“I am sick,” Kono told him.
Her sunshiny voice sounded feeble. Solidly congested, too.
“I am very, very sick, and I am not coming in. No way, not a chance, and I’m not even joking.”
Given his cousin was the most disgustingly healthy of beings, Chin figured she must be bad. And certainly not even joking.
He was already parked up under his favorite tree outside the Iolani and as he got out he moved his phone to the other ear, slammed the car door harder than necessary.
“Get to bed, drink your fluids, sweat it out, feel better,” he told her. Then he took the bad news up into HQ with him.
It was a fact that travelers – haole and local alike – brought unwelcome bugs to the islands all year long. There was no escaping it. True too that there was always the customary spike over the rainy months. But, man, this year more than any other Chin remembered, the spike had been extreme, even prompting Governor Denning to consider calling a state of emergency.
Kono, it seemed, was victim of a glitch Max Bergman had warned them about weeks ago – in a very long sentence while standing over a cadaver.
“Unfortunately," he'd said, "We are seeing that although the state-wide annual take-up of the vaccine against the virus commonly called seasonal influenza has been steady, some meta-analysis suggests that due to factors including virus prevalence, levels of protection might prove ‘patchy’ – in actual fact, the accompanying mortality rate may turn out to be the highest for nearly seventy years.”
And that wasn't even Max on one of his more pessimistic jags.
Not that Kono was the first of them to succumb to ‘patchy’. Danny had been down for the count since Christmas. He was still down to be honest. And while it was no surprise that someone so recently bereaved would be vulnerable, Chin hadn't expected that a Danny off his game would be every bit as squirrely and hard to corral as a McGarrett. Or that he'd tough it out in much the same way, batting away concern, convinced the force of something – his own personality probably – could beat whatever ailed him.
“Really? You, here? In the office?” McGarrett had been snappy when his partner had struggled in – as if he wouldn’t be ten times as bad in the same situation.
“Me here,” Danny had confirmed. “I’m past the contagious period so no need to get your bulletproof panties in a bunch.”
Chin wasn’t sure, thought maybe ‘the contagious period’ was something made up by squirrely people to justify coming to work when feeling like crap. Or perhaps it was simply that there was too much to think about alone at home. Chin could certainly relate to that.
At any rate Danny had driven them insane for a few days with his insistence on being hyperactive in the morning, painfully hacking up a lung most afternoons, and then spectacularly crashing out with a fever sometime around dusk. Right now he was at home – where McGarrett, losing what little patience he owned, had eventually dragged him. Poor guy was even now fighting lassitude, his ex-wife's home remedies, and a deep, clinging cough. It seemed unfair given they'd all submitted to frontline priority jabs as early as October.
But still, between them they called him several times a day seeing as recent trauma and current 'flu didn't seem like a great combination.
“Nooooo, not another one,” Grover said, when Chin gave them the latest bulletin on Kono. He passed a hand over his pate. Renee and Will had been sick, too, and it hadn’t been pretty. Which was why he eyeballed Chin and cocked a head at McGarrett who wasn’t looking at him. Chin raised his brows delicately in response.
“She need anything?” Steve was oblivious, eyes on the smart table. “I can go home that way.”
The response was predictable. Steve might have backed off from trying to visit Danny once Rachel decided to bustle in, but for all his reserve in some areas, his commitment as their boss was entirely hands-on.
“Kono’s good,” Chin said quickly. Just that beat too quickly, so McGarrett’s eyes snapped up to him.
“What?” He was prickly. “You think it’s not appropriate for a sick employee’s boss to visit?”
Chin wasn't too confident on the question of whether Kono was still a heaving mass of contagion, but he and the rest of the team shared an unspoken pact about the danger of McGarrett getting himself exposed so soon off the back of the Makaloa basement. The only option seemed to be to head him off at the pass. Somehow.
He went for breezy.
“No, it's just that I know what Kono likes to eat and drink when she’s sick. And Adam’s on the case.”
“Oh, OK. Good.” Steve shrugged, evidently not in combative mood. He went back to looking at the table. That, right there, was the kind of red flag they were coming to dread but right now Chin was just grateful he didn’t notice the exchange of looks. And then they were saved by the pinging of his phone.
“Round one,” he murmured when McGarrett moved away to take the call.
