truck, did you?" Chin looked over his shoulder out the window, contemplating what the heat outside might do to even an Immortal body.
Thankfully, Steve shook his head. "I figured we needed more secure storage for him, so I put him in the trunk."
Chin didn't want to ask, but he had to. "The trunk? What trunk, Steve?"
"The trunk of my dad's old Marquis. What? It's pretty big. He fit fine."
"You know what? Before we go any further, let me just call for backup," Chin said, pulling out his phone. Luckily, he had the Watchers on speed dial.
Chapter 45: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-day
Matthew tugged at the sleeves of the flight suit the sergeant had given him to wear as he followed Kono back out onto the tarmac. The range of motion in this thing was acceptable for fighting—not as comfortable as some outfits he'd swung a sword in, but certainly better than 14th Century armor. His sword was a comforting weight in the case he carried at his back, and his pistol was another comforting weight in the chest pocket of the flight suit. He shouldered the strap of a sniper rifle as well. He saw Kono checking her own weapons and clipping her badge to the waist pocket of her suit. A good reminder. Matthew secured his own badge and slipped on his sunglasses.
There were two other individuals in flight suits standing outside the hangar. One was a very tall, well-built fellow with the look of a Pacific Islander, wearing a goatee and a set of interesting tattoos on his neck—nothing like Watcher tattoos, but it still made Matthew wonder. His companion was a much smaller woman, with caramel skin and honey-brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, except for two sections next to her bangs that fell straight in front of her ears to frame her face—making her look like a character from Japanese Anime.
"Hey, guys!" Kono ran over to these individuals with a happy bounce, and proceeded to engage in a complex-looking fist-bump handclasp ritual with the big guy, followed by an oddly formal-looking cross between a hug and head bump with the other woman. Matthew resigned himself to more potential sources of trouble, and strolled up to be introduced.
"Special Agent Matthew McCormick from the FBI, this is Specialist Ronon Dex, and this is Teyla Emmagen," Kono said. Matthew offered a hand to each in turn, relieved when a simple handshake seemed acceptable.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both," he allowed. "I take it you're coming with us?"
"We are on Colonel Sheppard's team," the woman, Emmagen, explained in measured tones. "John prefers that we accompany him on any mission, official or not." She aimed a diplomatic smile at Matthew.
"You ready?" The tall man, Dex, donned a pair of sunglasses and indicated the helicopter with a tilt of his head.
"More than," Matthew agreed.
As promised, the helicopter was ready to take off, its rotors already turning, making them all duck, and the women's hair whip around in the wash from the rotors' spin. As they settled in their seats, and were handed large headphones for hearing protection, Matthew gave in to curiosity. "How did you meet these people, Kono? What favors are you calling in?" And what favors will I owe you when this is over?
Kono ducked her head and smiled. "It's not a big deal. I used to be a pro surfer. John was a big fan. He wrote me when he read about the accident that ended my career. We've been e-mailing each other since. He was stationed overseas, so the e-mail was a little irregular, but we've kept in touch."
Wearing a helmet that gave him a bit of an insect-like aspect, Sheppard flashed a grin over his shoulder, obviously listening in to the conversation, even as he ran down a checklist on his clipboard and flipped switches on the helicopter controls. "Kono was nice enough to give my friends surfing lessons a few weeks ago."
"That reminds me, John," Kono said. "How is Dr. McKay doing? Is his ankle better?"
Sheppard laughed. "Yeah, he's fine. Hopping around, yelling at his minions like usual."
"He's had worse," said Dex, leaning forward to address Kono and grinning with big white teeth. "Tougher than he looks."
Kono nodded. "Okay, if you're sure. Hey, Ronon, I meant to tell you before all the excitement with Dr. McKay and the ambulance. You're a natural on a surfboard. I've never seen a squid so good. If you ever want to train to go pro, give me a call. I know some people."
Dex raised an eyebrow. "Okay. Thanks."
"Hang on guys, here we go," warned Sheppard, moments before the helicopter leaped into the air, graceful as a seabird.
Matthew watched the military base, then the shoreline of O'ahu, disappear behind them, more quickly than he would have predicted. He let the casual conversations of Kono and her friends turn into a background hum as the helicopter flew swiftly over the open ocean, green, then blue, then black-blue. A seabird indeed.
Matthew looked out over the water beneath them, focusing on feeling for Kucek, flying like an arrow to his target.
Chapter 46: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-day
(art by Galadriel34)
"McGarrett, bruddah! Howzit?" Kamekona came into Steve's house, as usual, as if he owned it. However, as pretty much usual, Steve was okay with him being around.
"Hey, bruddah. I'm good. Who's your friend?" The guy coming through the front door after Kamekona was an older white-haired man, walking with the aid of a cane.
"Steve McGarrett, I'd like you to meet my old friend, Joe Dawson," Kamekona said. "Joe's a Watcher, like me and Chin."
"Mr. Dawson," Steve shook the older guy's hand.
"Commander McGarrett, it's a pleasure to finally meet you," Joe Dawson said, his voice rich and easy on the ear. He shook hands firmly too. And, wait a minute…
"Hey. It's 'Petty Officer Dawson' right? Or, wait, it's 'Sergeant Dawson'!" Steve pointed at him. You could always tell military, even ex-military.
Dawson gave him an abbreviated salute. "Cpl. Joseph Dawson of the US Marines, Commander. Hoo-rah!"
Steve grinned. "Nice to meet you, Corporal! Come inside. Can I get you something to drink? How about you, Kamekona?"
"Nah, we brought our own." Kamekona hefted a big grocery sack, which clinked intriguingly. "McGarrett is always outta beer," he explained in confidential tones to Dawson. Steve wanted to protest, but it was pretty much true. All his friends knew to bring beer with them if they wanted to drink any.
Chin came down the stairs from checking on Danny. "Howzit," he greeted Kamekona with a smile. His smile broadened as he came up to Dawson. "Joe Dawson!"
"Well, if it isn't the famous Chin Ho Kelly!" Dawson said, in a teasing singsong. He shook Chin's hand. "Glad to finally meet you in person, man."
"It's mutual, Joe," Chin said warmly. "I take it you've met Steve?"
"We were about to break out the beer." Dawson nodded.
Steve hurriedly ushered them all into the kitchen, where his glasses and bottle opener lived. When they were settled around his table, clutching beers, he turned to Chin. "So, Danny?"
"Still down for the count, Steve, sorry," Chin said, shaking his head.
"So, you guys both belong to this Watcher group Chin told me about," Steve said, pointing with his beer bottle from Kamekona to Dawson. "You spy on these Immortal dudes, right?"
"We're not spies, brah. We're historians," Kamekona corrected him.
"We don't just follow Immortals around, Commander, we keep Chronicles—history books—about their lives and what they do, and how they interact. If we didn't write their history, nobody would," Dawson added.
"Okay, yeah. Sorry, I didn't mean anything by that," Steve apologized. "What I meant was, you guys would know whatever there is to know about Immortals, right? Apart from Immortals themselves, that is."
"Depending on the Immortal, sometimes even more," Dawson said, with a sardonic lift of his eyebrow.
"How much did Chin tell you about Immortals and Watchers, McGarrett?" Kamekona seemed to be giving Chin the stink-eye.
"Not much," Steve said sourly. Nothing but the bare minimum, he suspected. Nothing like a hundredth of what he needed to know. "He said to wait for you. Can either of you guys tell me when Danny will come back to life?" He nodded at Chin. "Chin says he doesn't really know. But he also says he's pretty new at your Watcher deal, so I figured if you have more experience, you might know."
Dawson and Kamekona glanced at each other, and then Kamekona tilted his head at Dawson.
"It's hard to tell, Commander, sorry," Dawson said, sounding actually regretful. "How quickly an Immortal comes back from an injury or death depends on a whole lotta factors, which can change from Immortal to Immortal, and even from one time to another for the same Immortal. For this guy Williams, since Chin thinks it's his first death, it could be an hour, or it could be a couple of days." He waggled his beer bottle back and forth illustratively, then took a meditative sip.
"Lemme tell you, McGarrett, that little haole, turning out to be an Immortal? Surprised the hell outta me," Kamekona confessed.
Steve sat up. "How come? Are the other Immortals all evil creeps, like Kiem Sun? Is Kucek an Immortal too? Is McCormick a Watcher, like you guys? Chin, is that why—"
Chin held up his hand, with what looked like far too much relief, and picked up his phone, which had started vibrating. "It's Kono," he said, in explanation, before he turned away.
And left Steve staring at the Watchers sitting at his kitchen table.
Chapter 47: Undisclosed location over the ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday, mid-day
"This is the area we need to search, John." Instead of reading out coordinates to him, Kono just passed him her phone, with the information Chin had provided based on the direction of the freighter's last known movements and the approximate time Kucek had left the harbor.
"Woah! Kono, that's a lot of ocean," John said.
"I know. It's the best data I could get." She hoped that didn't mean that John would call off the search. "Isn't there some kind of standard search pattern you could run? We really want to get this guy. He's responsible for a lot of deaths, and we think he'll be responsible for a lot more if he gets away."
John's expression was hard to read, with the helmet and dark visor covering most of his face, but after a moment he nodded sharply, and his mouth twitched into a lopsided grin. "Okay, I've got a secret weapon I can try. But don't ask any questions, okay?" He pointed his finger at her like a gun. "And if you hear something unusual, just forget about it—a lot of this stuff is pretty classified. Deal?"
Kono nodded earnestly. "Deal, John."
"Agreed. Whatever you have to do to get me to Kucek, Colonel Sheppard. I don't care what it is, and I'm frankly unlikely to pay much attention, so long as I can reach my fugitive." Matthew's tone was serious, grim.
John nodded sharply again. He reached somewhat awkwardly into his helmet and apparently toggled something. "Sheppard to McKay. Rodney, you there?"
"This is Dr. Rodney McKay— Sheppard? What are you doing? Why are you bothering me up here? Aren't you supposed to be 'catching a wave,' or whatever new insane thing you've thought up to do?"
Kono stifled a snicker, hearing the air quotes, even in the faint, echoey-sounding tones coming in over her earphones. That was Dr. McKay, all right. She'd thought he was a pretty funny dude when they'd met a few weeks ago, and he had a Hope and Crosby thing going on with John.
"I don't have time to come down and play right now," McKay continued, faux crankily. "Sam asked me to make a few adjustments on the Hammond's hyper—"
"Watch it, McKay," John said, unexpectedly sharply. Kono'd only heard him teasing, or patient, or fond with Dr. McKay before. "We're on an unsecured frequency here, and an open mike."
"Why are you calling me on an— John, is something wrong? Do you need me?"
"Yeah, Rodney." John's voice was back to fond. "We're helping my friend Kono out with some official police business. You remember her?"
"Your enabler in surfboard-assisted suicide. Yes, I remember. I suppose she's listening to this, isn't she? Hello, Kono."
Kono found herself exchanging a smiling glance with Teyla. "Hello, Rodney. How's your ankle doing?"
"Well, I'm still on crutches, and looking forward to excruciating physical therapy, but apparently I'm expected to make a full recovery. Thank you for asking. It's nice of you to be concerned about my welfare, unlike some—"
"Can it, McKay. We need you to pinpoint some coordinates for us with the instruments you have access to," John said.
"Do we have approval to use the Hammond's resources like that, Colonel? I don't want you getting in trouble again with the IO—"
"Don't worry about it, Rodney," John interrupted again. "I'll get the approval. We're trying to stop an international terrorist. We're engaging in interdepartmental cooperation."
"Hmph. Okay. Send me what you've got, and what you're looking for."
"Teyla, would you?" John wiggled the phone over his shoulder at her. "I can't fly and upload at the same time. Use the secure uplink."
"Very well." Teyla took Kono's phone. After a few moments peering at some unfamiliar-looking equipment, she connected a jack to it and tapped in a code in the helicopter's computer communication system.
After several minutes, McKay announced: "Okay, I've got the data. Hey, wow, no wonder you want my help. Talk about a needle in a big, wet haystack. What size is the boat? Oh, wait, I see. Hang on. Is it called a boat or a ship at that size? I forget how to tell."
John brayed a laugh. "How should I know, Rodney? Air Force, remember? Still not a Marine. Not even Navy."
"Yeah, yeah. Okay. Let me see what I can come up with. Give me a few minutes."
Kono glanced at Matthew, who seemed totally oblivious to the conversations of John and his team. He was staring out at the ocean through the helicopter window, leaning slightly forward as if he could somehow physically sense his quarry, and only needed to get within range.
No matter that he annoyed the living crap out of her sometimes, Matthew seemed to be an okay guy. Dedicated law-enforcement, and possessed of a laser-like focus that reminded her of Steve McGarrett. And he seemed to work well with Chin—to be truly partners with him, in a similar but different way than the more mentor/protégée relationship she herself shared with Chin on the job. Kono maybe could admit that their chemistry made her a little jealous, but, that aside, she could also see that the partnership seemed to work for Chin. He seemed to know Matthew, and trust him, in ways she'd never witnessed her rather self-contained cousin trust someone outside himself before—not even family.
There was just something about Matthew.... Kono realized suddenly, like a blow to the gut, that she didn't—quite—trust Matthew. He seemed to have too many secrets, too many things he evaded mentioning, or outright refused to say. Okay, she trusted Matthew, but it was because Chin trusted him, and she trusted Chin's judgment. She'd trusted it enough to leave Danny on the ground, possibly dead or dying, while she helped Matthew on his quest.
Kono just had to figure out how far that trust would carry her.
Chapter 48: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-day
(Art by Galadriel34)
"Chin." Kamekona's tone was serious, almost solemn. Gone was the typical genial cheer and good humor. "Chin," he said again. "We don't interfere. You know that. You swore an oath."
Chin ducked his head and felt his shoulders hunch. Steve had gone silent, and was watching the interaction with wide eyes.
Chin deliberately closed his laptop, with a careful "click" to put it in hibernation, and straightened his back. He made his way from Steve's living room into the kitchen, the rest of them also moving back to their previous spots around Steve's kitchen table. Chin took a small sip of beer to fortify himself and squared his shoulders.
