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Kiss You Or Kill You

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Podfic links (courtesy of paraka): MP3, M4B, and streaming below

Steve had been a little surprised when Danny appeared at his door at this early hour, Grace in tow. It wasn't that his partner wasn't welcome anytime, especially since they had established a routine early in their working relationship wherein Danny would arrive at Steve's house and they would head to HQ, Steve driving. But today Danny was due in court to testify and they had agreed he would catch up with the rest of the team when he was done.

Danny still had an hour before he had to be at the courthouse and Grace was tucked securely in his arms, dozing against his neck. He smiled sheepishly as Steve let them in, following Danny into the living room where he laid Grace on the couch. She blinked fuzzily before curling into the pillow, content that she was safe and among friends.

Steve followed Danny into the kitchen and stopped in the doorway, half an eye on Grace to make sure she didn't wake up. "I am so sorry for springing this on you last minute," Danny said in a low voice, "but Stan's mother is in the hospital and he and Rachel had to fly back to the mainland late last night but we didn't want to pull Grace out of school for god knows how long and today's an in-service day and—"

Smiling, Steve grabbed Danny's shoulders , cutting off the stream of words. "Take it easy, Danno. Is this your Jersey way of asking if I'll watch her while you're in court?"

Danny blew out a breath, the tension draining from his body. His eyes were beseeching as he grabbed hold of Steve's hands where they still rested on his shoulders. "Would you? I know it's a lot to lay on you suddenly and I understand if you can't—"

Steve moved his grip up to loosely grasp the shorter man's neck, almost cupping his face and took a small step forward just beginning to invade Danny's space. "I'd love to watch her for you. She can play on the beach out back or watch TV, then we'll pick you up when you're done and go out to lunch."

Danny took the final step into Steve's space, leaning his head against Steve's chest. "Thank you so much. I will make this up to you, babe, I swear."

Steve let himself enjoy the feel of Danny relaxed in his arms before slowly pulling far enough away that he could see Danny's face again. "Buy lunch and we'll call it even. Have you had breakfast?" he asked, attempting to distract himself from how much he had wanted to keep Danny wrapped in his embrace and kiss the stress away. But Danny was just a more tactile person than he had ever been and he was reading more into Danny's gestures than he should.

Danny snorted. "I gave the last apple in the house to Grace."

Steve pushed Danny down into a chair and moved the rest of the way into the kitchen toward the fridge. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Danny lean back, relaxing while Steve took over. Danny's eyes followed Steve as he pulled out eggs, cheese, and bacon and grabbed two skillets from a cabinet.

"I could've just gotten some malasadas on the way," said Danny.

Steve gave him a withering look as he placed a glass of orange juice in front of Danny. "I would rather you not keel over from clogged arteries while we're in pursuit."

"No, I'll just have a stress-induced heart attack or stroke because you've pulled out the hand grenades."

Thirty minutes later, Steve pushed his partner out the door so he could be at court on time and turned to find a sleepy younger Williams blinking at him from the doorway to the living room. He smiled and she blinked her eyes a little wider, waking up a bit more.

"I smell bacon," she said, her hopeful face a smaller mirror to her father's.

"Really?" Steve looked around in faux shock. "Is there bacon in here?" Grace nodded vigorously. "Do you want some bacon?" A huge smile broke across her face and she was close to bouncing in excitement. "With some scrambled eggs and orange juice?"

"Yeah!" she yelled, running into the kitchen and taking over the seat Danny had just vacated. "Bacon and eggs, Uncle Steve! Daddy's not very good at cooking," she said, voice serious like this was a secret she didn't share with anyone but felt Steve really should know and then stopped as she apparently remembered something. "But only a little bit of bacon. Mrs. Baker at school says bacon is bad for me."

Steve chuckled to himself and followed at a more sedate pace. "A little bacon never hurt anyone. How about if we share the bacon? It can't be bad if you share, right?" She seemed to consider his logic and then nodded, smiling at the sneaky way he had gotten around "bad food" with "sharing is good."

As he cooked a second meal, he wondered at how his life had turned so abruptly, how six months ago he would have sworn he could never be happy living a civilian life. Now the only thing that would have improved this moment was if Danny had been able to stay a little longer.

