“So how do you know this guy again?” Danny asked.
They were taking Danny’s car to the airport—which is to say, Steve was driving Danny’s car to the airport—because things at the crime scene had taken too long for Steve to get his truck before picking up his friend.
“Afghanistan,” Steve said, eyes on the road.
“That right, Mr. Share-a-lot? Don’t strain yourself trying to explain or anything.”
Steve scowled, but reluctantly parted with a bit more information. “He’s—was—Royal Medical Corps. Helped me and a buddy out of a tight spot once.” His voice softened imperceptibly . “Saved that guy’s life, maybe.”
It was on the tip of Danny’s tongue to ask who the other guy had been, but something about the way Steve’s face suddenly closed up like a bank vault told him the buddy had probably been Nick Taylor. Nick, who was dead now, and by the hand of his former friend.
“So you guys kept in touch?” he said instead.
“Kind of. “ Steve shrugged. “An email here and there. He was invalided out just before I transferred to the Reserves and the 5-0.”
“And now?” Oops. For all Danny knew the guy was too disabled to work, one way or another.
But apparently not. “Well, he’s still a doctor, isn’t he?” Steve said. “And I think he writes some kind of blog.”
“And he’s here because…?”
“Vacation. I know you continue to find it hard to believe, Danno, but people—people all over the world—come here because they want to relax in one of the most beautiful places on earth.” Danny snorted his opinion of that kind of behavior, but Steve ignored him. “He told me he was taking some time off, staying at the Hilton. So I told him, why pay all that money for a tiny icebox of a room when I have a big house standing mostly empty? Seemed the least I could do.”
Danny smiled, because yeah, that was Steve all over.
They got to the airport just as the flight’s passengers were starting to mill around the baggage carousel. Danny peered at them, trying to identify the one most likely to be the man who had gotten two Special Forces agents out of a tough spot in a war zone. Finally he spotted a likely subject—six-feet tall, salt-and-pepper hair, like a bulked-up George Clooney—and felt justified when Steve started heading toward him.
But when Steve called out “John” in delighted greeting, an entirely different man emerged from the faux-Clooney’s shadow.
This guy—Steve’s friend—wasn’t any taller than Danny. He had a head of shaggy fair hair, and one of those English faces that went straight from boyish to battered-looking as they aged. The jeans and striped sweater he was wearing would be uncomfortably warm the minute he stepped outside. He was leaning heavily on a cane and he looked somewhere out the other side of exhausted—it must have been a hellish series of flights from London. But his face lit up when he saw Steve—and they did one of those enthusiastic hand-pumping, shoulder-clapping things one did with people who were culturally inhibited about hugging.
“Danny,” Steve said, stepping back, “This is Dr. John Watson. John—Detective Danny Williams.”
“Please to meet you,” said Danny, shaking hands. And he was—combined with his enjoyment at not having to crane his neck when meeting one of Steve’s friends was his unabashed satisfaction in knowing that this slight, crew-necked-sweater-wearing man was the bonafide rescuer of his notoriously badass, ninja-SEAL partner.
“Likewise,” said John, smiling back. “Oh—there’s my bag—“
“I’ll get it.” Steve trotted off in the direction of John’s finger.
“Leg wound your ticket home, then?” Danny asked sympathetically, nodding towards the cane and getting ready to commiserate about tendons and ACLs and PT.
“No,” said John. “Shoulder.”
Danny hung back and watched them as they left the airport—Steve carrying John’s army-surplus duffel, and shortening his steps to John’s just as he’d done for Danny earlier in the year—and tried to figure out the limp. Maybe it was from another, more recent injury. Or some kind of PTSD symptom.
Danny always wondered why Steve didn’t have more of those. Of course, Steve never gave himself much chance to be “post” anything—leaping headlong from one danger to the next. Danny pitied whatever poor soul was around when all those traumas and stresses finally came home to roost. Though who was he kidding? That poor soul would be him—he really didn’t trust anyone else in the proper care and handling of Steve McGarrett these days.
