"I still don't see why you get to drive."
Danny grinned sunnily at Steve from behind the wheel of their rental. "Because you don't know how to get to Atlantic City."
That grin made Steve care far less about driving, but he'd learned early not to give in. Danny's rants were too much fun. "They have GPS in the car, Danny," Steve said, pointing at the blank screen on the dash. "Or you could tell me where to go."
"Oh, like you calmly sit behind in the passenger seat all over Oahu and tell me where to go and let me drive however I please? Oh, no, wait, you don't even let me drive my own car. Five years now and I still don't get to drive my car, even though I know the island as well as you do by now. So why would I let you drive my rental?"
"Do you two ever stop arguing?" Grace asked from the backseat, her voice holding all the scorn a thirteen-year-old could manage.
Steve looked over his shoulder at her, giving her a smile. "Only at the end of the day when we--"
"Agree on things," Steve finished, laughing at Danny.
Danny rolled his eyes in between navigating the maze of cars on the Atlantic City Expressway. "Don't worry, we'll get there in plenty of time even without your insanity that you like to refer to as driving."
Before he could respond, something caught Steve's eye out the window. He ended up turning all the way around in his seat to get a good look as they went by. "Were those peacocks?" Steve asked, turning back to Danny.
He saw Grace abandon her teenage air of nonchalance to climb to her knees and look out the back window. "I think they were," she said before settling back into the seat.
"Wow, Danny," Steve said, "you didn't tell me you had cousins this far south in Jersey."
"I'm going to ignore the intent of that comment," Danny replied, eyes firmly on the road, "and instead point out that you know the actual geography of my state, and that you just referred to it as 'Jersey'."
Steve shrugged. "Two visits a year for the last three years--something was bound to sink in."
"Through your hard head?" Danny countered without taking his eyes off the road. "Not necessarily."
"Are we there yet?" Grace said from the back seat.
Steve looked over his shoulder. "Is the car still moving?"
"Then we're not there."
Danny glanced at Steve. "Where did you learn your parenting skills?"
"Oh." Danny seemed to consider that for a moment. "That seems to fit, yeah." He glanced in the rearview mirror at Grace. "Ten minutes to traffic hell, another ten to find parking."
"We're going shopping, right?" she asked.
Danny clearly didn't miss Steve's groan, if his evil grin in Steve's direction was any clue. "Of course. What self-respecting Jersey girl wouldn't hit the outlets in Atlantic City? Besides," he added, his grin growing wider, "I'm sure Steve is just dying to shop."
"I hate you," Steve growled under his breath, hoping Grace wouldn't hear.
"Now, babe," Danny said, putting his hand oh-so-casually on Steve's thigh, "we know that's definitely not true. Because you love me. And you love Grace. And she wants to go shopping."
Steve managed a smile as he glanced back at Grace. "I can't wait to go shopping!" he said with what he hoped she'd at least read as enthusiasm. The squeeze Danny gave his thigh before moving his hand back to the wheel clearly meant he'd been enthusiastic enough.
Eight minutes later, Danny's definition of 'traffic hell' appeared in a mess of cars seemingly with no idea where they wanted to go or how to get there. "And I thought the tourists were bad in Hawaii," Steve muttered.
"At least I'm smart enough to just go with it," Danny said. "See how this goes? No swerving around on the shoulder, no darting into the other lane. We'll still get there."
"Before the concert starts?" Steve asked, raising an eyebrow at Danny.
"You should've let Steve drive," Grace said, earning her a grin from Steve.
Danny glared at her in the mirror. "As I am the one driving," he said, "I can turn around and go home, too."
"You're doing great, Dad!" Grace said instantly.
"Traitor," Steve said, but he was smiling at her over his shoulder as he said it.
They made it to a parking lot that looked dubious to Steve's eyes, but Danny seemed unconcerned. "I've parked here plenty. There was this one night that we--" he glanced back at Grace. "Um, I'll tell you later," he said.
Danny looked at Grace as he shut off the car. "Well if you'd rather hear the story than to go to the outlets...."
"Let's go," Grace said, opening her door.
They were waiting on the light at the corner by the lot when Steve noticed two men next to a building across the street. He looked at the sign--a bus station. The perfect place for a drug deal, he thought, sighing heavily.
"What is that sound?" Danny asked. "I know that sound. That is a bad sound."
"It was a sigh, Danny."
"Yes, Steven, but it was that sigh."
"'That' sigh?" Steve turned towards Danny, hands on his hips. "So, what, I have sighs to go along with my faces now?"
