This is their fifth hospital in three years. Danny’s starting to get really, really used to the song and dance routine. He’ll contact a hospital, get in touch with a cardio surgeon, talk to them about Grace, and they’ll agree, in theory. They’ll make positive noises about how they might be able to help, how they can’t promise anything specific until there are further tests and scans, but how they’re optimistic about their ability to help. Surely there’s something that can be done.
Then he’ll jump through hoops. He’ll apply for transfers, and get a police job in some new city. He’ll have to wait for the health insurance to follow him, and then work through forms and co-pay arrangements and wait for appointment times. In the meantime, he’ll pay for nursing staff out of his own pocket and be grateful that Rachel’s life insurance left Grace with a trust fund, left them with a way to afford this.
Then he’ll take Grace into the new hospital and she’ll sit there. There will be tests and scans, and his little girl staying overnight for observation. Then meeting with doctors and usually -- well, five for five so far -- there will an operation that’s too risky to be completed. It will be untenable or the survival rate is too low. They’ll say she should be monitored until she’s older, until it’s safer and easier for them to operate.
There’s talk of the amount of healthy tissue that would be excised if they operate now. That the tumor is benign and not seriously impacting her cardiac function at the moment. And Danny always wants to argue their definition of serious impact. He has a kid who’s short of breath if she walks too fast, who faints when the day’s been too hot or she’s overtired. There are heart murmurs and sometimes she talks about her chest hurting, but apparently that’s not serious. That can all be managed with the right care and attention.
Danny would argue it, but after the third time he realised there was no point. It was just time to take a copy of the latest test results and start the cycle again: find a new doctor, find a new job and try again.
He’s heard good things about McGarrett using robotic-assisted surgery and working on challenging cases. But Danny’s been through this too many times to have much hope left. Deep down, he thinks Hawai’i will be just like New York, like Boston, or Houston, or Atlanta. But he’s going to keep trying. If he has to try every hospital in the States, he’ll do it. And then he’ll move to Canada and do it all over again.
Danny gets part time work at the local station. It’s a demotion in terms of responsibility, in terms of money, in terms of actually making a difference to catching bad guys, but he’s still contributing in some way and it’s enough. It has to be. It’s a point of pride that he hasn’t used Grace’s trust fund for anything other than Grace’s health. He hasn’t touched it for food and utilities and rent and all those other unimportant costs. The downside is that he can’t sit by his daughter’s bedside, day in, day out, as much as he’d love to.
But he knows they take good care of her. She’s a sweetheart and the nurses always love her, always. So he doesn’t have anything to really worry about but he’s a father. He worries. It’s what he does.
So Danny’s reaction is perfectly justified when he walks in the room to find Grace standing on her bed, arms outstretched and knees bent while some guy in Crocs, board-shorts and a ratty old t-shirt is saying, “No, no, you want to really surf you’ve got to lean into the wave. It’s going to crash around you anyway, but you’ve got to meet it headfirst.”
There is yelling and arms waving, and getting right up in the guy’s face. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Sick kid, heart condition, stays in bed! I understand that clown doctors have no actual qualifications, but at the very least I’d expect some basic common sense. Basic. Not brain surgery here, just basic common sense. Do not kill the patient before surgery! It’s a simple motto. I’m sure the hospital would agree with me.”
“Danno,” Grace says, far too much parental embarrassment showing on her sweet little face.
Danny softens his tone. “Back to bed, Monkey. You know the drill.” He reaches a hand up to steady her as she bounces back to her knees and sits back on the mattress.
“Fine,” she says, and she’s under the covers.
The guy -- the irresponsible guy, the guy who is just standing there like this six foot high hulking lump of stupid risks and bad influence -- is standing there with this stupid little grin on his face. Like this is something to laugh about.
“And you,” Danny says, raising his chin because he’s not going to stand up on his toes to stare the guy down. He’s never needed to be taller than people to intimidate them. “Stay the hell away from her. Understood? Ten foot radius. Ten foot. Closer than that, I will sue you. I will sue this hospital. I will find some way to make the local police really want to look closely at your personal life. Is that understood?”
“Ten foot?” the guy asks.
“Ten foot. No closer. Understood?”
The guy shrugs like this is nothing. Like Danny doesn’t mean every single word of it. You’d think someone who deals with kids and stressed, overtired parents would understand that this is serious. Parents are just itching for a fight, looking for someone to blame, someone to take all this impotent rage and frustration out on. You’d think he’d know better than to start a fight. But no, he just smiles and shrugs.
And says, “I could stay ten foot away, but it’s going to make surgery difficult.”
“Surgery? Yeah, because they’re going to let you hold a scalpel. What’s your name?”
“Dr Steve,” Grace says from the bed. Of course she knows his name. Grace is that kind of girl: she remembers staff names and talks to them, and remembers the things that Danny himself sometimes forgets.
“Okay, Dr Steve or whatever your clown name is--”
“I’m not a clown.”
“Fine. Whatever Hawaiian hospitals have instead of clown doctors. Surfer doctors, maybe? I don’t know.”
“I’m not a surfer doctor,” Dr Steve says. He’s still wearing that stupid little smile.
“Really? Because that’s exactly what that outfit reads as.”
