"No," Chin says, facing down the stubborn glint in Kono's eyes. "No."
"Why not?" Kono demands, bumping open the door to the computer room with her hip.
"Why not?" Chin can hear his voice getting louder--and in all the years he and Kono have been almost inseparable, he can count on one hand the number of times he's raised his voice to her--but even with the added bonus of Steve and Danny getting to hear, it’s difficult to bring it back down. "You know exactly why not."
"Exactly why not what?" Danny asks, his head swiveling back and forth between them. Steve looks up from where he's moving files around on the table computer.
"Why Chin won't come to Thanksgiving dinner," Kono answers.
"Ah," Danny says. "Family shit."
"Exactly," Chin says.
"Look, cuz," Kono says, in her most reasonable voice--which isn't much, given that she usually reasons with people by smacking them around. "I know the family's given you no end of shit--"
Chin snorts and she glares at him and holds up her hand until he shuts up and lets her finish. It doesn't matter what she thinks she knows; Chin knows better.
"But this year, it's at Mom's house and she and I don't agree on a lot, but this--you--is something we do. She won't care if you come--"
"Ipo," Chin says. "I appreciate it, but no. I'm not dumping that on your mom, and I'm through dumping it on myself."
Kono glares at him, and he knows it's not over between them, but he's not changing his mind.
"Are you all packed?" Chin asks Danny. Kono blows out her breath in an aggravated sigh and even Danny rolls his eyes at the blatant subject change, but he's a good guy and plays along.
"I think we're ready," Danny says. He has Grace for Thanksgiving and has managed to wrangle enough leave for the full week that she's out of school. The two of them are leaving for a visit back to Danny's parents in less than two days. "Rachel's on edge because none of Grace’s winter stuff fits and the new stuff isn’t getting here fast enough for her, but I figure we can deal. It’s not like my mom doesn’t know how to hit a mall or twenty."
"You looking forward to it?" Chin asks, which is a little bit of a ridiculous question, given how many times Danny's brought up the topic, but only a little, because Chin knows he's focusing everything on this, so he doesn't have to think about how he's barely going to see Grace over Christmas break when she's going back to England with Rachel to see her family. Chin is more than happy to help that effort along.
"My folks are about to bust a gut," Danny says. "My dad's certifiable under normal conditions, but now he's talking about everybody doing the parade that morning, which, I don't even want to think about what it's going to take to get all my sisters and their kids out on the streets in time to see anything."
"Sounds like a good time," Chin says, smiling at the manic light in Danny's eyes.
"Yeah, well, pray for it not to be sleeting or anything, because I know my old man, and once he says we're going, we're going, come hell or high water."
"We actually do have a case," Steve says, waving a file folder halfheartedly.
"Of course we do," Danny says. "The bad guys never sleep here in paradise."
"Don't think this is over," Kono says, coming over to take the folder out of Steve's hand and spread the contents out on a table.
"Oh, cuz," Chin answers, with a smile that's real. "Why would I ever think you'd let something go?"
She gives him a look that's supposed to be intimidating but ends up nothing more than exasperated. "I hate you being alone on holidays, so shoot me."
"Please," Danny says. "No encouraging remarks about firearms. We have enough trouble keeping up with the paperwork as it is." He slants a look at Steve, who ignores him.
"Case?" Steve says. "Work?"
"Eh, relax," Danny tells him, mostly to spin him up, Chin's sure. "It's antiquities smuggling. Another two minutes isn't going to make or break the case." Steve takes a deep breath to start bitching back, but Danny cuts him off at the knees with a perfectly timed, "Refresh my memory: what's your packed social calendar looking like over the holiday?"
"Figured I'd see what I could get done at the house, maybe watch some football," Steve says. "Can we get back to what we get paid for?"
"Yeah, in a minute," Danny says, with a particularly evil smile. "Here's an idea," he says to Kono. "You're busy; I'm outta town--the two of them," he points to Chin and then back to Steve, "carry the Five-0 spirit and do something sociable on Turkey Day."
"Danno--" Steve starts, but Danny ignores him.
"I know McGarrett isn't quite a substitute for a normal family gathering, but…"
"You don't know the family," Chin mutters. Kono shoots him a dirty look.
"See, that'd be okay, except I don't trust either one of them to actually do it," she says to Danny, who nods thoughtfully.
"Hey," Steve says. "If we say we're going to do something, we follow through."
"Really," Kono says, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning one hip against the table. "So, if I texted you around dinner time, you'd be able to send me a shot of the two of you and actual food."
"Absolutely," Steve answers, taking the bait, and Chin can only shake his head at the satisfied smile on Kono's face.
Steve honestly is a little surprised that he's going through with this, but a little after two in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day, he knocks off from patching bullet holes in the drywall and grabs a shower. After that, there's no real excuse not to get in the truck and go.