He didn’t see much of Dr. Watson for the next week. The drug-trafficking case they were working turned out to be a nightmare. Every time they thought they’d uncovered the source of the cocaine, it turned out to be just a subsidiary, and another supplier turned up to take its place—like one of those monsters in the Hercules movies that grows two heads whenever you cut one off.
“A hydra,” Steve told him. “That’s what you call a monster like that: a hydra.”
“Thank you, geek boy,” Danny said, and magnanimously restrained himself from clocking him one. “How’s your house guest?” he asked instead. “Working on his tan?”
“Nah. Doesn’t like the beach, apparently.”
“A man after my own heart. Though it does beg the question again: why Hawaii?”
“I dunno.” Steve didn’t seem particularly interested in the issue. “He seems happy enough. He’s got a guidebook and he’s been hiking, bird watching, stuff like that. Took a trip to the big island to see the Halema’ uma’ u Firepit.”
“Hiking? With that leg?”
“What leg?” Steve’s forehead puckered.
“Steven. The cane? The limp? At the airport. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Seems all right now. Maybe it’s something that comes and goes.”
Danny frowned. He wished Dr. Watson well, he really did—but it seemed like there was maybe more going on with him than met the eye. Curious, Danny googled the blog Steve had mentioned. He got plenty of hits off the doctor’s name—his site seemed to have a bunch of racy true crime stories on it. But every link to it was broken, as if the blog had been taken down very recently and without warning. Curiouser and curiouser.
When Danny went to pick Steve up in the morning—Steve, in his ongoing fit of generosity, having lent his truck to John for the duration—he tried to examine the doctor more closely. But John, as usual, looked the opposite of suspicious. He’d traded the jeans for a worn pair of cut-off fatigues, and the stripy sweater for a threadbare “St. Barts” t-shirt (the hospital, not the island, he explained to Danny). He’d found himself a pair of aviator shades and a truly hideous sun-hat—dun-brown with a wide, round rim—but his hiking boots were new and expensive looking, even if the thick socks he wore with them were pulled a little too high up his calves. The very picture of a tourist, if still a little tired around the eyes.
“Where to today?” Danny asked as they passed in the kitchen.
“The Kuli’ou’ou Valley Trail—I hear one can see an O’ahu ‘Elepaio there if one’s lucky.” John put a hand on the binoculars case hanging from his shoulder.
“You don’t say?” Danny raised his eyebrows and tried to look impressed. “Hey,” he said on impulse. “Why don’t you come out with us tonight—the team’s getting together for a beer after work.”
“We are?” Steve looked up from his coffee.
“Yeah—don’t you remember—we made that plan? About the thing?”
“Oh. Right.” Steve gave Danny a look, but went along with it.
“Sure,” said John. “If I’m not too knackered after the hike.”
But taking John out for beers only convinced Danny that something was up with him.
For one thing, there was the phone. Danny had convinced Chin and Kono to come along too, and after a couple of rounds they all decided that the food at the bar was crap, and that if they wanted to eat, the best thing to do would be to order pizza and have it delivered to Steve’s place.
“I’m calling,” said Danny. “If I let any of you guys do it, there’ll be pineapple all over everything.”
Too late, he realized he’d let his phone battery go dead.
Four phones were held out to him, but John’s was closest. It was a no-frills, pay-you-go type, clearly purchased after he’d gotten to the States. But when Danny scrolled down the screen to find what he wanted, he saw that there were no less than eighty-three texts in the inbox. All unopened.
“Hey,” he said to John when he’d finished ordering, “want me to show you how to read those?” Maybe American cell phones were different than British ones.
“No thank you,” said John politely. “They’re not for me.” And he stuffed the phone back into his pocket. When he picked up his beer again, Danny noticed a tiny tremor in his hand.
And for another thing, there was the way John reacted to Kono. Or didn’t react, to be more precise.