“I’m just a normal doctor.”
“You’re just a normal doctor?” Danny asks incredulously. “You’re just a normal doctor who likes to get kids with serious heart conditions excited and out of bed?”
“I’m a normal doctor who likes to observe heart rates and levels of exertion. And Gracie here asked about surfing.”
“Why would you--” That’s when Danny gets it. The guy must work for McGarrett. Looks a bit old to be an intern, but hey, who’s Danny to judge? His career isn’t exactly stellar. He’s getting scarily close to forty, and he does data entry part-time. This was not his dream career at twenty. “It’s a dangerous test,” he says, trying to be a reasonable adult, “and it shouldn’t have been done with an unaccompanied minor.”
“I was keeping an eye on her. I wouldn’t have let her get too far.”
“Oh, great. You were keeping an eye on her, huh? Just you? If something went wrong--”
“I know what I’m doing,” he says, far too relaxed and casual for Danny’s liking. “I’m fairly good at this.”
“No. Not without me present.”
“Fine. I’ll make a note on the chart,” the guy says, and then nods a goodbye to Grace and says he’ll see her later.
It’s a little embarrassing to be formally introduced to Steve McGarrett a few hours later. He had looked like a surfer pretending to be a childrens’ entertainer. It’s an easy mistake to make. What sort of doctor walks around wards in shorts and a t-shirt? No scrubs, no lanyard, no white coat to make it easy to identify him. What sort of doctor does that?
McGarrett shrugs. “The kind that lives in Hawai’i?”
“There are things called shirts and ties. Or scrubs and coats. There are clothes that are professional, that suggest an aura of authority. Board shorts do not. Neither do Crocs. Crocs are an abomination upon the feet.”
“If you say so.” The guy is smiling and clearly laughing at him. And Danny… Danny doesn’t care enough to be truly offended. He’s more tired than anything else.
And, fine, a little embarrassed. Dr Steve McGarrett is one of the best in the nation, and certainly amongst the top twenty cardiothoracic surgeons in the world. Danny has had to uproot his life, his career, his everything and move across the country on this one last-shot hope that he’ll operate on Grace. That the risks won’t be too much, that the possible increase to his professional insurance premium isn’t going to be the deciding factor here. Danny can’t really afford to offend the guy.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Danny says, trying not to shrug his way out of it. “I shouldn’t have said those things. I was out of line.”
The guy shrugs again. “It’s cool.” Like it really is fine. Like Danny’s bad temper means nothing at all. “I get it.”
“You get it? What precisely do you get?”
“I get that you’re a guy with an eight year old daughter. There was a bad car accident and during the emergency surgery, they found a mass. It’s been three years and nobody’s been willing to operate on it. That’s a lot to live with.”
Put like that, it is. That’s why Danny doesn’t think about it in a big picture way. He got through the night of the crash by pacing hospital corridors, chasing down doctors for updates. He got through Rachel’s funeral worrying about getting more scans for Grace. He got through medical appointments and specialists giving him bad news. Mostly on belligerence and bad temper, but step by step, Danny is not giving up his little girl without a fight.
Danny crosses his arms. “And you get that, do you?”
“Even the sun and sand of Hawai’i aren’t going to loosen you up until you know she’s happy and healthy,” McGarrett says, like it’s as simple as that. It is.
At least McGarrett wears a collared shirt to their next appointment. Sure, it’s a polo shirt. And it’s worn with khaki cargo pants and beat-up off-white sneakers, but Danny will take what he can get.
Danny feels like he should have a bingo square drawn up for these conversations. All the most common terms laid out: benign, primary tumor, myxoma, echocardiogram, x-ray, blood tests, electrocardiogram, cardiovascular MRI. And that’s before they get to the discussion of treatment, ‘‘open heart surgery’ and ‘‘risk of complications’ and ‘‘excise of healthy tissue’.
“You’ve talked to other hospitals,” McGarrett says, glancing at Grace’s medical history. It’s all bullet points and contact details for previous surgeons. These days, Danny keeps it in soft copy and updates it more than he amends his own resume. “The accepted approach would be that open heart surgery is too much of a risk, given the location of the tumor and the amount of heart that would have to cut out to get it all.”
Same old story, and still Danny wants to fight it. “And that’s your opinion, is it? Too difficult to try?”
“Every surgery has risks,” McGarrett says, watching Danny seriously, eyebrows raised like it’s actually a question. “Every time someone goes under anaesthesia, there’s always a chance something will go wrong.”
“If you’re trying to reassure me, you’re doing a very bad job of it.”
“I’m not trying to reassure you. I’m trying to make sure you’re aware of the risks.”
“Fine, I’m aware of the risks. Being aware of them doesn’t make any difference to whether or not anyone will do anything to help Grace, anything at all, but fine, I know the risks. Well done.”
McGarrett stares at him for a moment. He actually looks concerned: brows drawn, a cranky V of frown lines forming between them. If there’s one thing Danny could do without, it’s the false sympathy of doctors. Even tall, attractive doctors like McGarrett.
“I want to help Grace,” McGarrett says quietly. “And I think I know a way to do it. But before we talk details, I need you to be aware of the risks.”