Grace finished her breakfast almost as soon as Steve turned his back to get another glass of juice. He asked her about school and she told him about the boy in class who was such a bully because he kept stealing Sherry's homework and how she liked tennis lessons okay but liked watching football with Danno better because he watched with her instead of just dropping her off. Steve made a mental note to take the two of them to another game the next time he could.

Once he was sure her food had settled, he suggested they go swimming out back and she screeched her delight and ran to get the bag Danny had brought with her where Steve assumed she had a bathing suit stashed away.

They spent a fun few hours in the shallows, with Steve alternating playing seahorse and seashark. After they rinsed the salt out of their hair, Grace curled up on the couch with Lilo & Stitch in the DVD player while Steve worked on his laptop, writing the few reports he couldn't foist off on Danny.

He smiled at his timing when the movie's credits rolled just in time for them to go meet Danny. There was a spring in his step as he headed out to his truck and buckled his young charge in. For once he drove at the speed the traffic was dictating, well aware that Danny would kill him if he had so much as a fender bender with Grace in the car.

She was happily singing along with the bubblegum pop song on the radio as they pulled into the garage under the courthouse. There was a space available next to the Camaro and Steve pulled into it. They still had a few minutes before he expected court to wrap and they decided to head inside to wait.

Grace continued to sing and Steve was appalled when he couldn't help but join in. He knew he'd never get it out of his head now.

He heard car doors open nearly in unison around them and the hair on the back of his neck raised suddenly. Instinctively he reached for Grace, ready to haul her back to his truck if need be. He'd had bulletproof glass installed in all 5-0 vehicles and he trusted that to running blindly with an unknown number of hostiles nearby.

He turned and saw an unfamiliar man stepping out of hiding between the truck and the Camaro and cursed his inattention. A half-dozen men began to appear and the way they moved marked them as former military while their impassive, pale faces told him they weren't local—hired mercenaries from the mainland more likely.

Squatting down to Grace's level, he whispered in her ear, "When I tell you, I want you to run as fast as you can upstairs and scream for help. Only stop when you find Danno. You got that?"

She nodded quickly, having picked up on the tension when Steve first reached for her. He hated not staying with her but this could easily deteriorate into a shooting match and Steve couldn't bear the thought of a stray bullet tearing through her small body, much less what Danny would do if his daughter were hurt.

"Try to stay behind the cars as much as you can," he added and stood, the hand he still had on her shoulder carefully angling her in the right direction. He took a deep, calming breath as the men approached them, his other hand resting on the butt of his pistol. He let the breath out slowly and tapped Grace, pushing her slightly forward. "Go, Grace."

She took off, screaming bloody murder and Steve was glad when she ducked behind an Explorer. As he hoped, her high-pitched voice echoed off the cement, making it near impossible to pinpoint her location. The men flew into action, all heading for him. His weapon was out of his holster in a practiced motion and he got off two shots before the closest man was on him.

Both shots hit their targets, but four more men appeared to take the place of their fallen comrades. Instinct took over and he ducked a blow aimed at his head, rolling by another attacker in time for a third to stand suddenly, knocking the gun out of his grip. He couldn't get to it but was able to kick it under a sedan so it couldn't be used against him.

Two more men rushed him, each carrying a blade. He twisted and parried to avoid the sharp edges, his eyes darting around and seeing all of the men converging on him. They knew how to fight as a group and, instead of getting in each other's way, they were complimenting each other's skills. He was badly outnumbered and he knew he was going to lose this fight if help didn't arrive soon.

The quality of Grace's screaming suddenly changed and he saw an older man, likely in charge if his better quality clothing was anything to judge by, yank Grace from between two cars. Steve yelled her name, lunging to get to her, and the distraction was enough for one of the assailants to slash at him, digging a deep gash into his side.

"Uncle Steve!" screamed Grace, kicking and punching the man restraining her.

The spike of pain doubled him over and twin pinches on his back gave him the briefest warning before the voltage of a stun gun threw him to his knees, a yell tearing out of his mouth.

The gun holder continued to shock him for several long seconds before releasing the trigger and leaving him panting on the ground. Grace called his name again and he steeled himself, rising suddenly and hoping he could pull the prongs out of his skin so he could get to Grace.