He met Kamekona's eyes across the table. "Technically," he said, tasting the words, feeling their shape in his mouth. "Technically, I gave the information to Kono." He raised a hand to forestall any possible interruption, although neither Kamekona nor Dawson looked like they'd been intending to interrupt. "I have to walk a line. A line between my duties as a Watcher, and my duties as a member of the Five-0 task force." He glanced at Steve, who nodded at him. Chin felt a bit of warmth from that unequivocal support—whatever he needed, Steve would back him up. "If Kono was asking me for information on the whereabouts of any other criminal she was pursuing, it would be my duty to give it to her. Kucek is a criminal. He caused untold destruction on the Big Island and an unknown quantity of loss of life. And we know of one murder he committed. We even have a body. This is not something Five-0 can deliberately ignore."
He took a deep breath. "That said, I know I've been violating the spirit, if not the letter, of my Watcher oath. I've been helping Matthew—as an officer of the law to a fellow officer, not as a Watcher to an Immortal, but that's also a thin line. I've been helping with Five-0's efforts to catch Kucek, and we have Kiem Sun trussed up with a knife in his heart in Steve's garage."
He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, and watched Kamekona blink, and Joe shift in his seat.
"I didn't kill him, and I didn't put him in there—that was Matthew and Steve—but I won't deny I helped. I interfered—maybe not technically, but I did." He didn't even mention going over to warn Pele, back when all this had started. The Hawai'ian Watchers Council had warned her themselves, although far more circumspectly, so Chin doubted it was an issue. Besides, it hadn't done Pele much good, had it?
He looked from one to the other of his fellow Watchers. "To be honest, I can't say I'm sorry, either. You both know I'm pretty new at this business. If you have any guidance, I'll listen. If you need to kick me out of the Watchers, I'll understand."
Joe shrugged expansively. "Don't look at me, kid. My oath's trashed a lot worse than yours, and the Watchers haven't kicked me out yet." He bit his lip and shrugged again. "Uh. They did try to shoot me in the head once, but MacLeod talked them out of that." He glanced over at Kamekona.
Kamekona folded his hands in front of him on the table, and frowned down at them for a long while. The quiet ticking of the clock on Steve's kitchen wall and the muted shush of the ocean waves outside were the only sounds to intrude on the vast, blanketing silence of the room.
"Don' worry about it, bruddah," Kamekona said at last. "I'm givin' you official sanction on the actions you've taken so far. Kucek wasn't just goin' against another Immortal, but messin' with a whole lot of us mortals, too. When an Immortal does things that affect jus' one or two peoples—no matter how bad it is—we can't interfere. But when they affect hundreds or maybe thousands of people, then… Then we might just have a duty to interfere." He rubbed the top of his bald head, grimacing. "We're the only ones who know, so we're the only ones who can do something about it. It's not like the police know how to stop an Immortal." Kamekona rolled his eyes at Steve. "And Kucek didn't take a head on Holy Ground this time, but that doesn't mean he won't ever."
"But, Chin," Kamekona met Chin's eyes, and the look he gave Chin was pretty damned serious. "You can't be Lone Rangering it on your own, brah. Watchers around the world will be affected by what you do. You need the backing of the whole Society. Got it?"
Chin swallowed, relieved that Kamekona hadn't decided to penalize him for his actions so far. "Got it," he nodded. "I'll check in more; stay in better touch. I'll ask permission more, instead of forgiveness." He grinned a little at Kamekona's chuckle.
Joe cleared his throat. "Kamekona, my friend, I hope you know what you're doing. The European Watchers Council and the North American Watchers Council both decided not to interfere with either Kiem Sun or Kucek when they were in those territories."
Kamekona narrowed his eyes and raised an eyebrow. "That was their decision, Joe. The Pacific Watchers Council will make our own decisions. Right now, I'm sanctioning the actions Chin has taken so far and hopin' McCormick takes care of Kucek so we can all rest easier. We'll have a meeting an' discuss what to do about Sun." He turned to Steve. "McGarrett, do you mind keepin' Sun until we decide what to do?"
Steve shook his head. "Nah… as long as he doesn't start to rot and stink up my garage?" He looked the question at Kamekona and Joe, who both shook their heads. "Okay, then."
Kamekona nodded to himself. "Good. That's settled. We gotta go, McGarrett. The little haole Immortal is takin' his sweet time comin' back the first time, and we got things we gotta do. Don' worry, though. He'll be okay." He got up from the table.
Joe followed his example, pushing up from the table and steadying himself with his cane. "Commander McGarrett, a word of advice about your friend, if you don't mind."
"It's Steve," Steve said quietly, standing at parade rest beside his kitchen table. Chin almost didn't want to hear whatever advice the infamous Joe Dawson saw fit to give, but he saw that Steve had braced himself.
Dawson nodded. "Steve, then. It's Joe, by the way. I've hung around with Immortals a long time now, and I've learned a thing or two that hasn't been written up in the Chronicles." He pointed a finger at Steve. "Your friend lost a lot of blood, didn't he? He's gonna be really thirsty when he wakes up. And hungry. Make sure you have stuff to eat and drink ready for him. Lots of water, and chicken soup if you've got it. Although a certain Immortal of my acquaintance swears by steak and about a quart of beer." He grinned, suddenly.
Steve grinned back, relief plain on his face. "I'll see what I can do, Joe."
Chapter 49: Undisclosed location over the Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday, early afternoon
Matthew gritted his teeth in frustration. Finding Kucek was taking too damned long.
As if in answer, he heard the voice of Sheppard's scientist over his headset, "I've got a location on that boat," the man announced. "Sending it to your onboard computer now."
"Good job, Rodney. Thanks, buddy," Sheppard said, while adjusting his instruments, and their course.
Matthew trusted that they'd get to Kucek; now he needed to prepare for when they caught up to him. "Does this thing have a rope, some way to lower me down to the boat?" he asked the woman, Emmagen.
"Sure. I can lower you." The answer came from Dex, but Emmagen nodded in agreement.
"You need not do so manually, Ronon," Emmagen said, removing a tarp covering—saints be praised—a winch. "This device will be most helpful. Do you need a harness, Agent McCormick?"
Matthew shook his head 'no.' A safety harness would limit his mobility, which would impede his ability to fight effectively; he preferred to just hang on to the rope. It wasn't as if a fall would kill him.
He expected Emmagen to argue with him about the need for a safety harness, but she simply said, "Very well," and put the harness away in its storage compartment again.
Matthew didn't question his luck at the lack of well-meaning interference, but set about getting his equipment ready. He took out the sniper rifle and carefully cleaned and loaded it, adjusting the sights. He unpacked his sword, and the sword-harness that would strap it to his back. Again, he expected comments from the mortals, but other than Dex's appreciative, "Nice!" and nod to the sword, he didn't get any. Sheppard's team must engage in some unusual maneuvers.
"What's your plan, Matthew?" Kono asked as he adjusted the sword-harness.
He looked up and met her eyes. "Kucek is not going to go peacefully. I need to stop him, not simply arrest him, Kono. He's like Kiem Sun. Do you remember that little demonstration? If I arrest him, he'll simply find a way to escape—no one guards the morgue." He hoped he'd said that plainly enough for Kono to understand, and obscurely enough that Sheppard's people couldn't follow.
Kono's mouth tightened, but she nodded. This must be going against her every instinct as a police officer. "So, how do we stop him, if he's like Sun?"
"There's one way," Matthew said. He picked up the sniper rifle. "But I need to get close enough to him to do it. I'm going to shoot him, and hope it slows him down long enough for me to winch down to his boat."
"What about his crew? What if he has other people on the boat?" Kono asked.
Matthew looked at his hands, clenched on the rifle. "I'll have to shoot them as well. They'll most likely be Sun's minions—zombies, as the HPD has been calling them. You know they won't stop unless they're dead or severely incapacitated. And if they're zombies, they're dying slowly already."
Kono stared at him. Like the other mortals around her, she didn't say what he expected. "How good are you with a sniper rifle?"
Matthew blinked. "Not an expert, but I can do the job if I have to."
Kono held out her hands for the rifle. "I'm a crack shot. Won all the marksmanship trophies at the Honolulu Police Academy. I'm especially good with a sniper rifle; they wanted to put me in a SWAT team. McGarrett has taught me some techniques, so I've gotten even better since the Academy."
Matthew looked from her to Sheppard, who seemed blasé about the whole thing. Emmagen and Dex seemed equally unfazed and unconcerned. Slowly he nodded, and handed Kono the rifle.
Chapter 50: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, early afternoon
Chin showed Kamekona and Dawson to the door. When he got back, Steve was standing in the doorway to his lanai, staring out at the ocean, absently picking at the label of the beer bottle in his hands.
"You okay, Steve?"
Steve glanced at him, then went back to staring at the ocean. "A lot to think about. These Immortals have always been around, huh?"
"Yeah. As far as we can tell, anyway."
"You weren't ever going to tell me, were you?" Steve waved his hand in a gesture much like Danny's. "About the whole…Immortals, Watcher thing you had going on…." He didn't meet Chin's eyes, kept his gaze on the horizon, jaw tight, eyebrows furrowed.
"I couldn't, Steve," Chin explained quietly. "It wasn't just you. It's one of the rules. I couldn't tell anyone who wasn't already involved. I couldn't tell my family. Kono didn't know. I swore an oath."
Steve released a breath, and nodded briefly. "Okay." He took a sip from the dregs of his beer.
Chin felt his shoulders relax. Just like that, he was forgiven; if anyone understood 'classified,' it was Steve. But he knew the Q&A wasn't over yet. Chin joined Steve in staring out at the ocean and waited.
Steve leaned against the doorframe and glanced at Chin again. "You were pretty deferential to Kamekona there." It was a more of a question than observation, but Steve left it hanging in the air.
Chin let himself chuckle, and clapped Steve on the shoulder. "That's 'cause he's my other boss, Bossman. Kamekona's my boss at the Watchers."
Steve turned his head to look at Chin full-on, raising both eyebrows high. "Really? He's that big a deal in that Society of yours?"
"Yeah, Steve. The biggest. Kamekona is head of the Pacific Watchers Council. It's a big region. Includes all the Pacific islands except Australia—even Taiwan and Japan. And the Philippines—Kiem Sun's home-base this last decade."
Steve made a sound of disbelief. Chin raised an eyebrow at him and Steve shrugged. "Guess I'm surprised. Kamekona doesn't seem like the type of guy you'd put in charge of such a big organization."
Chin nodded, pressing his lips together. "That's on purpose, Steve. Watchers are supposed to blend in, be invisible. At least…not someone you'd suspect would be involved in anything important. I probably have the highest-profile job of all the Watchers in Hawai'i. I mean, Joe's pretty famous among Watchers, and in civilian life, he's a bartender."
Steve nodded slowly. "Makes sense, if you want to observe these guys without being noticed yourselves. But…Kamekona? Your boss?"
Chin laughed. "No, really, he's hardcore, man! He went to prison just so he could keep Watching his Immortal. That takes real guts."
Steve nodded again. "It does. Apparently I'm going to have to rethink a lot of assumptions." He looked down at the beer label he was peeling off in a long spiral strip from the bottle. "McCormick's an Immortal, isn't he?"
"Yeah," Chin admitted. "He's the Immortal I've been assigned to Watch as long as he's here."
"And Pele? That was Hana's real name, wasn't it? She really was Pele, wasn't she?" Steve's tone was wondering, and his eyes gazed off into the distance.
Chin sighed. "Yeah, Steve. She really was. I, um. I actually spoke to her. Knowing who and what she really was, I mean, not the persona she used to deal with mortals."
Steve looked over at Chin and tilted his head, listening.
"She was…. She was really something, Steve. She was important. She was worth a thousand Kuceks. All the Watchers in Hawai'i are mourning her." Chin was suddenly fighting tears, the immensity of the loss to them all hitting him anew. He swallowed down the lump in his throat.
"Kucek killed her," Steve said slowly, figuring it out, although Chin hadn't gotten around to telling him this detail yet. "Immortals can't die, but they can be killed. And it has something to do with swords, doesn't it? Beheading?" Steve's gaze was suddenly sharp, penetrating.
"That's pretty much the only way," Chin confirmed. "It doesn't have to be a sword, or another Immortal doing it, but if an Immortal loses his head, he doesn't get up again afterwards."
"And that's what McCormick's doing now," Steve said shrewdly. "He's looking for Kucek, and when he finds him, he's gonna cut off his head."
"If he can, Steve," Chin said. "If he can."
Chapter 51: Undisclosed location over the Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
She wouldn't have seen it if Matthew hadn't suddenly gone tense beside her. Kono looked in the same direction Matthew's gaze was trained, and could just make it out, a little spec of white on the surface of the water.
"We've got your boat coming up, McCormick," John announced from the pilot's seat. "How do you guys want this to go down?"
"Get in range so I can get a clear shot with the sniper rifle, John," Kono told him, still filled with misgivings about everything she was doing. There were so many ways this could all go wrong. If Matthew was wrong, the least of what could happen was that she could lose her badge. She might face prison time. She could be getting John and his team in serious trouble for helping them—ruining John's career at best, maybe even getting the whole team prison time as accessories to whatever she and Matthew would be judged guilty of. Murder, maybe. She didn't want to be a murderer.
She let out a deliberate breath, let out all her worries. It all came down to this: did she trust Chin Ho Kelly? Kono had known her cousin all her life, knew he was trustworthy down to the bone. She trusted him with her life every day on the job. Even more, she trusted him with her honor. If he said it was okay to do whatever Matthew said, she would trust that it was true.
Matthew looked over at her and nodded, as if he could sense her internal conflict, read her thoughts. He looked grave, determined. Kono returned his nod. She was ready.
"Once Kucek is down, drop me onto the boat," Matthew told John, apparently taking it on faith that she could make the tricky shot. "Then, get as far away as you can while keeping me on your radar." At John's raised eyebrow, his questioning expression still visible despite his helmet, Matthew explained. "Kucek has a weapon. It will look like some kind of electrical storm, probably some explosions, maybe some high winds. The weapon generally fries electrical instruments and phones, at close range. The 'storm' will start suddenly, so stay safe and stay away until it dies down. Once it's over, and you think it's safe, come back for me."
