Danny took a deep, steadying breath, trying to exude calm even while he manically shifted his weight from one foot to another. He had less than five minutes of silence left before he had to face the music, and by god, was he going to use every last second to contemplate new and terrible ways of permanently maiming Step-Stan.
Make no mistake, Danny loved spending time with Gracie. Of course he loved spending time with his daughter—he had moved out of the continental US just for whatever little scraps of custody time Rachel would throw at him. However, Danny also knew that Gracie was a special kid. She was bright and sweet and had an attention span longer than a goldfish’s. Danny also knew that most other parents were not so blessed, and that eight year olds in large, homogenous groups were like swarms of all consuming locusts and generally bad ideas. Which was why, when Gracie’s elementary school had parent-related events, Danny stayed far away. PTA meetings, open house nights, and parent-teacher conferences were usually Rachel’s domain, and some of the few things Danny did not mind missing in his daughter’s life. After all, being good with kids didn’t mean he wanted to be around them.
Yet here he was, career day of 2010, standing outside of Grace’s elementary school in his customary dress shirt and tie. Grace had tried to convince him to wear his uniform, but Danny thought it was important to stress that helpful police officers came in all manners and modes of dress. Still, he wore his badge prominently on his belt just in case a skeptical third grader asked him for proof.
Glancing down at his watch, he decided it was time to face the music. He took another deep breath before heading toward Grace’s classroom. Ducking inside the doorway, he made sure to wave to Grace—who could hardly be bothered to pay him any attention as she was happily chatting away with her friends—before scooting over to where “Mr. Kelly” was still greeting parents.
Chin Ho Kelly hadn’t always been an elementary school teacher. In fact, Danny could still remember his first introduction to Chin at a parent-teacher conference Rachel had dragged him to just to keep both Danny and the school appraised of their special living situation. Chin had shaken his hand with a firm grip that spoke of quiet respect. “What do you do for a living?” he had asked, although his tone said he already knew.
“I’m a detective. Just transferred into HPD,” Danny explained, ignoring the way Rachel rolled her eyes. Chin had looked knowing, offering up a sad smile.
“Oh really? I used to work for HPD, too,” he had said, and that had been the end of it. Danny had heard stories, of course. It had been hard not to, even when he had been actively avoiding them. Still, he had chosen to reserve judgment, because Danny had an instinct that Chin was one of the best men he had ever met—certainly one of the kindest and smartest—and Mama Williams had raised her Danny to trust his instincts.
“How’s it, Danny?” Chin greeted him now, with the same firm grip that made Danny think that if he needed a well-trained officer on the spot, Chin could still step up.
“Oh, y’know, just plotting the slow, painful death of my ex’s new husband,” he threw out nonchalantly, turning to lean against the bookshelf next to Chin.
“What happened to Stan? I thought he was going to come in and wow the kids with tales of being a successful contractor,” Chin prompted, indulging Danny in what would no doubt be a grand rant.
“Oh, Stan? What happened to Stan? Same old, same old. Got called out to look at a site in the Caribbean. Thought he’d spring for a romantic vacation at the same time—of course, Gracie’s got school, and she doesn’t want to miss career day, what with Iolani’s aunt, the dolphin trainer, coming in,” Danny delivered flawlessly, one of his hands tucked in and the other gesticulating wildly.
Chin chuckled. “They ditched you,” he paraphrased.
“At least I get Gracie for an extra three days,” Danny confirmed. A comfortable silence settled, and Danny nodded his greetings to a few of the other parents who had come up to introduce themselves to Chin. He stood there for a few extra minutes, waiting for a lull before turning to Chin again. “So, what's the lesson plan for today?”
“That's really up to you guys,” Chin told him, smiling at Danny's groan. “You'll probably talk nearer the end since you have the whole day off.”
“Which means I'll have to sit through how many boring career pitches?” Danny prodded.
“Hey, don't get a big head about your job, officer,” Chin teased. “Like you said, we have a dolphin trainer coming in. There are a couple of military officers here, too. Kamekona is probably going to pass around some shave ice.”
“Kamekona's coming in?” Danny asked, incredulous.
“He's richer than you, brah,” Chin reminded him. “Besides, he's bringing an old friend with him. That's going to be an interesting presentation.”
“Why's that?” Danny asked, intrigued by anyone who popped up on Chin's radar. The man had instincts better than most cops Danny had worked with, met, or heard of, and Danny wanted to know whether he had to keep an eye on Kamekona's 'friends.' It wouldn't be the first time the native Hawaiian had made contact with all the wrong people.
“Let's just say... Steve likes explosions,” Chin explained, attempting an explanatory hand gesture and failing miserably.
“... First of all, what was that? One day, Chin, I will lure you away to New Jersey and teach you the proper way to gesticulate your feelings,” Danny ignored Chin's eye roll, which did a perfectly fine job in communicating what he thought about Jersey luring anyone away from Hawaii. “Secondly, why are we letting an explosives expert near my Gracie?”
As it turned out, Steve McGarrett was not an explosives expert. He was Dr. Steve J. McGarrett, PhD in chemistry, and despite his great height, everything else about him screamed NERD. The bad comb over, the thick rimmed glasses, and the unbelievably dorky t-shirt that Chin assured him had something to do with organic chemistry—but that Danny maintained was just a bunch of lines in boxes—instantly relaxed Danny's daylong fears. Honestly, Chin had gotten him good. There was no way this Steve McGarrett was dangerous, and Danny felt stupid for feeling antsy all throughout his presentation, causing at least one of the more tactless boys to ask him if he needed to “go number one” and if maybe Mr. Kelly should help him.
Of course, this being Danny's life, that was when Steve McGarrett struck a match and threw it into a beaker of stuff.
It was just dark enough in the room that the sudden burst of green flame had everyone jumping in their spots. The kids began to cheer as McGarrett stirred the contents of the beaker, coaxing the green flame to grow. Hands jumped in the air, and the 6'1” monstrosity—who was wearing cargo pants, beige construction boots, and a lab coat with his name embroidered on it, for goodness' sake—nodded at one of the little girls sitting in the front row.