Luck was not on his side and he found himself writhing in agony for another dozen seconds. He stayed down this time, trying to remember how to breathe until the two knife wielders hauled him to as close to standing as he could manage while his legs imitated rubber.

The well-dressed man holding Grace walked up to him easily, the little girl no longer struggling as she stared at him, tears streaming down her face.

"Easy, Commander McGarrett. That's no way to behave. If you continue to fight, I have no qualms about cutting the girl." A switchblade flicked open in the man's left hand and Steve stilled immediately. "Much better." He nodded to someone behind Steve and a moment later an engine started, a large van by the sound of it. A knot formed in his stomach.

"Where is your phone?" asked the man. Steve started to reach for it but stopped when the switchblade came closer to Grace. "Ah! Just tell me and one of your new friends will retrieve it."

His eyes flicked to the man on his left and the blank look that met him told him nothing. "Front left pocket," he said, his voice hoarse.

His guard retrieved it and handed it to another man who approached their leader. Grace was given to a third knife wielding man and his phone was passed to the leader. Steve watched him take the phone and start scrolling through his contact list. The man's hair, once dark brown or black was now mostly silver and the tan of his face spoke to years spent in Hawai'i or similar locations. His black shirt and slacks were expensive, putting him in the business world as some sort of executive.

"Detective Danny Williams," he said, grinning widely as he called Steve's partner.

***

Upstairs, Danny smiled to himself when he saw Steve's number appear on his phone. Court had been long and boring and he was looking forward to having lunch with his two favourite people.

"Hey, babe. I just finished and I'm headed to the car. Where are you?"

"Not quite, Detective Williams," said a voice that sounded familiar but was definitely not Steve. "Though I do find it interesting how you greet him. No, this is Peter Jankowski."

Danny froze, his eyes widening in shock, visions of a young spoiled man running rampant across Honolulu chasing through his mind. David Jankowski had killed three people in a single day and, through reckless driving and no regard for the consequences of his actions, racked up damages in excess of a million dollars.

"Where's Steve?" he asked, worry for his partner and his daughter overriding memories of the past.

"I have him and your daughter." He heard echoing footsteps and some rustling as the man walked. Parking garage, his mind told him and he bolted for the stairs that would take him down to his family. "Say, 'hi,' Steve," Jankowski said, his voice distant, presumably holding the phone away from himself.

"Danny," said Steve, his voice carefully neutral but holding a strain that Steve was trying and failing to hide. "Grace isn't hurt," he assured him and, while Danny was beyond grateful to know that his baby was unharmed, he was also desperate to know what condition his partner was in. Knowing Steve, he'd probably gone all Super SEAL and tried to fight off a hundred men. God knew what kind of condition he was in after obviously losing that battle.

"What about you?" He nearly yelled. "What happened? I'm coming, babe."

Danny heard scuffing sounds and a heavy door slamming shut. He was almost out of time and he still had no idea what part of the garage they were in.

"You destroyed my family, Detective Williams," continued Jankowski, taking up the conversation like there hadn't been an interruption. "Now I'm going to do the same to yours."

Seconds later, Danny finally finally reached the bottom of the stairwell and threw open the door to the parking garage. He saw the back end of a black panel van speeding around the corner to the exit, too far away for him to chase and he didn't dare shoot for fear of a stray bullet puncturing the sides and hitting Grace or Steve.

Cursing colourfully, he dialed Chin and walked to where he could see Steve's phone on the ground, the cracked display distorting the 5-0 seal background image.

***

Steve continued to glare at their captors while keeping one arm around Grace and the other hand pressed against the knife wound, slowing the bleeding as much as possible. He had noticed that not all of the mercenaries had piled into the van and he only hoped they weren't going to attack Danny when he came downstairs.

Grace stayed quiet as they drove through Honolulu, even when they switched vehicles and headed back into town. She seemed content to burrow into Steve's side, hiding her face from view. When she did turn to look at their captors, Steve was grateful to see that none of them had that twisted sparkle in their eye that he had seen in men who enjoyed hurting children.