He paused, and lowered his voice, as if for Kono's ears only, even though the others could surely hear over their headsets as well. "Only one of us will walk away alive from this, Kono. If it's Kucek who's alive instead of me, just leave—tell your friends to get you away quickly. Kucek is too dangerous; don't try to handle him yourself. Tell Chin what happened. If I don't come back, tell Chin I want MacLeod to take care of Kiem Sun. He'll know what to do."
Kono blinked, random observations falling into place. "You're like Sun and Kucek, aren't you Matthew? And MacLeod is too, right?"
Matthew grimaced. "Yes. And he won't thank me for telling you. It's a secret, Kono. I'll explain, if I make it through this, I promise. Or Chin can explain when you get back to O'ahu. Just—" He glanced over at Teyla and Ronon, who were openly staring at him from the seats behind them. "Don't spread it around. It's not just my secret to share."
Kono pressed her lips together and nodded briskly. "We'll save it for later, then." I keep putting these things off for 'later'…. Oh, Chin, you owe me so, so much.
She set herself up to take the shot as John carefully maneuvered the helicopter closer to Kucek's boat. She looked through the scope, trying to compensate for the vibrations of the helicopter, and saw that Kucek appeared to be alone on the boat. Sun's zombies all die from brain hemorrhage, even if they aren't killed. She tried not to think of Kucek dumping the dead bodies of his crewmen overboard, as he must have dumped Matthew's poor friend, the park ranger.
Beside her, with Ronon and Teyla's help, Matthew was getting set up to be winched down to the boat, as soon as she put Kucek down. Kono let them go off her radar, narrowed the focus of her attention until it was completely on the man in the boat below. He wasn't trying to hide or escape, even though he must see and hear the helicopter, maybe even be able to spot her with the rifle. He wasn't trying to shoot them down, either, thank heavens.
Kucek stood amidships, legs braced wide, one hand in a fist at his hip, the other fist holding a long old-style Chinese sword, shaking it threateningly at the oncoming helicopter. Or maybe just at Matthew, if he suspects one of his own is coming for him. His mouth was open wide, probably bellowing something that the wind from the rotors and noise of the helicopter was whipping away. The boat he was standing in was bobbing on the waves, and rocking in the wash from the helicopter rotors. Between the helicopter's vibrations and that boat's rocking, if I make this shot, it'll be a miracle, Kono thought.
"Okay, Kono! That's as close as we're gonna get without swamping the boat," John told her.
Kono didn't bother to acknowledge him, just let her focus narrow further. She didn't even see Kucek anymore, really, just the location she was targeting. To make the shot even more impossible, she wasn't even going for his torso. If he was like Sun, a shot to the torso wouldn't take him down, or if it did, it wouldn't keep him down for long.
Kono needed a head shot.
She calculated the angles, the movement of her target, the vibration from the helicopter, the winds—both natural and prop-driven—and then waited for the moment her shot would come. There. No sooner had everything lined up properly than she was holding her breath and squeezing the trigger.
She'd blown a hole through Kucek's head. The arc of blood and brain matter sprayed out behind him to paint the white inside of the boat red, like a horror movie scene. In a slow-motion scene from the same movie, his body toppled over.
Movement beside her drew her attention back to the helicopter. Kono breathed again.
Matthew was lowering himself out of the helicopter, rope wound around his leg and waist, gripped tight in his gloved hands. He met her eyes for the merest moment. "Thank you," he said shortly. And then he was gone, on his way down to the bobbing boat.
"Good shot!" Ronon said, with admiration in his tone, as he manned the winch. Kono flinched at the compliment, but nodded at him. Teyla put a steadying hand on her back, and Kono let herself take comfort from it as she put another bullet in the chamber of the rifle—just in case.
Chapter 52: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
It was quiet in the house. Too quiet. Chin had gone out to get chicken soup—and steaks ("We're gonna celebrate, Steve"). Steve had gone upstairs as if pulled by a magnet, and pulled up a chair to sit at Danny's bedside. He'd brought a couple of bottles of spring water as an excuse, but he really just wanted to look at Danny.
It was maybe morbid, or creepy, to sit here staring at what was essentially Danny's corpse. But, if Steve let himself go a little fuzzy at the edges, he could pretend that Danny was just sleeping, or—at worst—in a coma. If Danny was in a coma, it wouldn't be creepy to be hovering at his bedside, waiting for him to wake up. Steve just had to ignore the lack of breathing.
He'd firmly told himself that it would be creepy to sit in the bed with Danny, and pet his hair like Steve wanted to. So he wouldn't do it. He didn't. But it was hard, to sit so far away, even as far as the few inches from his knee to the bed.
The whole situation was strange. Ever since McCormick and Chin had told him that Danny would actually come back from the dead, Steve had felt uncommonly jazzed, almost hysterical, with a jittery, jumping sensation in his stomach. He'd had plenty of experience of having friends and loved ones die and leave him. Steve had no previous experience at all of them coming back. He desperately wished that Danny would hurry up and get on with it.
At first, Steve thought it was his imagination. That he'd watched so long with nothing happening, that his mind was playing tricks on him. But then it happened again. As Steve watched, what looked like electricity—tiny bolts of lightning—played over the wound on Danny's bare chest.
He'd left Danny's clothes off after he'd gotten him cleaned up in the shower, mostly because the clothes were bloody and ruined. But now he was glad he had. The sheets were only pulled up to Danny's waist, and Steve could watch as the wound right over Danny's heart began to close. Little flashes of electricity seemed to knit the flesh together, making Steve's bedroom smell faintly like the aftermath of a thunderstorm.
Steve blinked hard, sure it was his imagination that Danny's pale skin had begun to look more rosy and healthy. But then he caught it. Steve saw the pulse fluttering in the hollow of Danny's throat.
And suddenly Danny's eyes popped open, staring wide, startled. His mouth gaped open for a great gasping breath, ribcage expanding in a dramatic jolt.
Danny jackknifed into sitting up, still gasping for air, coughing. Without knowing how he got there, Steve found himself holding Danny's shoulders, nose-to-nose with his startled face.
"Danno! Danny, are you alright?" His voice creaked like an un-greased hinge.
Danny frantically patted at his chest and belly, clearly feeling for wounds that were no longer there. "Steve! Oh my God! Was I dreaming? Where is—? What am I doing here? What happened? Steve! Fuck, I was dead! Wasn't I? Steve?" Danny's eyes were wide, terrified, utterly vulnerable.
"You're fine, Danno. You're okay," Steve said, answering that vulnerability.
Again, with no memory of how he got there, he was suddenly in the bed, never mind his boots, pretty much in Danny's lap. He wrapped his arms around Danny in a fierce embrace. "Oh, thank God, Danny. You're okay. You're alive."
Danny pushed him away, but held onto his biceps. "Hang on. Hang on, you big goof. What happened? I thought I was dying." He looked around the room. "Steve, is this your bedroom? Why am I in your bedroom? Steve…why am I in your bed?" Danny's eyebrows drew together in a scowl that was so typically Danny that Steve wanted to kiss them. "Steven, why am I naked in your bed?"
"Your clothes were kind of ruined, Danny. And I wanted you to be comfortable when you came to. You were kind of— Kind of—" Steve's throat closed around the word.
Danny swallowed, hard. "Shit. I was, wasn't I? Oh God. Steve, I really was dead, wasn't I?" He rubbed at the spot on his chest where the wound had been. Where there wasn't even a scar now.
Touching his forehead to Danny's, looking into his eyes, Steve followed Danny's example and swallowed. Swallowed again and cleared his throat. "Yeah." His voice sounded tiny in the quiet of the room. "Little bit, Danno."
He cleared his throat again, and his voice came out a little stronger. "Worst few hours of my life. But—" He barked a laugh, a little hysterically, "But, hey look, you got better."
Danny opened and closed his mouth without a sound, speechless for once in his life.
Steve couldn't wait anymore. He cupped Danny's face in his hands and kissed Danny's lips, nose, temple, the side of his face, his jaw, his ear. "Danny! You're fine. You're okay. You're really okay!" Downstairs, he heard the front door open and close.
"CHIN! HE'S BACK! DANNY'S BACK!"
Danny swatted him. "Ow! You don't need to yell in my ear! I was dead, not deaf." He rubbed at the perfect skin of his chest again. "Wow. I was really dead. And now, I'm not. That's— That's an actual miracle, Steven!"
Steve's grin almost hurt his face, it was so broad. "Yeah, buddy. It was pretty miraculous. I'm so glad you didn't leave me." He hugged Danny hard again, rocking against him. Distantly, he heard the thunder of Chin's footsteps running up the stairs.
"I'm not leaving you, Steven. You know that. Not if I can help it," Danny said into Steve's neck. He sighed, breath warm and alive against Steve's throat. "Apparently, I'll even come back from the dead to stay with you."
And then Steve felt Danny's arms come around him (finally, finally), holding him tight.
Chapter 53: Undisclosed location, Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
Matthew let go of the rope once he was a foot or two from Kucek's boat and dropped down. He misjudged the drop onto the heaving deck and landed on his rump instead of his feet, promptly sliding across the slick surface of the wet deck and crashing into Kucek's corpse.
Luckily, Kucek was still dead. Kono had made an impossible shot, but Kucek had helped her by standing there in plain sight like an arrogant fool.
Matthew scrambled to his feet and waved Sheppard off. After a few moments, the helicopter obediently pulled up and away. Matthew kept one eye on the helicopter and one on Kucek as he got his sword out of its harness across his back, then unbuckled and removed the harness for greater mobility.
As the helicopter retreated in the sky, Matthew felt a touch of foreboding. He knew full well that he'd just given Kono—and most importantly, her military friends—the keys to ambushing Immortals unaware and killing them. Might as well have written them a damned handbook! It would only take putting together a few puzzle pieces—once you were aware of the existence of Immortals in the first place, of course. And Matthew was no fool, he could see that with the increasing information tracking and networking, especially at the level available to governments, the disclosure of the existence of Immortals was inevitable. It was just a matter of when and how.
This is not the time. Get your head in the fight or lose your head, he chided himself. Kucek was slowly healing, but not back yet. Briefly, Matthew debated with himself over taking the bastard's head now, while he was down. He'd bet that Kucek hadn't given Pele that much of a fighting chance. He shook his head at last. He didn't care about Kucek, but Matthew still had his honor. When it was a matter of protecting thousands of mortals if Kucek was so far gone as to take a head on Holy Ground that was one thing; his honor mattered less than their lives. But now that it was just between him and Kucek, with no other lives in the balance…. Frankly, it wasn't just a matter of honor. Matthew wanted the catharsis of a fight, not just a beheading in cold blood.
Matthew scouted the boat for any surprises: hidden weapons, hazards, advantages. He pocketed the pistol he found in the small wheelhouse, and closed the door to the cabin—it would take too long to search properly—shoving some equipment in front of it to make it hard to get to in the middle of a fight. He stowed the flare gun, a large knife, a pile of netting, and various tools in spots around the deck away from their original storage places and more convenient to his own hand, should he need them. He forbore searching Kucek's body for additional weapons. He'd just assume the bastard had another knife or gun on himself somewhere, and behave accordingly.
He could feel the tingle in his nerves, the little hairs on the back of his neck standing up, as Kucek's life returned, and with it, the song of his Immortality.
Matthew set himself in readiness, and waited.
Chapter 54: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'I, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
(art by Galadriel34)
"So you're telling me that complete strangers are going to be coming after me, with swords, in order to cut off my head and kill me!" Danny summarized Chin's preposterous story with the most pertinent details—namely the part where people would be trying to kill him—and took another swig from his third glass of water. Apparently dying and coming back to life was thirsty work. Who knew? "That's— That's just so special. There are no words for how outrageous that is."
"And yet, you keep talking," Steve snickered, pressing his nose into the top of Danny's bare shoulder and muffling his chuckles into Danny's skin. Danny was currently refusing to find that adorable. He was too busy processing the newest facts of his existence in this bizarro-world he'd been thrown into. Steve didn't seem to find it too alarming—well he wouldn't, the explosion-loving weirdo—and, in fact, seemed pretty much giddy over the fact that Danny was still around at all.
Truth be told, Danny himself was seriously tempted by giddiness over that fact himself.
"No comments from the peanut gallery," he told Steve, tightening his fingers around Steve's. He had no recollection of when they'd decided that sitting next to each other in Steve's bed—holding hands—was the best way to have a conversation with Chin. He was embarrassingly aware of his nakedness in said bed while Chin sat in Steve's vacated chair, leaning forward earnestly while he talked. Luckily, the bedcovers protected his modesty, such as it was. It just made it a little more difficult to ignore Steve's incredibly handsy propensities, and the little kisses he kept bestowing on Danny's bare shoulder, hand, neck, head, and face. Chin was very stoically—and very obviously—ignoring Steve's clinginess. Danny shoved at Steve, jostling him a little. "And shoes off the bed! Were you raised in a barn?"
He ignored Steve's muttered "Yes, dear" and put his empty water glass down on the nightstand. Danny reached for the mug of chicken soup, and then promptly backed off. Between his reach, and Steve wriggling around trying to get his shoes off without leaving the bed or letting go of Danny's hand, the covers had slipped dangerously low. Danny would prefer not to flash his co-worker, 'ohana or not.
Danny yanked up the covers. The corners of Chin's lips tucked down in a suppressed smile as he handed the mug over. "Here, brah. It's good soup, don't waste it." Chin refilled Danny's water glass as well.
"Thanks," Danny said, taking a slurp of the soup. "Really, thanks. It's delicious." Chin had gone out to Covenant Books and gotten the "Godfather of Soup," David Yoshimura, to fix him something special. Danny tilted the mug back again, getting a chunk of juicy, tender chicken into his mouth. This would have been much easier, and less messy, using a spoon, but since a certain SEAL had captured one of his hands and seemed unwilling to release it anytime soon, the one-handed soup-in-a-mug method would have to do.
"So," Danny said, 'long-suffering patience' having become his middle name. "What else do I have to know? How do I get rid of these sword-wielding assassins? I assume there's a preferred way of dealing with them quietly, or else we'd be hearing about it on the news."
Chin looked down at his clasped hands, clearly uncomfortable. "There's no 'getting rid' of them. Immortals generally battle one-on-one to the death, Danny. They call it the Game."