“How did you do that?” burst out of the little girl's mouth at once. “Are you magic?”
Steve's face broke out into the goofiest grin Danny thought he had ever seen, wide with all teeth. It was genuinely and, when combined with the hunched shoulders, oddly endearing. “No, this is better than magic. This is science!” McGarrett told them, and he sounded almost too excited, as if he were getting swept away with the kids.
Danny leaned sideways toward Chin, finding himself unable to tear his eyes away from the lumbering scientist standing in front of them. Of course, what the man lacked in ability to walk a straight line, he made up in hand-eye coordination. Danny had no idea how McGarrett managed to handle a million different types of glassware, without breaking a single Pasteur pipette in those huge hands of his, and yet couldn't manage a normal step. Chin got the hint and leaned toward Danny in return. “This is Kamekona's friend?” he whispered to the teacher.
“A friend of us all,” Chin confirmed. “Actually, back when I was a newbie, McGarrett's old man trained me.”
“He's a cop's son?” Danny asked, full of disbelief.
“Yup. We all thought Steve would follow in his footsteps, do some kind of service work. Steve didn't always clunk around everywhere, you know. He was a star quarterback in high school—broke all my records. Got accepted to the Naval Academy, but—” They all jumped again. McGarrett had just set fire to a tiny piece of thermite he had placed inside a small flowerpot full of sand, which was sitting in another flowerpot of sand. Judging by the huge explosion of sparks, not to mention the truly ridiculously large pair of goggles McGarrett was wearing over his glasses, the safety measures were not just an exaggeration.
“But...?” Danny asked, resisting the urge to arrest the man for putting them all in obvious danger. He felt very aware of the handcuffs resting on his belt.
“He had secretly applied to UC Berkeley. Ended up going there for chemical engineering instead, and he stayed on the mainland until he got his PhD. No one except McGarrett and his father know what happened between them. Mary, Steve's sister, might know a little, but the McGarrett men were never big on sharing,” Chin explained, smiling as his kids groaned and whined at McGarrett. Steve had apparently prepared an experiment for all of them to do together. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with lighting things on fire.
“Explosions are my job,” he told the class with that dorky grin on his face again. “You can blow stuff up after you've gone to school for over twenty years.”
“Nobody goes to school for that long,” denied an appalled third grader. “You'd be dead before you finished.”
“Didn't Mr. Kelly tell you? I'm actually a zombie here to eat all of your brains,” McGarrett told the class, letting his expression grow slack as he advanced upon the kids in a good approximation of a Campbell zombie.
Gracie, who was sitting in one of the front seats, shrieked in delight. “My daddy will stop you!” she shouted, obviously swept away in the fun as McGarrett scratched at her desk. “He's a policeman—he's supposed to catch zombies!”
Bless his daughter's heart, thought Danny, a warm grin spreading on his face. McGarrett glanced back at him and Chin, flashed his over wide smile at them, before turning back to his task of getting a room full of third graders to participate in “SCIENCE!” as McGarrett so dramatically declared.
Maybe McGarrett wasn't so bad, Danny thought, if he could get Gracie laughing like that. Chin smiled at him expectantly, and Danny huffed. “Well, I'm glad Kamekona has quality friends, y'know, non-drug dealing friends.”
“Brah, you'd be out of a job if Kamekona didn't hook you up with good info.”
“I've never denied that,” Danny retorted.
The day was over soon after, and the kids packed their bags and left with their little tubes of strawberry DNA swinging around their necks. Gracie was chatting excitedly with her friends—they still hadn't gotten over how cool it had been to meet a real life dolphin trainer—and Danny decided to be magnanimous and give her a few extra seconds. Of course, he'd never be able to say no to his little girl, but Danny didn't think it was wise to let anyone know that, and Gracie knowing was an especially terrible thought.
Instead, he hung out around the entrance. Chin was busy talking to a few of the parents who had lingered behind, wanting to chat or discuss their children's progress. Danny didn't get it. They were third graders; it wasn't like their grades now would impact their Ivy League eligibility. It was possible; however, that Danny was just bitter that his conversation partner was busy, and he was left looking awkward in the corner.
Danny was starting to feel some murderous intent toward Stan again when Steve McGarrett lumbered into him. “Oof!” Danny gasped, reflexively elbowing McGarrett back.
“Ouch!” came the expected reply.
“Ouch? You're in pain? A 6'1” colossus just knocked into me, and you're in pain?” Danny whined, but he reached out to make sure the scientist was alright.
McGarrett was fidgeting, fixing his glasses and smoothing out his t-shirt. He stopped, freezing completely when he got a good glance at Danny. “You're Gracie's dad?” he asked, gesturing back at Danny's daughter.
“Yeah...?” Danny asked in his best 'so what?' tone. He had seen McGarrett stop and talk to Gracie, making his little girl laugh a little bit more and helping her with the DNA extraction. Danny had been undeniably curious about the conversation, but he was trying his hardest not to be a helicopter parent.
“Nothing, just. You really are from the mainland,” McGarrett replied, doing a complicated gesture with his hand that was obviously a reference to Danny's outfit.
“Oh ho, hold up there, pal. This? This is cool professionalism—”
“I doubt it's keeping you cool in Hawaii, brah,” McGarrett interrupted.
“AND this is my favorite tie. So, don't be hatin' on my ensemble,” Danny finished with his most effective warning tone. He was dismayed when the only response he got was McGarrett's goofy grin.
“Don't worry, I'm not hating. I think it's cute,” McGarrett told him with an odd head flip thing that, if Danny didn't know this guy had terrible social skills, he would almost call flirting. As it was, Danny just assumed the man was on one too many Red Bulls.
“You think it's cute? Says the man in an ironic t-shirt,” Danny sniped back.
“I have sweater vests too,” McGarrett deadpanned. “Argyle ones.”
“My God, I knew there was something rotten in the state of Hawaii. Had I know it was your closet, I would have arrested you earlier before you had the chance to ruin the young minds of this generation. Honestly, no man can wear those boots in public, outside of a construction zone without being a true, evil mastermind.” McGarrett's bashful head duck should have probably been Danny's warning that he should stop himself. As it was, Gracie pulling on his sleeve, a huge smile on her face, was effective enough.