"You've always had sighs to go along with your faces. And that sigh was clearly the 'I'm going to blow something up' sigh."
"Danny, would you--"
"The walk sign is on," Grace said, sounding both annoyed and mortified by their argument.
Steve turned his attention back to the drug deal going down as they crossed the street. "Danny," he said quietly, "take Grace and wait around the front of the bus station."
"What?" Danny looked at Steve, who nodded at the drug deal. "Seriously? Only you could just happen across that."
"I'm not the one who chose the parking lot," Steve said, feeling justified in his dislike of that parking lot considering the circumstances. "Are we going to stand here on the corner or are we going to do something?"
"I'll call the cops," Danny said, taking out his phone.
Steve tapped his foot, but he stayed put, watching the two men carefully. One of them was starting to look pretty pissed off. "I don't think there's time for that," Steve said.
Danny looked at the group, then at Steve. "Oh for...just be careful," he said, pulling Grace down the street, despite her protests.
Steve approached the men casually, listening carefully. "--one more, man, I can pay tomorrow."
"Fuck off, asshole. You ain't got no money, you don't get no drugs."
"Oh yeah?" The junkie pulled a knife, and Steve lunged, knocking it out of the man's hand and slamming him and the dealer to the ground. Steve dug around in his pocket and came up with a couple of zip ties, securing the two as he heard sirens. The lights were visible when Danny came up beside him.
"Seriously," Danny said, looking down at Steve with a hint of amusement, "only you."
"Well if they aren't going to do their job," Steve said, nodding at the police who were getting out of their cars, "someone has to."
Danny covered his face with his hand for a few seconds. "Just let me do the talking with the police, okay? I'd rather not spend the night in jail." He turned to Grace. "Stay here with Steve," he said, before reaching down to haul up one of the perps, letting Steve haul the other.
Steve opened his mouth, but Danny put up a hand. "Don't you dare say it. I'm no longer a policeman in New Jersey, I can't book anybody."
Steve contented himself with a smirk as Danny led the two over to the police.
"I can't take the two of you anywhere," Grace said, her tone so much like Danny's that Steve had to hide a smile.
"To be fair, that one was really more my fault," Steve said, hoping to spare Danny the teenage ire.
"Good, then can you promise not to embarrass me by arresting anyone else tonight?"
Steve couldn't help grinning up at her this time. "Yes ma'am, if you can promise there won't be any criminal activity."
Her eye roll was pure Danny, too. "Steven."
His laugh only made her glare more.
"We wouldn't be shopping in such a hurry if you hadn't stopped to arrest people, Steven," Danny said, as they hurried to the tenth store in an hour.
"Come on!" Grace said, looking over her shoulder at them, "We still have four to go!"
"Four?" Steve said, turning to Danny in semi-mock horror.
Danny grinned, looking neither tired nor bored, and carrying more bags than Steve would've thought one teenage girl could accumulate in an hour. "Times like this are when it is abundantly clear you have never been married."
"Unlike you," Steve said, trying hard to keep any darkness out of his voice. He wasn't the least bit threatened by Rachel, but that didn't mean that he liked the thought of Danny having all that history with someone else.
"Rachel used to wear me out with all-day marathon shopping trips."
Steve laughed, a low chuckle as he leaned in, his mouth close to Danny's ear. "I have far more interesting ways to wear you out, Danno."
"Um." Danny cleared his throat, face a little flushed as he followed Grace into the next store.
"I thought you knew where you were going," Steve said, tapping his fingers on the door. "I distinctly remember you saying the whole reason you were driving was because you knew where you were going. Did you not say that, Daniel? Because I remember you saying that." He looked over his shoulder at Grace. "Do you remember him saying that, Grace?"
"I remember him saying it, but we're still going to miss the entire concert!"
"You," Danny said, pointing a finger at Grace, "enough of the teen drama. We will get there in plenty of time. It's right there, I just have to figure out how to get into the parking garage. And you," he pointed at Steve, "shut up."
Steve looked back at Grace again. "I think we hit a nerve."
"I'm going to hit several nerves on you if you don't shut it," Danny muttered, taking a hard right and another immediately after to pull into a parking garage. He drove up the ramp and circled until he found a spot. "There. We're here." He made an elaborate show of checking his watch. "And will you look at that, we have an entire hour before the concert starts."
Steve exchanged an eye roll with Grace. "All hail the king of Atlantic City navigation," Steve said, his voice laced with sarcasm.
