“...drove off, cash in hand, and left 5-0 in the dust!” James finished triumphantly, slamming his beer down on the grimy table.
There was a moment of silence from everyone else, and there was a brief, wonderful second where James thought it was awe. Then everyone burst out laughing.
“Good one,” said Marcus, taking a long swig from a much smaller bottle. “You should add aliens next time, though. Really make it a crowd-pleaser.”
“Nah, not aliens.” Johnny D shook his head. “Zombies. Have 5-0 turn into zombies, then you go blow their heads off.”
James grit his teeth. This story had gotten him free beer all night at the last place he’d tried it at. “I’m serious.”
“I don’t think so.” Marcus leaned forward, stabbing his long knife into the top of the scarred wooden table. It took real effort for James not to flinch back. “Because if you disrespect us enough to think we actually believe that shit, there’s going to be trouble.”
“The only way to beat 5-0 is to stay off of their radar,” said Johnny D. “If they catch a whiff of you, it's just a matter of time. Even if you get away at first, they’re always gonna chase you down.”
“And then McGarrett will use his secret ninja moves on you,” added Ahe. “It doesn’t matter what kinda fight training you think you got. That asshole will kick you in the head.”
“That’s not that scary,” James countered desperately. “You just shoot him.”
Johnny D hooted. “The last thing you wanna do is shoot McGarrett. The small one’ll come along and burn your shit to the ground.”
“This crew I knew had a sweet little operation going on a couple months ago, using Oahu has a midpoint for shifting a shit-ton of high-quality coke, when this asshole named Dae Won started stealing their product and spreading it around the island.” Ahe gestured wildly to emphasize his point. “They try to take him out, but they miss and get McGarrett instead. Williams takes out their entire fucking operation in 24 fucking hours.” He leaned forward. “They weren’t even the ones being investigated, and Williams slashed and burned that shit like he was a fucking weedwacker. A damn plane crash didn't even slow him down.”
Marcus turned back to James. “So tell us about those aliens and zombies. And you better make that shit good.”
Sefina turned her cart when she saw Mona in the freezer section, deciding that this would be easier than trying to remember to call the woman later. “You forgot to include Steve and Danny’s addresses in the e-mail blast for next Friday’s potluck,” she told her. “My youngest said she already forwarded the information onto them, but you’ll want to add them to the list for the next one.”
Mona grimaced. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe it wasn’t accidental that I left them off the list?” she said, abandoning her search for the perfect eggs. “I know all of you invite them to everything just so you can ogle them the whole time, but they’re not nearly as special as everyone thinks they are.”
Sefina was scandalized. “You don’t have any problem with Nicole and Lani!”
“Of course I don’t!” Mona shot back. “They’re both perfectly lovely women who don’t have any pretensions about being master chefs!”
Suddenly, the light bulb clicked. “Ah, I see,” she nodded, amused now. “You don’t like them because Danny’s potato salad is better than yours.”
Now it was Mona’s turn to look scandalized. “It is not.”
Sefina leaned forward. “Then why was your potato salad barely touched at the last potluck we had when his bowl was scraped clean after the first hour?”
Mona couldn’t say anything for a moment. “Because I’m surrounded by people with absolutely no taste,” she finally muttered.
"Really?” Sefina made a tsking noise. “Even after Steve helped Louis fix that leak in your roof?"
“People shot up their house, Sefina!” Mona shot back. “It was before you and David moved in, but when we woke up there was police tape all around the house! Before that, his father was murdered there! And someone stole Steve's car once!"
Sefina waved a dismissive hand. "I've met Nahele – he's a perfectly nice young man who made some desperate choices. Steve's helping him."
"That doesn't excuse the shootings!"
"From what I hear it was never at anyone else's house. Just theirs.” Sefina shrugged. “Besides, nothing like that has happened since Danny moved in. They've clearly settled down."
Mona didn't say anything, expression still bitter, and Sefina sighed. "Fine. I’ll ask him not to bring potato salad this time.” Then she smirked. “Everyone will be disappointed, but I’ve heard his baked ziti is absolutely to die for….”
Akela opened her locker, turning to her friend. “I saw the news. What was it like to be taken hostage?”
Tamar shrugged like it was no big deal. “It was okay. Grace Williams was there.”
“Grace Williams?” Akela blinked, confused. “The girl who punched that kid to protect that other kid?” When Tamar nodded, Akela made a disbelieving noise. “There’s no way she took on armed gunmen.”
“No, but Grace being there meant her dad was a chaperone.” Tamar explained, taking her math book out of her locker. “And her dad being a chaperone meant that her stepdad and the rest of 5-0 swooped in and saved us.”
“Will Grover was there, too,” Kai added, opening the locker on the other side of Tamar. “His dad’s also in 5-0, so there was no way anything was going to happen to you guys.”
“Oh yeah.” Tamar nodded, turning back to Akela. “He helped Mr. Williams do something as part of the big heroic rescue.”
“But it wasn’t just because their kids were there,” Akela argued, finally remembering the fact that she was still holding her World Civ book. “5-0 had to come save you guys. It’s their job.”
Tamar shut her locker door. “Yeah, but if Grace—“
“Or Will,” Kai chimed in.
“—or Will is there, it’s like they have a psychic connection that tells them something’s wrong even if no one manages to call for help.” Tamar waved the fingers of her free hand by her head to demonstrate. “It’s double for Grace, because she’s got two dads on the team. They both can sense it somehow, which makes them go into superhero mode that much faster.”
“I heard she got kidnapped, once,” Kai added. “With threatening phone calls and everything. Her dads saved her.”
“Well, technically Mr. McGarrett wasn’t her stepdad at the time, but yeah.” Tamar nodded. “And there was one time a gunman tried to take her group of Aloha Girls hostage, but Mr. Williams and Mr. McGarrett stopped him.”