Kono had shed the plaid button-down she’d been wearing at work, revealing the red, racer-backed tank underneath. And even if the sight of those perfect, sun-kissed shoulders wasn’t enough to put a goofy grin on you face—which was absolutely the effect it was having on Danny—he was pretty sure that no man, woman or extraterrestrial, whatever their sexual orientation, would have been able to resist the shower of warm, playful smiles she was bestowing on John, not flirting really, just trying to draw him out about whether he liked Hawaii, about how much she’d always wanted to visit London, about the great waves she’d heard about off the Cornwall coast.
But John, even though he went a little pink around the ears, remained as diffident and restrained as ever, no matter how many beers he drank.
It just didn’t seem possible. Unless---
“He’s moping,” Danny told Steve the next morning, as they waited for John to back the truck out of the driveway ahead of them.
“He’s not moping, Danny. He’s English.”
“Okay. I get it. I realize that to the untrained eye the two conditions may be very hard to tell apart. But I know from English people—spent six years married to one, remember?—and he, my friend, is moping.”
“So? So what if he is? I’m pretty sure it says in the Constitution that a man has an inalienable right to mope unmolested if he feels like it. Even if he’s not an American citizen. That’s the kind of thing that makes this country great. Besides, what’s it to you?”
Danny wasn’t sure what it was to him. He just knew it was getting under his skin.
“Come on, Rache. He’s your people. And he’s suffering. At least I’m pretty sure he’s suffering—it’s hard to tell. But he needs you. I think.”
“My people, Daniel? Really? You, Sarah Palin and Justin Timberlake are all Americans, but I’m not suggesting you all get together for a heart-to-heart.”
“Hey,” Danny protested, “I’d love to shoot the breeze with Mr. Sexy Back.” On the other end of the line, Rachel snorted. “C’mon,” Danny pleaded again. “You could do that thing you do—“
“I do not do a thing.”
“It always worked with me. I could always talk to you. And he really is a sweet guy. I think.”
Rachel sighed. “Oh, alright. You bring him by, take Grace out for shave ice, and I’ll sit him down for a nice cuppa. I suppose it’d be good to hear a voice from home, at any rate.”
By the time Danny brought Grace back, both their tongues stained respectably blue, it certainly appeared as if Rachel had worked her magic on John. The doctor looked wide-eyed and a little ruffled, like something painful had risen to the surface and been only partially tamped down again.
When Rachel stood to collect the tea cups, she bent down again and kissed John lightly on the cheek. John ducked his head and grinned, looking like a five-year-old who’d just been kissed by the prettiest girl in kindergarten. Then he stood, too.
“Go on,” said Danny. “The car’s open—I just need to ask Rachel something about Grace for next weekend. So—“ He looked expectantly at his ex-wife as John headed out the door, “what’s the scoop?”
“Daniel,” she said sternly, “I am not going to break John’s confidences. It’s just—a—a bad break-up, poor man. He had to get away for a bit, you know?”
Danny certainly did know, and he was pretty sure he held Rachel’s eyes longer than was really appropriate while the memory of Matty prying a beer bottle out of his hand and telling him to blow his nose and get to bed washed over him with visceral intensity.
But all he said was “Yeah. Thanks, Rache—I owe you one.”
Rachel leaned in and kissed him on the cheek too.
“I’ll tell you what,” Danny said as he started the car. “Let’s go out tonight. None of this beer and pizza crap—let’s really tie one on—see what Honolulu nightlife has to offer—“
John didn’t look exactly thrilled with the idea, but before Danny could continue convincing him to drown his sorrows, his cell rang.
“How far are you from this address?” Steve barked when he answered, and proceeded to rattle off a house number and cross street.
“’Bout five minutes. But what are you doing there?” The last Danny had heard from Steve, he’d been knee-deep in fixing the leaky pipe under the kitchen sink.
“Got a lead. I’ll explain when you get here.”
“Okay—but I’ve got John with me right now—I’ll have to find a place to let him off.”
“No,” said Steve. “That’s good. Bring him along.”
The address Steve had given them turned out to be around the corner from the house he was really interested in.