After over an hour of driving, the car pulled into a warehouse. He wasn't sure if the circles they had driven were to confuse his sense of direction, to lose any possible surveillance, or just to waste time, but he did know they were near Pearl Harbor. His brain started churning out ways to tell his team where they were as the doors opened and they were prodded out.

The warehouse was large, but most of the space was in use, leaving plenty of places to hide. They passed an open area with a lone chair sitting in the middle, a camera pointed at it, and a large blank video screen in front of it. A bank of monitors and other computer equipment ran along another wall. Clearly, Jankowski planned to video conference with someone and Steve was confident it would be Danny. He was also grimly aware of where he would be during that event. He held Grace a little tighter and she squeezed his hand in response.

They passed into a makeshift hallway that was more the space between heavy boxes and equipment than a planned corridor. A few corners later, they stopped in front of a sturdy cage the size of a large walk-in closet. The lock on the door was standard and he knew he could pick it with little effort. The question was, what would he do after that?

They were pushed inside and the door locked behind them. Steve made a slow circle, holding onto Grace the entire time, and saw nothing useful. There were also no visible cameras monitoring what they did. Apparently they thought patting him down and emptying his pockets was enough. He considered using the simple lock pick tools he kept in the seam of the leg pockets of his cargo pants but decided to bide his time. He couldn't be sure how many men were in and around the facility and, while he might be willing to put his own life on the line with his crazy stunts, he would never do that to Grace. He was grateful, though, that his time with the SEALs and various special forces teams had instilled such paranoid habits in him even as a civilian.

He slipped out of the button-down shirt he was wearing over a gray tee shirt and bundled it to hold against his wound.

"Are you okay, Uncle Steve?" asked Grace, her voice trembling slightly as she stared at the wadded tee shirt, her brown eyes as wide as he'd ever seen them.

He hugged her to his good side, rubbing a hand down her head in an attempt to comfort her. Honestly, it hurt like a bitch but he wasn't about to tell Grace that. "I'll be just fine, sweetie," he said, deciding that it wasn't exactly a lie. Assuming Danny found them in time, he would be fine. "Let's sit down. It looks like we'll be here awhile.

Grace watched him ease his body down with a look of worried concern that looked remarkably like one he'd seen on Danny's face. Once he was settled, she curled herself around his good side, laying her head on his chest and wrapping her arms around his waist. His heart clenched at the easy trust and he knew he would endure anything, even death, to keep this little girl safe.

***

Steve was jolted from his dozing as he heard men approaching their cell. Grace gripped his hand, silent tears running down her face. His body was stiff and various joints screamed in protest as he raised himself to his knees, grabbing Grace's head in a gentle grip, only enough pressure to make sure her attention was on him.

"What's going on?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

"I think they're going to call Danny and make some sort of demand."

Grace's eyes lit up at the mention of her father. "Daddy?" she breathed, clinging to the thought that he would rescue them.

"Listen to me, honey. I want you to promise me, when I tell you to close your eyes, I want you to squeeze your eyes shut as tight as you can and hold your hands over your ears." He lifted her hands to her ears in demonstration. "Promise me you'll hold tight so you can't hear anything. Can you do that?"

The men were at the door and Grace's terrified eyes flicked between them and Steve but Steve's focus remained on Grace. "What are they going to do?"

"Promise me, Grace. Can you do that?"

She was crying openly now and he hated to do this to her, to push her like this but he was sure they were going to hurt him to send a message to Danny and he wouldn't let Grace see that if he could help it. "I promise," she said.

Two men grabbed his arms and hauled him to his feet while a third laid a heavy hand on Grace's shoulder, squeezing just hard enough to demonstrate his strength. They were led back the way they had come and into the main room.

The blank screen now showed a standby screen and a smaller inset displayed the live feed from the camera. It had a wide angle on the room capturing not only the chair but also the windows on the next floor and, more importantly, what was visible through them. Steve kept his face neutral as he realized it would take only a single broadcast to 5-0 to get his team here. He also worried that it would be too easy. Was it all an elaborate set-up to kill his entire team? As far as he knew, Jankowski's beef was with Danny. Taking Steve and Grace made sense as leverage over Danny, but killing the team? He was getting dizzy thinking through it, so he let it go. There was nothing he could do from here other than protect Grace so he would focus on that.