Danny blinked. Even Steve left off his pawing to pay attention. "That doesn't sound like a game I'd particularly like to play," Danny said slowly. Somehow being expected to participate in what sounded like Thunderdome was different than trying to figure out how to handle random killers—expecting him to be some kind of willing participant was worse.
Chin shrugged. "It's not like you'll get a choice, brah. Anyway, your teacher is the person who's supposed to tell you this stuff. He'll know the rules better than I do."
"They have teachers for this stuff? There's a school? What— Like, Hogwarts or something? How do you know so much about it, Chin? Are you Immortal too?" Danny could feel the tension coming off Steve in waves now, but he ignored it for the moment. He really wanted to know how Chin had learned all this stuff.
"Chin's a member of an organization called the Watchers, Danny. They spy on Immortals. You'll have a Watcher following you around now that they know you're one," Steve said, voice faintly accusing.
"What?" Danny snapped a look at Steve. Yep. Very tense, and glaring at Chin, as if it was all Chin's fault. And what the hell was all this about spies?
"We told you, Steve. We're not spies!" Chin snapped back. "And put a lid on the attitude, bruddah, I didn't make up the rules of the Game." He turned to Danny. "The Watchers are historians. We've kept tabs on Immortals for centuries, but only to chronicle their history. They have to keep hidden from the rest of humanity because of what they are, so if we don't write their history, nobody will. There are Immortals out there who have done great things. Some of them have done really evil things. It's mostly the evil ones who'll come and Challenge you, Danny."
Danny carefully put down his mug of soup on the nightstand and disengaged from Steve's grip on his hand. He folded his arms across his chest. "Mostly?"
Chin grimaced and shrugged. "Unless you piss somebody off, yeah." He looked like he wasn't going to take any bets on how long it would take before that happened.
Beside him, Steve crossed his own arms, his stupidly bulgy muscles brushing up against Danny's arm and distracting him from being upset.
"Nobody's going to cut Danny's head off while I'm around," Steve announced, in his most uncompromising tones.
"You can't interfere, Steve," Chin told him, apparently trying out 'long-suffering patience' for his middle name. He was, admittedly, better at it than Danny.
"You can't interfere," Steve stated, eyes narrowed and looking down his nose at Chin. "I never promised that I wouldn't do anything." Something about Steve's stubborn protectiveness made Danny feel suddenly more normal, more relaxed about this whole crazy business.
"In fact," Steve said, leaning forward. "I can interfere as much as I damn want. Any Immortal comes anywhere near Danny, I'm gonna arrest his ass and deport him. If that doesn't work, well, I know what will," he said darkly.
Suddenly, Danny felt almost giddy again. No matter what the rules of his new existence, at least he had an existence, and damn if he was lucky enough that it included a maniac called Steve McGarrett. He'd thought he was dead, and now he had another chance. That was more than most people got. He'd wasted enough of his time protecting his stupid heart—Steve wasn't going to leave him like Rachel had; on the contrary, it looked like if he so much as allowed Steve a toehold into his life, the clingy bastard would sink his claws in and hang on for dear life.
"Okay, Rambo, calm down," he told Steve. He hooked an arm around Steve's neck, pulled him close, and kissed him on the temple. "I get it. You're not gonna let the bad guys get me. Now leave Chin alone, it's not his fault. Let's get back to celebrating the 'Danny's alive' part of this thing."
"Danny, that's not the way it works. Steve can't—" Chin began, in his most reasonable tones.
Danny held up one finger in a 'wait' motion toward Chin and spent a thoughtful moment nibbling Steve's ear. He felt Steve shiver, and relax all at once, then start to lean in closer to him—like a flower toward the sunshine. Steve's arms came around him slowly, as if he couldn't believe that he was allowed to do this now.
Danny lifted his head from his warm appreciation of that tendon on the side of Steve's neck. He looked over his shoulder. "Chin Ho Kelly, you are a prince among men and I appreciate everything you've ever done for me, especially today. However, if you don't give me and Steve some alone time, you're going to get an eyeful. You'll have more to write up in your history books than maybe you ever wanted to." He shivered. Steve had decided that Danny's own neck deserved some appreciation, and was using his tongue to demonstrate it.
Chin was already getting up. "Say no more. I've already seen more than enough, thanks. I'll be downstairs, hoping very much not to overhear anything. Try not to be too loud, guys." He closed the door behind him as he left.
"Mmph," Danny said in goodbye. His mouth was full of Steve's very agile tongue, and his hands were busy stripping his far-too-dressed partner. Steve gave a last kick, and his cargo pants flew off to land somewhere on the bedroom floor. His shirt was long gone… and who cared about socks, anyway?
Danny had his arms full of warm, tanned, tattooed skin. Careful, reverent touches were mapping the contours of his own body. Danny reveled in kisses that could only be called ardent. He hadn't enjoyed 'ardent' in a long, long time.
"Oh, hey, you've got freckles," Steve said, delight in his voice, in his eyes, as he bent to pepper tiny kisses on the freckles that dusted Danny's shoulders. Warm lips bestowed soft, moist little kisses on Danny's skin, and he shivered again, slowly lying down and pulling Steve with him.
"Come 'ere, you," Danny said gazing up into Steve's beloved, expressive face. He stroked an eyebrow, let the pads of his finger linger on the tender skin at Steve's temple, feeling the pulse quickening there. He traced the outer edge of Steve's ear, then along the jawline, ending up at that sweet mouth. He felt Steve's mouth stretch into a brilliant smile for him, a smile echoed in Steve's clear, focused gaze.
"I love you, Steven J. McGarrett," Danny told him. He wasn't the kind of guy who was stingy with his affection, or his declarations of love. Williamses were demonstrative, and he'd been raised to say the words when he felt them, mean them when he said them.
Steve ducked his head a little, lashes coming down to shield those beautiful eyes. The smile didn't leave his face, though. It transmuted to something quieter, but just as joyful. "Love you too, Danno." He darted a glance to Danny's eyes, then away—like a dog who'd been beaten before, but who was still willing to trust.
"Look at you! Practicing those civilized people skills! I'm so proud, babe," Danny said, letting genuine pride infuse his voice. Danny's occasional jabs to the contrary, Steve was not a robot. He hid a tender heart beneath that tough SEAL exterior.
That smile turned wicked. "Oh, I've got skills, D. Lemme show you some." Then Steve took Danny's mouth just like he owned it. Which he pretty much did at this point, so….
And then Danny didn't have breath or thought for anything else except Steve, Steve, Steve.
Chapter 55: Hassan Kucek's boat, undisclosed location on the Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
Matthew lunged to parry Kucek's ferocious thrust with the big dadao sword and found his feet sliding out from under him on the treacherous footing of the wet, slippery deck. He went with it instead of trying to recover, and let his momentum take him forward and down, like a batter sliding into home plate, underneath Kucek's guard. The man was a brutal fighter, relying on the power and ferocity of his blows, but he wasn't much for subtlety or improvisation. Matthew managed to slice open Kucek's thigh as he passed, and he rolled back to his feet while that slowed his opponent down.
Unlike other Immortals, who would have at least asked what his grievance was by now, Kucek hadn't asked Matthew any questions. He'd just gotten up as soon as he'd healed enough from Kono's bullet to stand, taken out his sword, and started to fight. It was as if he expected random immortals to swoop out of the sky and attack him at any moment. For all Matthew knew, that was truth—Kucek may have thought it was all part of the Game.
Kucek roared and swiped at him with his sword—more in an effort to get him to back off rather than a serious attempt to inflict damage, Matthew judged. Matthew obligingly danced away, but returned just as quickly, and got in a cut to Kucek's shoulder.
Kucek bared his teeth in a snarl and switched hands with his sword. The dadao's heavy square tip was great for chopping off heads, but hard to keep balanced in a fight. Matthew pressed his advantage and bore in, trying to get past Kucek's guard.
Unexpectedly, Kucek used the hand on his wounded side to shove him in the gut. It felt like a mule's kick. Matthew staggered back, wondering how Kucek had managed such a powerful push with a wounded shoulder, until he noticed the knife sticking out of his belly, and the hot slick blood dripping down his leg.
Time to step things up, Matthew thought, simultaneously backing up and gritting his teeth against the pain—both from the intrusion of the knife into his gut and from his body attempting to heal around the knife and slowly pushing it out. The pain screamed at him and demanded attention he didn't have to give it, but the ability to fight through pain was a matter of survival for Immortals. Simply put, an Immortal who couldn't bear horrific pain from grave wounds and still fight didn't last very long in the Game.
First, he needed to be rid of the knife to let the healing kick in. Matthew reached for the netting on the bench where he'd left it earlier, and tossed it over Kucek, ensnaring him and his sword. That gave Matthew a few moments to tug the knife out of his belly and bleed like a stuck pig.
Son of bitch! Matthew sucked a breath in through clenched teeth and backpedaled some more, trying to keep from passing out from blood loss. The mild bobbing of the deck suddenly made him want to vomit. His vision grayed, and he clutched at the rail along the side of the boat. Keep your sword up, he told himself, managing to point the sword in Kucek's general direction.
Kucek grinned evilly and advanced. He stalked forward slowly, no doubt cautious in case Matthew was faking, and probably waiting for the wound in his shoulder to finish healing. The thigh wound was already gone, from the way he moving.
Matthew backed up another step. Stall. Stall! "You made a mistake, Kucek," he announced, silently urging his gut to heal faster, dammit!
Kucek's grin grew broader and more confident. "Oh yes? And what was that?"
Matthew let go of the railing and took another step back. "You killed Pele, you fool. The other Immortals you hunted may not have had anyone to avenge them, but Pele had friends."
"Shut your mouth, blasphemer!" Kucek's mouth twisted in anger. "That woman was no more the Goddess Pele than you are."
"And you think that the Goddess minded my friend taking her name? It is Pele Herself who demands that an Immortal takes her Seat," Matthew said, taking another step back. "My friend was called Makana Kealoha the day I met her, and she was the student of an Immortal I called my sister. They were both dear to me."
Kucek took another step forward, sneering and raising his sword, flexing his now-healed shoulder. "You are a fool, then. Immortals do not have friends. We do not have kin. They are a weakness! We have only the Game, and there can be only One!"
And with that, Kucek swung his sword for the killing blow. Matthew raised the flare gun he'd picked up, next to the railing where he'd left it earlier, and shot Kucek square in the chest.
Kucek flew back several feet, landing on his back, clothing and flesh on fire from the flare. He thrashed and screamed, sword clanging forgotten to the boat deck. The pungent smell of burning flesh blended with the chemical smell of the flare.
Matthew straightened, his belly wound nicely healed, and sauntered over to Kucek's writhing form. "You are mistaken, sir. My sister Miriam of Jerusalem was killed by the Kurgan, as were Sunda Kastagir and Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, respectively friend and teacher to Connor MacLeod—who took the Kurgan's head!" He impaled Kucek, to shut up his caterwauling.
Matthew pulled his sword out of Kucek's chest and wiped the blood off on Kucek's still-smoking ruin of a shirt. "So you see, good sir, friends and kin are not a weakness. They are vengeance, and in the case of villains such as yourself—they are justice!"
The stroke of Matthew's sword sliced Kucek's head off cleanly. It bounced and slid away. Matthew braced his foot on Kucek's corpse to tug his sword out of the decking where it had become embedded from the force of the blow. Again, he used Kucek's clothing to wipe the blood from his sword.
Pele's killer had never even demanded Matthew's name.
You always said my talent was justice, Miriam. I hope that justice has been done, Sister. I am sorry it was too late to save your student. Come to me, Pele. You always made Miriam proud; you made me proud as well, child. Come to me. Cleanse that vile ruffian's Quickening so that it does not taint my own.
Sparks were rising from Kucek's corpse. The hairs on the back of Matthew's neck stood up. The song of Immortal Presence sang louder and louder, deafening, as the Quickening swirled up out of Kucek's vessel.
Matthew braced himself on the still-bobbing deck and waited for the Quickening to hit.
Chapter 56: Undisclosed location over the Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
"That's a flare, isn't it, Kono? Should we go back for your friend?" John asked. They were far enough away that Kono could barely spot Kucek's boat bobbing on the surface of the water, but if John said he saw a flare, she believed him. Nevertheless.…
"No. Not yet. Matthew said to wait," she said. She saw John nod in acquiescence.
It seemed they waited forever, watching the speck of white boat on black-blue water and primary blue sky, but it was probably only a few more minutes.
"Is that—? John, is that lightning?" Teyla asked.
"Huh. Looks like," John said.
Kono blinked. Her eyes must be playing tricks on her. It certainly looked like lightning. But instead of coming out of the cloudless blue sky, it seemed like the lightning was coming out of the boat.
Ronon leaned past her to peer out at the boat, raising binoculars to his eyes. "The lightning's hitting someone. I think it's your friend," he told Kono. "Does lightning usually act that way on your plan—" Teyla elbowed him sharply in the ribs and Ronon grunted.
Kono raised her eyebrow at them both. Ronon lowered the binoculars and cleared his throat. "Never saw lightning act that way before. Is it a weapon?"
Kono held her hand out for the binoculars and was looking through the viewfinders as soon as Ronon gave them to her. "I don't know. Matthew said there would be an unusual weapon." It did look like the lightning was hitting someone. It was hard to tell at this distance, even with the binoculars, but Kono thought it was probably Matthew. The boat was rocking violently, and parts of it seemed to be catching on fire.
Dr. McKay came on the line, talking rapid-fire about some, "localized energy spike," he'd picked up on his sensors, and warning John that he'd, "better get out of there. Hurry up, Sheppard!"
"Whoa!" John sounded a little concerned, which Kono had learned translated into screaming panic for most people.
She lowered the binoculars. Oh, shit! A weird electrical storm, mostly lightning and swirling mist and dark clouds, rose from the boat. The sky turned black in the region of the boat, and the ocean waves got abruptly large and choppy. And, like a shockwave, that localized storm seemed to be expanding outwards rapidly, eating up more of the sky and sea.
"Too late, McKay. No way we can outrun it," John said, brisk and deadly-calm. "Strap in guys, it's gonna get rough. Teyla, I need you on the instruments."