"Whatever." Danny unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car. "Come on, we don't want to miss the concert."
"Speak for yourself," Steve muttered, careful not to let Grace hear. Personally, he'd just as soon run across another drug deal or maybe a nice little terror cell rather than go to the concert, but more than anything, he didn't want to disappoint Grace. So here they were, about to see some washed up former teen star that Grace had mooned over posters of for years.
A burst of crying from a teenager nearby caught Steve's attention. He saw her sobbing on a woman's shoulder, while the woman tried to comfort her. "It's okay," the woman said, "it's not the end of the world."
"You just don't understand, Mom," the girl wailed. "I waited so long!"
They walked past, and Steve turned back to catch up with Danny and Grace, who were closer to the entrance. They made it to the door when Grace stopped, put her hand over her mouth and pointed at a piece of paper taped to the door.
"Our Apologies - Performance Cancelled. Please contact your ticket seller for refund," Steve read out loud.
"No!" Grace turned to Steve and Danny, tears welling up in her eyes. "You think they mean it?"
"Maybe it's left over from last night. Let's find out," Danny said, ushering her through the door. Steve realized the mother and daughter walking back out to their car probably meant it was for tonight, but he said nothing. He wasn't upsetting Grace until he knew for sure.
The line of adults and unhappy teenagers around the ticket booth more or less confirmed the cancellation, but Steve and Danny waited to talk to a person anyway. "Sorry," the harried girl behind the counter said, "he's feeling unwell and can't go on."
"Unwell?" Danny asked, and Steve knew that tone far too well. "What do you mean, unwell?"
"I don't know, sir," the girl said with patently fake politeness. "I'm not his doctor."
"Well for what we paid and how far we drove, I think we deserve more than 'unwell' as an answer."
Steve put his hand on Danny's shoulder. "Danny, let's go."
"Seriously?" Danny turned to Steve. "You want to go?"
"We're not going to find out anything harassing her. Come on."
Danny sighed. "Thank you," he said to the girl, every bit as polite as she had been. He put his arm around Grace."Come on, Monkey."
Grace looked shell shocked, and Steve remembered the time his father had to cancel taking him to the Pro Bowl when he was around her age. He hadn't thought of it in ages, but at the time it had seemed like the end of the world. Never mind it had been beyond his father's control--it wasn't as if his father could control when criminals acted.
"Hey, Grace," Steve said, "what do you say we go eat at the fancy restaurant over there, and get a room and stay here tonight?"
She turned sad eyes on Steve. "What's the point?"
"The point is we're already here, and you get to see the agonized look on Danno's face when the check comes. And we can do some more shopping tomorrow before we leave."
That got a faint smile out of her for a second, before she shrugged. "Since we're here...."
"Let's go see about a table." The hostess told them it would be a two hour wait for a table. "Seriously?" Steve asked.
"No surprise," Danny said. "We'll be back in about 90 minutes to check in," he said to the hostess, leading Grace and Steve away.
At the reservation desk they fared better, with a room available immediately. Once they got into the room, Steve offered to go down and get some things they'd need to stay the night, since they hadn't planned on being there overnight.
"Maybe we can go after dinner," Danny said.
"No, it'll be fine," Steve said, hoping he could find something that might put a smile back on Grace's face. "I'll go get the stuff now and we can relax over dinner."
Grace flopped onto the bed and picked up the remote, turning on the TV, while Danny walked with Steve to the door. "You want me to come with you?" Danny asked.
"No, stay here with Grace and see if you can cheer her up. And if not, I'll see if I can bring her something back to help."
Danny gave Steve a smile. "I knew there was a reason I kept you around," he said, leaning in for quick kiss. "Don't be gone too long."
Steve squeezed Danny's shoulder and left. He checked by the restaurant, just to make sure they weren't moving any faster, but the timing hadn't changed, so he skirted the edge of the casino to go to one of the stores. Grace had enough clothes from their earlier shopping spree to get by, but he and Danny would need something to wear.
He was looking at a very loud Tommy Bahama shirt, trying not to laugh at the thought of Danny in it, when a conversation caught his attention. "--washed up drunk couldn't even go on stage."
Steve glanced out of the corner of his eye, to where a beefy security guard was talking with the girl at the register. "So that story about him being unwell--"
"Oh he was unwell, all right," the guard said. "Couldn't stand up for the bottles of Jack he'd downed."
The cashier shook her head. "Such a shame, he's so young."