The plan involves not one operation but three. Not open heart surgery but a series of robotically assisted keyhole surgeries. It will be less stress on Grace’s body for each operation, but she’ll need two to three months to recover between each surgery. For the duration of the treatment, they’ll need to stay in Hawai’i, the land of pineapple on pizzas and gritty sand everywhere. There are risks to every surgery, McGarrett stresses, and there’s a risk that three operations won’t be enough. That they’ll have to keep going back in until they can get it all. It’s not a guarantee but it’s a plan of attack.
“How come you’re the only one who’s suggested this?” Danny asks, because he wants to know.
“Because conventional wisdom says do it in one operation. If you can’t do it through keyhole surgery, do open heart and get it all at once. Every operation has an inherent risk, but there isn’t a safe way to excise the whole tumor in one operation. Not for Grace, not given the current mass of her heart.”
“Answer me one thing.” Danny leans forwards and tries to forget the man across from him is wearing cargo pants for god’s sake. Cargo pants. But it’s also the first person to suggest something more than ‘wait and see if it kills her’. “Do you think you can do this? Do you really have a shot?”
“Like I said, I’m fairly good at this.”
It’s not really something Danny needs to think about. It’s his little girl and so far, it’s the only workable suggestion he’s heard. Still he does the sensible thing, the sane thing, and takes the information home, promising to call McGarrett the next day. He means to sleep on it but he doesn’t sleep so much as sit at Grace’s bedside and think in circles. There are risks but he’s the first to admit that everything in life has some level of risk. You can be careful and cautious, but there’s still no guarantee of safety.
And this has risks, yes, but it feels right. It’s something. An action that can be taken, a chance.
He doesn’t think of Rachel too much these days -- it’s been three years and Grace needed him too much to let himself drown in grief -- but he misses her now. She was always better at pros and cons, and making objective decisions. Danny follows his gut. Sure, he may complain about it, he might acknowledge when it’s ridiculous and not what any smart person would do, but he still follows his gut and works it out as he goes.
Danny’s done his research. He knows McGarrett has a good success rate. He wears Crocs and voluntarily surfs, but his surgical reputation is impressive. Danny could pretend he’s making this decision on sound, logical reasons but he knows that’s not it. His gut says Grace likes ‘Dr Steve’ and he trusts that more than medical statistics.
“Dr Steve!” Grace yells out when she spots him across the parking lot.
He’s climbing out of a hulking great truck, but the man is oversized. It makes sense that his car would be ridiculously tall too. “Hey, Gracie. Danno. You guys are early.”
Nobody calls Danny “‘Danno”‘ but Grace. Danny is Williams in the precinct and Daniel to his mom, and Danny to everyone else. But McGarrett heard the nickname from Grace and purloined it. Danny would say something about it and tell the man to stop, but he’s trying not to offend the world-renowned cardiac surgeon. Not if he can help it.
At least McGarrett looks like a doctor today. There’s a dark blue shirt with buttons all the way down, and he’s actually wearing chinos with loafers. No tie and no jacket, but for once he doesn’t look like he’s dressed for a day at the beach. “What’s the occasion?” Danny asks, waving at McGarrett’s clothes. “I feel like the lack of shorts must herald something important.”
McGarrett ducks his head down. Despite the height, he seems like an overgrown kid, all hunched shoulders and awkward embarrassment. It’s hilarious and just a little adorable. “Hospital board’s visiting. And the Governor.”
“Ooh, fancy,” Danny teases, and McGarrett looks even more uncomfortable. “Is there a reason for the visit?”
“There’s a thing,” McGarrett says, which explains nothing. “An award thing.”
The award thing turns out to be a commendation for McGarrett. Danny reads about it in the local paper the next morning. It’s a shiny gold plaque, awarded for the amount of pro bono work and emergency cases that McGarrett deals with.
In the paper, McGarrett smiles and looks all professional. The dark blue of his shirt brings out his tan. It’s a good photo of him.
It’s actually a very good photo of him, Danny thinks, noticing the eyes and the dark hair and lingering on the line of McGarrett’s shoulders. Not that Danny’s really looking for anything. He hasn’t bothered since Rachel. He doesn’t have the time or the energy to spare, and he’s never sure when he’ll have to pack and head off to another hospital in some other state. If his libido decides now is a good time to wake up and pay attention, Danny will remind it that lusting after Grace’s surgeon is out of the question.
Danny shows the article to Grace, and she insists on cutting it out and pinning it to the corkboard hanging in her room.
There’s a murmur beside Danny, a shifting of hospital sheets, and Danny’s reaching out before he’s even awake. It’s become instinct by now. He’s used to waking up in chairs, reaching across to check on Grace, to soothe her back to sleep after a nightmare or make sure she’s okay. It’s habit to reach for her small wrist, to make sure she’s warm and he can still feel the too fragile beat of her pulse.
Grace smiles. She’s bright eyed. Probably been awake for a while. It’s futile, but Danny wishes he’d been awake too. “Another item for the list,” she says, but her voice is a little rough. Dry from the air conditioning.
Danny pours her a glass of water, passes it to her first. Then he makes a show of pulling the list out of his pocket, pulling out a pen and uncapping it. “What are we adding this time?”