His escort sat him roughly in the chair, the movement jarring his knife wound and drawing a hiss of pain. He realized suddenly that he had lost his shirt bandage somewhere and prayed it was still in their cell. If he didn't bleed to death or wasn't killed outright, he was sure he would need it again.

Grace and her escort stopped to Steve's right and just behind him.

Another man came to Steve, drawing his attention. He was smaller than the other men, but still muscled. His eyes were expressionless as he pulled Steve's hands behind the chair and shackled them. He did the same to Steve's feet and then pulled a bundle of wires with small circular pads attached from somewhere behind the chair.

Steve's breath hitched slightly at the sight of the wires and the man smiled, apparently appreciating a victim who knew what was coming. Each wire ended in a pad that looked deceptively like a heart monitor patch and was taped to the skin near a joint. When the control device was activated, however, it would send an electric shock into the victim instead of reading the body's electric signals. He had only ever seen it used by enemy forces in war zones and he wasn't looking forward to the personal demonstration now.

Jankowski appeared as the dead-faced man was taping the last pad and the older man smiled gleefully when he saw Steve. "Perfect," he said, just under his breath. As he approached he pulled the switchblade from a pocket and flipped it open.

"Commander McGarrett, allow me to relieve you of your shirt." Steve kept still as the blade easily cut the gray fabric, exposing his chest, abs, and the bloody wound. Jankowski was entirely too interested in the wound for Steve's liking. He tsked as his fingers gently probed the area around the flesh, scraping dried blood off the skin. "I see the bleeding stopped." Jankowski met and held Steve's gaze. "That's too bad." His fingers prodded the wound roughly, sending stabs of white hot pain into Steve's body. Steve gritted his teeth, only letting a groan escape instead of the scream that wanted to be released. When Jankowski pulled away, hot blood flowed fresh down his stomach.

"Uncle Steve!" screamed Grace and Steve heard a slight scuffle as she twisted in her captor's grasp and he had to tighten his hold on her.

Jankowski chuckled and wiped his hand on his pant leg as he stood, the black fabric concealing the blood stain. "Let's get this party started," he said, nodding to the man behind the monitors.

The standby screen changed to a working screen and Steve assumed they were dialing 5-0. He was proved right when the worried faces of his team appeared, all at HQ. Danny was in front of the computer table, his hair a mess like he had spent the last few hours constantly running his hands through it.

"Steve. Grace. Oh, thank God." Danny's eyes took in everything about the room, giving Grace a good hard stare before resting on and staying with Steve. "God, Steve, what the hell happened to you?"

Jankowski was standing behind Steve and dropped a hand on Steve's shoulder, discouraging a response. "Your partner didn't come quietly. But don't worry, Danny. I'm taking good care of them for you. Isn't that right, Steve?"

"Yeah, right. Feels like I never left home."

"Listen, you son of a bitch, if you hurt them—"

"No, you listen." Jankowski went cold again and the hand that gripped Steve's shoulder was suddenly a vice. "My son was in prison for eight months before he died. He was beaten on a regular basis by the other inmates and it was all your fault." Steve kept from wincing but only barely. He focused on his team: Kono standing behind Danny, one arm crossed over her chest while the other covered her mouth, hiding her nervous lip-chewing from anyone not looking for it; Chin at the computer, typing furiously as he attempted to trace the call but getting distracted by what was happening on the screen; and Danny so close to the monitor, his eyes blazing fury and promising death as soon as he found Jankowski.

"Your son murdered three people! That was his choice. Even if I hadn't put him in jail, someone would have. He wasn't that hard to track down."

"You were the one who insisted he be housed with the monsters and lowlifes. And it killed him. It slowly destroyed him." Danny's face said he was getting ready for a rant, ready to tell the idiot holding his family just how deluded he was, but he held his tongue. "I'm going to call you once for every month you put my boy in prison" Jankowski continued. "I'm going to destroy what you hold dear."

Steve's shoulder was released as suddenly as it had been grabbed and fingers ran lightly over his chest, down his pecs, raising goosebumps along his skin. He wasn't sure if Jankowski was trying to be sensual or if it was just a product of his delusions. Either way, it was pissing Danny off to no end and making Steve uncomfortable. A hand drifted lower toward the wound and Steve braced himself for the pain. Fingers dug into the flesh, reopening the cut. Steve threw his head back, knocking it into Jankowski's chest, his eyes screwed shut as he held the scream of pain in, not wanting to give the man the satisfaction.

