It was a beautiful day, cloudless and balmy. A perfect day to track an armed suspect through Ka’ena Point State Park.
“No, no, no, no,” Danny had wailed when he’d seen the direction Marcus was heading. But Kono hadn’t minded. She liked the hard chases best of all, and, threading her way through the undergrowth, trying to keep a visual on Steve out in front of her, the metal of her gun warm in her hand, she felt alive in way that might not have been entirely healthy, but that charged her up all the same.
Marcus had struck such an unswerving line through the jungle that they were worried he had some kind of hideout in mind, or worse yet, colleagues waiting for him. So the four of them had moved into a rough patrol formation—Steve at point, Danny and Kono on his wings, and Chin carrying the rear, keeping an eye out for accomplices.
The going was rough in this part of the park, crevasses half-hidden by the foliage dropping down to pounding surf below. Off the trails, the mossy ground made the footing slick, and bright slants of mid-day sun pierced the tree cover, creating pools of light and dark that tricked the eye. But Kono had been here often enough to feel confident as she tracked along the verge of the jagged coastline,
Something glinted in the tall grass, and Kono squinted at it for a bare moment before realizing it was a rifle barrel—about thirty yards in front of her and aimed at McGarrett, about ten yards ahead and to her left.
“Gun,” she shouted, “Steve—Gun,” as she simultaneously drew her own weapon, put one foot behind her to steady herself, and fired.
But before she could even register the pained bellow that meant her shot had hit home, Kono realized that wherever she’d placed her back foot wasn’t solid ground at all. And worse, that the retort of the gun had knocked her just enough off balance that she was following that foot backwards into empty space.
Fuck,she thought as she tumbled head over heels down what turned out to be an extremely steep rocky slope—only a degree or two shy of being a cliff, really. Of all the stupid mainlander mistakes—not looking where you put your feet. Fuck.
She almost managed to break her fall once, as her foot jammed against a cluster of roots. She tried to brace herself there, but her own momentum proved too much for her, flinging her downward, wrenching her leg in the process.
With a sickeningly familiar pop, her right knee liberated itself from its socket, courtesy of the old injury, the one that had knocked her out of pro surfing for good. The pop was followed by a blinding smack of pain, so that the rest of Kono’s descent was a bruising blur. She thought something else might have happened to her leg at the same time, a vicious stab higher up on her thigh, but the sensation could’ve easily been a byproduct of the pain in her knee.
She finally came to rest, not in the Pacific, thank goodness, but sprawled on a tiny patch of stony ground. She lay panting for a moment, trying to reassure herself that she was alive, if only on the evidence of her throbbing leg. A good fifteen feet of almost-cliff loomed above her, the rough rock face only intermittently broken by jutting rocks and branches.
“Kono! Kono!” Steve and Danny’s voices floated down to her, and she tried to answer, but her voice was stuck somewhere at the back of her throat.
But before she could try again, Steve appeared over the lip of the incline, lowering himself fast and sure—apparently the thing wasn’t too hard to descend if you set about it properly. Kono watched him with a kind of weird detachment until he rattled to a stop on the loose rock at the bottom.
“Don’t move,” Steve shouted, but it was too late. She’d already levered herself up on one elbow, and seen the red ruin of her leg. Her calf was canted out at an odd angle to her thigh, which only confirmed what she already knew: her knee was screwed. Worse, though, was the blood soaking the upper part of her leg. Something had slashed her on the way down—cut through her jeans and ripped open her thigh. Wasn’t there an artery right about there , Kono thought, fighting a rising wave of panic.
She was trying to assess whether the blood was pumping out at arterial speed without completely losing her shit when Steve slid to his knees beside her.
“Lie back down, Kono,” he said, in his best take-no-prisoners Naval Commander voice. She did as he said, shamefully relieved not to have to see her leg any more.
“Sorry,” she said. “Rookie move.”
He gave her a tight little gleam of a smile. “Rookie move, my ass. That was a kill shot from thirty yards--you don’t ever have to apologize for that. Saved my life. This terrain is treacherous no matter how many times you’ve covered it.”
Then Danny was crouching on her other side, sweaty face smudged with dirt. “Hey,” he said, shrugging out of his shirt and folding it under her head. “What did I tell you about diving in when there’s no water? Hang on, okay? We’re just going to check you out.”