“Surfing? Are you kidding me? Have you seen the height of those waves? Have you never heard of sharks? How have you lived this long and not seen Jaws? Not to mention the cold water. Or being drowned and pulled out to sea. Never to be heard from again.”
“Danno.” Strangers usually give him odd looks when she calls him that. Apparently nicknames are only supposed to go parent to child, but nobody told Danny’s kid that. “The list is all the things I want to do when I’m better. Add surfing.”
“You should see Jaws. Seriously, there are sharks that would bite off your head,” Danny grumbles but he adds it to the list. The list represents a lot of things: hope that Grace will get better some day; a bargaining chip for things Danny won’t let his little girl do yet; a desperate promise that Danny will do every single thing that he’ll hate, every adventurous, death-defying ridiculous thing that will terrify him or embarrass him, he will ignore his sense of dignity and self-preservation and do everything on this list with her if they can find a way to fix her.
“You wouldn’t let me watch Jaws,” Grace says. She’s Rachel’s daughter through and through: she won’t give up any argument until she’s won. “You said it wasn’t child appropriate.”
“It’s not. It’s not adult appropriate either. It’s the stuff nightmares and lifelong phobias are made of. No one needs to see a film about getting torn into pieces and eaten by a giant shark.” Danny shrugs, and adds, “But anyone who thinks surfing’s a good idea probably needs to watch it. It’s the only way they’ll learn.”
“If you say so, Danno.”
“Dr Steve says surfers rarely get eaten by sharks,” Grace says, sitting beside him in the corridor, waiting for their turn on the clunky MRI machine.
It’s a good thing she isn’t claustrophobic, Danny thinks. Just the thought of being stuck in that tiny dark space, walled in and waiting, makes Danny’s heart beat faster. “I don’t care how often it happens, Monkey. I don’t want you to be shark bait. That’s not an unreasonable parental concern.”
“But Dr Steve says--”
“Uh-uh-uh!” Danny cuts her off with a waving hand. “I am perfectly willing to accept Dr Steve’s word as law when it comes to hearts and operations. Anything medical, really. But he is not an expert in surfing or shark behaviour, so we’ll take that advice with a big grain of salt. A grain of salt about the size of your head, Monkey.”
Of course, that’s when Danny looks up the corridor and realises the white coat and dark hair, standing two doors up, is actually McGarrett. Who has clearly been eavesdropping, judging by the amused crinkle around his eyes. “Hey, Gracie, Danno.”
“What sort of a doctor uses nicknames?” Danny wants to know. “And what sort of a doctor lies to a child about sharks? You paddle a surfboard into shark-infested waters, you’re going to end up fish food.”
McGarrett shrugs. “Sure.”
“Then why are you telling Grace here that surfing’s safe?”
“I was telling her that if you surf on popular beaches, where there are lifeguards, that there’s very little risk of shark attacks.”
Grace pipes in with, “And if something goes wrong, there are lifeguards to help you.” Danny’s torn between annoyance and parental pride that she remembered her argument so well.
McGarrett grins cheekily. “Besides, if a shark does come, you only have to swim faster than the tourists around you,” he says, and Grace laughs. “Like Danno here.”
“A little birdie told me you don’t swim,” McGarrett says. “So I’d only have to swim faster than you to be safe from a shark.”
Danny raises an eyebrow at Grace but she shakes her head. He believes her, but if she didn’t tell him, it seems like a weirdly specific shot in the dark. “I can swim.”
“I don’t swim laps for fun, but I can swim. That’s an important survival skill,” he adds, mostly for Grace’s benefit. “And if Jaws is coming after me, you’d be amazed how fast I’d be swimming.”
One police station is much like the rest. There’s a precinct made up of streets and local knowledge. There are criminals, sometimes cruel, sometimes stupid, always dangerous if underestimated. There are uniformed cops walking the same old streets and watching out for the same faces, and detectives putting the pieces together. In Hawai’i, there are more shorts and t-shirts than Danny’s comfortable with (both on the cops and the perps), but basic police work is the same.
Danny’s job is desk-bound, so mostly it’s making calls and following up on case notes, tracking down paperwork and cataloguing evidence. It’s safe. It’s reliable.
Sometimes it’s so boring he would strangle himself with his own tie if he didn’t have Grace. But he’s a father, and he’s all she’s got, so he makes the sacrifice and tries not to grumble.
He might grumble about the chain of evidence or badly completed paperwork, but that’s totally justified. Especially when Kono -- -- because everyone uses first names here, no surnames yelled across the bullpen when Kono’s five cousins are all in earshot -- has another suspiciously bruised suspect and a report with very few details.
“He fell over?” Danny asks, waving the offensive, lying piece of paper in front of her face. “That’s the story you’re going with here? That’s so unbelievable it wouldn’t be used in a Lifetime movie on domestic violence.”
Kono shrugs. She’s a slender 5’9”, all long girly hair and guileless dark eyes. She’s a new graduate, young and over confident, but she’s never treated Danny like an outsider, so that kind of makes her his favorite. She’s also some freaky kung-fu champ who tends to hit first and forget about asking questions. “Ask him.”
The suspect is 6’4” and broader than Danny, and that’s saying something. He’s sitting in an interview room talking to one of Kono’s cousins.