“Danno, Steve says he has a beach in his backyard. If Steve teaches me to surf, will it be okay?” she asked, giving the pair of them her best grin and puppy dog eyes. Danny steeled himself, closing his eyes as he shook his head vehemently.
“No, no way. First of all, I didn't realize Dr. McGarrett could swim—” Danny paused just to give Steve another once over. Between the baggy t-shirt and the baggy cargo pants, Danny had no idea what the guy's build was like, but the comb over and glasses naturally biased him against letting Dr. PhD in Chemistry teach his daughter any sport. Especially not sports that happened in the water, with waves and bikinis, and had a chance of ending in death. “Secondly, just no.”
“I'm a pretty good surfer,” McGarrett objected, looking overly offended but for the glint in his eyes.
“He's telling the truth, Danny. Kono approves of him, which is not to say that Steve is anywhere near as good as she is. She could kick his butt,” Chin interjected, coming in on the conversation with one hand on Danny's shoulder and his other on McGarrett's.
“Then can Ms. Kono teach me how to surf?” Gracie switched tracks, ever the sharp one. “We can use Steve's beach, and then it'll be safe!”
Danny was sure that logic didn't work, but he didn't want to tell her that. “We've talked about this, Gracie. You can learn to surf when you're older. Much older,” he made sure to enunciate. She started to pout at him, but he manfully resisted, even in the face of Chin and McGarrett's grins. Danny also ignored the odd looks he had apparently attracted from the rest of the parents still around.
“Flirting got a little loud. I think you scared some of them,” Chin told him later when they were both in the parking lot. McGarrett had already left in his absolutely appalling, masculinity-affirming truck. Gracie was buckled up and ready for a nice dinner out before heading back home, and Danny had asked Chin if he wanted to come along. Despite the fond look, Chin had declined, telling Danny he ought to make the most of his daddy-daughter time. Now, they were just saying their goodbyes.
Danny was pretty sure there was also some sort of insinuation that while Chin was no longer in the HPD's good graces, that didn't mean he was on everyone's shit list. As good looking as Danny knew he was, he figured he probably couldn't hold a candle to the types of people that were confident enough to ask Chin out. Besides, as cool and collected a man as Chin was, Danny was pretty sure he was too high maintenance for the teacher.
“We were not flirting,” Danny retorted instantly. “Flirting presumes some sort of intent to get to know McGarrett better, maybe score a few dates, and I can assure you, I have NO such intent. In fact, I am pretty sure we will never meet again.”
Danny, as happened so unfortunately often in his life, was wrong.
It was another month before Danny ran into Steve McGarrett again. By then, Rachel and Stan had returned, and Danny was back on his once-in-a-blue-moon custody schedule. His dump of an apartment was beginning to look less and less appealing, and HPD seemed to be in an odd slump. There was very little to do, and Danny found himself going over cold cases late at night, trying to find something to work on.
Meka teased him about it all the time, but it was obvious that his partner was genuinely worried. “Come and have dinner with me and my family, Danny. Afterward, you can go back to your haole brethren as a prophet preaching the joys of island cuisine,” he joked.
Danny grinned, grateful that his partner had his back in all ways. Still, the answer was “no thanks,” because Danny wasn't the best of company late at night; he hadn't been since the divorce. While he usually wasn't violent, he did tend to get kind of melancholy, and he would prefer to keep that sad shit under wraps.
Instead, he spent his time trawling through old files and feeling guilty that he kept wishing something would happen.
Of course, that's when something happened.
All of a sudden, HPD was overflowing with cases. There were drug cartels to bust, human trafficking rings to uncover, and the dead bodies seemed to be piling up. It wasn't just an ordinary run of crime—something had hit Hawaii with all the ill will of a million disapproving mothers-in-law. Except, you know, this something probably had more to do with terrorist circles overseas than Rachel's mother did. At least, that was what Danny assumed, although his ex-mother-in-law had been fairly terrible.
At one of the crime scenes—there were so many now, they had started blending together—Danny was looking at the remains of what appeared to be a swift execution of a man that HPD had pegged with ties to arm dealers when he heard the door open. “Palakiko, could you work your magic and get me some prints off that monstrosity of a painting?”
“I thought I told you it wasn't magic,” a voice replied, and Danny instantly straightened, a feeling of impending doom crawling to rest heavily on his shoulders. He turned around slowly, not sure whether he was hoping he was right or not—
And there was Steve McGarrett, covered head to toe in blue forensic gear.
“If it isn't Mr. Ironic Tee,” Danny drawled, unable to help himself at the sight of the almost giddy grin on McGarrett's face.
“That's 'Dr. Ironic Tee,'” McGarrett play-scowled, setting down his kit. “And actually, I'm wearing a nice, plaid button up under this.”
“Short sleeves?” Danny asked, hoping his expression was properly conveying his horror.
“Of course,” McGarrett confirmed.
“You freak of nature,” Danny said, and if it sounded fond, Danny would deny it until the end of his days. “What are you doing here? Where's Palakiko?”
“Forensics is backed up. There's too much going on, and they can't handle it all. I volunteered to do extra work for them if they ever needed it, so—” McGarrett did an odd head bobby thing combined with a shoulder shrug, and Danny just nodded his understanding.
“Prints?” Danny reminded him, and McGarrett was off.
For someone who probably spent most of his time in an academic research lab, McGarrett seemed like a forensics expert. He carefully tagged each piece of evidence, took all the necessary photos, and dusted the most likely places for prints. Unfortunately, the evidence didn't seem to be very helpful, the photos suffered from the same, and the only fingerprints found were the victim's.
“Well, that was a waste of time,” Danny mused aloud, not quite whining because he hadn't needed to stay. Still, he was intrigued to find McGarrett here, wanted to see how the man did. It was obvious, at this point, that the man was detail oriented and excelled at everything he put his mind to. Danny could just imagine that personality and those skills in the military. McGarrett would have gone far—special ops far, maybe.