The address Chin's given Steve is up in Alewa Heights, one of the older neighborhoods overlooking the city . Steve winds his way up past the Medical Center and through the quiet residential streets, following the twists and turns the GPS is guiding him through until he comes to a small frame house perched on the side of the hill. He double-checks the address, and finds a street parking spot not far away, then collects the bags from what had been his mom's favorite Portuguese bakery and climbs back up the hill to knock on the heavy wooden door.
"Aloha," Chin says, opening the door.
"How is it?" Steve holds up the bag with the bread pudding in it and smiles. Chin shakes his head a little at the ridiculousness of the entire situation.
"I wasn't sure whether you were going to show or not."
"Hey, like I told Kono, if I say I'm going to do something, I do it," Steve says, handing over the bag. Chin smiles without actually smiling and, yeah, fine, so Kono had basically double-dog dared Steve into doing this. "Even if she and Danny are insane when they get an idea into their heads."
"There's something to be said for playing along just to keep them off-balance," Chin says, with one of his rare, open smiles. "I appreciate you throwing yourself on the hand grenade, though. Kono's been on the warpath about me and the rest of the family for a while now."
He steps back to let Steve inside and Steve's struck again at how closely Chin guards himself. He wonders if that's always been true, or if it's something that's happened more recently. The Chin Ho Kelly whose records he chased in high school had always been flat and two-dimensional, but Steve was willing to admit that had been more about how he'd never let himself see the person, only the stats. The Chin he works with is smart and stubborn, an awesome cop, one that Steve trusts to have all their backs, but not a person that Steve can say he knows.
Then again, that's probably as much about Steve as it is Chin.
"Hanging out for a couple of hours and having dinner isn't exactly a chore," Steve says, toeing off his boots and adding them and his socks to the neat collection of shoes on the mat just inside the door. "Especially since my place is still torn up."
The room Chin shows him into runs the entire width of the house, open and spacious despite not being all that big, with bamboo floors and pure white walls setting off the few pieces of clean, modern furniture and some vivid paintings. The back wall is almost entirely a built-in set of bookshelves, which is always going to grab Steve's attention, but the real focal point lies outside the windows and French doors on the opposite wall: an expansive double-crater view of Punchbowl and Diamond Head, framed by Honolulu and the mountains, with the ocean beyond it all.
"Bro," Steve says, stepping out onto the tiny roofed lana'i. The house itself clings to the edge of the ridge; the lana'i juts out over the drop-off, like being suspended in mid-air, with that view spread out all around them. Honolulu proper is only a few miles away, but it's quiet and peaceful in the neighborhood. "This is awesome."
"Thank you," Chin says, again with a real smile, and that's some kind of a record, Steve thinks. Two smiles in less than two minutes aimed at someone who is not Kono. "It's small, but--" He hesitates for a split-second before finishing, "There's only me, so it works well."
"Yeah, no, this is great," Steve says, letting the little slip go without comment. "How long have you been here?"
"A while--it was, well, a mess is probably too kind of a description of the original condition," Chin answers. "It was built in the 50's and hadn't been touched since then, not until we gutted it. Took down to the studs and completely built it out again."
Steve notices the 'we' but Chin had hurried past it, so he lets it go again. It's not any of his business, and Chin clearly doesn't want to elaborate. "It looks great," he says, and lets Chin give him the tour.
Steve isn't sure what he expected from the day, but he's pretty sure it wasn't standing companionably in a small kitchen in a Honolulu neighborhood, slicing sea asparagus into uniform pieces under Chin's watchful eyes.
"Heard from Danny?" Chin asks, as he does something complicated to the whole onaga he's working on for their dinner.
"Only five or six times a day," Steve says, snorting. He generally wakes up to at least three texts, and if Danny's really on a roll, there will be a voicemail or two to go along with them. "He sounds like he's having a good time, even if they're making him crazy."
"Family will do that," Chin says, and Steve doesn't think it's just his imagination that he's hearing layers of emotion under the usual quiet tone. "Kono's already called twice to vent and she spent all morning on a shortboard out at Lanis."
"I guess it's a big crowd," Steve says, and Chin laughs, soft and rueful.
"Brah, you have no idea."
"It was always just us, you know?" Steve sweeps the neat pieces of asparagus into the bowl of ice water Chin had set out earlier. "I mean, maybe one or two guys from my dad's station, if they didn't have anyplace else to go. It was good, but still pretty quiet."