Then both faces disappeared, and she could feel, through the pain, someone’s hands, probably Steve’s, skimming down her body, expertly testing for injuries, and then carefully exploring her ripped up thigh.
“Here.” Definitely Steve. “Keep as much pressure on that as you can.”
And someone, presumably Danny, pressed a wad of something against her leg.
Kono stared up at the impossibly blue sky and bit back a gasp of pain.
The fingers moved on to her twisted knee, exploring gently, she could tell, but every touch sent agonizing jolts through wrenched tendons.
Even through the haze of pain, though, she could hear Steve and Danny muttering to each other.
“No—I’m not getting a signal either—“
“…Send someone ahead for help…?”
“No, the way this thing is bleeding, by the time a med team can get down here…We’ll stabilize her, get her up, and then send for help.”
“Your call.” Danny sounded subdued, for him. “This one’s above my pay grade.”
“Kono?” another voice said.
Chin—the last to arrive because he’d been the farthest back. Kono twisted her head to see him, and almost wished she hadn’t. He was standing a few feet away, wide eyes moving anxiously between her face and her leg; he looked bad--worse than he had with that explosive collar strapped around his neck. She had the funny feeling he was already trying to decide whether eating his gun would be a good alternative to having to tell her mother that Kono had bled out on his watch.
In an instant, though, Chin got it together enough to kneel next to her head and lay a hand against her cheek. Kono was surprised at how reassured she was by its calloused warmth.
And then Steve was back. He was down to his tac-vest and t-shirt—it must have been his button-down Danny was holding against her leg—but he was still wearing his armor-plated SEAL face, which Kono decided wasn’t a good sign—not a good sign at all. There was a smear of blood across his cheek. Her blood, she thought, and had to ride out another little ripple of panic.
Steve handed her a bottle of water, and Chin helped her hold her head up to drink.
“The good news,” Steve said tersely, “is that the gash missed the artery—not by much, but enough. It’s a nasty one, though, deep—I’m going to have to pretty much tourniquet it.” Kono nodded. “And the knee’s dislocated.”
“I know,” Kono told him.
Steve tilted his head at her. “It’s happened before?”
Kono nodded again. “That’s the old injury. From surfing.” She could barely recognize her own voice, she sounded so strained and weak. Chin slipped his hand into hers and squeezed.
“I can pop it back in for you,” Steve offered. “I’ve done it a few times in the field. Won’t be perfect, but it might help the pain a bit. Up to you, though.”
“Do it,” Kono said, without hesitation.
Steve nodded. “It’s gonna hurt,” he said, warning himself more than her, she decided, since, yeah, she already knew that. “And—“ Steve’s steely façade cracked just the tiniest bit. “And I’m going to have to cut off most of your jeans, so I can bind the wound closed.” His eyes dropped away from hers towards the ground.
If she hadn’t been quite so paralyzed by pain, Kono would have laughed out loud. That? That was what was upsetting McGarrett the most about this whole ridiculous situation? The possibility that his field medicine might violate her virtue?
She tried to muster up a military-grade glare of her own. “Boss, I spent two years on the Pro Surfing tour. If you think I have even a shred of modesty left, you are sadly mistaken.”
That got a real grin out Steve, and he squeezed her shoulder. “Thatta girl,” he said, and turned his attention to Chin, giving him a long assessing look.
“Once I put the knee back, we’ll need to immobilize it so we can move her. Why don’t you go back up and find some branches we can use for a splint?”
“No—“ Chin protested, but his voice was a little thready, almost shaking. “I should—“
“Kelly,” Steve said quietly. “Don’t make me make it an order.”
“Go on,” Kono added, trying to smile. Steve was right—her cousin didn’t need to see what was about to happen here. “And see if you can get a cell signal while you’re up there.”
“Okay.” Chin got to his feet reluctantly. “You hang in there, cuz.”
“You better believe it.”
Steve watched Chin head away. “Alright,” he said, stripping off his vest and pulling his t-shirt over his head. “Let’s get this done before he gets back.” Kono couldn’t have agreed more. “You still got your tie in your pocket?” he asked Danny, beginning to tear his shirt into strips.