"You need Rodney on the instruments, John," Teyla said, voice rising, as close to distress as Kono had ever seen her. "My skills are extremely limit—"
"You're the best we've got, Teyla," John cut her off. "Rodney, get on the line with Teyla and see what you can talk her through."
Teyla nodded grimly and began a rapid-fire conversation with Dr. McKay in technical-ese as Ronon helped Kono strap in and secured the doors.
"John, if it's too dangerous, the Hammond can get you out of there. Screw the chopper!" Rodney's voice sounded tense over the open mic.
Kono didn't see any way the ship Rodney was on would be able to get to them in time.
"It's an expensive helo, Rodney. The Air Force is gonna be pissed if I lose it. And Kono doesn't have a sub-cu transmitter. I'm not leaving her behind," John answered him, somewhat obscurely.
"John—" Rodney began.
"Too late," John told Rodney. "Hang on!" he said to the rest of them. The sky outside was suddenly black and filled with lightning. A howling wind whipped them sideways and sent them spinning.
Kono closed her eyes and let Rodney and Teyla's clipped words and John's brief, calm replies fade into the background. Nothing she could do except hang on and try not to puke. The helicopter kept spinning and swaying, buffeted by erratic winds. She heard the wind howl, and the lightning crackle and sizzle as she was rocked and jerked in her seat. Wordlessly, Ronon slipped his hand into hers and Kono held on tight.
Chapter 57: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
Danny was deliciously flushed and disheveled and writhing beneath him. His voice sounded hoarse and broken, as if his throat was sore from— Better not go there, or this will be over too soon.
"Seriously, babe. Wait a second."
Danny tugged on his hair, and Steve let the movement pull his face from where he'd been biting and licking at Danny's abs, working his way down to— Oh. Danny was talking to him.
"What? Something wrong, D?" Steve punctuated his question with another little lick to Danny's belly, just to feel him shiver.
Danny ran his fingers through Steve's hair, petting him, and Steve couldn't help pressing up into the touch. If he was a cat, he'd be purring by now. "Nothing's wrong, Steven," Danny's voice was a low growl, almost catlike as well. Danny's eyes, so dilated with arousal that the blue was just a ring around his dark pupils, were at half-mast.
Danny licked his lips and cleared his throat. "Just, let's take it slow, okay? This is, uh. Pretty new to me." He took one hand off Steve to wave it around a little in a gesture that didn't illustrate much of anything. A pretty blush stained his cheeks and the tops of his ears.
Steve felt a smirk coming on. "What? Sex, Danny? That's cute. Thought you'd be familiar with the birds and the bees by now. Don't you have a kid?"
Danny's blush deepened, and he sputtered incoherently before he took his revenge.
Steve's ear stung from the flick Danny gave him, but his smirk only got broader. "So I'm, what, your first guy? You're saying my incredible charm and good looks turned you gay?"
"Aaargh! You mean your incredibly aggravating self has driven me around the friggin' bend!" Danny tugged on his shoulders. "Come 'ere. No, really, get up here."
Steve went. Kissing Danny was never gonna get old. He lingered there for a while, indulging himself as much as Danny, discovering anew the sweet warm taste of Danny's mouth, the generous feel of his lips, the flexible wet strength of his tongue. All that talking had to be good for something. Steve couldn't wait to feel that tongue, that mouth, on his—
"The thing is," Danny gasped, breaking away from the kiss. "Thing is, Steven—" Danny dove into another kiss, as if he couldn't help it, as if their mouths were magnets and it was an effort to keep them apart. Steve certainly wasn't going to complain.
"I've always known I was bi. That wasn't the issue," Danny breathed, nibbling on Steve's lips, the edge of his jaw. "Just never actually did anything about it, y'know?"
Steve hummed in response, let his hands wander Danny's torso, comb through the fuzz on Danny's broad chest. He flicked a nipple with his thumbnail and enjoyed Danny's indrawn breath, the jerk and surge of Danny's chest underneath his hand.
Lazily, he rubbed the left nipple with his thumb, and bit gently at the side of Danny's throat. Danny's, "Oh, God!" and startled moan was very satisfying.
When Danny grabbed his hand and trapped it in his own, Steve looked up at him, startled. The expression on Danny's face said that he was trying really hard to pull himself together.
Danny met his eyes. "I'm just saying that I don't possess a sufficient level of expertise, here. If we keep things simple, maybe I can keep up." Danny's gaze softened, and if a guy could look horny and fond at the same time, he did. "Just want to make it good for you. As good as I can make it."
Steve smiled warmly at Danny, ducked, and blew a quick raspberry on his belly. He pulled away while Danny was laughing and shouting, "Hey!"
He reached over and opened the drawer of his bedside table, rooting around by feel for the lube with one hand as he caught one of Danny's hands with other and kissed Danny's knuckles. "It'll always be good with you, Danno," Steve reassured him. "It could be pretty lousy, and it would still be good, because it's you."
The skin at the corners of Danny's eyes crinkled as he smiled. "Flatterer!"
"Hmm," Steve agreed half-absently, as he finally found the lube and spilled some onto his fingers. Sex was fun, and Steve had always been good at it. He saw no reason to over-think it. If Danny lacked some know-how, well, Steve could bring him up to speed. No problem. He let a smirk stretch his mouth as he looked down at Danny and started to work a finger inside himself.
Danny's eyes went gratifyingly wide. "What are you—? Steven, that is not going slow!" His hands danced a few centimeters above Steve's skin, as if afraid to jar him.
"Mmhmm," Steve agreed again. Okay, two fingers. Come on, stretch. Oh. Yeah. He opened his eyes to find Danny watching him avidly, biting his lip, eyes feverishly bright. That look on Danny's face made sparks dance in his belly. "You know me, right, Danny? When have I ever gone slow? When do I ever wade in the shallows?"
He nodded, and Danny nodded along with him, as if their heads were connected by a string.
"Yeah," Danny gasped, as Steve swung a leg over to straddle his hips, and began to lower himself onto Danny's cock. "You don't wade in the shallows so much as dive off a cliff into the—ah, ah, oh, God! Oh, sweet— So good!" Danny babbled.
Steve bottomed out and rested for a moment and breathed, waiting to adjust.
Danny gulped for air. His face was covered in sweat. "Ah. Um, you okay? Huh, Steve?" His hands kneaded rhythmically at Steve's thighs.
Steve looked down into Danny's almost comically-worried-yet-still-horny face. "I'm good, Danny. Real good. Just give me a sec; it's been a while."
Danny bit his lip. "But— But, you, ah—" He waved a little gingerly at Steve's cock, which had seemed to lose interest a bit at this stage of the proceedings.
Steve felt a curl of amused fondness fill him, along with lust and happiness and relief and pleasure and so much love he thought he'd burst. "It's okay," Steve told Danny, taking his hand and curving both their hands around his semi-flaccid cock. "It's just plumbing. Always happens. You still feel good—amazing, Danno." He did, too. Danny's nice hard cock, filling him up, proof that Danny was there, that he hadn't left and wasn't going to.
Danny's other hand was scrabbling off to the side, and soon Steve saw that he'd found the bottle of lube, because he squeezed a substantial dollop on their entwined fingers and Steve's penis.
Steve couldn't help a little squeak—because the lube was cold—but soon the slipperiness was helping, as he showed Danny what he liked, how he liked to be stroked and touched. Danny was a quick study, as always.
Steve liked the way their slippery hands felt on his dick, felt his eyes slide closed and his neck arch back as his cock started to fill and rise again. He tensed his thighs and rose up a little on Danny's erection, then settled down again, slowly. He relished Danny's wordless groan, the tightening of the hand clamped onto his left thigh.
Steve rose again, a little higher, letting the movement stroke his dick through their entwined grip, then settled down again, feeling Danny's cock stroke up inside him. Again, and then again, a little harder and faster this time, changing the angle a little until Danny's cock was dragging against his prostate, feeling that heat and singing pleasure.
With a sudden growl, Danny bucked up underneath him, fucking up into him while holding him steady with a hand gripping hard at his hip. Danny's other hand stroked Steve's cock faster, rougher. Again. In, twist, out, in again. Danny muttering fiercely under his breath, "Goddamn beautiful idiot, love you, dammit, fuck!"
"Fuck!" Steve gasped in agreement, because, really, it was typical. Danny protesting, wanting to be all cautious and careful, then saying 'fuck it' and going in barrels blazing. All it took to get him on board was a little good-old-fashioned Navy leadership.
Danny surged up, grabbed Steve by the neck, and dragged him down into kissing range, plundering his mouth as he bucked up into Steve with short, hard jabs of his cock. Steve rode him like a killer wave on the Pipeline, all roar and thunder, power and energy.
Chapter 58: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
Chin sat out on the lanai with a glass of iced tea, trying to stay as far away as possible from the sounds upstairs without actually leaving. There were some things he really didn't want to know about his friends. As far as Chin was concerned, the sounds they made during sex came under the category of Too Much Information. He was pretty sure even his duties as a Watcher didn't stretch that far.
He was just contemplating starting a game of solitaire on his phone when it rang—with Kamekona's ringtone. Chin frowned a little with foreboding as he answered.
"Kamekona. What's going on? Everything okay?"
"Not good, bruddah," Kamekona didn't waste time on pleasantries. "We don't have eyes on Kucek, or your man McCormick."
Chin gnawed his bottom lip. "I had Kono go with Matthew. Can't one of us tail her? If I know Kono, she'll stick to him like glue."
"That's the problem. The last Phil saw of the both of them, they were getting into a helicopter over at Hickam. Can't tail no helicopter, brah. That's kind of obvious."
"How long ago was that?" Chin had tried not to worry about Kono, and what kind of danger he might have sent her into. She could take care of herself, and Matthew would look out for her.
"Before Joe and me came over to see you at McGarrett's," Kamekona answered. "Phil just reported in, though. Got stuck dealing with a seven-car pileup on the Queen Liliuokalani Freeway." As a police officer, Phil could hardly walk away from a major traffic accident.
"Let me try to get in touch with Kono. I'll call her mobile," Chin offered.
"Okay, Chin," agreed Kamekona. "Lemme know when you talk to her. It irks me that we're probably missing a Challenge."
Chin rubbed his forehead, where a headache was starting. "I didn't think to warn Kono about a Challenge. I hope Matthew told her to stay out of the way."
"I hope so, too, brah, for her sake."
Chapter 59: LAX, Los Angeles, California, March 1984
Matthew finally caught up to Pele at the Los Angeles International Airport. He was lucky. Her connecting flight to New York had been delayed.
He broke into a jog down the length of the terminal, hoping to reach the gate before Pele's flight took off. Matthew breathed hard with relief as her buzz assaulted his senses.
When he caught sight of her, she was almost unrecognizable. He knew it was her only because of the way she stood, tense and scanning her surroundings for danger—obviously an Immortal to anyone who knew the signs. She'd apparently visited some of the airport shops, because she was dressed in dark slacks, sensible shoes, and a flowing white blouse with a frilly collar, topped by a fashionable maroon-colored vest decorated in a paisley pattern. Quite a difference from the casual shorts and tee-shirt he'd last seen her wearing. And she'd visited a hair salon too—Matthew didn't know they had those in airports—her hair had been shorn, the long dark mass of curls transformed into a short, layered style that was teased and poofed in a way that reminded Matthew somewhat comically of a poodle.
So he was wearing an incongruously fond smile when he finally caught her eye. She folded her arms and glowered at him. Matthew tried to tame his smile as he approached her. Remembering why she was here, and why he'd come to stop her, finally did it.
"Dear one," he greeted her as he got within speaking range. He didn't know what name she was traveling under, and it was best not to poke holes in a brand new identity.
"Matthew," she said implacably. "I hope you're here to help me, not to stop me."
"Keep your voice down," he warned her, voice mild, glance casually scanning their surroundings. Her fellow passengers in the gate area seemed indifferent, wrapped up in their own concerns. "Let's walk and talk a little, shall we?" He touched the small of her back to urge her away for a more private conversation.
Pele didn't move. "I don't want to miss my flight."
"We aren't going far, dearest. You'll be able to see when they're boarding," Matthew said patiently, tilting his head at the stretch of relatively unoccupied terminal just within view.
"Very well." Pele unbent so far as to grab a purse from the seat in front of her, and drape a beige trenchcoat over her arm before following him docilely a few feet away.
Matthew turned to face her. "Okay, what's your plan?"
Pele blinked at him, startled. "What?"
"Your plan," Matthew repeated. "You must have one. Surely you can't be thinking of going up against an Immortal like the Kurgan without a plan of some kind?"
"I plan to kill him!" Pele scowled at Matthew.
He very carefully did not sigh.
"Of course," he nodded as if that had been a reasonable response. "I meant, how do you plan to go about doing that? I know Miriam never carried a sword, but she would have taught you something about tactics. You just don't go against an Immortal three times your size, weight, and reach, ten times your skill, and who knows how many times your age without a damned good plan, youngster, or you're pretty much planning your suicide!" He bit off the end of that in a choked whisper—the only way he could keep from roaring it in her face and making a scene. He wanted to shake her.
Pele had her stubborn look on, and she was shaking her head, tears making her eyes glitter. "You don't understand, Matthew. I can't—"
She stopped, eyes riveted to something over his shoulder, tears spilling, forgotten, down her cheeks. Matthew turned to look over his shoulder, and suddenly saw what had caught Pele's eye. The news had come on the television that was sitting in the departures gate.
Pele walked around him toward the television, stiff and blank-faced as someone who has seen a ghost. He followed her, and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder when she stopped in front of the television.
On the screen, a news anchorman spoke excitedly about a big eruption on the island of Hawai'i. The volcano Mauna Loa was trailing fingers of lava down its massive slopes. The news program flashed a slightly blurry photo of what the anchorman called a "curtain of fire" that looked ready to engulf the humble lights of the town of Hilo.
More tears slid, unheeded, down Pele's face. "What have I done? Matthew, what was I thinking? This is my fault," she said in a harsh whisper.
Matthew tightened his grip on her shoulder, shook it a little. "That is not your fault. The earth does what it does, Dear One. Your presence merely tames its power a bit. Mauna Loa still would have erupted with you there."