Chin's shaking his head and laughing for real now, looking about ten years younger. "Oh, we are anything but quiet. Big enough crowd that we just set up tables in the garage--plywood on sawhorses, and cover them with blankets and sheets, and put the food out on that. Everybody brings whatever--enough food to feed half the island, everything from turkey and dressing and all to sushi and poke and--"
"Soondae?" Steve asks, only a little wistfully. He'd gotten addicted to the peppery blood sausage while running an op out of Chinhae, and hadn't gotten around to finding a steady supply since he'd been back in the islands.
"And soondae," Chin says. "Of course. And chili from Zippy's."
"Oh, man, Zippy's," Steve says, with a laugh. "We have got to get Danny over there. He'll hate it so much."
Chin laughs with him, but then gets serious again. "Kono's dad--he has this old Super-8 projector and he rigs up a sheet in the backyard, shows old movies until the kids all pass out from sheer exhaustion while the aunties play mahjong."
Chin stops talking, busying himself with slicing lemons, and not that Steve didn't get it before, but he understands much better why Kono's been on the warpath about this.
"No, cuz," Chin says into his phone. "We're not running a scam on you; McGarrett really is here, and I really do have eight pounds of onaga ready to go for dinner." He holds the phone out away from his ear and Kono's loud enough that Steve can hear her even without it being on speaker. "Would I lie to you?"
He doesn’t even have to move the phone away from his ear for Steve to hear Kono’s emphatic Hell, yes>.
"Hey, " Steve calls, leaning a little further back in the chair he's already got balanced on the back two legs so he can prop his feet on the rail that runs around the lana'i. Chin looks at him as though he expects to be picking him up off the floor; he's clearly been spending too much time with Danny. "Picture time."
"Hang on," Chin says into the phone, and Steve raises his beer in a long-distance toast as Chin snaps a picture of him and sends it to Kono. "Satisfied, cuz?" He listens for another few seconds and laughs as he says good-bye. "She says she still doesn't trust us, but she has to go fish a couple of the kids out of the creek before they drown, so we're off the hook for now." He slips his phone in his pocket and reaches for his own beer. "She'll be back for more, so we better take whatever we can get."
"Right there with you, man," Steve says. The shadows from the mountains have crept down to cover Punchbowl and most of the city, almost to Waikiki. Diamond Head is still in the sun, standing tall in front of the blue of the Pacific. Steve can't remember the last time he's just settled in and done nothing, but it's not making him crazy. "You guys--I don't mean to pry, but you're pretty close."
Chin hesitates for a second and Steve almost apologizes for crossing some invisible line.
"Well," Chin says, with a half-smile. "She picked me out when she was about three? Maybe she was four years old. Just marched right up to me while we were waiting for the New Year's parade in Chinatown and told me I needed to put her on my shoulders so she could see." He shrugged, but Steve could see the affection in the gesture. "Been that way ever since."
"So what you're saying is she's always gone right after what she wants," Steve says.
"Oh, yeah," Chin says. "No doubt about it; don't get in her way."
"Good person to have on your team," Steve says, and he's only halfway talking about work.
"You said it," Chin answers, and Steve knows he's not talking about work at all.
"You did all this?" Steve runs his hand over the facing on the bookshelves in the living room. "You, I mean. Not that you had it done; you did it, right?"
"Absolutely," Chin answers, looking down at his hands with a rueful smile. "Lost just about every nail I had and tore my hands up for years." He hesitates for a few seconds, then pulls a small, leather-bound photo album off a shelf and hands it to Steve. "Everything but the wiring and the plumbing."
"You available for consultations?" Steve asks, after only a few pages. The album's a chronology of the renovations, from the cramped, dark rooms of the original through some serious demo and back out again. Chin hadn't been kidding; they had completely torn the house apart, everything down to the studs. There are more than a few shots showing nothing but a couple of sleeping bags on a sub-floor under a bare light bulb.
In the middle of flipping through pages of floors being laid and sheetrock being hung, through the section on the bathroom and another one on the kitchen, Steve notices something else: in the first third, maybe half, in almost every picture there's Chin or a woman, the same one every time, and often there's a group. A younger Kono is there sometimes, so Steve's assuming some are family, and once or twice Steve recognizes his dad, but then there's no one, as though Chin was the only one there to take the pictures.
There's something else, too; the Chin in the pictures isn't just younger, he's relaxed and open. Steve finds himself flipping back to the earlier pictures, especially the ones with Chin as half of a couple, and when he looks up with the question in his eyes, trying to work out if it'd be pushing too far into Chin's private territory to ask, Chin meets his eyes evenly, if a little guarded. "My fiancee," he says. "At the time. Another relationship that didn't survive IA."
Steve's not surprised, not really. "Were you together long?"
"Six years," Chin answers. "I… was not the easiest person to live with when the investigation was happening."
"I don't suppose you were," Steve says. "I'd have been going insane."