“Danny will go ballistic anyhow,” Grover murmured back, gloomy.
That was all too true. Especially when he heard the casualty in question was Kono, who a few days ago had literally been cheek by jowl with the boss in a surveillance position. For hours. Like, long enough and close enough to make folks talk.
Not that Steve would appreciate the significance. He really, really wouldn’t get it because according to all available sources he apparently just didn’t ‘get it’ – the ‘flu, that was. Allegedly he’d never fallen victim to anything as unromantic as a seasonal virus in his life. Well, not that Mary McGarrett – their entertaining but highly unreliable narrator on All Things Steve – could actually remember. He insisted it had been the same while he’d been serving, swore blind he hadn’t come down with anything even when half the fleet were dropping like flies around him.
“Must’ve been all those vaccines in my butt,” he’d said, light and a touch smug. “Toughened my hide.”
The ‘hide’ remark had made Danny huff. But from his own memory Chin could have believed what Steve claimed about his immunity, and even run with it, if it hadn’t been for the extra and much more significant thing he didn’t care to acknowledge.
“That man,” Grover had said of him on more than one occasion, “is lousy with denial. Lousy, I tell you.”
Danny, because he probably wasn't sure what else to do, always reacted to Lou's exasperation as if Steve's behavior was simply another irritation in a long line of irritations, rather than a potentially serious head-fuck which would might one day result in a need for urgent professional help.
Because, yeah. There had been Wo Fat.
The man who’d gone from unknown flunky to brutal nemesis in under a year. Whose murder of Jenna Kaye – always and forever one of their own, despite everything – had grievously wounded them all.
Because of Wo Fat there had been cold and restraints and electrical burns, the thought of which still kept Chin awake nights. There had been hallucinatory drugs which had messed with Steve so badly Danny had been almost literally incandescent with rage witnessing the fallout.
Oh, and waterboarding.
There had actually been that, too, according to the military medical people. Even knowing Wo Fat’s signature cruelty it had been hard to imagine, harder to accept. Which Steve himself apparently didn’t, of course, at least not openly or by name, even when it came back to bite him.
“These things happen,” was his response, mightily irritated at being asked. “Pretty crappy but nothing I wasn’t trained for.”
“Pretty crappy,” Danny had repeated, the two words shaded in fury.
True to form, Steve had recovered with his usual impressive bounce-back from the injuries and brew of narcotics. But then he'd succumbed, almost un-noticed, to pneumonia.
“Nuh uh uh. Walking pneumonia,” as he’d clarified. Which was actually true, and beyond belief in that irritating McGarrett way, because sure enough he had been walking and actually seemed a lot better off than those who then went down with the ‘flu. He was over it pretty quick, too.
His lungs, however, were temporarily ‘compromised’, to nobody’s surprise but Steve’s own. Too much filthy water, blood, and downright crap had been aspirated before he’d even gotten around to the final death match with Wo Fat.
“The Commander’s lungs will recover,” Max reassured them when they took the chance to ask, in Steve’s absence. “But of course he should stay clear of respiratory infection while his immune system catches up. Another bout before then could prove much more serious.”
“Well that’s terrific,” Danny had kvetched. “Now we have to stop him breathing as well?”
The potential hazard of the ‘flu outbreak seemed obvious, but nobody quite dared to say so. Not in so many words. They didn't even need to say it to each other – it was in the interests of everyone’s sanity that nothing else else went unnoticed if they could help it, and that all possible risks should be shut down. It was just how Five-O worked, and there were so many ways in which Wo Fat and the damage he'd done was personal.
“Had the shot, covered,” was Steve's précis when he got wind of their nannying routine. They'd all noticed how he telescoped sentences down to nothing these days.
“Remember patchy,” Chin tried, but got an aggrieved ‘not you, too?’ look instead of a response.
And then, after Colombia, everything nearly fell apart.
For a start Chin couldn't get Gabriel Waincroft out of his mind. The sickly feeling of culpability and the fact that he’d never not be related to him. Then Steve developed a new kind of thousand-yard stare around the anniversary of his dad's killing. It didn't really surprise anyone that this year it hit him harder than ever. Danny, stunned and grieving his little brother, threw himself into work like a blind man. Hallowe’en came and went bringing Wo Fat in on the backwash. Not surprisingly Thanksgiving passed without a McGarrett turkey.