“I think this is it,” he said, when they pulled the Camaro up behind his truck. “The guy in charge—finally. He’s in there with about eight guys—maybe ten. We take them out, bring him to justice—case closed.”
“Steven.” Danny held both hands up in an attempt to ward off the crazy. “I have two words for you: Back. Up. As in: call some now.”
“No time,” Steve muttered, busy in the infernal lock-box in the bed of his truck. “Here,” he said, handing a rifle to John.
And now Danny really thought he might be the one to have an aneurysm. “What? You can’t give him that—he’s a doctor, for chrissakes.”
“A doctor and a crack shot. Can you use one of those comfortably?”
“Oh yes,” said John, turning the rifle over in his hands to get a feel for it. “Quite comfortably.” He aimed it experimentally, not a trace of a tremor in his hand.
“Not to mention he’s not licensed to use firearms in the United States,” Danny sputtered. “It’s completely illegal to give him a weapon like that.”
“Good point,” said Steve. “John, hold up your right hand. Do you solemnly swear, to the best of your ability—“
“You’re deputizing him? Really? That’s your solution?”
“Yes, Danny.” Steve sounded patient now, like Danny was the one who was living in loony-toons. “He really is good at this. And we need the help. So, yes, I’m deputizing him.”
“John—“ Danny turned to the other man, sure he would get some rational input that way. But if John hadn’t still been wearing that ridiculous round sun hat, Danny would have been sure he was looking at a completely different man. Whereas moments before John had seemed weary, a little frayed around the edges by emotional distress, now every line of him was sharp as a whip. His eyes were as clear and as cold as—well, as Steve’s—and he was wearing a hard, vulpine grin.
“I, John Watson, do solemnly swear,” he said.
“Well okay then.” Danny was pretty good at telling when he was defeated. “I guess we’re the Three Amigos.”
“Babe, if I’d known that was all it took to cheer you up,” said Danny, “I could have saved you days of that moping shit. We have firefights around here just about every week. Steve could have blown stuff up special for you.”
John tilted his head quizzically at Danny, but didn’t say anything. They were sitting side-by-side on the stoop of the house they’d just raided, watching an EMT dress a nasty bullet graze on Steve’s temple. Danny still couldn’t quite reconcile the mild-mannered bird-watcher who’d been staying in Steve’s guestroom with the sniper-grade marksman who’d taken out at least five of the twelve (not ten) thugs they’d encountered without breaking a sweat. But at least it made the story about him rescuing Steve and Nick in Afghanistan a lot more plausible.
“Bad news,” said Chin, coming over to them from where he’d been interviewing the few thugs who hadn’t gone straight to the hospital. “That guy was a big dealer, sure—but I don’t think he was the king-pin.”
No way was Danny going to let Steve drive with a head wound, no matter how much he bitched about it. So he installed his glowering partner in the passenger seat of the Camaro and tossed the keys to the truck to John.
“Meet you back at the homestead, Deputy Dog,” he called, to John’s bemused stare.
But when they arrived back the beach house, the truck was nowhere to be seen. And the door of the house was sinisterly ajar.
In an instant, he and Steve had pressed themselves against opposite sides of the doorway, weapons drawn. Steve made a complicated series of hand gestures, and on a silent count of three, they threw themselves past the threshold, guns high.
The living room was dim except for a small pool of light cast by a standing lamp. It illuminated the figure of a man dressed entirely in black. He was ensconced in one of Steve’s armchairs, legs crossed, fingers steepled under his chin, a serene expression on his pale, high-cheekboned face.
“Dude,” said Danny, “what the fuck?”
“Dude?” repeated the man, in a deep voice right out of Masterpiece Theater. “I may be many things, Detective Williams, but I am most assuredly not a ‘dude.’”
“I don’t know who or what you are, mister,” Steve growled, “or what you’re doing in my house. But you need to get up slowly and put your arms behind your head, or someone’s going to get hurt.”
“Ah, Commander McGarrett,” the man said. “You should know better than to use your sister’s birthday as the code for your security system.”
“What’d I tell you about that?” said Danny.