“Not quite,” McGarrett retorted, snapping his gloves one more time before walking over to a wall that was almost completely bare except for a truly appalling painting of a unicorn that the owner had probably paid millions for. Without hesitation, McGarrett lifted the painting up and off the wall. He threw it aside, revealing a safe where the ugly painting had been.
“Well,” Danny began.
“Yeah,” McGarrett agreed, beginning to dust around the safe. A puff of air later, and an odd pattern was left on the shiny metal surface.
“... An ear print?” Danny asked, his tone very much 'are you just pulling this out of your ass, McGarrett?'
“Come on. Are you telling me an accomplished bachelor like yourself hasn't watched enough CSI to know everyone has a unique ear print?” McGarrett threw back, that excited grin back. Danny was starting to think that grin could only be associated with bad things, like explosions and murder cases.
“Too bad there isn't a national ear print database, then,” Danny retorted.
“This guy probably wouldn't have been on it anyway,” McGarrett dismissed, carefully lifting the print.
“No? Are you psychic now or something? How do you even know that?” Danny asked, leaning back. He had a hunch, but McGarrett was just a chemistry geek. “Enlighten me, Professor McGarrett. Fill my brain with your ivory tower wisdom.”
There was that head duck again, but McGarrett's face became serious as he started talking. “The weapons, the room being arranged just so, the identity of your victim—these were actual foreign terrorists. I'd say you'd have to hit up Interpol's database before you found your culprit.”
The look on Danny's face was probably priceless. No, it definitely had to be, because McGarrett had just taken a picture of it.
“By the way, you can just call me Steve.” Danny nodded, because Steve seemed nice. Steve was a colleague now, and Danny liked being personable with his colleagues.
“You can call me Detective Williams,” he replied, because really, he only liked being personable with some of his colleagues.
Steve seemed to take it in stride. “I think you better get back to your other, related cases, see if you can find anything familiar in Interpol's database that will give you a clue as to which group decided to vacation in Hawaii,” and Danny was about to hit Steve, because Danny was a detective, a damn good one, and he didn't need Steve to tell him what to do no matter how smart the man was, “Oh, and give me a ride back.”
“Why?” Danny asked, baffled.
“My truck gets shitty mileage?” Steve tried, and at the very least, he was good enough to listen to Danny rant about stupid monster trucks and their gas-guzzling ways all the way back to HPD.
Back at headquarters, Danny found himself quickly losing himself in his work. It sucked, of course, that so many people had died. Still, Danny had skills and confidence in his skills and pride in his work. This was his element, and he enjoyed the problem-solving, the endless searches through Interpol's database, trying to find connections. He didn't notice until the end of the day that Steve had been there for all of it, dressed in his frankly frightening orange, white, puke-green plaid shirt and cargo pants and offering advice all the while.
By the time Danny realized they should probably take a break and call for Chinese, they had a good idea of who was responsible.
“Who the fuck is Victor Hesse anyway?” he asked, shoveling more chow mein into his mouth. Steve had gone oddly quiet at the mention of his name, but he had been a reliable partner while Meka had been out, following up on some of his own leads regarding a drug cartel.
“Irish terrorist—he and his brother deal everywhere. His brother dropped off the radar a while back, but Hesse is still at large,” Steve explained, eating at a more sedate pace.
“Yeah? Hey, you seem to know a lot about him,” Danny mentioned, watching out of the corner of his eye as Steve suddenly froze. “... I say something wrong?”
“... Hesse killed my dad,” Steve confessed, and the statement seemed to ring endlessly in the now mostly empty offices of HPD.
“Don't, Danny. You didn't know. Chin wouldn't tell that to just anyone,” Steve explained, jabbing his chopsticks deeper into his carton, even though he was obviously not interested in the food anymore. “Besides, no one ever proved he did it. There were some good signs, but the investigation got shut down before anyone found anything out. I just know my dad was working on something, and...”
Danny wanted to say something. He was generally good at the emotional stuff, or at least as good as anyone could be in such dire circumstances. However, when faced with Steve's lost expression, Danny found he couldn't think of anything to say. A tease, a taunt? He stayed quiet until Steve's voice knocked him out of his revelry.
“It's why I narrowed in on Gracie. I know what it's like, being a policeman's kid,” Steve explained, a weak smile struggling to make its way onto his face. “Although I think you're a better father than my old man was.”
“I'm not sure that's fair to your father. After all, he did okay with you. Took the irredeemable disaster you no doubt were and made you into... Steve the Science Guy,” Danny said, holding his breath afterward. He exhaled sharply when Steve cracked his signature dorky grin, chuckling along when the other man allowed a few chortles to slip.
“To this day, I don't know whether he was happy or disappointed I got out of serving,” Steve mumbled to himself, finally picking up his chopsticks again.
“You say that as if you're not serving right now,” Danny replied, and he had to look away to hide his grin when Steve did his bashful head duck again.
They worked together for the rest of the week, and despite their apparent inability to refrain from arguing about stupid, little things with each other, while having the time of their lives and annoying everyone else in the department, they made an incredible amount of progress. By the end of the week, Danny was pretty sure he knew how to get to Hesse, but he needed information and a few good officers.
That didn't stop him from feeling bad about the increasing pile of bodies, but he told himself everything would seem better when it was all over. So, he took Steve and hit up Kamekona's shave ice stand, enjoying his blueberry while he waited for Kamekona to deem him important enough to talk to. As much as he liked to take his frustrations out on the man, he knew that he wouldn't be able to do his job half as well without the Hawaiian's inside information, which was why he always made a point of buying an XL t-shirt when he was there. It wasn't much thanks, but the big guy seemed to realize his heart was in the right place.
“I've got a few names you can look into,” Kamekona finally said. “You might want to go see Chin first, though. He's got something.”
Danny sped all the way to the elementary school, ignoring all of Steve's assurances that while it was not natural for a third grade teacher to know anything about terrorist-related crime sprees, Chin wasn't exactly an average schoolteacher. He ended up barging in on Gracie's class in the middle of story time, earning him a disapproving, “not cool, Danno,” from Gracie as he was leaving. Still, Chin didn't seem to be bothered, and that was probably because the man did have good info.