The hits kept coming.
As Christmas loomed Kono and Chin lost one of their many aunties to the virus, and then the team was rocked all over again when a favorite protégé of Duke Lukela’s got sick, went into hospital, and just didn’t come out again. There turned out to have been an underlying problem with his health, but he’d only been twenty-five and his funeral had been an emotional kick in the guts. One lunch-time at Kamekona's Max had mused – ramblingly – that there was a strong, epidemiological case for those who were known to be ‘compromised’ actually leaving the islands altogether.
“The long words I can lose but your idea is sound,” Danny had declared, chasing shrimp listlessly around his plate. It had been a day or so before he’d first succumbed himself. He’d jabbed his fork in Steve’s general direction, meaningful.
The response had been on the edges of cocky. “That’s fine, Danno, I understand, you think you don’t want to be with me.”
Chin wasn’t sure if he’d imagined a sliver of worry behind Steve's snark.
“I’m serious. You’d be better off sleeping rough in Newark.” Danny had wiped his hands on a napkin, pushed his plate aside. Then he’d actually poked Steve in his good shoulder with a finger, unable to leave him alone, which Chin thought would have been asking for trouble except that Steve often took from Danny what he’d take from no other person on earth. Especially right now. “I’m telling you, as thick as the smog gets over there, you’d be better off in the cold and snow.”
“Funny,” was all Steve had said.
The thing was, with half of HPD and who knew how many other frontline staff out, O’ahu was in need. And Five-0 didn’t walk away when O’ahu was in need. They were there to do a job, and they shared the same mantras: keep focused, keep each other in the loop and – most crucially – keep everyone safe.
Chin, taking responsibility for information sharing and status checks, called Danny later when he had a chance. He was downtown the evening of the day Kono called in sick, still handling the aftermath of a combined armed robbery and multiple RTA. Anyone with any kind of badge was pitching in when normally it was the duty cops left shoveling this kind of shit show. Grover was heading back to base with two violent perps and Steve had been called to a snap meeting with the Police Commissioner about emergency protocols. In his absence Chin had been the one left leading the pursuit of one of their suspects across the rooftops. It felt as if it was going to be a long night.
“Hey, how you doing?” Chin asked Danny when the call was finally picked up. He stood tense with one hand on the roof of his car, sweaty, and bathed in flashing lights. “Have everything you need?”
“Yeah, so I’m going out of my tiny.”
Chin smothered a smirk, his tension receding a little. Danny had the odd knack of doing that for him. “And feeling any better?”
“Oh sure. I mean, aside from the fact that every time I move from the fridge to the couch it’s like a hike over the Gobi Desert.”
Danny’s voice was still thick with phlegm, comfortingly pungent.
“Brutal,” Chin said.
“So how’s it with you? Am I missing anything?”
Chin made a conscious effort not to offload, but he wasn’t sure how successful he was.
“Kono’s sick, so we’re a little stretched. Feels like we’re putting out fires twenty four seven. Governor wants to avoid the whole troops on the streets scenario, you know? But Steve’s in with the Commissioner now and he reckons there’ll be some kind of crisis plan issued by tomorrow. Which will mean more fires.”
“Kono is sick.” Danny ignored everything else he’d been told and repeated this revelation, his echo ominous.
“Yeah, the usual. Fever, congestion, fatigue.”
“Well that’s shitty,” Danny said. “I thought Kono never got sick.”
“Huh. So you? Lou? Max? Jer?”
“Doing great.” Chin raised his hand in acknowledgement of Duke who was signaling at him that he needed five minutes. “And at least your girl got it over with during the holidays, right?”
“Yeah, think she's good for another year at least.”
There was a pause. A name not mentioned.
“Don’t sweat it,” Chin said, wry. “We’re keeping an eye on him for you.”
Danny coughed. “Am I that obvious?”
“You both are, all the time.”
Chin inwardly sighed over the everlasting juggling act played out between pretense and outright admission. He rubbed at his forehead with the back of his wrist.
Danny and Steve had been, as Kono preferred to term it, "sleeping" together – at least on and off – since... oh, around the time Catherine dumped Steve for Afghanistan? After Danny had hauled McGarrett’s sorry backside home anyhow. Seemed the wreckage had hardly been peeled from the empty belly of a Hercules military transport before the long-running flirtation had kicked up a considerable gear. What it had kicked up to hadn’t been exactly clear. Still wasn’t. Chin, Kono, and Max, had recognized the change at the time, but the penny still hadn't quite dropped for Lou Grover.