Pele swallowed and shook her head. "Not half as forcefully as that, Matthew. Look at it, an entire city in danger!" She lifted her chin, straightened her back, and squared her shoulders. "I knew what it meant to assume the mantle of Pele. I have been shirking my responsibilities in the name of indulging my personal grief. I can't do that anymore." She closed her eyes and whispered, "I'm so sorry, Miriam."
Matthew wasn't sorry. Miriam would have wanted Pele to live and to follow her heart. Both those things were to be found on that island in the Pacific, not chasing after Miriam's killer.
However, "Let's get you home, then, Pele," was all he said.
Chapter 60: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday, mid-afternoon
Danny sauntered onto Steve's lanai to find Chin pacing up and down it and grumbling at his phone.
"Come on, come on," Chin told it. "Answer, dammit, Kono!" After a moment he scowled. "Shit," he said succinctly, shut off his phone and shoved it in a pocket.
"What's wrong, Chin?" Danny was on high alert now, his earlier sunny mood dissipated.
Chin whirled around, clearly startled by Danny's presence. "Danny! What are you doing here?"
Clearly calming Chin down was the name of the game if he was to get any useful information. Danny paused for a moment to ponder how life-changing the events they were now living seemed to be: Steve calling for backup, Chin freaking out, himself facing a future he'd never imagined.
Danny deliberately slowed his movements and sank casually into the cushions of the old wicker sofa that sat out on Steve's lanai, tugging at the board shorts he'd borrowed from Steve's dresser to make sure they stayed on. "I wore Steve out," he admitted, with a soft, indulgent smile as he indicated upstairs with his thumb over his shoulder. "Thought I'd let him sleep awhile. He needs it; he's been working himself to the bone, lately."
He stretched his arms up over his head and cracked his knuckles. "I, however, find myself full of energy right now." He tilted his head at Chin, who had seemed to regain a little bit of his habitual composure. "So, what are we doing? What's going on with Kono?"
Chin ran a hand through his hair and onto the back of his neck. "I sent Kono off to look after Matthew. I knew Matthew would be going after Kucek, and I sent Kono with him. She's not trained in any way to deal with Immortals, and I sent her right into the thick of things. Now she's not answering her phone. Why the hell did I do that? What was I thinking?" He covered his mouth with his hand, and Danny could see that it was trembling. Chin was—relatively calmly—having a meltdown.
He stood, and placed a comforting hand on Chin's shoulder, shook it slightly. "Chill, brah," Danny said, only a little sarcastically. "I know you. You wouldn't have sent Kono into danger casually. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time."
Chin's eyes were wells of misery. "Yeah, I guess so." He barked a laugh; it was a short, bitter sound. "You were dead at the time, so I probably wasn't thinking all that straight." He closed his eyes and swayed on his feet. "Danny, if Kono gets hurt or killed because she trusted me—"
Danny gave up trying to be all reserved and manly and just hugged Chin, hard and fierce. "Stop it. Kono's tougher than any of the rest of us, even Steve. She can take care of herself just fine."
Chin made another sharp, bitter sound that couldn't have been called a laugh. "The last anyone saw of her, she and Matthew were getting into a military helicopter to follow Kucek out in the middle of the Pacific, Danny. I'm not sure how she'd be able to take care of herself out there."
Danny pulled away and set Chin at arms' length, teeth worrying his lower lip in thought. "So, what? You can't locate her?"
Chin nodded. "That's it exactly. If I knew where she was, if I could talk to her, I'd feel a whole lot better."
Danny found himself nodding back. "So we'll just find her, that's all. Have you tried calling Steve's friend Catherine? She's helped us before, with the odd spy satellite miracle."
Chin blinked, obviously not having considered that angle. Then he blinked again. "Won't it be awkward? Asking Steve's old girlfriend for a favor, when—"
Danny let himself smile a shark's grin. "Nah. I like Cath. A lot. She's good people. 'Sides, she and Steve were more friends with benefits than anything else. Steve told me she had a guy in every port—Steve was just Hawai'i." He waved a hand. "Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, Cath called Steve and broke off their 'thing.' She's found someone she wants to be more than friends with—guy named Bill Harrington. Steve knows him. Doesn't mean she won't still help Steve—and us by extension—out with a favor from time to time."
Chin frowned. "I'm not sure it's a good idea to get the US military involved with Immortal business, Danny."
"Probably not," Danny agreed. "But it's not the military, it's Cath Rollins. Besides, I'm sure you can come up with a plausible cover story to tell her." He clapped Chin on the shoulder. "Come on." He glanced down at his own hastily-pulled-on shorts, tee-shirt, and flip-flops (or, as they were called in Hawai'i, slippahs) ensemble. "I'm not exactly professionally dressed, but let's go down to HQ anyway, make it look more like one of our regular cases when we get in touch with Cath. And you can pull together the information on your big tech table. I know you like having the technology at your disposal."
"Okay." Chin nodded slowly, apparently reluctant, but letting himself be convinced. "Wait. Shouldn't we get Steve before we go to HQ?"
Danny thought about it for a minute, but no. He'd left Steve asleep with a peaceful smile on his face, the most relaxed he'd ever seen the man. Steve didn't need to be up and around yet, not for what was looking like, essentially, just legwork.
"Nah, let him sleep a little longer. No need to wake him just because we're going into the office for a bit. We'll leave a note to let him know where we went, and if things get exciting, we'll call his phone. It's in the bedroom with him," probably under the bed, attached to his pants. "He'll hear it and wake up when it rings."
Chin shrugged, but raised a dubious eyebrow at him. "Whatever you say, brah. Steve's your partner."
Partner. Danny felt a sappy grin take over his face at how good that sounded. Steve was his partner in every way now, and Danny intended for that to continue for a very long time.
Chapter 61: Hassan Kucek's boat, Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday afternoon
Matthew had never tried to describe a Quickening to anyone—not even to any of his students. He sometimes wondered if different Immortals experienced Quickenings differently.
For him, it was an Immortal buzz, the assault on his senses that heralded another Immortal's arrival—but amplified, boosted to maximum power. His sight was alternately dazzled and blinded by the light of it, hearing pained and deafened by the roar of it, mouth choking on the sweet and bitter taste of it. It crawled up and invaded every nerve ending, both limitless joy of pleasure and unending agony of pain.
All of Kucek's power and the power of every Immortal whose head he'd taken flowed into Matthew and filled him up, to bursting and beyond. The power sang in his veins and thrummed in the air around him. His skin was cold from the lashings of water the Quickening wrenched from the sky and sea and hot from the sizzling lightnings and the fires those strikes of lightning had started on Kucek's boat.
Every thought and memory of Kucek's long life flowed through Matthew's mind, and every thought and memory and life of every Immortal that Kucek had beheaded. Every ability and skill honed, every talent nurtured, every language learned by all those Immortals filled him. No living mind could hold all that and not go insane or catatonic—or possessed by the last master of that whirlwind. Matthew had no plans to be possessed by Kucek, so, as he had learned to do so long ago, he let it all sweep through him, and down into the reservoir of his Immortal power. For all his harsh, inflexible will, Kucek was not the most difficult Immortal Matthew had ever subsumed, and the battering of his thoughts hardly mattered.
What mattered was the one life that Matthew sought amongst the rivers of lives that streamed through him now. In the past, from other Quickenings, he'd snatched an ability or skill to add to his own—something he'd never known how to do before, afterwards easily learned, as if second nature—on occasion, he'd picked up a language, or a location of a treasure cache, or sometimes just a beautiful memory or peaceful thought.
Matthew had known his limitations better than to go after the Kurgan, and he had no desire to take the elder Highlander's head. But he thought that if he ever heard of someone taking Connor MacLeod's Quickening, he'd go after them himself—if only for the chance of inheriting Miriam's Quickening. Not that it would sit that well in his own head. Although Matthew had loved his sister well, he knew that he and Miriam's paths through life were always, ultimately, too different to share for long. But if he couldn't have Miriam with him for the rest of his life, he could have her student. Pele's fire had always suited him, even more than Miriam's cool peace. So he sifted through Kucek's Quickening for the threads of Pele's, even as his senses were overwhelmed and he crashed to his knees on the wildly rocking boat.
Come to me, Pele. Time to come home, dear one.
Chapter 62: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Wednesday afternoon
Steve came awake gradually, stretching in the rumpled bed. He was searching before he realized what he was searching for, and when he realized he was looking for Danny, he couldn't help but frown in disappointment. (Danny would probably have a name for the face he was making.)
He didn't bother to be anxious over whether Danny would have had second thoughts about their relationship. If Danny had second thoughts, he would have woken Steve up and told him about them—at length—not snuck away while Steve was asleep. Steve did retain the right, however, to be annoyed that Danny wasn't here to greet him when he woke up. He would have liked a kiss, or a nice round of bickering, maybe. Was that too much to ask?
Oh well, the moment was ruined anyway. Steve jumped out of bed, grinned a little at the twinge of discomfort—or rather, the activities it had reminded him of—and took care of business in the bathroom. He got dressed hastily before going downstairs to see what trouble Danny and Chin had gotten into.
The house was disappointingly empty, except for the note in Danny's handwriting on the kitchen table. Gone to HQ to see if we can track down where Kono's gone to. Promise to call if there are any high-speed car chases, gunplay, or explosions pending. Steve snorted. And rubbed his thumb over the little heart symbol Danny had drawn in lieu of a signature.
Steve wasn't used to dwelling on or analyzing his feelings. So he felt strange, but didn't know what to call it. Worried and anxious about Kono? A little; but Kono had proven that she could take care of herself, in a multitude of situations. Steve had confidence in her, and confidence that McCormick knew that if anything happened to her that Chin would hound him to the ends of the earth. So that wasn't it, or was only a small part of it. In love? Yes—and that part of it was huge and overwhelming in a marvelous kind of way he hadn't counted on—but that had been a while coming. Blown away that there was a completely different, and extremely long-lived, version of humanity out there that he'd never known about before? That was part of it too, maybe. That Chin and Kamekona had known all about it and never trusted him with the knowledge, that people he had met were actually part of this long-lived tribe—that someone he loved was one of them—and he'd never even suspected, was probably another big part of it.
Still, there was something else. Something that set his nerves jittering in a way that even great sex hadn't soothed. Something that had his instincts on alert. Pay attention, keiki, Mamo's voice rumbled in his memory. If you watch, if you listen, the wind and the water, they always have something to tell you. If you're still, and listen inside, your heart always has something to tell you too. Pay attention. Steve wondered if Mamo knew about these Immortals. He resolved to ask. Mamo had never lied to him or evaded answering questions he'd asked straightforwardly. Steve sighed. He didn't know that about Chin anymore.
He didn't know how long he sat there before his stomach rumbled. He got up and made himself a sandwich—whole wheat, hummus, sprouts, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and some of the fresh roast beef that Chin had picked up from the deli. He was confident that Chin, at least, would call him if things got exciting, so he didn't have to call in to HQ. As he ate his sandwich, Steve idly checked his phone several times for messages. Nothing.
He was drumming his fingers on the tabletop and contemplating whether to go for a quick swim—or maybe just call HQ to check in—when his wandering gaze caught sight of the unusual item on the countertop of his kitchen. He got up for a better look, and it turned out to be an evidence bag, containing half-a-dozen little silvery vials of Kiem Sun's zombie juice.
What a thing to leave in his kitchen! Steve frowned down at it. Chin must be more flustered by events than he let on, to forget evidence like that. Or was it really evidence? Steve scratched his chin. It didn't seem to have been formally signed in as evidence.
Steve hadn't been kidding when he called this zombie juice the new crack. He could see the stuff being used and abused by the criminal element, especially organized crime groups with leaders that didn't mind spending their soldier's lives. His hand stilled in its reach for the evidence bag. Why stop at criminals? He could definitely see the US military, much less the militaries of various other countries, wanting this stuff for their own soldiers, side effects notwithstanding. It wasn't as if generals didn't knowingly spend their men's lives obtaining objectives all the time.
He picked up the evidence bag and held it up to the light, the better to see the deceptively attractive-looking little vials. Maybe Chin hadn't 'forgotten' to sign it in as evidence after all. Maybe Chin's Watcher organization was going to make this stuff disappear as if it had never existed. Maybe that was a good thing.
But no matter what happened to this batch, the zombie juice's maker was still, improbably, alive—just staked out like a vampire and harmless for the moment, stuffed into the trunk of the Marquis. As long as Kiem Sun was around, he could make more of his evil drug.
Kiem Sun was an Immortal. He'd be around forever, or until somebody decapitated him. That was how it worked. He would always be a danger—to the world as a whole, but, as far as Steve's responsibilities went, he'd always be a danger to the State of Hawaii and to the United States of America.
Sun was Steve's responsibility. He'd spent too many years of his life in the Navy and the SEALS protecting his country to back away from that responsibility now. He'd caught the guy, and now he had to figure out what to do with him.
The problem was, he couldn't just put Sun in jail. Either Sun would use 'dying' as his literal 'get out of jail free' card, or the authorities would eventually realize that he wasn't getting any older. Steve had the impression that exposing Immortals to public attention, especially official attention, would be a Bad Idea. He could see it resulting in worldwide panic, and the probable persecution of, or medical experimentation on, innocent Immortals like Danny, who couldn't help the way they'd been born.
Steve dangled the bag of sinister little vials in front of his face. They glinted in the light coming in through his kitchen windows. Steve remembered Sun's evil smile as he'd held the sword to Danny's throat, as he'd casually proposed mentally enslaving Steve for the purpose of making his own escape more convenient. He thought about all the zombies that Sun had already made, all the ones that had already died or been killed in self-defense by the police.
All those bodies in the morgue. The sword at Danny's throat. The vials made a harsh scraping sound, rubbing against each other as his hand closed crushingly tight around the bag.
Steve knew what had to be done. And he'd never shirked his duty.
Chapter 63: Five-O Headquarters, Honolulu, O'ahu, Wednesday afternoon
"What do you mean? You're telling me that? You're actually telling me that you can't help me, here, Cath?" Danny flung his arms out wildly, swinging his whole body around in a three-quarter turn as he argued, pacing next to the tech table, where he'd put down his phone on speaker.
Chin leaned back against the door frame, arms folded, and just watched the show.