“I got in touch with a few people—oddly enough, the fact that I'm out of HPD scores me some points with these guys. From what I've heard, Hesse isn't here because he wants to be. He was planning on settling something and then bailing, but he's been having issues. Judging by the fact that most of your victims seem to be in the arms trade, I'm guessing he's looking for a considerable arsenal,” Chin explained. They were sitting in a side room, Chin having found a student teacher to watch the class and read them a chapter from their current book. Danny almost couldn't believe the man's resourcefulness. An elementary school teacher, and he had found them their first lead on the case. It was obvious that Chin was still sharp and, judging by the ulcer face Steve was sporting, Danny figured it was time to reactivate him.
“Come with us, Chin. Class is almost over for today, and you can get a substitute for the next week or so. You have the most experience here, and we need you to look over our lists, see if we've stumbled across Hesse's next target. If he's killing people trying to get these arms, that must mean there's a good reason no one's giving 'em to him. I'm doubting it's a sudden attack of morals, y'know?” Danny reasoned, trying to coax the man to agree. He could tell by the glint in Chin's eyes that the man was raring to serve again, put on a badge for at least a little while, and do some good police work.
“It's a tough job, Danny, and I can't just leave the kids—” Chin started.
“Chin, take it from a kid who lost his dad to Hesse,” Steve broke in, perfectly on cue. “This is more important.”
There wasn't an argument in the world that could override that, and Danny stepped in to seal the deal. “Look, we trust you with this case, Chin. You're the only man for the job, no doubt. We got to get him now, before anything else happens. This is my daughter's home, Chin. Your kids' home. You going to keep it safe for them?”
Judging by the look on Chin's face, they had gotten him good. He grumbled a little on his way to talk to the principal, but the way his lips twitched upwards showed his real feelings on the subject. “Now, may I suggest you two go get some rest?” he sniped on his way out. “You look like you've been living in those clothes for the last week.”
The really terrible thing, Danny thought, was that they practically had been. Sharing a glance with Steve, Danny nodded at the Camaro. “The man's got a point. I'll drop you off at your house before going back to mine, and we'll take an eight hour breather.”
Steve seemed to agree easily enough, but he remained stubbornly standing at the driver's door. “Let me drive,” he demanded, and Danny shot him a skeptical look.
“Oh no, Dr. Strange. I am not a cowering grad student you can just order around like mindless slave labor. This is my car, and you are not driving it,” Danny shot back, jingling his keys in front of Steve's face. “Not going to happen.”
He swore when Steve snatched them out of his hand readily enough. How a scientist had such fast reflexes, Danny had no idea, as he was pretty sure it was against the laws of fairness, nature, and stereotypes. “It's not as if you know where I live anyway,” Steve explained, ducking into the car before Danny managed to slam the door on his fingers.
“I swear to goodness, if you drive like a grandma—” and that was how Danny found himself pressed flat against his seat, praying desperately that Steve wouldn't kill them both before they solved this case. “I hate you, I hate you, have you never heard of the brake?” he yelled.
“Where do you live, anyway?” Steve asked casually, and Danny refrained from looking over to where Steve was leaning back like a wannabe gangster, because one, there was no way anyone could look that relaxed while driving this fast. Two, Danny still resented Steve's height that allowed him to lounge everywhere and look only a quarter of his actual geek factor.
“Well, you know—” Danny relayed his address and found him suddenly jerking forth against his seat belt. “I swear to fuck, if I have a seat belt-shaped bruise, I will punch you in the crotch.”
“You live where? Why do you live there? Did your ex force you to live in the shittiest place in town when you decided to move out here?” Steve asked, apparently not caring that they were not parked on the elbow of the road.
“Hey, hey! It is not that bad of a place, I will have you know. It's cozy,” Danny explained. “Now, would you please keep driving?”
“... Yeah,” Steve acquiesced, and Danny tried very hard not to throw up for the next ten minutes.
That was probably why he didn't notice that they had ended up driving to his place rather than Steve's. “What gives?” he asked after they parked.
“Get your stuff and come to my house,” Steve said. “I'll come in with you to make sure you don't just hole yourself up—”
“And let you drive off with my Camaro? Oh no, babe, I would never do that,” Danny interrupted. “What do you mean come to your house.”
“I have a big house, all right? It's the house my dad left me, so it's got plenty of room. You'll get a nice bed, and you'll have room to actually—” Danny glared at Steve, warning him to pick his words carefully. “Exist? Live? Not develop claustrophobia?”
Not the right answer, and Danny scowled, opening his door and stepping out just to have more room to flail in. “What the hell, Steve? Who taught you your manners? Who insults his friend's place of residence?”
“I'm not insulting it; I'm telling the truth,” Steve returned in the clenched teeth way he had where everything sounded vaguely monotone, but Danny could tell by the look in Steve's eyes that the good professor had really latched onto this. He stood there thinking for a bit longer, trying to figure out if it was worth it to keep arguing with the man, but Steve had stopped hunching his shoulders and extended out to fill as much space as possible. While Danny had never been among the easily intimidated—he had grown up in Jersey, after all—he had also never been the type to fight a losing battle. He didn't count his custody trial.
“Yeah, all right, but wait here for me,” Danny ordered, moving toward his apartment. As soon as he heard the Camaro's alarm beep, he thought nostalgically about what would have happened to Steve had he gone to the Naval Academy. Maybe then, he would have actually followed orders.
Danny opened the front door to his apartment, bracing for impact before even stepping foot in the door. “Wait, do you have a fold out bed?” Steve asked, more forceful than sarcastic the way Danny tended to ask bad questions.
“Shut up, it's a small place,” Danny yelled, running through his house as quickly as he could to pack up the essentials. He threw them all into a duffel bag he usually kept on hand for emergencies like this and raced back to the living room, hoping Steve hadn't found something new to criticize him for.
He found Steve standing at his nightstand, looking at a picture of him and Gracie. “You're a good dad,” was all Steve said, and then they were out and back into the car, heading to Steve's place.