“I don’t care what he’s going to say. Criminals have this terrible tendency to lie, especially when they think it’ll either get the out of jail or make them look tough.”
“He won’t file a complaint,” Kono says, like that was the point Danny was trying to make. “And we had the evidence to arrest him.”
“Which does not excuse the fact that this report reads like Swiss cheese,” Danny says, noticing a familiar dark head amongst the crowd. He squints at the crowd around the other end of the bullpen, certain he saw McGarrett there for a moment.
“Full of holes,” Danny says, distracted. People move and, yes, it is McGarrett. Talking to Chin Ho Kelly, yet another of Kono’s kin. “What is he doing here?”
Kono glances over. “Who? Steve?”
“No, Big Bird. Of course, Steve McGarrett. This is a police station: either you’re a cop, you’re reporting a crime or you’re suspected of a crime.” Danny hopes it’s not the last option -- Danny’s instincts are pretty good and McGarrett doesn’t seem the type -- but the idea that he’s here to report something makes him worry more. Car stolen? Home burglary? Danny hopes it wasn’t something violent, and then feels ridiculous for worrying about a fully grown man.
“Or you know cops,” Kono says like it’s obvious. “Steve’s father ran the station. Everybody knows Steve.”
Then she waves an arm in the air like she’s drowning and hollers out, “Ho, Steve!”
McGarrett calls back, “Kono!” and grins brightly. Clearly they do know each other. Coming over, he sees Danny. “Danno!”
“Danno?” Kono asks.
“That is a private nickname,” Danny replies, finger pointing sharply. “You don’t get to use it. What is wrong with Williams? Every other precinct in the world, I’d be Williams and happy about it. There’s no need for all the first names thrown around here.”
McGarrett is staring at him, half a smile on his face. “So you’re like this everywhere you go, huh?”
“Like what, exactly?”
“Opinionated.” McGarrett looks him up and down, and the smile grows. On anyone else, it would be flirtatious but McGarrett makes the mocking obvious. “And you’re wearing a tie.”
“I am an adult. I like dressing like a professional.” Danny steadfastly refuses to look around and notice -- or recognise -- the number of other officers wearing t-shirts and the occasional short-sleeved button down. “And I’m not opinionated. I just happen to be right about everything.”
The heart monitor attached to Grace’s thumb is steady. Danny can’t help checking it himself, his fingers wrapped around her small wrist, while he waits for her to sleep off the anaesthetic.
He rubs a hand across his jaw and doesn’t look up at the sound of footsteps.
The nurses stop by every so often, checking on her, but thankfully they don’t try to make conversation. It’s for the best. As much as Danny respects nurses -- the vital job they do, the amount of knowledge and experience required to do it well -- if someone tries to smile at him right now and make small talk, it’s a fifty-fifty bet on whether he’ll yell or just throw something.
He just needs to be left alone until his little girl wakes up.
“You doing okay?” McGarrett asks softly.
Danny looks over in surprise. McGarrett looks bone tired. Makes sense. He’s been at the hospital as long as Danny has today but where Danny’s been sitting in waiting rooms and by Grace’s bedside, McGarrett’s been on his feet, standing over the operating table. “I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to leave. The hospital probably encourages it. Tomorrow’s patients would definitely appreciate it.”
“I’m not working tomorrow.”
“And you couldn’t think of somewhere better to spend your Thursday night?” Danny asks sharply.
McGarrett stands there. Quiet. Still. It’s a great impersonation of a rock. A tall, nicely carved rock but still a lump of stone.
Danny takes a deep breath. “Sorry. It’s not you, it’s the waiting for her to wake up. I know it’s normal, I know it could be a few more hours, but I’m not good with the waiting around and hoping part.”
McGarrett shrugs. “Company might help.”
“Which would be great, but all my family’s in Jersey and Rachel’s parents are in a different country. In this tropical hell of sand and sunburn, Grace only has me.”
“Who doesn’t like the sand?”
“Who likes grit getting stuck between your toes? Getting into car seats? Ending up everywhere?” Danny demands. He’s tired and it’s been a long day, for both of them. “And there I go again, Dr McGarrett, snapping at you because you’re here. I’m not good company right now.”
“You could call me Steve.”
“Really? First names? What is it with you people?”
“You’re in Hawai’i. Adapt a little.” Then McGarrett -- fine, Steve -- lifts the other visitor’s chair from the corner and sits beside Danny. Steve stretches his long legs out in front of him, ankles crossed. He’s wearing Crocs. Ugly orange Crocs. “Want to talk football?”
“I’m more of a baseball guy,” Danny says and Steve shrugs, waving one hand in a loose ‘go on’ gesture. Which is how he ends up extolling the virtues of the ‘86 Mets roster while Grace sleeps.
McGarrett -- okay, Steve, but Danny’s never going to get used to being on a first name basis with Grace’s surgeon -- is still there when Grace wakes up. Danny has no idea what they’re talking about, something pointless like good hiking trails or the abomination that is pineapple on pizza, when Grace’s eyelids flutter and she frowns in her sleep.
Danny gives her wrist a squeeze and this time her eyes open. “Danno?” she asks, voice a little rough with sleep.
“I’m right here, Monkey. You’re fine.” He keeps his voice quiet and gentle, the tone he only uses for Grace these days. “You might feel lousy for a while, but you’re okay. You want some water?”