"I can't, Danny," Catherine's voice sounded genuinely regretful over the speakerphone.
"I mean, if I'm not good enough, I understand—my feelings are hurt, but I understand. You need Lieutenant Commander Smooth Dog SuperSEAL to ask you favors, okay, but—"
"No, Danny, that's not it—"
"We're in the middle of a really shit-tastic case here, and I actually managed to get Our Fearless Leader to put his head down for a few minutes' nap, but if you need—"
The tone of Catherine's voice stopped Danny mid-rant. Chin raised an eyebrow when Danny gave him a questioning look. Danny turned and glared suspiciously at the phone. "Oh? Oh, what?"
"Oh… Congratulations!" Catherine's tone was now bright and cheerful. "Steve couldn't have picked a nicer guy. I'm glad for you both."
Danny went bright red and opened and closed his mouth soundlessly a few times. Chin felt a smirk take over his own face.
"What are you talking about?" Danny blustered.
"Come on, Danny! It's fine. I'm happy for you, okay? I still love Steve. He's my best friend ever. I'm not petty enough to be jealous of anyone else he sleeps with. Besides, he's been pining over you for a while now."
Chin bit his lip to keep the laughter in. Pining!
Danny cleared his throat, face still red. "What, um. What gave it away?" he asked in a small voice.
"Danny, you just said that you got Steve to take a nap," Catherine sounded patient and ever-so-slightly condescending now. "I'm the ex, remember? I know that Steve's ability to nap is in direct proportion to how recently he's gotten laid."
Definite blackmail material, Chin nodded to himself, mentally filing away the information for future reference.
"Ah." Danny scrubbed his hands over his face. "Okay, yeah. Thanks, Catherine. Act surprised when he tells you, okay? I'm pretty sure he wanted to break the news himself."
"Sure." The answer was very dry.
"So, then, why can't you help us out here? Just a peek with your handy-dandy little spy satellite over a teeny range of coordinates." Danny illustrated the negligible size of his request by pinching two fingers together, despite the fact that Catherine couldn't possibly see him.
Chin leaned forward, hoping that Danny could change her mind. He knew that, technically, they were asking Catherine to do something that could get her in a lot of hot water. But she had done it before, for Steve at least, and this was equally in good cause.
"There's no way, Danny. I'll get caught faster than you can say 'aloha'," Catherine's voice sounded regretful, but resolute. "A special Joint Forces task force led by some Air Force types is all over those same coordinates you just gave me and has locked down access to the satellite. Their project is so classified that the security is way above my clearance—or even Steve's clearance. There's no way I can sneak in a peek right now, guys. Whatever it is you're working on, it's got these top secret fellas all fired up. Tell Steve to be really careful where he's stepping on this one."
"Okay, Catherine," Chin said finally. Something in what Catherine had just said had his Spidey senses tingling. "Thanks anyway."
"Sorry, guys. Danny, give Steve a kiss for me, okay?"
Danny folded his arms and smiled ruefully, leaning a hip against the tech table and shrugging at Chin in a 'whatcha gonna do?' manner. "You need to come visit and give him a kiss yourself, lady. He won't say it, but he misses you. And remember, the next time you talk to Steve, act like you're surprised when he tells you we got together."
"Okay, Danny. Catch you later!"
"Bye, Cath." "Bye." Chin and Danny answered at once as her call clicked off.
Danny sighed and rubbed a hand down his face. "Great. Just. Great. Okay, now I'm out of ideas."
Chin frowned, but decided to go with his gut on this one. He pulled out his phone and looked up the number. At Danny's raised eyebrow, he muttered, "Got one last possibility to check out. Watchers have a contact in the Air Force with pretty high security clearance."
Chin tapped on the appropriate contact, initiated his encryption program, and keyed in the password to unlock the file he needed while the call went through. When he was connected, he answered the airman on the line with, "I'd like to speak with Master Sgt. Walter Harriman. My name is Chin Ho Kelly from Hawaii. My user key is WPR-11447, password SGC-7777, priority orange-3. Thanks. Yes, I'll hold."
He scrolled through the file while he was on hold, memorizing additional passwords and key phrases, then reciting them as he was passed along a chain of gatekeepers, until his contact finally got on the line.
"Yo! Harriman here."
"Sergeant, my name is Chin Ho Kelly. I work for the Governor's task force in Hawaii. I've also got another job, with an organization I believe we both belong to."
The other man's voice got suspicious-sounding. "I don't know you."
Chin decided to risk it. The code phrases had all been correct, and he just had to trust that it truly was Harriman on the line. "That's right, you don't, Sergeant. But we both have similar tattoos, I believe. Is this a secure line?"
"Not for what you're calling for. Hang on, I'll transfer you," said Harriman, brisk and businesslike, before putting Chin on hold.
"What's going on?" Danny asked, brow furrowed. "You got anything?"
"Not yet," Chin held up a hand in a stop gesture. "Wait. We only have one chance. If I lose this call, I'm not allowed to call this guy back."
"Yeah, what's going on, Kelly? It's not a good idea to call me here at work on Watcher business. The two classified areas of my life are supposed to stay out of each other's way. The North American Watcher Council placed me here just in case there were… well, just in case. Anyway, what can I do for you?" Harriman sounded nervous.
Chin jumped at the chance to get a word in edgewise. "I hear that a highly classified, Air Force-led, Joint Forces task force is concerned with some coordinates in the Pacific Ocean that I believe are also of interest to the Watchers. Do you know anything about it? Can you find out if there are reports of any, uh, unusual electrical storms at these coordinates? Give me an email address and I'll send the coordinates to you."
Harriman rattled off an address, and Chin used the tech table to fling the coordinates to him in an encrypted file. A few minutes later, he could here Harriman cursing. "Shit, shit, shit! It's a damned quickening, isn't it, Kelly?"
"Yeah." Chin's stomach fell, wondering if Matthew had defeated Kucek, or if it had been the other way around. And what about Kono? Dammit, I told her to stick close to Matthew. What had he been thinking? "Listen, Harriman, if you've got any personnel there, you've got to figure out how to get them away—and not just to protect Watcher secrets. You know how dangerous quickenings can be."
Harriman made a choking sound. "It's a bit late for that, Kelly. We've got personnel right smack in the middle of it. They're getting damned readings of it."
Chin felt his heart rate pick up. "How? Quickenings fry electronics, we all know that. That's why you can't get a decent photo or video or—"
"From space, okay?" Harriman interrupted. "I can't go into any more detail without violating security. Suffice it to say, the Air Force has a lot more sophisticated equipment than the Watchers have access to. I'm going to have a hell of a lot of sanitation to do here. Maybe I can recruit Zelenka…. It's not like he won't believe me, after— Listen, Kelly, thanks for the heads up. I'll get right on it and get word to the Pacific Area Watcher Council as soon as I can."
"Harriman, wait!" Chin said hurriedly, before the other man could hang up. "There's another complication. A civilian—well, non-Watcher, non-military—police officer, Kono Kalakuha, is probably caught in the middle of everything. Things got—well, things got a little complicated, and I asked her to follow my assignment for me. It's my fault she's out there. And, Harriman—she's my cousin."
Harriman whistled. "Jeeze, man. You weren't kidding that things are complicated." He huffed out a breath. "I'll see what I can do, okay? If she's with the Air Force guys in the project I'm with, they'll do a damned good job of protecting her. No guarantees, okay? But she's got a better chance with them than with anybody else. I'll let you know as soon as I can. Can I reach you at the number you're calling from?"
Chin nodded, then, because Harriman couldn't see him, said, "Yeah. It's my mobile number. Not secure unless I'm running the encryption program, though."
Harriman grunted. "I'll keep that in mind. Talk to you later."
He hung up.
Chin looked over and met Danny's worried gaze. "He'll let us know. All we can do is wait, Danny."
Chapter 64: Undisclosed location over the Pacific Ocean, North of O'ahu, Wednesday afternoon
They were still alive. Kono almost couldn't believe it.
The sudden storm had tossed the helicopter around like a leaf in the wind. John's flying had been both incredibly skilled and miraculously lucky. At one point, it had felt almost like they'd winked out of existence for a minute there, and appeared in a whole 'nother patch of sky. Freaky. Like 'beam me up, Scotty' weird.
She glanced over at Ronon, who grinned hugely at her, all big white teeth and twinkling eyes. She couldn't help grinning in return, glad she had a cast-iron stomach and hadn't hurled all over the inside of the nice military helicopter. Glad she hadn't embarrassed herself in front of her new friends.
"Thank you, Rodney," Teyla said into her helmet mike. "That was well done."
"Hey, what am I? Chopped liver?" John protested, most of his attention still obviously on flying.
The storm was dissipating as quickly as it had come up. There was only a bit of turbulence now, barely noticeable in comparison to what had gone before.
"I was just about to praise your skill, John," Teyla said calmly, as if she was placating a toddler. "We would not have survived without you."
"Yeah, thanks, John," Kono chipped in. She was extremely grateful for John's flying prowess. "You were awesome!"
"See, Teyla?" John sounded very self-satisfied, even over his mike. "Kono thinks I'm awesome."
"And how about me?!" Dr. McKay's voice, on the other hand, dripped petulance at the moment. "I saved your bacon, Sheppard!"
Kono was grateful for whatever Dr. McKay had managed to do that Teyla thought deserved acknowledgement as well. Maybe some technical advice that had kept them in one piece. "Thanks, Dr. McKay! You were awesome, too!" she called.
"HA!" McKay sang. "You hear that, Sheppard? Kono thinks I'm as awesome as you are."
"Yes, you are both extremely talented," Teyla said, quellingly. "Now, if you are both finished, perhaps John can return to the boat to see if Kono's friend Mr. McCormick is there."
Next to her, Ronon snorted. When Kono grinned at him, he winked.
John piloted the helicopter in a careful arc, closer and closer to the boat. Ronon handed Kono his binoculars, and she used them to peer at the white shape in the water.
It was barely even a boat anymore. It was a burned, badly listing, slowly-sinking, soon-to-be wreck. Kono bit her lip as she scanned the wreckage. Come on, Matthew. I really don't want to tell Chin that anything awful happened to you. Where are you, Matthew?
"My scanners are picking up a life form on that boat," Dr. McKay announced over their radios. "There's someone, or something there, Sheppard. Do you see it?"
"I see movement!" Teyla announced, gesturing with her own binoculars. "In the water!"
"Are those shark things?" Ronon asked, peering out at the water. "That would be cool—haven't seen one up close yet."
"No, wait, it's Matthew!" Kono squeaked. It was Matthew! She was sure it was him—maybe because of the way he moved. He was climbing out of the water and hauling himself up on to the boat.
"John, bring us closer! Ronon, get ready with the winch so that we can drop a sling down to him." Both men obediently and gratifyingly leapt to her command.
Kono put down her binoculars to help Teyla get the rescue sling ready to drop down to Matthew. But not before she'd seen him wave up at them, as if he could hear her too.
"Hang on, Matthew," Kono said, under her breath. "We're coming to get you."
Chapter 65: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Thursday afternoon
(art by Galadriel34)
"I told you, it's no trouble, MacLeod. You did me the favor of relocating out here at a moment's notice. It's the least I can do to escort one mortal safely to your new door."
Matthew tuned out whatever blather MacLeod was indulging in—they both knew he'd give in and let Matthew escort Dawson to the Big Island—in favor of the beer MacLeod's Watcher, Joe Dawson, was currently offering.
The Watcher was leaning heavily on his cane. It must be difficult for him to walk on sand, but he never complained. And he'd helpfully brought Matthew a bottle of beer, which he dangled by the neck from two fingers and swung slowly like a pendulum in front of Matthew's face in silent invitation.
Matthew flashed him a grin, snagged the beer the next time it swung his way, and interrupted MacLeod. "Hey, MacLeod, Dawson's here. Want to speak with him?" He didn't wait, just handed Dawson the phone while he opened the beer.
Dawson raised an amused eyebrow at him while he spoke to MacLeod. "Hey, Mac! Nah, I'm fine. My Watcher buddies are keeping me entertained, and I'm actually at Commander McGarrett's house. We're having a— I guess it's a 'thank goodness we're all alive' kind of party." He laughed in response to something MacLeod said. "Yeah, well this one involves grilled shrimp and some kind of fish that's popular around here. Oh, and there's lots of beer. Speaking of beer, is Ben there? Let me talk to him a minute, will ya?"
Matthew took a satisfying swallow of beer and leaned back against his tree while Dawson chatted with MacLeod's companion. When he closed his eyes, he could almost hear Pele's voice in the depth of his Quickening. At least, Makana Kealoha's voice; she wasn't Pele anymore, was she? He supposed that MacLeod had that title now, or else his friend, Ben. At least for a little while, until a more traditional Hawai'ian female Immortal came on the scene to claim Pele's Seat. Perhaps they'd share 'volcano-sitting' duties until then, as they seemed to share a household nowadays.
When he'd first met MacLeod, he hadn't been living with another Immortal, except maybe an occasional drop-in student. Come to think of it, MacLeod had mentioned that his last student was packing up his house for him back in Paris, and would soon be moving out here to Hawaii as well. Matthew shrugged to himself. MacLeod was more gregarious than most of their kind, but if it worked for him, Matthew certainly wasn't going to complain. He did find it interesting that MacLeod apparently intended to bring his Watcher to live in his household as well.
Speaking of— Matthew looked up as Dawson leaned over to give him back his phone. He glanced at it, to see that the call was terminated, before tucking it into his pocket. "All set?"
Dawson nodded. "Yeah, no problem. We'll have to wait another week or so before the evacuation is done reversing itself and my buddy Kamekona can get us a boat to get there, but that'll just give 'em time to arrange the closing. Mac and Ben are buying a damn ranch out on the Big Island." He snorted. "Apparently it has a really nice guest cottage on the property that I can have for my own retirement villa." His tone was sarcastic, but his expression was fond as he shook his head in seeming disbelief.
Matthew went ahead and just asked—the worst Dawson could do was tell him to mind his own business. "Would you mind telling me why two Immortals are inviting a Watcher to come live with them?"