At the very least, Steve hadn't been kidding about his house. It was huge, spacious, and right on the beach. The very picture of Hawaiian paradise that Danny was sure most people moved to the islands to pursue. Steve's family, of course, had been there for a long time. They were established, and Danny wondered if Steve thought his house was strange or unique at all. Danny almost felt bad, resenting the man for having such a nice place. While he would love to buy a great home for his daughter, he lived on a detective's salary. Besides, he didn't like big, empty spaces.
Steve turned the Camaro's alarm on before rushing to open the door for Danny. After the brief flight of alpha fancy, Steve had apparently reverted back to his nice scientist persona. The height of wholesome American boy goodness that Steve McGarrett could reach was almost unfathomable, Danny thought as the man ushered him into the house.
The house was as nice inside as it was outside, and Steve gave him the 30 second tour. There was a full bathroom, and the furnished guest bedroom. “There's some food in the fridge—just ignore the beakers. Make yourself at home,” Steve said, all friendly politeness.
“I don't know how I feel about eating food that has been next to all your weird chemi—WHOA,” Danny said, having just turned around from his pacing to see that Steve had stripped his shirt off. “I don't know how long it's been, but you do not walk around shirtless on the first date,” he joked halfheartedly, his last line of defense as he tried to recover from the shock.
Beneath the stupid comb over and comically thick glasses, under the ironic tees and clashing plaid shirts, there was apparently quite a bit of substance. Steve McGarrett, when he wasn't playing around with obscure chemicals in a lab somewhere or torturing undergraduates to the point of insanity, worked out.
“How is it fair that you have muscles?” Danny lamented as Steve grinned at him, obviously amused.
“Careful, Danny. You expand your narrow mind anymore, and it might just burst,” Steve teased, moving unselfconsciously around the room, bending over to reorder some of the things on the coffee table for no discernible purpose.
“You have tattoos,” Danny deadpanned.
“Even science freaks have ill-advised drinking contests,” Steve replied in much the same manner. “Rest, Danny. You're obviously way too tired right now.”
That was what Steve said, but Danny could tell by the return of the dorky grin that Steve felt accomplished, and that left Danny confused. Commenting on another person's unexpected shirtless-ness seemed like a logical thing for anyone to do, and if Danny had felt a thrill go through him at finding out there was so much more to Steve than he had originally thought—well, that was Danny's thing.
“A cute geek with muscles. What is the world coming to?” Danny mumbled to himself, before realizing what he had just said aloud and hoping Steve didn't have superhuman hearing as well. He must officially be going insane, he thought, and left to take refuge in the shower.
Eight hours later, Danny woke up to the mindbogglingly delicious smell of pancakes and coffee. He lay there and debated his options—on the one hand, he hadn't slept on a mattress this comfortable since he had left Jersey all those months ago. On the other hand, he smelled blueberries. In the end, his hunger won out, and he threw on a shirt to go with his boxers before lumbering toward the general direction of the smell.
“How's it, brah?” Chin asked, lifting a cup of coffee in greeting.
“It is not actually breakfast right now, I thought I'd point out,” Danny said, collapsing into a chair. A stack of blueberry pancakes appeared before him, and it was all he could do to remember to use utensils before he dug in.
“How was your nap?” Chin asked, ignoring Danny's complaint as it was so obviously not a real complaint. Who didn't want to eat breakfast all the time?
“Fantastic,” Danny practically moaned, forgetting that he was supposed to be grumpy about Steve's attempt at kidnapping.
“Good to know you've found a place in the house, Danny. I was starting to worry about that apartment of yours,” the other man joked, his eyes crinkling at the corners in mirth as he took another sip of coffee.
“Oh, fuck you. Between you and Dr. Strangelove, I may never want to go back to my place again, and then what will you guys do?” Danny joked.
“Move you in here,” another voice piped up, all confident and serious, and Danny didn't know whether to be flattered or terrified that Steve might actually, in a very roundabout sort of way, be asking Danny to move in.
“Let me guess—all your exes told you that you had a tendency to move too fast, and they just weren't ready?” Danny guessed, feeling more and more human with every bite of pancake he chewed, savored, and digested.
“It's just an idea,” Steve played down, but his shoulders hunched over more, and he was fiddling with his glasses.
“It's a pretty good one,” Chin broke in, dissolving the awkwardness away. “Steve needs a housewife before his fridge becomes its own science experiment.”
That caused Danny to pause in his eating and put down his fork. “Please tell me nothing in these pancakes were in there with your projects,” Danny begged, putting his hands together in the universal sign of 'God, have mercy.' “Please tell me you didn't just poison me.”
“Don't be melodramatic. I'm a chemist. I would know if something's safe to eat,” Steve told them with his best commanding voice, which seemed to have much less effect with Chin around.
“That so does not answer the question,” Danny couldn't help but point out, and then the banter seemed to die off naturally, and they were all seated around the table with case files out.
“I've already gone over most of the stuff—” Chin explained, because it was nice being the one who hadn't been running on an average of three hours of sleep every night, “and I think I've found a few guys. One will be easy to get to, and I can be your contact. The other would require some clever undercover work.”
“So, what? We hope he goes for the easier target?” Danny asked, even as Steve was excusing himself to answer his phone. “Does he have superhearing? I swear I didn't hear anything ring.” Chin just smiled and let the question stand, which really did not bode well for Danny.
“I think we might have to revise that plan,” Steve said, stepping back into the room with his grim, ulcer face mode on.
“You haven't even heard it, and you're already critical,” Danny retorted, but he could guess the next words out of Steve's mouth.
“The guy's dead already—they want us down at the coroner's to see what we can get. Apparently, this one wasn't your typical execution,” Steve explained.
“Sounds good. I'll meet you guys there—I have to go talk to someone if we're going to hit up the other guy,” Chin explained, draining the last of his coffee before disappearing out the door.
“You are not driving,” Danny told Steve in the vague hopes it would work. Steve simply gave him a once over, which made Danny much more nervous than it perhaps should.
“Considering you aren't even dressed yet...” Steve trailed off, jingling the keys as an end to the conversation. Danny sighed, wishing that it was either easier or harder being Steve McGarrett's impromptu partner against crime.