Which is how Kono knew that Steve was tourniqueting her very-quickly-de-jeaned thigh with Danny’s tie—twisting the thing insanely tight with a ballpoint from the same pocket, and then binding Danny’s t-shirt—Steve’s button-down already too soaked with blood—across the wound with strips of t-shirt. They were all going to be stark naked by the time this was over, Kono thought, a little hysterically.
Steve was quick about it, she gave him that—and efficient—just the occasional muttered instruction to Danny—but it still hurt like hell. A little yelp of pain escaped her as the strips of cloth caught on the tender skin on the inside of her thigh. Steve’s hands stilled for a moment.
“You okay?” he asked, suddenly hesitant.
“She’ll be fine,” Danny answered for her, his voice falling just short of jocular. “Women are much better with pain than we are. Thirty-six hours Rachel was in labor with Grace—Even watching her, I thought they were going to have to give me the drugs. Talk about getting a bowling ball through a bendy straw. Phew.”
“You know what, Danno?” Steve’s hands were moving again. “TM-fucking-I. Shut up and go help her keep steady while I pop in the knee.”
It wasn’t quite true, Kono decided, some random part of her brain chewing the problem over: it wasn’t quite true that women were better with pain than men. But it might have been true that a woman’s pain freaked men out worse than their own. Worried them in some deep little boy place that kicked them into hyper-macho overdrive. And she was grateful the guys were there, she was—truly, there was no one, other than highly trained medical personnel, she’d rather have wrist-deep in her blood. But just for a moment she allowed herself to wish that she wasn’t the only girl for miles.
Not exactly the time to mess with their coping strategies, though—better to play the game. “Thanks for the visuals, Danny,” she gritted out between clenched teeth. “But can we cut the reminiscing and get on with this please?”
“You heard the lady,” said Steve. “Move.”
And then a shirtless Danny was suddenly between her and the sun, shifting Kono around that so that she could prop her head on his crooked leg and he could put his hands on her shoulders.
“Just breathe, baby,” he said, and actually started to demonstrate for her, puffing up his cheeks and letting the air out in little controlled bursts. Kono gaped up at him.
“Not a goddamn Lamaze class, Danny,” Steve growled. “She’s got a dislocated knee, not twins to deliver.”
Danny leaned down and brushed his lips close to Kono’s ear. “Ignore him, sweetheart. You go ahead and yell all you want,” he whispered, voice low and gentle. “If it were me, I’d be screaming to six different saints and the devil by now. And G.I. Joe down there? He’d be bawling like a baby.”
Kono gave him a pressed-lip smile for that, even though she didn’t really believe him. She was clenching her jaw so hard she thought she might crack a molar, but she wasn’t ready to scream just yet.
“On the count of three,” Steve said. “One. Two. Three.”
And then the whole screaming or not screaming thing was moot. A white hot burst of agony exploded out of her knee, and she was clutching Danny’s arm, and swearing a blue streak in the world’s worst tangle of languages. Swearing so loud she could hear, far above them, the disgruntled flap of wings as she literally scared the birds out of the trees.
And Danny somehow had her head tucked up under his chin, his face pressed right against her hair, and was saying things that neither of them were ever going to admit to back at the office. Telling her how strong she was, how brave, how beautiful.
And damn if she didn’t believe him, as she let creeping mist of unconsciousness drag her down.
The first thing Kono noticed when the fog cleared was that her knee actually felt better. They’d splinted the whole leg, she could tell, and the extra support cut the pain down from excruciating to merely brutal. The wound higher up on her thigh burned, though, and she thought she could feel the dull pulse of blood still seeping out of it, despite the tight bandaging. She shivered, and someone rubbed their hands along her arms.
The second thing she noticed was that she was still lying with her head on Danny’s lap, a heap of vests and shirts piled haphazardly over her torso.
“Blood loss is gonna make you cold,” Danny explained, still chafing her arms. “And you’re probably a little shocky. Stay with us, okay?”
The third thing Kono noticed were raised voices off to her right. Chin was back, and he was informing to Steve in no uncertain terms that he should be the one to carry Kono back up the cliff.
“Chin,” Steve said, in the testy voice of someone who feels they’ve gone over something one too many times. “I’ve had training for this kind of thing, experience, even. I’m not going to drop her.”
