Steve wanted nothing more than to wipe the smarmy look off of the bastard’s face, made more evident in the blue light of the interrogation room. He took several deep breaths and waved a hand at Chin, who stood as if placid but anyone who knew him would see the concern in his eyes, the slight forward lean of his body. They had no real cause to hold Onakea and all three of them in the room knew it. People might believe the guy had used magic to turn Detective Danny Williams into a toddler, but proving it was a whole other kettle of fish. To be honest, Steve didn’t care about justice. All he wanted was for Onakea to put Danny back to his usual, ornery, disrespectful, and adult self.
“If you did it in the first place, then you know how to reverse it,” Chin said, as stepped closer into Onakea’s space. “Do it and you’re free to go. No harm, no foul.”
“I told you, brah,” Onakea said with a shit-eating insouciant grin, “I don’t know how long the little haole is going to stay a keiki. Ho, cute, da baby.”
As Steve stood there, he couldn’t stop hearing Danny’s sobs from earlier that day, so strong at first and only fading to hoarse gasps after a good half an hour. He couldn’t stop seeing the crowd of people gawking at him holding onto the naked boy atop a small palm tree while they waited for a ladder truck to come assist them down. The T-shirt loincloth hadn’t survived Danny’s amazing gravity-defying climb, and for as much as Danny fought him with tiny punches and kicks, all Steve saw and heard were the scratches to that soft child’s skin and the unfiltered sorrow in his cries.
“You asshole,” Steve said. “Give us a straight answer.”
He didn’t know if he was going to be able to handle this. He’d gotten through Annapolis without a hitch. He was SEAL trained. Before now, Steve would have said – confidence, not arrogance – that he could adapt to any situation he might find himself in, but this was … he didn’t do toddlers. More specifically, he didn’t know what to do with a toddler with whom he was used to sharing a bed, as a fully-grown man.
“The straightest answer I got is that it ain’t permanent, and I been saying it.”
The grin on Onakea’s face faltered when he looked directly at Steve. Not much, but enough that Steve could tell he was annoying, but he wasn’t deceiving them.
“Could be a day, could be a month. Sometimes I don’t know my own strength, and your Detective Williams was really asking for it.”
A month. Oh shit, Onakea had better be exaggerating. Steve strolled behind Onakea before he ran his hands over his face, pressed them into his eyes for a moment, completed the motion by clasping them together at the back of his neck. He could feel Chin’s eyes on him and he knew he had to get a grip. This wasn’t the end of the world. If Onakea was to be believed, Danny would be just fine if … when this wore off, no matter the duration. The problem was Steve had no way of knowing whether or not Onakea was telling the truth. He wasn’t prepared to lose his Danny like this or ever, so he had no choice but to believe their shaman slash kahuna wasn’t lying. There was no way around this but through it.
Throughout his life, Steve hadn’t had time to contemplate fatherhood. He was just a kid when his mom had died and after that, well. The strained relationship with his father before that only worsened, for the short time Steve had remained on the island and the years that stretched out after that. The decisions that his father had made and the ramifications of it all had shaped him, made him who he was. And deep in his heart he was afraid if he ever had kids, he’d repeat the mistakes John McGarrett had made with him and Mary. Knowing what he knew now about why his father had chosen the path he had did nothing to change that feeling in his gut.
Steve certainly wasn’t about to start thinking about raising his partner as a son. No. It wasn’t going to come to that, and even if it did, someone more qualified would do it. No one would blame him for not being able to take that. Danny’s parents … oh, shit, Danny’s parents. He might have to call them with this news eventually.
“No one asks for something like this, you jackass,” Chin said.
When Steve finally lowered his hands, Chin was looking at him rather than Onakea. The expression on his face was equal parts sympathy and resignation. They weren’t going to get anywhere with Onakea, and Chin knew they couldn’t do anything to force it. He clenched his jaw and nodded once. Chin nodded back, and it was all Steve needed to get the hell out of there to let him take care of releasing the jerk. Much as he wanted to beat a more satisfactory answer out of Onakea, he was better off not getting tossed in jail himself. Sometimes he missed the corrupt leadership of Pat Jameson, except no, not really. He wouldn’t leave Danny alone like that, no matter what size he was.
“You bruddahs need to lighten up,” he heard Onakea say as the door shut behind him.
It was almost enough to make him turn around and commence to beating. Almost. His focus was pulled elsewhere. For as much as Wee!Danny seemed to hate everything about him, Steve was still drawn to the boy as surely as he’d been drawn to Danny as an adult. He’d heard more than once in his life that he had his own gravitational force, that people were pulled toward him and it made him a natural leader. Maybe that was true, but it wasn’t any less true about Danny. It was why he never thought of Danny as anything but an equal in this, their working and living partnership.
“When George woke up, Steve was just taking his first steps. A nurse was helping him, and the children were watching,” Lori’s voice floated from his office as Steve entered Five-0’s headquarters.
“Steve,” Danny’s high voice said, grumpy.
“Uh huh, like someone you know, right?”
Steve halted in his tracks, stomach twisted. He just didn’t know how such a small person could have such a large stubborn streak, or what it was about him that Danny didn’t like. He edged closer to his office, trying not to disturb the storytelling.
“Oh, Danny,” Lori said. There was a pause, then the sound of a page turning. “The go cart was standing there empty. George was curious. He looked at it. Then he climbed into it.”
Steve lingered at the door, unnoticed by Lori or Danny, and tried not to be hurt at the way Danny was snuggled in Lori’s lap with his head pressed against her shoulder. Danny was still clad only in the T-shirt loincloth, somewhat tattered from the palm tree incident. In a way, it was pretty amusing that Lori was reading Danny stories about a curious little monkey. He smiled for a moment, but then frowned. If there’d been time to find a book, surely Lori or Kono might have taken a few minutes to get Danny some clothes.