They arrived at the coroner's office in record time, although Danny requested a few moments to pull his stomach back out of his throat. Steve rolled his eyes but had the wisdom not to mutter the “weak” that was on the tip of his tongue. They bickered about Steve's atrocious driving skills all the way into the coroner's office, and they didn't quite stop until a man in a white lab coat coughed uncomfortably.
“Dr. Bergman,” Steve greeted, his jaw oddly tense. Danny didn't want to think what it said about him that he already knew when Steve's jaw was tense.
“Dr. McGarrett,” the coroner returned, doing his best to stare Steve down. “Follow me.”
They moved at a sedate pace behind the doctor, and Danny decided to take the opportunity to lean into Steve. “What the hell was that?”
“It's a long story. All you need to know is that we went to the same undergrad and worked in the same lab,” Steve gritted out between clenched teeth, and Danny held up both of his hands to show that he officially removed himself from the matter. It didn't exactly surprise Danny that science majors could be, at the same time, frighteningly vicious and childishly immature. He had gone to college. It just surprised him to think that Steve had such a cold relationship with one of his colleagues.
Publication and project fights must be a bitch, Danny assumed, and then they were in the morgue. “Fantastic,” Danny complimented with full sarcasm. “I love these places, because obviously, they are not creepy at all. I hope you've got something good, Dr. Bergman.”
“It depends on your definition of good,” Dr. Bergman replied uncertainly, and Danny was baffled to realize there was someone more socially inept than Steve McGarrett, and on the same island no less.
“Will it help the case?” he simplified, and this time, Dr. Bergman gave a definitive nod.
“Yes, the odd cause of death of this particular victim is a calling card of a particular organization. I'm sure Dr. McGarrett and Mr. Kelly already know about the group, but just to confirm—” and suddenly the sheet was pulled back.
Danny winced. After a few months on the job, some things got easier, but there were definitely still days when you just didn't want to see it. That day, with a delicious breakfast of blueberry pancakes still in his stomach, Danny really didn't want to see it.
“That must have been a large gauge gun,” Steve observed, sounding almost impressed. Danny resisted the urge to stare incredulously or roll his eyes.
“Doubtless, and these killings serve as proof of this particular group's arms quality,” Dr. Bergman confirmed, dropping the sheet back over the body.
Danny took a deep breath. “All right, so we know who's working with Hesse, now. Should we assume that all of the other deaths were due to their failure to deliver the goods?” he asked.
“Seems like a safe bet, but I still don't understand why Hesse needs that big of an arsenal. What is Hesse even doing in Hawaii?” Steve mused out loud. Danny didn't have time to shrug before the door behind them opened, and Chin stuck his head in.
“Everything good?” he asked.
“It depends on your definition of good,” Danny echoed but threw his head back to signal Steve that they needed to go. Steve nodded, stopping to straighten up in front of the coroner.
“Thanks for the help, Max. Hopefully, we can put the whole first authorship stuff behind us,” he said, shaking the man's gloved hand as if it hadn't just been touching a dead guy.
“It's time we try, Steve,” Max agreed, waving them off awkwardly.
“You are not touching me until you wash that hand,” Danny told Steve point blank, dancing out of reach when Steve made a grab for Danny's collar.
“You're right, Cuz. They are just like little boys,” a voice distracted them, and Danny and Steve both turned in surprise to see a beautiful and welcomed familiar sight.
“Kono!” Steve greeted, recovering first. He gave her a one armed hug, making sure to keep the tainted hand behind his back.
“How's it, Steve?” Kono replied, squeezing him hard. Danny could practically see Steve turning purple. “I see you've widened your dating pool.”
“Oh no. Kono, I know we don't know each other very well yet, but can you see me with this? Can you imagine me going out with such a barbaric—”
“Professor of chemistry?” Kono finished for Danny, smiling knowingly. “I think you'd make a lovely couple.”
“I thank you for your good intentions, but reject the actual content of your blessing,” Danny rebuffed, giving her a quick bear hug, one eye on Chin's watchful expression. The man took his cousin's happiness seriously, and Danny could not even begin to feel bad enough for Kono's future significant other.
“What are you doing here?” Steve asked once the niceties were over.
“Chin said you needed help,” Kono explained, shrugging and deferring to her cousin.
“As you both know, Kono is a new officer. She hasn't been on the street long enough to be well known, but she has good skills, and... she matches our target's type,” Chin finished.
“Type?” Danny asked, not liking the sound of this already.
“This particular arms dealer has a broad portfolio. Aside from ammunition, he has branched out into falsified documents, smuggling, and the pharmaceutical industry. What he loves best; however, is prostitution and sex-trafficking. His base is here in Hawaii because he, quote unquote, likes the native girls,” Chin explained.
“Pretty much, this guy's the scum of the Earth,” Kono summarized, short and to the point.
“Which is why you're going to help us bring him down,” Chin confirmed.
“I'd be happy to, Cuz,” Kono agreed, looking at each of the men in turn. She could see that Steve and Danny already had their objections lined up, but she overruled them with a glare. “If you two try to pull the chivalry crap on me now? I will put you both into a headlock until you cry.”
“She's so much scarier than you,” Steve sniped at Danny, who couldn't bring himself to say anything back because it was true—Kono was much more capable of kicking ass than Danny was.
“Well, let's go plan this thing, shall we?” Chin asked, gesturing toward the doors. Danny took a deep breath and wondered just exactly what would prepare them for this.
“What's the Danno thing all about?” Steve asked all of a sudden, once again driving Danny’s car to the arranged meeting point. Kono and Chin were already there, finishing up the last of their preparations before they sneaked Kono in with the rest of the drugged girls.
“What Danno thing?” Danny evaded, though he knew exactly what Steve was talking about. “By the way, why are you in a vest again? Are you planning on sticking around for this? Are you going to be asking me for a gun, now?” he asked, changing the topic to one he thought was much more pressing.
“I don’t need to ask you for a gun—I already have one,” Steve told him, and his leg twitched just enough for Danny to realize that Steve had somehow sneaked a thigh holster on without Danny realizing. “The Danno thing, you know, what Gracie calls you.”