Chin made disbelieving and argumentative noises in response.
“Seriously?” Kono couldn’t tell whether blood loss was making her loopy, or whether things really had gotten that absurd. “Are they seriously arguing about who’s going to rescue me like I’m some kind of Disney princess?”
“Don’t be too hard on them,” Danny whispered, smoothing her hair off her face. “They can’t help themselves. It’s some kind of genetic programming. Besides, your Disney princesses these days are pretty badass. You could totally be one of them.”
And ordinarily, she would have smacked him for that, but right now he sounded so sincere that she leaned into the warmth of his hand instead, and let it go.
“Ladies,” she heard Danny shout. “Chin, dude, let Steve take her. He’s the only one of us that’s taller than her, for chrissakes.”
Getting upright and onto Steve’s back was possibly the worst part of the whole ordeal. Chin and Danny each took a side, moving her slowly, but even though she didn’t have to put any weight on her injured leg, the shift to vertical set her head spinning, made her stomach clench.
They figured out some way to strap her on—“just in case you pass out,” said Danny, “but you’re not going to do that, right?”—She hooked her uninjured leg around Steve’s bare waist and let the splinted one hang behind.
“Let’s ride,” Steve said, like he did this kind of thing every day and twice on Tuesdays, and they were off—Danny climbing ahead of them, and Chin waiting below, arms slightly outstretched as if he still expected Steve to drop her.
Steve, thank goodness, was back in commando mode, focused on the job at hand. It didn’t seem to cost him too much effort to carry her—after all, she reasoned, he had probably carried plenty of packs that weighed more than she did over longer distances—and he climbed slowly but steadily along a planned route. He didn’t say much, except a grunted “you okay?” or two when they hit a rough spot.
But she could hear the controlled rhythm of his breathing, and feel the play of muscle along his back and hips as he made tiny corrections to their balance at each foot and hand hold. And she could smell the adrenaline on him—the tang of anxiety in his sweat.
Absurdly, Kono wanted to reassure him, tell him not worry, that it was going to be okay, but she was having to focus most of her attention on not throwing up. She tried closing her eyes against the nauseating onslaught of lights and colors, but that just seemed to make the jolts of pain at every upward push worse. So she fixed her eyes on a spot behind Steve’s left ear, and tried to regulate her breathing in time with his.
The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than fifteen minutes, probably less, but it left Kono feeling impossibly exhausted, no more able control her limbs than a rag doll. When Danny lifted her off Steve’s back at the top, she couldn’t support any of her own weight, collapsed limp against him as he lowered her to the ground.
She thought she’d just closed her eyes for a moment, but she must have lost some serious time, because when she opened them again there was a swathe of blue above her buckling and jerking like a sheet being shaken out to dry.
It took Kono a moment to realize that it was her who was moving and not the sky. And another moment after that to realize that the movement was caused by her being on some kind of makeshift stretcher—more shirts sacrificed to the cause, she thought incongruously. She looked away from the rippling sky for a moment, and there was Chin’s face hovering above her, holding the end of the contraption near her head.
He looked a lot better, halfway back to the reassuring confidence she’d always depended on.
“Hey,” he said when he saw her eyes were open. “Hang in there, we’re going to get you out of here soon. We got a cell signal few minutes ago, and there’s a clearing about half a mile from here where a med-evac chopper can set down. Danny’s gone ahead to wave them in.”
Kono shifted her head a little, and sure enough, there was Steve’s broad back, holding the other end of the stretcher.
“Thanks, guys,” she said, and thought she had never uttered such heartfelt words.
“Don’t mention it,” Chin grinned, and that was the last sound she heard for a while
When Kono surfaced again, she was in a hospital room and only her mother was with her. Her mom sat ramrod straight in a chair pulled up close to the bed, a lump of forgotten knitting in her lap. She was looking not at Kono, but at the patch of pinkish evening sky visible through the small window, and her face was set, almost angry, as if she had a bone to pick with the universe for daring to hurt one of her own. It was her praying face, Kono knew.
Kono felt—well, she didn’t feel much of anything, except dry-mouthed, and like her head wasn’t quite attached to her body. She could see her right leg elevated and swathed in bandages, but she couldn’t feel it at all. Which was a big improvement on before, as far as she was concerned.