“But I ran it through three different encryption systems first,” Steve nearly squawked.
The man in black just shook his head, as if he were very, very sad about Steve’s poor choices.
“Sorry.” John chose this moment to enter the house, “Got off at the wrong exit, had to—“ He stopped abruptly as he took in the scene in front of him. “Sherlock,” he said, his level tone unreadable, “What the bloody hell are you doing here.”
“You know this guy?” Nothing was going to surprise Danny about John Watson ever again.
“I—“ John started.
But the man in the chair decided to unfurl himself to his full, impressive height. “Sherlock Holmes,” he said, “the world’s only consulting detective.”
Huh. That name rang a bell from the search Danny had done on John’s blog.
“Sherlock.” John repeated, and now Danny could read the tone of his voice. He was pissed. “Did you track me down?”
“Track you down, John? “ Sherlock’s rich voice was scathing. “It was hardly that. A child could have found you. A member of the Metropolitan Police Force could have found you. You left a trail a mile wide.”
“That—“ Forget pissed, John was furious. “That was because I wasn’t hiding. I was leaving. I told you that if you ever—and you promised—and then you—so I—“ His voice cracked suddenly, and all the anger seemed to drain away from him at once, leaving him just sad—a desperate kind of longing in his eyes.
“John—“ Sherlock, almost tentative, moved a half-step closer, the same neediness surfacing in his face. “When you left I—“
Their gazes locked, and even though they were still too far apart to touch each other, Danny could feel it—could feel the temperature in the room actually go up a couple of degrees. It suddenly made a whole lot of sense that John had wanted to stare into Hawaii’s only active volcano.
“Hey,” Danny whispered, nudging Steve. “Whaddaya say we go back to HQ and get started on the paperwork for that bust?”
Steve looked as gobsmacked as Danny felt, face slack and gun dangling forgotten from his hand. But he nodded, and perhaps for the first time in his life, went willingly to fill out forms.
If was almost dusk when they got back, and they both froze when they saw the state of Steve’s living room. The standing lamp had been knocked over, its shade half-obscured by a haphazardly thrown black silk shirt. Most of the cushions on the couch had been disarranged, John’s sun hat hung rakishly from the newel post of the stairs, and on the third step up lay one very expensive looking black leather shoe.
“Woo-eee,” Danny whistled, “Don’t come a knockin’ if the van be a rockin’, huh? I think, you guys are just going to have to agree to tie a bandanna around the doorknob when one of you wants to get busy.”
“Shut up, Danny.” Steve was squatting next to his fallen lamp and rubbing the heel of his palm into his eyes. “Just shut up.”
They both fell silent as a feathery moan reached them from upstairs. Somebody was certainly having a very satisfying evening.
“Hey,” Danny said, taking pity on his partner—you could never tell with houseguests, right? “Why don’t we get out of here? I’ll buy you dinner at that Vietnamese place you like.”
Danny had a few personal hours scheduled the next morning. Grace’s school chorus was performing, and his little girl was so clear-voiced and gorgeous in the front row that even having to sit next to Step-Stan to hear her was less tortuous than it usually was.
When he finally got to headquarters, Chin was showing John the map of all the busts they had made trying to take down the hydra-ring of drug smugglers.
Chin looked his usual self and John looked—well, there were a number of piquant colloquial expressions for the way John looked, but Danny settled on “well-rested.” Even his hair seemed to have perked up overnight.
“Hey,” he greeted them. “Steve here?”
“Yeah,” Chin answered. “He’s down in the lab with Max and Sherlock.”
Sure enough, when Danny made his way there, he found Sherlock hunched over the microscope, Max and Steve hovering at his shoulders like the world’s weirdest cherub and imp.
Danny did an exaggerated double-take. “Whoa. It’s like Science Guy in triple vision.”
All three looked up—Sherlock superciliously, Max blankly, and Steve with that wide, happy grin that made up for everything.
“Come here, Danny,” Steve said. “Sherlock thinks he’s found something interesting about the samples we’ve been taking from the crime scenes.”