He heard Danny yelling at Jankowski to stop it, to let him go. He heard Kono and Chin yelling something else and he heard them restraining Danny, keeping him from leaping at the screen. He heard Jankowski laughing madly.

The agony eased as the man pulled away, patting his shoulder, and the pain from whatever bruise was forming from his earlier grip was like a bug bite compared to what he had just felt. When Steve was able to pry his eyes open, he met Danny's eyes, silently telling him he was okay, that he would live if Danny would find them. Danny nodded slightly, getting the message loud and clear. Steve saw Grace in the inset screen, tears streaming down her face as the guard held her easily, keeping her from running to Steve.

In the corner of his eye, he saw Jankowski signal to the dead eyed man and he knew what was next. "Grace!" he called, catching her attention. "Grace, close your eyes. Close your eyes."

Danny looked momentarily confused, trying to figure out what Steve had seen or knew and looking between his partner and his daughter. Steve saw Grace squeeze her eyes shut and hold her hands over her ears like he had shown her. She tucked her head down to her chest, compacting herself into a ball and forcing the guard to kneel down or drop her. Good girl, he thought as the dead-eyed man pushed a button and pain ripped through his body, finally pulling the scream from his throat.

***

Steve was hazily aware of Danny's voice cutting off abruptly when the video link was severed. Jankowski had said something to him before he broke the connection but words and their meanings were escaping him right now. The cuffs and shackles that held him clattered open. His instincts wanted him to fight, to attempt escape, but something told him no, that there was something else he was forgetting that was very important. Not that his muscles were responding to his attempt to move them, anyway.

Nausea rolled through him when hands grabbed his arms and he was dragged out of the chair. He was able to tilt his head to one side so that if he did hurl, it would hit one of his captors. Unfortunately, now that he was ready for it, his stomach settled.

"Uncle Steve!"

He turned his head at the voice, knowing that this was what was so important. Grace, his mind said. He tried to say her name but it came out only as a prolonged groan. She sobbed his name as they were led back to the cage.

When they were pushed inside, Grace immediately attached herself to him, mindful of his injury but not wanting to let go. They sat in their previous spot and Grace pressed the bundled shirt he had lost earlier to the wound. His strength returning, Steve was able to apply enough pressure to slow the bleeding so that Grace didn't have to hold it.

"'M okay, sweetie. I'm okay." He wrapped the little girl in a one armed bear hug, letting her cry into his neck while he petted her hair and kept repeating that he was okay. He didn't know how long they sat like that, but Grace calmed, eventually scooting down slowly so she was sitting at his side again, though her grip on his waist was tighter and one hand was clutching his pantleg like it was a teddy bear.

He was close to nodding off when he heard a single pair of footsteps approaching, the soft slide of leather soles on concrete telling him it was Jankowski before the man came into view. His expression appeared mild, but Steve could see the stress lines even from a distance.

Grace didn't move when Jankowski leaned heavily on the bars and Steve assumed she was asleep. He much preferred that so he kept his body relaxed and his voice low.

"What do you want?" he asked, glaring at their captor.

"Do you know what your partner did? Do you understand why I chose the two of you?"

Steve shook his head. "He did his job. He put a guilty man in jail."

Jankowski's face hardened slightly. "You think I don't know what my boy did? I know he killed those people. But he was sick. He needed help, not a prison. Your partner, he caught him, but he didn't listen to him."

"It's up to the court to decide where convicted criminals go, not cops."

"He could have spoken at the sentencing hearing. He could have told the prosecutor that he didn't deserve jail. I begged Detective Williams to see my son as a person, instead of a perp, but it fell on deaf ears. He took away everything I ever loved, threw my boy in prison to die. That's why I took you, Commander McGarrett. You and that little girl mean everything to him. So I'm going to take you from him."

Steve frowned at the way the man's voice rose in pitch, madness sparking in his eyes. "If you know that much, then you know we're 5-0. My team will find this place. Danny will find you and put you in jail, just like he did with your son."