"Disappointed all those poor girls, too," the guard said. "And now he's up there getting it on with a couple of--" the man looked around and lowered his voice to a whisper Steve barely managed to hear, "women who would absolutely not be hookers, because then I'd have to report it, and I've got to deal with these poor girls."
"Bastard," the cashier said. "The hotel should sue."
"And expose the reason they had to cancel?" The guard shook his head. "Not a chance." He checked his watch. "And I've got to go make sure he hasn't managed to OD or something in a minute," the man added, sounding disgusted.
Steve pulled the shirt off the rack and went over to the register, ending the conversation. He paid and left, stopping just outside the door to watch for the guard. When he came out, Steve followed closely behind, getting on the same elevator, and waiting until the man hit the button for the top floor before choosing the floor directly below it.
When the elevator reached his 'floor,' Steve exited and ran for the stairs as soon as the doors closed. The stairway at the top was locked, but Steve managed to break the code--really, hotels were so predictable, no matter what country they were in--and make it to the elevators in time to tail the guard.
Steve watched from around the corner as the guard stopped in front of one of the few rooms and pulled out a key, opening the door and peeking his head in before shuddering and pulling back, closing the door behind him. "Almost wish he was choking in his own vomit," Steve heard the guard grumble. "At least then we could send him to a hospital."
As quietly as he could, Steve hurried back to the stairs, running down to his floor. He entered the room to find Grace on her stomach, watching TV. Danny was sitting on the other bed, watching Grace. Both of them turned to Steve as he entered the room.
"Got you a shirt," Steve said, tossing the bag on the bed. "But I realized you have the keys, so I can't get Grace's stuff out of the car."
Danny pulled the keys out of his pocket. "Here," he said, about to toss them, but Steve waved him off.
"I'm not quite sure where we left the car," Steve said, trying to make it sound believable. "You'll have to come with me."
"Grace," Steve said, "will you be okay for a few minutes?"
"I'm thirteen, not three," she said, waving the remote distractedly.
Danny looked at her, then at Steve, then back at Grace. "Don't open the door for anyone, okay?"
"Danno, you've been training me to do that since before I could speak."
"Just don't forget it, okay?"
He placed a kiss on her head and followed Steve out of the room. "Okay, not only do I know you know where the car is, your freakish brain could probably tell me how many steps it would take to get there from here," Danny said quietly, as Steve led him to the door to the stairs. "So what gives?"
"That overpriced, overrated hack we brought Grace here to see?" Steve said, trying to keep his voice quiet. "He's not sick. Well, not in the way they said anyway. He's drunk. In bed."
"Well, while I would personally like to punch him in the face for that, there's nothing we can do about it."
"With two hookers."
Danny's smile was the kind of devious that made Steve fall in love with him all over again. "Now that," Danny said, "we can do something about."
"We have no jurisdiction here, as you're so fond of reminding me," Steve said. "But you didn't happen to get the names of those cops earlier, did you?"
Danny's smile grew. "I still have Officer Thomas's card. Both he and his partner were very grateful for the easy collar."
"So grateful they'd help us out?"
"I think we wouldn't even need to ask twice."
Danny took out his cell and called Thomas. They were still on duty, and only too happy to come by and help. Steve took the phone and filled Thomas in on the situation. By the time Thomas and his partner, Crawford, arrived, Steve and Danny were waiting at the front desk.
Thomas stepped up to the desk. "I need to get in to room 4003."
"I'm sorry, sir, but we can't--"
"It's not sir," Steve said, "it's Officer. And you can."
She gave him a harried look. "I'm going to have to get the manager."
"You do that," Steve said, leaning on the desk without taking his eyes off her.
She made a phone call and a moment later a woman in a more upscale suit, clearly a manager meant to deal with the more elite guests. "Gentlemen," she began quietly, leading them off to the side.
"It's Commander," Steve said, "and Detective and Officers," he added, waving a hand at Danny, Thomas and Crawford.
"My apologies," she said, clearly trying to keep her professional calm. "As you can imagine, we value the privacy of our guests."
"Really?" Danny said, an edge to his tone. "Because I would think you would value the reputation of your hotel. And we can do this the quiet way, where you let us in and we take care of the issue, or you can try to block us, and we can drag the perpetrators out through the lobby in handcuffs. In whatever state of dress we find them."
Steve smiled proudly at Danny before turning his attention back to the manger. "Room 4003?" Steve said politely.
"Follow me," she said. She led them to a service elevator, using her key card to get them in and then up to the floor. "The hotel has no knowledge of anything going on in its rooms," she said as they walked to the door. "We won't be held liable for anything that might be occurring, yes?"