"This place--putting it all back together, finishing it, figuring out how to make it all work as everything else fell apart… It kept me--well, not sane, because I don't think I was dealing all that well with the investigations, but I at least had something to focus on." Chin takes the photo album back and replaces it on the shelf.
"It's good that you had it," Steve says, thinking about his dad talking about regrets, about Rachel and Danny and how they ricochet between loss and anger still. "The job's not easy to start with--something like that happening makes it almost impossible."
"Kono will tell you that there's a rhythm and a reason for things, beyond what we want to see," Chin says, with a sigh.
"Yeah, well, don't tell her I said this, because I really don't need her gunning for me the next time we put on the pads and spar, but she really is a surfer, isn't she?"
"No doubt about it," Chin says.
The house doesn't have a dining room, only a table in a nook in the kitchen. It's a light, small table, though, easy enough to move; and there's just enough space for it out on the lana'i. The city is lit up for the night, Punchbowl slicing dark into the lights, Diamond Head lost in the black of the ocean. Steve watches for a few minutes, then wanders back into the kitchen where Chin has the onaga steaming in a long bamboo basket while he heats oil in a wok. He hands the sea asparagus, still in the bowl of ice water, to Steve, with instructions to drain and dry it, while he stirs together a fast tempura batter. After that, Steve just does his best to stay out of the way while dinner comes together in a smooth, controlled rush.
The only lights on the lanai come from a couple of hurricane lanterns, but the onaga is tender enough to almost fall off the bone and the asparagus is easy enough to eat with the ebony chopsticks Chin sent out for the table setting.
"You," Steve says after the first bite. "You have been holding out on us--we are never letting Danny anywhere near a grill again."
"Thank you," Chin says, and the light from the candles in the lanterns is more than enough for Steve to know that Chin is genuinely pleased. "I haven't done this much lately, but it used to be something we--I--enjoyed."
"My dad--one of the things he always told me was that life was what you made of it." Steve put the chopsticks down and took a careful drink of his beer. "That it never went the way you planned, but you still could make it yours."
"That sounds very much like your father," Chin says, his smile reaching his eyes.
"It made me crazy to hear that when I was a kid--I was going to do it right, you know?" Steve holds onto the bottle, rotating it in his hands, picking idly at the label. "I had plans and I followed through on them and I was in control."
"Right there with you, brah," Chin says. "I had it all mapped out. Knew every step I was going to take."
"Yeah," Steve says, tight and hoarse, the events of the last months rushing past him, starting and ending with a gunshot over a shitty cell connection. "Yeah."
"And here we are," Chin says, his voice calm and sure, and when Steve looks up, Chin's watching him like he knows everything that's running through Steve's head.
"Not at all where I thought I'd be," Steve admits, and Chin lets him say it, doesn't rush in to tell him anything. "That's, uh, not exactly what I thought I was saying either. I just wanted to say that I admire you for not letting them bury you."
"Too stubborn to know when to quit," Chin says, after a beat, and he's lost that assurance he wears like armor. "Kono will tell you that." Steve thinks it might be the first time he's ever really seen Chin lose his equilibrium, or maybe it’s just the first time Chin's ever let him see it.
"Whatever works," Steve says, and then has to laugh with Chin, because Jesus, there's another saying his dad used to beat to death, and Chin knows it, too.
There's not much to clean up, but Chin accepts Steve's offer to help out. It's a little bit of a dance as they move around the tiny galley kitchen, but it's comfortable, in a way Steve is coming to associate with this team he's put together. The SEALs are family--always--but that's more about functioning in insane environments. Intelligence is a job--one that he's enjoyed, but nothing like this group. He's not sure if it's because of the connections he and Chin and Kono share, or if it's because Danny just drags them all along in his wake, but there's an ease between them that he knows isn't at all how things generally work.
Still, when they're back out on the lana'i--it's going to take a long time for Steve to be bored with the view--with one last beer for the night, it's a surprise to hear himself ask, "Why did you go along with this? I know Kono's your girl and all, but I've seen you tell her to stand down before."
"Ah, but have you ever seen her actually do it?" Chin answers. He's quiet for a few seconds, then adds, "My first reaction was to do just that, but… Maybe it's time I step a little out of this hole I dug."
"You had good reason for digging it," Steve tells him, and Chin shrugs.
"Maybe," he says. He looks at Steve thoughtfully. "I could ask the same thing of you. Why did you go along with this?"
"Hey, you know Danny's like a dog with a bone when he gets something in his head," Steve says, but it's not a fair answer and he knows it. Chin will let it slide, but that's not fair either. "I--holidays haven't mattered in a long time, but being back here again," Steve says, searching for the right words. "It seemed like a good time for a change."
"I can drink to that," Chin says, holding his beer up. Steve clinks bottles with him, and leans back to watch the lights a little longer.