For the first time, Steve saw Jankowski smile with complete sanity, which was even scarier. "He will find you. In fact, he's probably on the way." He paused and let Steve process that. "I want him to find us. When he does, I'm going to kill you both right here, in front of him. He won't be able to stop me."

"You do that and he'll kill you." Steve knew it in his bones. If Danny lost Grace, there would be nothing left for him, and he might very well kill everyone here before he came back to himself and damn the consequences. Honestly, Steve would probably do the same if anyone hurt Danny or Grace or Mary.

"I'm counting on it," Jankowski said simply.

Steve couldn't think of anything to say to that as Jankowski turned and walked calmly back the way he'd come. His mind raced. No doubt Jankowski had told the men he hired that he planned to keep them longer, but they never came by so there was no way to flip one of them. They were likely preparing for future calls to taunt Danny that would never happen. Steve had been surprised by the lack of a regular walk-through but had supposed they assumed the initial search and emptying of his pockets would be enough. Now, that would work to his advantage.

He carefully shook Grace awake, quickly assuring her that all was well. As much as he wanted her kept ignorant of the danger they faced, he also needed her alert and able to respond quickly when the shit hit the fan. She helped him work his lock picks out of his pant seam, her eyes wide with questions and fear.

"Danno's coming to get us. But we have to be ready," Steve whispered to her.

She nodded once, her resolve to help pushing her fear back. He wondered how long it had been since the call to Danny. He wasn't sure if his team could have traced the call or triangulated their location from what they could see through the windows of the warehouse. If Jankowski had made things too easy, caution would have them wait longer. He wanted to be prepared to move when the team stormed the building, but he was limited by the blood loss.

It all boiled down to the question of whether to make the effort to get to his feet now or wait until later. If he waited, he feared he wouldn't have the strength to stand or be able to pick the lock in time. If he got up now but had to wait too long, he might pass out and strand Grace with a crazy man. He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply and remembered that it was Danno and 5-0. They would come as fast as they could. He trusted his team and his partner.

"Can you help me stand up, sweetie?" he said, opening his eyes at his decision and throwing himself into it wholeheartedly.

Grace stood up first then helped Steve lever himself to his feet. It was painful and he couldn't hide the hiss from Grace as his knife wound opened again, warm blood rewetting the gray shirt that was now mostly brownish black and flapping uselessly around his torso. He left the button-down on the floor, all too aware that his situation was beyond that item being helpful.

He waved Grace off when she asked if he was okay and managed to stumble his way to the door. Grace handed him the picks without him asking and she stayed quiet as he closed his eyes again, this time concentrating on the lock mechanism and how the pick was fitting with the tumbler. It took him longer than it should have, but the lock clicked, the cage door swinging open, and he nearly fell over when his support was no longer in place.

As he stood up, he heard the unmistakable sound of flash grenades and SWAT storming the building and allowed himself a smirk of satisfaction. He had been right to put his faith in his team and their impeccable timing.

"Daddy!" said Grace, looking hopefully toward the main chamber where the sounds were coming from.

Steve grinned at her. "I told you Danno was coming for us." He pulled her closer to him and let his smile dim somewhat. "But the man who took us wants to hurt Danno by hurting us, so we're not out of the woods yet. We have to hide until we know it's Danno coming, okay?"

She nodded solemnly and they headed down the makeshift corridor, staying quiet while trying to move fast enough that they wouldn't be spotted before they could make a clean getaway. After they made a few turns, they found a nook that Steve felt would serve their purpose. Anyone moving quickly down the corridor would likely blow past them and Steve was confident he could at least slow an assailant down long enough for Grace to run away.

He tried to follow how the bust was going as they heard shouting from both sides and occasional gunfire, but the concrete of the building was throwing echoes and his mind was too fuzzy. He and Grace both tensed when they heard Jankowski swear violently from the cage and held their breath until they Danny's voice came from just around the corner, calling their names.

"Steve! Grace!"

"Daddy!" yelled Grace, stepping toward her father's voice while trying to stay with Steve.

Danny appeared a moment later and Steve had never seen a face as beautiful as his partner's in that moment. Grace moved away enough to grab her father's hand and dragged him back to Steve. Their eyes met over Grace's head and they shared a moment of relief at seeing each other again. Steve took a step toward his partner and immediately regretted it as his vision swam and the world suddenly titled sharply.