Danny and Steve knew Chin and Kono knew – probably – but mostly pretended they didn’t. That worried Chin. The hiding of important truths was something he’d been badly burned by, not to mention being the major wrecking ball of McGarrett’s entire life.
And at times things were clearly more intense between Danny and Steve, while at other times they weren’t. Girlfriends and ex-wives wove in and out of their disarray. Catherine Rollins had walked away, Amber Vitali hadn’t yet persuaded Danny to settle, and Ellie Clayton had too many painful links to the past to be anything but a friend. Rachel, on the other hand, had been a rock of solidarity for Danny since he’d lost his brother – all the more since Steve had mentally checked out around the same time
So, yeah, something of a holy fuck-up all the way around. But anyhow, the sleeping together. Or the mutual jerking each other off. Or whatever the hell it was they got up to.
Chin had long known that McGarrett, on the very rare occasions he put out anywhere, was interested in men as well as women. They’d recognized that in each other way back in High School after all. And, after seeing how intensely they sparked off one another he’d wondered if Danny Williams, with his marriage on the rocks and his openly cheerful appreciation of McGarrett shirtless and in wet swimtrunks, was cut from the same cloth. He changed his mind almost daily, though, as to whether two such opposites hooking up was a good thing. Steve was a hermetically-sealed emotional clam, all about the control, while Danny, God love him, was a permanent display of reaction and response, heart pinned noisily to his chest. How in the hell would that work?
“Oh come on, baby, come on!” Malia had actually said to Chin once, amazed he was being so obtuse. “That’s got nothing to do with it. They’re crazy in love, those two. Practically written in the stars. You have to see that!”
They were still bright and vital these flashes of Malia, and they crushed Chin anew every time. Every single memory of her was a searing reminder that taking a chance on being crazy in love had to be worth it – if anything at all was. Malia would have been one of the first to suggest there should be more to Steve and Danny than whatever it was they currently had. Problem was, Chin remained to be convinced they’d ever get beyond jumping each other’s bones every couple of weeks.
He was pretty sure they did it as a form of stress relief, but that didn’t seem very healthy as a long-term life choice. Sure, the sexual tension radiating around the place had added a good deal of entertaining spice to the working day at times, not to mention some hilarious conversations between him and Kono. But as for any kind of solid commitment, or actual facing up to how very big of a deal it could be... well, apparently not this side of Danny bonding with someone who wasn’t quite as high maintenance, or of McGarrett finally going down in flames.
It pissed Chin off sometimes. For a number of reasons, one of which wasn't very edifying.
But mostly, it was that the rest of the team could really do with them getting their shit together and they themselves could do with it even more. Not even because it would be kinda nice and they both deserved it, more because it might just end up preventing the going down in flames thing.
Chin sighed to himself again. Maybe in the new year? Finding a way to force the issue for everyone’s benefit would be a great resolution to make.
But in the meantime, the fires still needed putting out.
“Steve’s fine, Danny,” he soothed.
“Sure he is.”
“He just wants to know you’re doing better.”
Not that McGarrett would say so in a thousand years, Chin thought to himself, even though it was like a giant flashing sign on his forehead. He had history with Steve, their love and loyalty was watertight. But that didn’t make him easy.
“He’s a dope.”
Chin felt another smile nudge his lips at that. “Right.”
“Listen, I appreciate the call, buddy. You all stay well, you hear? And give Kono my love.”
“And if that idiot so much as sneezes...”
“Yeah, yeah, we tackle him to the floor, hog-tie him, then drag his ass home to bed.”
“How come you’re party to all my best fantasies?”
There was an answer to that, rooted in the long distant past, but Chin wasn’t going to give it.
“TMI, Williams. Just, really.”
There was a hacking laugh as the call was ended.
Chin pocketed the phone, began to weave a way through the stopped cars towards Duke and his officers. He hadn’t quite reached them before his phone vibrated again.
“Hey,” he said, taking the new call. “I know I’m not going to like what you’re about to tell me. How’d it go?”
“So,” Steve said. He was short, impersonal, and typically to the point. “Forget about any plans you had for a life.”