"Of course," Steve said. He waited while she inserted her card and opened the door, then she stood back, letting them pass her into the room.
The living room was a mess. Clothes were strewn all over the place, empty bottles littered the coffee table and couch, and two of the dining table chairs were on their sides. Faint sounds were coming from the closed doors on the other side of the living room, and when they opened the doors, Steve wanted to bleach his eyes.
There was the guy who'd been plastered on Grace's bedroom walls for years, wearing nothing but leopard-print underwear and handcuffs holding each wrist to the headboard. He had one prostitute on each side of him, all three of them stopping mid-laughter as the doors opened.
"Get out!" the guy yelled, "I'll call security!"
"Are you so drunk you don't even see the guys with badges and guns?" Danny asked. He started forward, but Steve put a hand on Danny's shoulder, and he stopped. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Danny asked the guy. "Do you have any idea how many kids you disappointed so you could get drunk and get laid?"
"And high," Steve added, nodding at the marijuana clearly visible on the bedside table. Not that he needed to see it--he'd recognized the smell before he even entered the bedroom--but it made it much easier when they didn't even have to search.
Steve turned to the officers. "I trust there's enough here to arrest him?"
"Oh yeah." Thomas nodded. "And then some."
"Here," Danny said, holding out his phone and taking a few pictures. "Just in case someone tries to deny something later. Or maybe disappoints some more kids."
Steve still had his hand on Danny's shoulder, and he could feel the tension there. He gave Danny's shoulder a squeeze. "I think it's your turn to say it," Steve said quietly.
Danny looked at Thomas. "Book him."
They watched as Thomas and Crawford unlocked the cuffs from the headboard and used them to secure him. "I think our work here is done," Steve said, tugging on Danny's shoulder. "We can leave the rest in their hands."
"Just one more," Danny said, holding his camera up and taking a picture. "Okay, I'm done. No, wait, I'm not." He went to the desk and picked up a note pad and pen. "Uncuff him," he said to Thomas.
Danny held the paper and pen out. "Sign this. 'To Grace.'"
"I'm not gonna--"
"You want those pictures on every page on the internet tomorrow?" Danny waited until he signed the paper, then nodded at Thomas, who cuffed him again.
Danny turned to Steve. "Now we're done." He strode out the door, Steve following close behind.
Steve waited until they were back on their floor before stopping Danny. "What are you going to tell Grace?" Steve asked.
"That he couldn't get out of bed but we managed to get an autograph for her, what else would I tell her?"
Steve grinned, reaching out to cup the back of Danny's neck. "You're a great father," he whispered, pulling Danny in for a kiss before he let him go and pulled him towards the room.
"I agree," Danny said smugly. "I think I deserve a medal for not punching that kid for disappointing Grace."
"I'll buy you a medal when we get home," Steve said as he opened the door to their room.
Grace was still on the bed, but she looked across the room at them as they walked in. "Where are the clothes?" she asked, frowning at them.
Steve had forgotten all about the clothes, but before he could say anything, Danny spoke up. "We got distracted," he said, pulling the piece of paper out of his pocket that had the autograph on it. "We found out that your poster boyfriend was in his room, unable to get out of bed, but we snuck in and got you this."
He handed her the autograph, and she shrieked, jumping off the bed and onto Danny, almost knocking him over. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"It wasn't all me," Danny said, laughing as he looked over at Steve.
Grace threw herself at Steve, and he hugged her tight, accepting her thanks. She wasn't as quick to hug them as she got older, and he appreciated every single one that he got.
She let go, and he watched her flop down on the bed and takeout her phone. "I want to show everyone my autograph," she said, taking a picture of it with her phone. "You know what this means?" she asked, smiling up at them.
"That you'll be the most popular and slightly hated girl in the eighth grade?" Steve asked.
"Well, that," she replied, "and that next time we go see him I can try to get an autograph in person!"
Steve looked helplessly at Danny. "Next time?"
"Of course, next time," Grace said. "I'm not letting a little setback like this stopping me from seeing him. I hear he's going to be in LA this summer."
She went back to her phone, and Steve leaned against Danny for support. "Think we can have him locked up for a year?" Steve asked quietly.
"I think Grace would be heartbroken. Beyond consolation."
Steve sighed. "LA's not a bad plane ride from Honolulu," he said. "At least no worse than the drive to Atlantic City."
"Just remember, the pilot's not going to let you drive, either."