"Steve!"

He wanted to tell Danny not to worry but everything turned black as consciousness deserted him.

***

Steve's body was floating and there was a smallish warm presence next to him. The persistent beeping of a heart monitor and an unmistakable scent of disinfectant kept him from drifting back into drugged bliss. He flexed both hands carefully, discovering an IV line connected to the back of his left hand and someone grasping his right one. His right arm felt like it was wrapped around a vaguely Grace-sized body.

He blinked his eyes open and turned to see a brunette head tucked into his shoulder. He looked past Grace to find Danny tucked into what looked like the world's most uncomfortable hospital chair. Steve knew his back would be killing him if he stayed there too long.

"Hey, there, sleeping beauty," said Danny, a small smile lifting one side of his mouth and Steve had the distinct impression his partner was laughing at him.

Steve blinked a few more times before he managed a gruff, "Hi."

The attempt at speech brought his attention to his dry mouth, and before Steve could think to ask, Danny was up and around to the other side of the bed with a cup and straw held in front of him. Steve took a few short swallows, the relief immediate before Danny took it away again. "Thanks."

He looked at the sleeping girl at his side and he couldn't keep a frown from forming, unsure why Danny was letting her stay with him. Or why Rachel hadn't appeared to sweep the little girl away, no doubt ready to sue for single custody after her daughter had been put in harm's way. Again.

"You're her hero, babe. She was nearly in hysterics while the doctors were treating you." Danny belatedly noticed Steve's expression and started to get agitated. "But you probably don't want an eight-year-old glued to your side. I can move her. I'm sure Kono would be willing to watch her," he began, looking between Steve and his daughter like he hadn't thought that maybe Steve wouldn't find Grace's behaviour cute and endearing.

"I just didn't expect you to trust me with her after what happened," Steve admitted. Somewhere, his mind was telling him that he shouldn't be so direct, that there were better ways to say how he felt, but the morphine he was now sure was in the IV was stopping all of those thoughts from directly impacting the words that actually came out of his mouth. Damn narcotics.

It was Danny's turn to frown and his mouth opened and closed a couple of times like he couldn't figure out what he wanted to say because there were just too many possibilities. Steve kept his gaze on Grace, though he could still see Danny out of the corner of his eye.

"You trusted her with me and I couldn't keep her safe," continued Steve. "I was distracted and didn't see those guys in time and—"

"Shut up."

Steve's mouth closed with an audible click and he turned back to his partner, confused. The smirk was back on Danny's face but there was a fierceness to his gaze that hadn't been there before. "I don't know if I should kiss you or kill you, you giant ninja dork."

"I'd prefer you kiss me."

Steve felt a flush run up his neck to his face as his internal censor caught up to his thoughts a second too late. Danny's smirk widened.

"I've seen the footage from the parking garage security cameras and I've talked to Grace. You did everything you could to keep her safe," assured Danny. He tilted his head to one side, considering the man lying before him. "Why did you tell her to close her eyes?"

"So she wouldn't have to see them hurt me." Steve's tone clearly said that he was wondering at Danny's detecting skills.

"You protected her. I couldn't ask you to do anything else. If anything, I trust you with her more after this. And you're certainly not getting her to leave you alone without one hell of a fight."

Steve looked between Danny and Grace, amazed at the unconditional trust both Williamses had given him. He turned to grin at Danny and found his mouth captured in a kiss instead. It was chaste with a hint of heat held in check. Before Steve could respond, Danny pulled away, a sheepish look on his face.

"Better than killing you," he said in an awkward attempt at an explanation.

Steve used all of his drugged ninja skills to snake his free hand out and pull Danny back down for another kiss. This time he was able to deepen it and he took the opportunity to demonstrate to Danny just how much he preferred kissing to killing. They both had goofy grins on their faces when they pulled away, though Danny kept his face close to Steve's.

For once, Steve didn’t think he needed words to tell Danny how much he cared about him, choosing instead to scoot over a tiny bit and pull Danny down to lay beside him. Hospital beds were not designed to hold two grown men and an eight-year-old, but they managed it.