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Halema'uma'u (or, The New Tattoo)

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Danny Williams was two seconds from exploding. Really, the top of his head was going to come right off. Sad to say, this was not an uncommon feeling when he was in the same room with his ex-wife.

Rachel, his—dammit, still beautiful—ex-wife shook her lovely, infuriating head. "Daniel, I know that your work is important to you, and if you choose to let it affect your visitation times with your daughter, that is, of course, your decision. But I hardly see why a change in your schedule should affect our vacation plans." Honestly, her tone said, you are being completely unreasonable again.

Danny hated that tone.

He couldn't let this devolve into one of his and Rachel's usual fights. There was too much at stake. Grace's life is at stake here! Hold it together! Danny told himself firmly. (Funny how his internal voice-of-reason sounded like Steve McGarrett, the most unreasonable human being he'd ever met.) Danny paced up and down, trying to calm the jittering nerves dancing under his skin, fueled by too much caffeine, stress, and a healthy dollop of mortal terror.

He ran his hands through his hair and begged, putting every ounce of earnestness he possessed into it. "Rachel, please. Please listen to me, for once in your life. I shouldn't be here. We can't spare the time, but Steve is giving me this chance to talk to you because he knows I'll be more effective if I'm not worrying about Grace's safety. All I'm saying is that right now would be a really wonderful time for the three of you to take a vacation on the mainland. It's not too soon to start looking into colleges for Grace, is it?" He swung his arms, gestures becoming unintentionally dramatic as the emotion spilled out of him. "Yale, right, Stan? Or maybe Harvard? You can afford the tuition, can't you?" He couldn't help the touch of bitterness in his voice as he addressed his ex-wife's new husband. Ol' Stan seemed to be listening to him at least. He was staring at Danny, his eyes dark and wide, completely ignoring the automatic jibe at his megabucks.

"Oh! You are infuriating! Why do you always have to do this? I don't believe you, Daniel! What gives you the right—" Rachel was winding up to ream him a new one.

Dammit, dammit! They didn't have the time for this. He was such an idiot, he couldn't even get Rachel to do this one little thing, and now his baby girl was going to die, and—

"Rachel." Stan's voice was quiet, but it cut across Rachel's incipient diatribe as if he'd thrown a switch. She turned and stared at him. Stan, in turn, was staring with a strange, intense focus at Danny.

"Danny was saying that it's very important, for Grace's sake, that we take a little vacation right now, and I think that might be a very good idea," Stan said, still staring at Danny.

Stan, of all people, got what Danny technically couldn't say in so many words. Who would have ever thought it? Danny didn't care—right now he was so thankful, he could drop to his knees and kiss Stan's overly expensive footwear. He nodded rapidly, making his hands into guns of gratitude and firing them at Stan. "Yes! Yes, thank you. It's very important. Thank you, Stan."

Rachel's forehead was wrinkling. She wasn't stupid by any stretch of the imagination, but the emotional and conversational undercurrents seemed to have caught her for a loop. She'd obviously been ready to travel down the habitual ruts of one of her and Danny's familiar arguments. "But—"

"Danny, when do you think would be a good idea to start our little vacation?" Stan asked, with a note of urgency. Usually he was so courteous and deferential to Rachel; his interruption left her mouth hanging open in evident surprise. "If we're going to be away for any length of time, I have some business affairs with loose ends that should be tied up," Stan said.

Danny swallowed back the first sarcastic thing that came to mind. Stan was obviously taking this seriously. He needed to take Stan's question seriously as well, and not alienate this unexpected ally in getting his Monkey to safety. He paced again, up and down the length of the cavernous living room in Stan's mansion, one hand rubbing the back of his neck, with brow furrowed, and teeth worrying his lower lip. His sense of urgency (he refused to name it gibbering terror—he was a professional) pushed at him.

"Stan, please trust me when I say that, if it's at all possible, tomorrow would be a great time to get on a plane," he said at last. "The first flight you can get, okay? I don't have any way of knowing— Technology is wonderful these days— You can use the phone and the internet to take care of your business stuff, yeah?" He folded his hands into a prayer for his Monkey and held them out to Stan, half-bowing over them. For his baby, he'd beg the guy if he had to.

Stan blinked at him. "Yes. Yes, of course, if you think it's best. You're right, I can do a lot over the phone or e-mail. Any suggestions about where would be a good place for a vacation?" Stan's voice was cautious, his smile forced-looking.

Rachel suddenly looked sick. The pin finally had dropped. "Oh my God, Daniel! What is it? What—"

And then Danny was hugging her, holding her tightly in his arms and rocking her. He couldn't stand to frighten her this way. He had always hated it. "I can't tell you," he whispered fiercely into her ear. "Rachel, I wish I could. Almost as much as I wish I didn't know myself." He squeezed her and held her back at arms length. "Wouldn't it be a great idea for you all to visit your family, Rach?" he said, more heartily than the suggestion warranted. "You can show Grace all the places you liked to play when you were her age, yeah? Your folks would love it!"

"England? That far aw—" Rachel's mouth twisted.

Over Rachel's shoulder, Danny watched Stan's eyes go wide, then saw him swallow and paste on a sickly smile. "That's a wonderful idea! I'd love to see Elaine and Roger again, Rachel darling. And I'm sure Grace would be overjoyed to see her grandparents."

Danny saw in Rachel's face that she didn't miss the implication--whatever it was that he couldn't tell her would be bad enough that fleeing half the world away from Hawai'i would be a good idea. She began to tremble, just barely, in his arms. But her back stayed straight and she kept her chin up. "Yes, of course," she agreed with Stan, voice shaking slightly. "They'll be very pleased to see Grace, even if it's a bit of a surprise—"

That's my Rachel. Danny squeezed her arms briefly before letting go. Rachel was strong. Now that she was on board, Danny knew that she would do anything to keep Grace safe.

"Rachel, please. I'd like a chance to say goodbye to my daughter," Danny said quietly.

"At this hour, we'd have to wake her— But, yes. Yes, of course, Daniel." Rachel took a step away from him. "Why don't you go up to her room and wake her yourself. Take as much time as you need." They looked at each other, the air shimmering with feeling between them.

Danny backed away abruptly, and Rachel moved to stand next to her new husband again. Stan took her hand and they clung to each other. Danny nodded at them, turned, and headed for the door to the entryway, and the stairs to Grace's bedroom.

"Danny," Stan said, behind him. Danny paused at the doorway, his back to them. "Thank you. Thank you for warn—"

"Everything's going to be fine," Danny interrupted, not turning around. "It's just a precaution. Just a nice vacation, right? I'll make sure everything will be fine," he said firmly.

"Of course, Daniel. You always do." Rachel's voice barely wavered.

Danny nodded again, and didn't look back as he headed up the stairs to say goodbye to Grace. And if his eyes were wet, well, nobody could see, right?

***