Akela decided then and there to never spend time with Grace Williams if she could help it. “Why does anyone even hang out with Grace? It sounds like she gets in a lot of danger.”
“Yeah, but her dads always come along and save the day,” Tamar said, shrugging again. “And then you end up on the news sometimes, which is fun.”
“Don’t let them anywhere near a budget meeting.” Samuel Denning set down his wineglass, expression intent. “This is for your sake, not theirs.”
Keiko Mahoe, who had taken over the job of governor after he chose not to run in last year’s election, furrowed her brow at the other man. These dinners had been invaluable when it came to passing on small tricks of the trade, but sometimes he surprised her. “No one in 5-0 can be trusted in a budget meeting?”
“Kelly’s fine, if someone can persuade him to go. But mostly it’s either McGarrett or Williams, and with either or both of them it’s better to just sic the finance director on them once a year and ask them any questions by phone.”
“Really?” Keiko asked, not quite able to keep the skepticism out of her voice. “Because I’ve spoken to both of them, and neither seem like unholy terrors.”
“That’s because you’ve never seen either of them in a budget meeting.” Sam shot her a wry look. “McGarrett will completely zone out, and then proceed to disregard every single thing that’s discussed if he feels the situation calls for it. You can actually see it happen, no matter how many times he calls you ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am.’ It’s surprisingly demoralizing.”
Keiko stopped, picturing it. “And Williams?”
“He actually stays fairly involved, which is great until something comes up that annoys him. Then comes the sarcasm.” He shakes his head a little. “Or the arguing. Which, for the record, is about a thousand times worse if you let both of them into the same meeting. If they find something to squabble about, anything and everything else will be dragged to a screeching halt.”
Keiko searched his face for any sign that he was exaggerating, but couldn’t find it. “I thought you liked them. Didn’t you officiate at their wedding?”
“I do like them, and I did officiate at their wedding,” Sam said easily. “But no one should be forced to sit through a budget meeting with them.”
Tua leaned forward, setting the paper coffee cup on Kim's desk. “Sorry this is late. The place I tried to get coffee was right in the middle of a ‘5-0 moment.’”
Kim winced sympathetically. "I can give you the links to a couple of social media accounts that work pretty well as 5-0 spotters."
"That would be nice." He leaned against the edge of her desk, taking a drink of his own cup. "Still, it was sort of interesting, being there on the scene. I wasn’t close enough to see details, but one guy in a vest jumped off a second story walkway to tackle somebody. That had to be McGarrett.”
Kim nodded. "That does sound like him. Did you see Kalakaua? She’s usually carrying a huge gun. And was Williams shouting at him from the walkway, or the ground below?”
“No Kalakaua, sadly.” Tua grinned. “I know she’s your favorite.”
Kim gave a dreamy sigh, her hand over her heart. “She should be everyone’s favorite.”
Tua's grin widened, ready to tease her further, then stopped when he remembered something. “Now that I think about it, I didn’t see Williams, either.” His brow lowered. It wasn't worry, exactly. It was just... Williams was always with McGarrett, and usually shouting at him, in pretty much any story anyone ever told about that half of 5-0. The fact that Williams wasn't obviously, loudly there made it feel like something was ever so slightly wrong with the universe. “I didn’t even hear him.”
“Maybe he came up and shouted at him after," Kim said, her words contradicted by the fact that she looked faintly worried as well. You might not want to be anywhere near 5-0 when you needed to get someplace, but there was something about them that was comforting. "He might have been off chasing one of the other suspects.”
Tua thought a little longer, then shook his head. “Not that I heard.” He turned to Kim. “Do you think he’s sick?”
“Let me check Instagram." Kim immediately pulled out her phone, opening the app with a practiced hand. "Maybe someone else caught him in a picture.”
The woman at the door gave him a cold stare. “Who?”
He’d gotten a similar response at the last three doors he’d knocked on, even though he’d had the good sense to put away his notebook at the first house. “Listen, ma’am, I’m not looking for any kind of shocking scoop from you,” he tried. “I just want to get a couple of quotes from their neighbors.”
“Like I said, I don’t know them.” The woman’s hand was still on the door, clearly ready to shut it at any moment.
He didn’t point out that her tone made it clear she was lying. She wouldn’t care. “Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams?” he asked instead, trying to radiate earnestness. “They live just a few houses down from you?”
“That’s really interesting.” Her voice was completely flat. Behind her, he could hear the muffled sounds of children playing. “I hadn’t known that.”
He winced. “Listen, ma’am. I’m not trying to reveal state secrets here. McGarrett’s in the phone book. I’m just looking for some insight into what the two are like in their off hours.”
“So you’ve talked to them? Their friends?” Her voice had an edge to it now. “You’ve called the HPD?”
He hadn’t, actually, since he’d been hoping to pick up some tidbits he could use to pry them open later. “Sure, sure. This is just fill-in.”
Her brow lowered, like he’d given the wrong answer, and pulled her phone out and took his picture before he could flinch away. “What’s your name? What paper are you with?”
He prayed that Google image search wouldn’t spit out anything useful. “Brad Roberts. I’m a freelance journalist.”
“Sure.” She texted something, then hit the same number and put the phone to her ear. She let it ring a few times, staring him straight in the eyes, and even before she spoke he had a sinking suspicion he knew who was on the other end. “It’s me, Nohea.” A pause. “No, Brandon’s doing great. But the asshole whose picture I just sent you has been asking questions about you and Danny. You might want to see about getting your name out of the phone book.” Another pause. “He says his name is Brad Roberts, but I have no idea if that’s true.”
Then she stepped back and shut the door in his face. After a second, he heard the sound of a lock being thrown.