A light touch on his arm had Steve turning away from the sweet scene before him. Kono stood next to him, her eyes serious.
“Any luck with Onakea?” she asked quietly.
“Obviously not,” Steve said with a half-smile. He gestured to Danny, still very much a small boy. He sighed as Danny chatted with Lori about Curious George’s shenanigans, laughing cutely. “He said he doesn’t know how long it’ll be, but that Danny should be fine.”
Kono sniffed and turned her attention to Danny and Lori, eyes softening into wistfulness she’d probably deny if Steve called her on it. He didn’t. Kono had many layers, so it stood to reason family was included in that. Seeing it aimed toward his deaged partner was a bit much for him to take. All of this was.
“Do you believe him?”
“I don’t think we have a choice.”
They stood there silently, then, watching as Lori flipped through the pages of a very large book. It was an anthology, Steve realized, and he wondered again how they’d wrangled that up but no clothes for Danny. He found himself staring at the way Danny played with his left ear as Lori read, folding it as easily as a piece of paper and tucking it into the canal. He smiled at that odd tidbit. He’d never noticed if Danny’s ears had particularly soft cartilage, and he knew Danny’s ears. He must have outgrown the idiosyncrasy as he’d aged.
“Where’d the book come from?” Steve asked.
“Er, I may have had it in my office,” Kono said, blushing. She got a fierce glint in her eye, and waggled a finger at him. “Not a word. Curious George is classic.”
“Aww, that’s adorable.”
“Danny seems to like it.”
“Yeah. Yeah, he does,” Steve said. He smiled at the blond boy sheltered in Lori’s arms for a moment, then blurted, “Lori’s good with him. So are you and Chin.”
All three of them had looked at him with disappointment when the footage from someone’s camera phone managed to make the network news, of him and Naked!Wee!Danny in a tree together. That little white butt no one on the island knew belonged to one of the members of Five-0, and Steve planned on keeping it that way. To anyone on O’ahu who’d seen it, the governor included, it had just looked like Steve coming to the rescue of an overly adventurous waif. To his team, it had looked like Steve failing to care for his partner in his diminished capacity.
“Maybe you should …”
“Uh uh, Steve. No way,” Kono said. “He’s all yours.”
“Kono.” Steve turned desperate eyes on her. “He doesn’t like me. He hates everything about me and I don’t know why. I don’t know how long this is going to last, and I don’t think… ”
“Danny doesn’t hate you, Steve. He’s just a baby. Babies don’t know how to hate.”
“He’s punched me, peed on my shoe and he ran away from me the first chance he got,” Steve said, ticking each transgression with the fingers of his right hand. “If we don’t know how long he’s going to be like this, do you really think I’m the best one to take care of him in the meantime?”
“Kono’s right,” Lori said, suddenly at their side and damn it, her eyes were so compassionate it made Steve ill. “Danny doesn’t hate you. I think he sees that you’re in charge, and from what I’ve managed to glean, Danny’s need to buck authority started early in life.”
Great, she’d profiled a toddler. Good to know she could pull that skill out when she wanted, Steve though uncharitably, and was glad he managed to keep it internal a second later. He wasn’t being fair, his own frustration and heartbreak keying him up too much.
“Sounds like him,” Steve said after a beat, chewing on the corner of his lip as he looked around Lori to Danny, sprawled out on the couch asleep. “But doesn’t that just prove my point? Any of you would be a better temporary guardian, because he gets along with everyone except me.”
“Now,” Kono said pointedly, “but who do you think he’s going to want when this … whatever it is wears off? Since you’re being dense, I’ll give you a clue: you.”
Steve scowled to hide the fact that those words were both true and exactly what he’d needed to hear. He didn’t like getting sappy in front of anyone but Danny, and even that happened as rare an occasion as he could make it. So far since Danny had poofed into a mini version of himself, he’d been a mess. That, if nothing else had to stop.
“You couldn’t have gotten him some clothes?” Steve grumbled, accepting his role as Danny’s caretaker begrudgingly. “I was in with Onakea for at least an hour.”
“That’s your job, brah.” Kono punched him on the shoulder. “I got one of my cousins to bring over a car seat, though. Her baby just got big enough for a new model.”
“Car seat? But no clothes the kid just outgrew? Kono, come on.”
“She had a girl, Steve. Danny would kill you if he found out you put him in dresses just because you were too chicken to take him out,” Lori said, totally serious. “A quick trip to Ala Moana Center in his new car seat might make him like you more. After his nap, of course.”
He stared at the too innocent to be innocent grins Kono and Lori were giving him. Steve hated them, he really did. He slumped his shoulders and nodded. He entered his office on light feet so as not to wake Danny. He crouched down, amazed at how innocent his partner looked while asleep. That, at least, was something that he could recognize. Sleep took the careworn lines from a thirty-five year old Danny’s face, made him look younger. He couldn’t help himself. He brushed his fingertips at the stray hairs falling across Danny’s forehead. Steve was so full of confused emotions, it wasn’t even funny.
“Hey, little guy. Looks like it’s just you and me for a bit,” he whispered, too quietly for Danny to hear.
Or so Steve thought. Bright blue eyes popped open at his voice, glared at him. Then a tiny hand lashed out and jabbed him in the nose. Déjà vu. The next thing he knew, he was on his ass. And Danny, well, Danny wriggled out of his makeshift clothes with a battle cry of, “Nakkie time!” and took off at a dead run through the tech room, was out into the halls of the Ali'iolani Hale before anyone had the wherewithal to grab him.