She nods and he passes her the plastic cup. Hovers with his hand underneath the cup as she drinks. Puts it back on the bedside table when she’s done. He’s fussing, he knows, but it’s his daughter in a big hospital bed, her dark hair against the white pillow cases, her dark eyes looking up at him like he knows how to fix everything. Of course he’s going to fuss. “You want anything else?”
She shakes her head and then looks over his shoulder. “Hi, Dr Steve.”
“Hi, Gracie,” Steve says with an easy smile. “Danno and I were waiting for you to wake up. We’d better get the nurse in to check on you.”
Danny should have called for the nurse when Grace woke up; he didn’t think of it. It’s been a long night. “That is a good idea, Monkey. How about I stay with you while Dr Steve gets her?”
Grace is back asleep within the hour. “You should get some rest,” Steve says, standing up.
Danny waves the suggestion away. “Don’t worry about me. I can nap in any chair.”
“You should go home, Danno. Get some proper sleep.”
“I am fine right here.”
“In a few days, she’s going to be up and awake and bored. You’ll need to be well rested to deal with it.”
“I’m not leaving her alone,” Danny hisses, keeping his voice quiet. Grace sleeps through.
“She’s not alone. The nurses will look after her,” Steve says, like logic and reason is the way to win an argument. “You’ve got to look after you, too.”
And what can Danny say in the face of all that earnestness? This weird and sudden display of genuine concern? And Steve doesn’t let up, he just keeps watching Danny with this worried frown in place, like the idea of Danny not sleeping on a mattress is keeping him up at nights. Like he actually cares.
“You know what? Fine. But only because it’s been a long day and if something happens, I’ll use the flashing lights and siren and be back here within twenty minutes.”
Steve McGarrett has become one of those people Danny sees everywhere. At the hospital for Grace’s checkups, which is to be expected. But it’s also at the station because he’s always dropping by to talk to Chin or Kono or any if the other three dozen cops he apparently knows. Add their apartment, the local supermarket and Grace’s school, and that’s Danny’s entire life in Hawai’i. He keeps expecting Steve to show up as he’s buying cereal or dropping Grace off at school.
Right now, he’s at Kono’s cousin’s housewarming, which Danny’s only attending because there are far too many cousins at the precinct to risk offending the family. Logically, of course Steve knows them and would be invited; Danny can’t even pretend he’s surprised to see Steve there.
At least Steve’s’ appropriately dressed for once. For a backyard party in summer, shorts and flip flops are entirely acceptable. He’s not even the only guy wearing a tank top. Who would have thought surgeons had such good arms? Or a dark tribal tattoo curling around a bicep?
Danny glances over at Grace, still sitting in the corner, listening with wide-eyed wonder to Kono’s tales of Not Dying By Surfing, and then heads over to the snacks table.
He nods at Steve when he gets there, and helps himself to a few spicy chicken wings. “Hey.”
Steve grins. “Hey, Danno. You know Flippa?” he asks, gesturing at a group of Kono’s extended family.
“Nope. Couldn’t identify him in a line-up.” Steve looks confused so Danny explains, “Kono invited me. She promised fun, food and booze.”
“Couldn’t make that alliteration work, huh?”
“Fermented drinks?” Danny shrugs. “Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”
Steve opens his mouth to say something and then flushes a little and takes a mouthful of beer instead. He swallows and says, “But you’re having fun?”
“I am now.” Danny wants to cringe at how flirtatious that sounds. He wasn’t trying to flirt. There isn’t really space in his life for flirting and relationships right now. He blames the tribal tattoos. It’s hard to think clearly when he keeps noticing dark ink on tanned skin. He’s not wondering if it would feel any different under his fingertips. He’s not.
Danny stops himself from staring. He turns to watch Grace instead. “And Grace loves hearing Kono’s surfing stories,” he says and does not glance over when Steve lifts the beer bottle to his mouth.
They end up out on the lanai, talking as the daylight drifts away. Every so often, Danny will glance inside and see Grace talking to Chin or Kono, or playing with the other kids all gathered around the Nintendo. As long as he can see her, he figures she’s safe enough here.
They’ve been talking about winters, about living with snow and slush, cursing iced-over sidewalks and occasionally having to dig out a buried car. Steve mentions doing a residency in Boston, studying in Chicago and Baltimore.
“Shouldn’t an island boy like you have gone for California? Texas, maybe? Somewhere that doesn’t believe in winter?”
“I was thinking of snow like in those Christmas movies, everyone in woolen sweaters, sitting around fireplaces. Waking up to a winter wonderland.” Steve shrugs, grinning at his former idiocy. “I didn’t realise it meant months of freezing cold and grey skies and hiding indoors.”
“Welcome to the concept of winter,” Danny says, raising his beer bottle in a mock toast. It’s his second and he won’t be having any more, but he’s enjoying it. Enjoying the dusk and the conversation. He’s even enjoying the view of Steve’s arms and shoulders, and the way his throat moves as he swallows. He could climb the man like a tree; push him against the side of the house and drag him down into a kiss. It’s been a long time since he’s been interested in anyone, and just imagining it feels good right now.