“What’d you do,” Danny asked, resigned, “deputize him too?”
“Didn’t need to.” Steve’s grin got broader. “Turns out he has a pretty high security clearance already. Explain the evidence to Danny, Sherlock.”
Sherlock looked disdainfully at Danny, as if he were pretty sure Danny was too dim to understand. He was dressed this morning in the kind of outfit Danny associated with 1950s movies about spies in the Far East—as light-colored and loose-fitting as last night’s clothes had been tight and dark, but just as beautifully cut.
“Well,” he said, “if you know what to look for, you can find the signature of the same pollutant in all the drugs you’ve recovered.”
“Which means they were all cut originally in the same place,” added Steve.
“And if we do an atmospheric search for that pollutant, we find that it is only emitted by one small factory in the area. Which narrows our search to the neighborhood around that factory,” finished Max.
“Elementary, really,” said Sherlock. “I’m surprised none of you thought to look for it before.”
Getting Sherlock Holmes drunk on umbrella drinks was the most fun Danny had had for a long time.
Sherlock’s reading of the evidence had been so good that they’d been able to walk through the front door of a tastefully-appointed villa in Waikiki and arrest the head of the drug ring while he was still in his bathrobe. No guns, no explosives, no kicking down doors. Steve, and maybe John too, were probably secretly disappointed, but in Danny’s opinion, it made a welcome change.
And to be fair, maybe Steve was actually pleased to have wrapped the case—he’d given everyone the next day off, anyway, and offered to stand the first round. Which would have been even more generous if he’d actually had his wallet on him.
The umbrella drinks were Kono’s typically devious and brilliant idea. At first, Sherlock merely sipped chastely on a vodka and lime, watching the rest of them give way their post-case punchiness with cool amusement. But then Kono noted casually that if he could deduce the chemical make-up of a bunch of cocaine samples, he should be able to guess the alcohol make-up of the bar’s signature cocktail, the Electric Gecko—including what made it that particular shade of electric green—without much trouble. When Sherlock demurred, she shook her head understandingly, and said, well, of course, it stood to reason that he wouldn’t be able to do something like that without a lab and a microscope.
The bartender, needless to say, was the brother of Kono’s cousin’s girlfriend, and she got him to bring over the Gecko when Sherlock inevitably succumbed to the challenge. Danny was never sure whether Kono had got Artie, the bartender, in on the joke, but, when after much swirling and sniffing and finally draining of the glass, Sherlock made his guess, he declared it close, but no cigar, and offered to stand him another one on the house—for the purely scientific purpose of perfecting his conclusions, of course.
But after two of those things even Sherlock Holmes’s powers of deduction were shot to hell, and after three, he didn’t even really seem to care. He curled his long fingers around John’s thigh like he was never going to let go again, and once even leaned his face into John’s hair and nuzzled contentedly. John turned the perfect pink of a Hawaiian sunset in embarrassment and delight.
It was adorable, but Danny, who had appointed himself designated driver after the first round, called a halt to the Geckos after three. In his experience, there was a very fine line between adorable and pukey, and he valued the upholstery in his car too highly to cross it.
It had been a good call, he decided, when he swung around Steve’s house late the next morning. Sherlock was sprawled in one of the deck chairs, clearly nursing a massive hangover behind John’s aviator shades. John himself was down on the beach, bare-chested and wearing a pair of hideous, floral board shorts, while Kono, in her yellow bikini, tried to get him into the proper position on one of Steve’s surfboards. John’s hair was slicked dark to his head, as if he’d already taken a few tumbles in the surf, and he was laughing at something Kono had said, head throw back, wide-mouthed and happy.
Danny plunked himself down on the bench next to Steve, and handed him the bag of malasadas he’d brought.
“Think you’ve paid him back now, for that favor he did you in Afghanistan?” he said, bumping Steve’s shoulder with his own and nodding towards John.
“Nah, brah,” said Steve, licking sugar off his fingers, “I just let him have the spare bed—Hawaii did the rest.”