“Ma,” she tried, and it came out more of a whimper than anything else. But her mom swung around, her face melting from stern to relieved in an instant, and shifted up close to Kono on the bed.
“Hey, baby girl,” she said, easing an ice-chip past Kono’s lips, then running the soft pad of her thumb over Kono’s chin as she swallowed. “There you are.”
At that, for the first time all day, cracked something inside Kono. Hot tears ran suddenly down the sides of her face, as if only the flimsiest of dams had been holding them back. She felt too weak to even lift a hand to brush them away, but her mom did, swiping at them with gentle fingers.
“Shh,” she whispered. “Shh, my brave girl.” And she sounded like she was almost crying too.
After a minute, Kono’s mom got herself together enough to let someone know Kono was awake. A nurse came in and made approving noised while she checked Kono’s vitals, but Kono didn’t pay much attention, because her mom was filling her in.
“They stitched you up and put your knee back properly—though apparently Commander McGarrett hadn’t done too bad a job in the first place.” This last was admitted somewhat grudgingly. “You were in shock, and you’d lost a lot of blood—but no real harm done, amazingly. You should be able to come home tomorrow or the next day.”
Her mom had the grace to glance sheepishly at the nurse for usurping this medical authority, but the nurse just nodded and said, “That’s right, dear; you were very lucky.”
“I’m going to have your dad and your brothers poke their heads in for a moment,” Kono’s mom said. “Maybe that’ll reassure them enough that they can go home. I think I managed to get your Aunt CiCi and her crew to clear out already—it was a zoo in here for a while.”
Kono could imagine. The Kalakauas had never been ones to let a family member suffer in peace.
“And—and Chin?” Kono ventured.
Her mother made a face, though she’d never been as hard on him as the rest of the family. “Mmm. Those three wouldn’t leave, no matter what I said. Stubborn as mules, the lot of them.” She bit the words off disapprovingly, but Kono thought there was something like gratitude, maybe even affection, in her eyes.
So her dad and two brothers crowded into the room, grinning madly, and awkwardly patting at the unbandaged parts of her. And before her mother had even shooed them back out the door, Kono had drifted off again.
When she woke up a second time—not very much later, she thought, though it was dark now outside the window—her mother decided that Chin, Danny and Steve would be permitted their audience. Kono was glad. As happy as she’d been to see her family, she’d been missing the guys since she first woke up.
They shuffled in, eyes downcast and almost bashful, as if they hadn’t just stripped her mostly naked and manhandled her up a cliff and across the jungle. They’d all managed to change out of their bloodstained clothes, and looked fairly presentable, if tired--though there was still a suspicious looking streak across Steve’s left cheekbone.
And the docs must have been giving Kono the good stuff, because it reminded her of nothing so much as the end of the Wizard of Oz¸ when Dorothy’s back in Kansas, lying in her narrow bed with a towel across her forehead and everyone comes to see her, all restored to their shabby farmhand attire and divested of their fantastical identities.
“Hey cuz,” Chin said, finally getting up the courage to look her in the face. “Hear you’re going to have an awesome battle scar.” He was smiling, but there was something suspiciously shiny about his eyes.
“Careful,” Kono said. “You’ll rust.”
They all looked at her funny, and Steve said “What?” before they decided they were too polite to tell her she was off her head with meds, and went back to smiling at the floor and shifting from foot to foot.
Danny, of course, was the one who finally got it. “The Wizard of Oz, dumbass,” he said, cuffing Steve on the bicep. “Guess that makes you the one who’s looking for a brain.”
“Huh,” Steve snort-chuckled, clued in. “Guess that makes you the Cowardly Lion. You’ve got the hair for it, anyway.
Danny didn’t like that much, and they were off, in their usual way, Steve making fake growling noises, and Danny singing “with the thoughts I’d be thinkin’, I would be another Lincoln” high and sweet, while Chin grinned and blinked some more and Kono’s mom looked bemused, like she couldn’t believe these were the heroes who had brought her daughter back to her alive.
Kono lay back and watched them, feeling oddly content. Unlike Dorothy's, her friends kept their fantastical identities under all conditions.