There’s a nice low buzz of possibilities. “So, your dad was a cop, right?” he asks and Steve nods, swallowing. “How d’you end up a doctor?”
“It’s a long story,” Steve says, shrugging.
“I got time.”
Steve leans his back against the railing, gets comfortable. “I was in my senior year at high school. Made up my mind to go into the Navy but hadn’t told my parents yet.”
“Family tradition. Dad, granddad. I wanted to follow it, save lives and serve our country.” From anyone else, Danny would laugh but Steve says it seriously, like he really believes in it. “Then there was a car accident. Mom died, Dad was critical. The steering wheel was embedded in his chest, and they kept telling me they were doing all they could but they couldn’t promise anything.”
Danny doesn’t know what to say. There isn’t anything you can say to that. He reaches out and squeezes Steve’s shoulder.
“That morning, my biggest worry was telling them about the Navy and if I’d be grounded until prom. Then it was me and Mary in the waiting room, and trying to work out what I’d do if Dad didn’t make it. The only family we had was Aunt Debbie, and that would mean moving to the mainland. It was scary. Thinking we might be left with no one, with nothing we knew.”
“He was okay?” Steve asks, thinking he’s heard too many stories around the precinct for Steve’s dad to have died so long ago. “Your father?”
Steve takes in a slow breath, shakes his head a little. “Yeah. They saved him. And I decided medicine might be a better idea.”
“Be a different kind of hero?”
“I thought, maybe I could do that for someone. Stop them from losing everything they care about.” Steve shrugs, breaking the moment. “And it was a lot easier to tell my dad I wanted to go away for college than joining the Navy.”
Danny blames the arms. And the shorts. If Steve won’t wear pants to work, how is Danny supposed to remember he’s a professional? His t-shirts are loose but Danny’s seen those arms and he knows the swirl of dark tattoo hiding under there.
If he was fourteen, he’d say that he had a crush. But he’s in his early thirties, and he knows what this is. It’s gratitude for saving Grace, for taking a chance on her when no one else would. It’s purely superficial lust because getting laid has been the least of Danny’s worries in the last three years. It’s a little bit of loneliness because he has his job and he has Grace, and that’s about it. He’s slowly made a few friends at the precinct but he stands out like a sore thumb. He will always be a mainlander, be “Jersey” in a roomful of “brah” and “cousin”. But Hawai’i’s growing on him -- like a tropical fungus, he can’t help but think -- and Grace loves it here, so he can’t see himself leaving any time soon.
“So you’re planning to stay?” Steve asks, leaning back in his serious, dark office chair. He looks like he’s considering putting his feet up on his desk.
“For a while, yeah. At least until Grace hits junior high. Right now, she loves it. She’s made friends at school and she thinks a pile of sand and some salty water is the best thing in the world. And you’re here.” Steve raises his brows at that, and Danny quickly explains, “If this doesn’t work, if it comes back, probably best to stick close to a doctor we trust.”
“The tumor’s benign. Chances it’ll grow back are extremely rare.”
“I’ve read the stats.” He has. He’s done his research. His browser history is full of medical sites from late nights when he can’t sleep on his crappy foldout couch. Not that it’s easy to sleep on that thing. Grace’s room is beautiful: all pink curtains and girly white furniture, big stickers of flowers on the walls and scattered with dolls and toys to make recovery time easier. But it’s only a one-bedroom place because he really thought he’d be here for a couple months and then looking for another doctor and another city “I’m going to have to move. If we’re staying, we need a better place.”
“What’s wrong with your current place?”
“I’m sick of sleeping in the same room as the kitchen sink. A grown man deserves a decent mattress.” He thinks for a moment and adds, “Something with a garden would be good for Grace.”
And if Steve’s smile is amused and a little bit indulgent, Danny can pretend he doesn’t notice.
Six Months (Week Twenty-Six)
Danny hates waiting rooms and he especially hates waiting alone in them. He keeps wanting Steve to walk through that door, to sit down in one of these ugly plastic chairs and keep Danny company. He knows it won’t happen -- Steve’s the one operating on Grace, that’s the whole reason they came to Hawai’i -- but it doesn’t stop him from wanting it.
It’s the last checkup. The last scheduled checkup and the results are good enough that -- barring any sudden symptoms -- Grace has a free pass for a year. A year without hospitals, without tracking down doctors and wrangling with insurance co-payments. A full year where Danny can just worry about normal things like homework and bedtimes and buying the right toys at Christmas.
It’s so much freedom that it’s overwhelming. Danny wants to be relieved and happy, and he is, but he’s also trying not panic. Panicking about good news, which is stupid no matter how you look at it.
Danny drops his head between his knees and tries to breathe through it, so that’s the moment Steve returns from an emergency consultation.
“Danno?” There’s a big hand on his shoulder, and Steve’s worried voice beside him. “Come on, Danno, just breathe. It’s all good news.”
“I know that,” Danny tells his knees. He’s still wheezing a little, breathing too fast and shallow. “I know, okay?”
“Nice, slow breaths. All the way in,” Steve says, rubbing a hand slowly up the length of Danny’s spine, and then sliding it down again, “and then out. In. And out.”