That’s what Danny got for calling his little girl for a potentially last goodbye. He took his eyes off of Steve McGarrett for two seconds and the man was suited up as if he were a police officer rolling into battle, and he eavesdropped. There was no end to the wrong of the situation. “I don’t know if you haven’t noticed, Steve, but you are not a cop. Do you even have a license for that firearm? Can you even shoot it?”
“Of course I can,” Steve shot back, “stop changing the subject.”
“You are not the boss of me, Dr. McGarrett, you are not actually in charge of my grade for this class, and so I will not listen. Steve, you aren’t going in there,” Danny insisted, because whatever Steve may have been in another life, this was what he was now. He had a bad comb over and depressingly thick glasses. His fashion sense was deeply offensive, and therefore it was better for the world that a lab coat covered up most of the horror. Dr. Steven J. McGarrett was a good man, with a big heart, and an overblown sense of justice, but he was not a cop, not a naval officer, and Danny would not let him risk his life. In this life, Steve was just another civilian Danny had sworn to protect, albeit one that he was getting a little too close to.
“I can’t not go in there!” Steve shouted back, breaking his usual quiet seething. “That’s Victor Hesse, Danny. It’s dangerous—”
“That’s my point! You’re a civilian, you can’t—”
“Yeah, well you’re a father!” Steve snapped, and suddenly, Danny got it.
“I know that,” Danny said, quiet and solemn. “Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think there was a reason why I called her before I left?”
“Danny—” Steve began, his eyes angled downward, his shoulders sloped with obvious regret.
“I get why you’re all up in this, Steve, but this isn’t your job. You’ve already done your job, and now you’ve got to let me do mine,” Danny stressed, turning to look at Steve directly.
They had reached their stop, the shipping crate that Chin was hiding out in, and Steve had been careful to park out of sight of the warehouse the girls would be gathered in. There was no more time left for argument, and when Steve looked like he wouldn’t say anything in return, Danny finally pushed himself to get out of the call. “The Danno thing. Gracie calls me Danno because when she was young, that was as close as she could get to my name. It’s a thing, now,” he explained, and he thought it would be hard, but Danny felt oddly comfortable letting Steve know this about him.
“It’s cute,” Steve finally spoke up, shooting Danny a halfhearted smile. “I’ll keep out of your way,” he promised, and Danny almost wanted to faint in relief. Unfortunately, that was extremely unbecoming of an officer of the law, so he simply grabbed onto Steve’s arm and dragged him into the cargo container instead.
Chin looked up from his amazing set up, his face utterly unimpressed with their late arrival. “If we’re all ready now?” he asked, as if he were perfectly aware of their little spat inside the car and also had Strong Opinions about it. Danny and Steve both nodded. “We’re on,” Chin signaled, and they sat back to watch the shit hit the fan.
In the end, it was almost anticlimactic. Almost, except Kono totally took out an entire gang of men by herself with some of the most badass moves Danny had ever seen, and Chin ended up driving a motorcycle onto a boat without the help of a ramp. Steve, keeping to his word, hadn’t done much. Well, except for the giant explosion that had knocked Hesse into the water, and didn’t that just smack of Steve McGarrett?
“I didn’t get in your way, did I?” he whined, trying to avoid Danny giving him the third degree for the third day in a row. While the case was over, Steve had been too much of a big player in the investigation to escape the court process, and so Danny visited him under guise of prepping him for the trial. Steve insisted that it was really because Danny missed him.
“Missed nagging you, maybe, but obviously that is untrue, because to miss something is to have enjoyed its presence, and considering how my nagging you was usually connected to some near death experience, I cannot say this is an accurate description of my emotions,” Danny finished. Steve looked amused, or maybe more than that, because his big, gigantic grin was on his face again, and Danny was a little worried that he was mirroring that—
“Dr. McGarrett?” a timid voice asked from the doorway. “A-Am I interrupting something?”
Yet another undergrad there to ask for help, most likely, and Danny stood up from his seat to wave the girl forward. “I was on my way out anyway,” he explained, tilting his head toward Steve as a farewell. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Trial’s in a week,” he reminded the professor, who nodded before settling down with the student to go over something that was undoubtedly only scintillating to minds as screwed up as Steve’s.
Of course, the question remained of what they would do after the trial was over. In a week, the gig would be up. No more reasons to have to see each other, no more lunch breaks taken during Steve’s office hours to scare off the most cowardly of the students seeking help, and Danny wasn’t sure how to feel about that. “I don’t see why we have to stop seeing each other,” Steve told him in the middle of the trial. They were both seated outside, waiting for Chin to finish and Steve to be called.
“What, you don’t think there’s something odd about a detective hanging around a distinguished professor’s office all the time?” Danny shot back, admiring the line of Steve’s shoulders in his, for once, fitted suit as he shrugged the question off.
“It wouldn’t be so weird if we were dating,” he suggested, as if it were no big thing, “or living together,” as if that were better.
“Your turn, brah,” Chin signaled, stepping through the door. He took one look at Danny spluttering for something to say, speechless for once in his life, and shook his head. “I’m not going to ask.”
“Probably a good choice,” Steve agreed, standing up to leave with the bailiff. Before he stepped into the court room, he put his hand over one of Danny’s, wrapping it around the twitchy fingers aching to properly express their shock and dismay and something a little like joy. “Besides, Danny, didn’t you promise to protect the public? I can tell you my graduate students have never seen such mercy in their lives. They think it’s a good thing we’re together. They’re so grateful; they might name a gene that codes for a histone protein after you.”
And that was just like Steve to say something cryptic and then walk off into the sunlight. Danny dropped his head into his hands, trying to figure out how his life had become this in such a short amount of time. “Are you crying or smiling?” Chin asked, but guessing from the smirk in his voice, he already knew.
“Tell Kono to put me out of my misery if I ever really agree to move in,” Danny said. “No, seriously, she can snap my neck. I will give it to you in writing.”
Chin just scoffed, already thinking about a nice housewarming gift for the future. He just hoped Steve didn’t plan on attending any parent-teacher conferences.