"Probably because I'm the only one who puts up with their bullshit on a consistent basis." Dawson snorted again. "Not that I'm gonna 'live with them' live with them—I'll have my own space. Don't get me wrong, I love 'em both, but I'm not about to sleep with either of them. Neither of 'em is my type." He flashed a grin.
Matthew accepted the evasion for the only answer he was going to get. Although perhaps it was an answer, of sorts. The affection and fondness MacLeod had for his Watcher obviously went both ways. He'd seen for himself the appeal of having a mortal friend who knew his secrets and wasn't fazed by them. Matthew's gaze found Chin on the lanai, deep in discussion with the big Watcher, Kamekona. He remembered that Dawson was supposed to be a musician, and remembered the bards from his mortal life—combination entertainers, storytellers, historians, and more. Maybe MacLeod just misses having a household bard, he mused.
"So, what's Ben like?" Matthew asked, as casually as he could. It was always a good idea to get advance intelligence about other Immortals in the vicinity, whenever possible. "I don't believe I've met him yet." He took a swig of the beer.
"Completely harmless," Joe assured him, with a knowing glint to his eye. "Unless you hurt Mac. Then nowhere on earth is safe for you."
Kono's bubbly laughter rang out, and Matthew looked over to where she and the little medical examiner Watcher, Max, sat in a little semicircle of lawn chairs on the grass. Max was holding a ukulele in his arms, and seemed to be earnestly explaining something to Kono, who possibly wasn't taking him too seriously.
Matthew exchanged a glance with Dawson, who jerked his head in Kono and Max's direction. "If you'll excuse me? I've always wanted to try the uke, and it looks like now's my chance."
Matthew nodded and watched Dawson make his way over to them, suppressing his own impulse to help when Dawson struggled a bit with getting off the sand and onto the grass. He wasn't going to impose his assistance where it wasn't requested; Dawson was a grown man.
"You might as well get used to it, Chin. I'm not going to tell you." McGarrett's slightly raised voice caught Matthew's attention, and he straightened up from his slouch against the tree, beer dangling forgotten from his hand.
Chin and Steve were facing each other over on one side of the lanai, their body language indicating anything but a friendly conversation. Chin was scowling, hands on his hips, leaning forward. Steve's arms were crossed over his chest and his chin was lowered to his chest—Matthew couldn't quite see his face, but he'd bet it was set in a stubborn glare.
Matthew felt the song of another Immortal's presence and noted Danny Williams coming out of the house.
"Hey, guys. What's going on?" Danny, barefoot in cutoff jeans and t-shirt, suddenly reminded Matthew of Pele—Makana—as he tucked himself into place next to McGarrett's left side. Something in the body language: stubbornness and confidence, solidarity and affection.
Matthew was striding over to them before he'd consciously decided to do so, beer bottle discarded in the sand. He was on the grass before he saw Williams sense his Immortal presence. Danny clutched his head melodramatically before apparently remembering Matthew's earlier advice and looking around until they made eye contact. Matthew tried not to roll his eyes and told himself to be patient. The man had just found out he was Immortal. With practice, he wouldn't be so obvious about sensing others of their kind, and he'd get more subtle about looking around as well. And as he got older, his range would grow, so that he'd sense other Immortals sooner.
"What's going on, gentlemen?" Matthew asked, as he parked himself perpendicular to Chin on one side, and Steve and Danny on the other.
Chin folded his arms across his chest. "Steve's interfering in something he doesn't know anything about."
Steve scowled. "I know Kiem Sun was a danger to my islands—to a place and people I've sworn to protect."
"That doesn't mean you can just take justice into your own hands, Steve!" Chin's raised voice had attracted attention; Kamekona, Kono, Max, and Joe Dawson had started to come over.
Steve didn't pay them any attention, seemingly lost in his staring match with Chin. Matthew noticed that Danny, for once, wasn't speaking. Danny's focus was on Steve, his posture one of silent support.
"Ordinary mortal justice wasn't going to work for him," Steve said forcefully. "I'm not a Watcher, Chin. I never took your vows."
"What did you do, brah?" Kamekona, standing behind Chin, asked McGarrett.
"What was necessary." Steve's expression was closed down.
"That's a slippery slope, McGarrett," Dawson offered. Matthew glanced over his shoulder to where the older Watcher stood behind him to the left—away from his sword arm, Matthew noted with some amusement. "A lot of Immortals think the Game is just for them, and mortals should stay out of it." Dawson tilted his head toward Matthew.
"It wasn't a Game, and I wasn't playing," Steve's voice was as grim as the look he aimed at Matthew.
Suddenly, Matthew knew what this was about. He shook his head, both hands held out palm out and empty. "I agree, Steve. It was self-defense, wasn't it? Defense of all you hold dear. Necessary."
"You don't care? You honestly don't care that Steve took out Kiem Sun?" Danny finally spoke up, but he wasn't challenging, just seemed to be honestly, calmly curious.
Matthew looked around himself. He was surrounded by mortals, most of them Watchers, all of them looking at him. Interestingly, he didn't feel threatened.
Matthew shrugged. "I'd have preferred it if he'd left the job to me, or perhaps to MacLeod, but I understand why he didn't." He raised an eyebrow at Steve. "You don't intend to go on an Immortal-killing rampage, do you, Commander? Do you intend to tell outsiders about Immortals—call someone in your chain of command? Blog about it, perhaps?"
Steve snorted, shook his head, and placed a telling hand on Danny's shoulder.
"Then, I don't see a reason to become unduly upset," Matthew addressed Chin, and the other Watchers by inference. "What's done is done. Although, Dawson, perhaps MacLeod ought not to be told. He can be a little touchy." He tucked away a smile at Dawson's bark of laughter. "Chin, you can attribute Sun to me, if that will help your history books. I certainly would have dealt with him if I'd had the opportunity." He reached into the cooler for another beer, quite unconcerned, and caught sight of Danny's approving grin.
"At least tell us where you've put the body," Chin asked Steve, resigned.
Steve leaned over and dug in the cooler at his feet, passed a beer to Chin, another along to Williams, then dug another out for himself. He opened the beer and raised it in a silent, apologetic toast toward Chin before replying, "I sacrificed Kiem Sun to Ka-moho-ali'i. It seemed fitting."
Ah, he'd given Kucek's henchman to the god of sharks, the goddess Pele's brother. No one would find the body, after the sharks were done feeding.
Matthew did find that fitting, if ironic. Makana would have liked it.
Chapter 66: McGarrett's house, Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawai'i, Thursday evening
(art by Galadriel34)
"No. Absolutely not! I came all the way out to this benighted island to be near my daughter. I am not leaving her!" Danny didn't know how Matthew couldn't understand that this was non-negotiable.
The party had wound down as one by one, the other people had gone home. Kamekona had taken Joe back to his hotel, Max had taken home his ukulele, and Kono had marched Chin to his motorcycle, probably to grill him in private, where she could also scold him to her satisfaction. It had left him and Steve alone in the slowly growing darkness with a romantic Hawai'ian sunset on a torch-lit lanai, and Danny had been looking forward to getting a little nookie. But then Matthew had come back from walking Kamekona and Joe to their car, and started earnestly telling him a bunch of Immortal nonsense.
"She's not your daughter." Matthew shook his head at the wounded and outraged look Danny gave him. "I'm sorry, Daniel, she can't be. No Immortal that any of us knows of has ever had a child," he said with conviction.
Danny felt the scowl he was wearing smooth out. "Oh, is that all. I already knew that Grace wasn't mine biologically. We were having trouble getting pregnant, so Rachel had artificial insemination." He shrugged at Steve's startled expression. "It wasn't a big deal. It happened to my folks—they were having trouble having kids, then they adopted me, and all of a sudden, bing, bam, boom, Matty, Barb, and Eileen came along. I figured it would be the same for me and Rachel, only Rachel preferred not to adopt if she could actually get pregnant and have a baby." He winced, thinking of what had happened only a few years after Grace was born. "And then we ended up getting a divorce before we had any more kids, so it was probably for the best that I couldn't make any more babies."
"Really? You're adopted? Grace is—" It seemed to pop out of Steve like he couldn't help it.
Jeeze! Danny made a face, then whapped him on the bicep. "Don't tell me you never noticed that Grace doesn't look anything like me. And you didn't notice that Matty and I never looked the slightest bit alike either? I weep for your complete lack of detective skills, Steven. Have you learned nothing at all working with real live police officers?"
Steve shrugged, looking uncomfortable. "I don't look much like Mary, either. She takes after our Mom's side of the family—she looks a lot like our grandmother. I take after Dad's side of the family. I look like my grandfather, and my Dad's brother Steven—I'm named after him. I guess I thought you had something similar going on in your family."
"Huh. Okay." Danny rubbed the back of his neck. "Look, my family's still my family too. Just because I don't look like my grandfather doesn't make me any less a Williams. Just because we don't share the same genes doesn't make my parents not my parents, or Grace any less my daughter." He hated having to say it in so many words, but it needed saying. Sometimes people were thick.
"Absolutely, Danny." Steve straightened up tall and stood shoulder to sho—who was Danny kidding, it was more shoulder to jawbone—with Danny, facing down Matthew McCormick. "You can't take a man away from his family, McCormick. That's just not right."
"Take away— I am not taking anyone away from anything, Commander McGarrett!" Matthew said vehemently. He met Danny's eyes. "I'm your new teacher, Daniel. You need to come with me. You need someone to teach you how to be an Immortal."
Pish! He wasn't going to let something like that take him away from Grace. "So, I'll take sword fighting lessons. I'm sure someone teaches kendo around here. How hard can it be?" Danny's hands chopped the air like a knife.
McCormick's sword chopped through the air like an actual sword, however. Before Danny could move away, the tip of the sword hovered just under his chin. Danny froze. "Harder than it looks," said Matthew softly. Danny gulped, careful of the edge of the blade he could feel against his throat.
Suddenly, Steve had the barrel of a 9mm shoved up underneath McCormick's jaw. "Put away the sword. Now." Steve's voice was cold, as deadly as Danny had ever heard it.
Danny watched McCormick swallow carefully himself, and then the pressure of metal was gone from his throat. He took a careful step back.
Matthew had made the sword disappear as if it had never existed. He was otherwise motionless, however, because the gun had never moved an iota. Every muscle in Steve's body was tense, and the look in his eyes reminded Danny of the implacable expression in the eyes of a pitbull he'd met at a drug bust back in New Jersey. Danny loved dogs, but that animal had been a weapon, and what's more, the dog himself had known it. 'I'd regret having to rip your throat out,' the look in the dog's eyes had said, 'but I will do it in a heartbeat if you make me.' And that very same expression was now in Steve's eyes.
But if Steve was a pitbull, he was Danny's pitbull.
He slapped Steve's chest with the back of his hand. "Put that away, you Neanderthal. We're trying to have a civilized discussion here. No weapons required, right, McCormick?"
"Right," McCormick agreed, eyes a little wild. Steve took a step back and put away his gun, making it disappear almost as magically as Matthew had made his sword go away. Steve stood at Danny's side again, arms folded across his chest, silent but glowering at Matthew, his whole body saying, 'Go ahead, try something else.'
My pitbull. Danny patted Steve's shoulder before addressing Matthew again. "You were saying?"
Matthew took a deep breath and let it out. "There's more to being an Immortal than sword-fighting," he said, intent and gravely serious. He spread his hands out. "Daniel, I am not your enemy here. Perhaps I was needlessly dramatic about it, but I am simply telling you the facts of your new life. You will in fact, at some point, need to leave your daughter before it becomes evident that she is aging, and that you have ceased to do so." His soft Southern drawl was regretful, but firm. "It is one of the more unfortunate facts of your new existence, Daniel. One sorrow and one choice that all immortals share: you may choose to die violently at the end of some evil man's sword, or you may choose to live. If you choose the latter, you will surely outlive every mortal you ever love, and will most often have to leave them after a decade or two at most."
Danny felt more than saw Steve flinch beside him. No. That was not gonna happen. Enough people had left Steve. Danny wasn't going to be one of them. Danny firmed his resolve. He might be an Immortal now, but that didn't mean he couldn't hold on to the people he loved as long as he possibly could. He took Steve's hand, a little self-consciously, but firmly. If the big palooka thought Danny would ever leave him, he had another think coming. "What about if my loved ones already know? Eventually, I may have to move so that civilians don't catch on, but I can take my family with me."
Matthew pinched the bridge of his nose, as if Danny was a trial and a burden. His new teacher was in for a big surprise. He hadn't seen what a trial Danny could be if he set his mind to it. "I suppose, if you're determined." He glanced at Steve, who stared right back at him, defiantly, and squeezed Danny's hand almost too hard.
Matthew turned and spoke directly to Steve. "You're still going to age, Commander McGarrett, and Daniel will not. Think about how you're going to feel thirty years from now. You may wish you'd made a clean break now."
Steve turned his head and looked down into Danny's face. Danny almost had to squint from the intensity in his gaze, and then the look softened, and Steve gave him a fond, goofy smile. "I'll feel like a lucky old man with a hot young lover. I don't care if he ends up calling me 'gramps,' as long as he's there."
"You're going to have to relocate every decade or two. It's been my experience that an identity can hold out at most twenty-five years, many times far less than that," Matthew said stolidly, resignedly.
Danny crossed his arms over his chest. He had an idea. "Huh. How long have you been with the FBI?"
Matthew shook his head at the apparent non sequitur. "Around fifteen years now."
"Then isn't about time you 'retired'?" Danny made the air quotes, just to be obnoxious. "I've heard that Hawaii is a popular retirement destination." He exchanged sly smirks with Steve.
A smile twitched in the corner of Matthew's mouth. "You may have a point, Daniel Williams."
Danny grinned his biggest, cheesiest grin, and spread his arms out wide to indicate the blue skies, blue surf, and warm sandy beaches of the pineapple-infested, tourist-ridden, over-priced real estate where his beloved family made their home. "Then, Aloha, Matthew McCormick! Welcome to paradise!"
A note about my pit-bull metaphor: Every pit bull that I have ever met has been a smart, loyal, cheerful dog that I'd be pleased to welcome to my home. Unfortunately, pit bulls are the current breed of dogs that criminals are abusing for their own twisted ends (like other breeds in previous decades), and Danny would have encountered more than one during his time on the Police Force.