He keeps repeating that -- in and out -- as he strokes Danny’s back. It’s easier, somehow. Grounding to focus on the warmth of Steve’s palm, try to match his breaths to it. The movement and count slow down, until Danny’s heart stops pounding. Until he stops feeling like he’s about to jump out of his skin, and just wishes the earth would swallow him whole instead.
“Before you say anything,” he manages weakly, “I’m well aware of how ridiculous that was.”
“It’s a human reaction to stress, Danno. That’s all.”
“Stress, not good news.” Danny looks to the ceiling for courage and then forces himself to meet Steve’s eyes.
Steve is crouched beside him, hand still warm on Danny’s back. “I’ve watched you hold it together for months. This is just letting it all go at once,” Steve says softly but the way he’s watching Danny says something completely different. Something about x-rated shenanigans, or maybe candlelit dinners and walks on the beach. Danny’s been out of the game too long to read it right.
Danny might be rusty, but the classics are classic for a reason. He leans his shoulder against Steve’s and then reaches out to hold his hand. Steve’s answering smile is joyously bright.
Steve asks him out that weekend and it turns out to be a candlelit dinners and walks along the beach thing after all. Where the candlelight comes from bug repelling candles at a beach picnic and afterwards, the three of them wander along the water’s edge. Grace is running ahead of them, kicking her feet in the water.
“Monkey, you know the rules,” Danny hollers out and Grace turns around to call back to him.
“No swimming if I can’t see a lifeguard. No getting wet if an adult can’t hear me if I yell.”
“And no asking Dr Steve or Kono for surfing lessons until you agree first,” Grace adds and then goes back to wading ankle-deep in the surf.
“That’s a rule, huh?” Steve says beside him, nudging their shoulders together. Danny has no idea who taught this man to dress for a date. You’d think a nice button-up or a neat t-shirt, but no, he picked Danny and Grace up wearing a black tank top, all that shoulder and arm on display.
It’s been distracting. In a good way.
“I’d ban her from surfing for life, but I don’t think I’d win that one,” Danny says and gets a quick smile from Steve. “And a word to the wise: this will end quickly if you start criticising my parenting.”
“You’re a great father, Danno,” Steve says, six foot of earnestness and tanned skin and dark, serious eyes. “Anyone who’s met you knows how much you love Gracie.”
Danny looks over to Grace -- picking up shells -- and hopes he doesn’t look as flustered as he feels. “Thanks,” he mutters, just to say something.
There’s a warm hand on his bicep and Steve steps close, leans down enough to talk right into Danny’s ear. “First things I noticed about you. New patient. Hot dad. Who loves her with everything he has.”
Grace is distracted with shells, and Steve is right there, warm against Danny’s side, cheeks almost pressed together. Seems a waste not to turn his head and kiss the man. Just a gentle kiss, lips and shared breaths, and then a second. And then Danny’s wrapping a hand around the back of Steve’s neck and using tongue. Steve gives a little cut off moan and there’s a warm hand sliding down Danny’s back, settling on Danny’s ass and squeezing. Points to the man for hidden groping.
“I’m not making out with you in front of my kid,” Danny says softly, pulling his hand back. Grace is still distracted by the water rushing over the sand, but it’s the principle. Teaching her to be safe around water doesn’t work if he’s not watching.
“Okay,” Steve says regretfully, sliding his hand up to rest in the small of Danny’s back.
“You’ll have to wait until I put her to bed tonight.”
It’s half a tease and half a promise, but Steve gives a no-nonsense nod and says, “Good plan, Danno.”
“Beachfront,” Danny says, stepping through Steve’s sliding door and taking a few steps across the grass. A few yards away, yellow sand stretches towards grey ocean and blue skies. “Not bad.”
“We’re on an island,” Steve says, like Danny’s somehow overlooked that fact. “There’s a lot of beachfront.”
“I’m moving in with a doctor and living on the beach. A lot of people would consider that a sign of a successful life. Don’t ruin this for me.”
“How am I ruining it?”
“The fact that you have to ask that, honestly, Steven, it just makes worry about you. Someone compliments your home, you say thank you. You acknowledge the compliment. You don’t shrug it off because it’s an island.”
Steve stares at him for a moment, the sunlight catching on his dark eyelashes and the curve of cheek as he grins. “Fine, Danno. Thank you. I’m glad you like it.”
“You should be. I wouldn’t move into a dump.”
“As opposed to your last place?” Steve asks, watching Danny in disbelief. “I remember your last place.”
“That was what I could afford on a part-time salary. Now that Grace and I are moving in with one of the best cardiothoracic surgeons in the country, the standards are a little bit different, babe.”
“As long as it meets your standards.”
Danny rolls his eyes at the teasing. “I’m going to ignore that and enjoy my new ocean view,” he says, nudging Steve with his elbow. Steve gets the hint, and wraps one warm arm around Danny shoulders. The sunlight catches on the ocean and Danny stares out, thinking how weird this is. No more keeping his life on hold, waiting for another move and another hospital. No more lists and promises of someday. This is the view he’s going to see next week, next month, and hopefully next year. Hopefully, for a lot more years than that.
“You okay, Danno?” Steve asks quietly, words murmured against his cheek.
“I really am,” Danny says gratefully, leaning into Steve’s warmth and listening to the waves reach the shore.