“Jesus Danno how much pasta did you eat?” Steve grunted as he dropped his new husband out of his arms and onto the couch then flopped down on top of him.
Danny jabbed him in the side with a finger.
“Same as you super SEAL. You don’t go to Italy without eating your weight in pasta. Besides, you’re the one who wanted to carry me over the threshold like I’m some kind of blushing bride.”
“You’re my blushing bride Danno,” Steve whispered in a husky voice burying his face in Danny’s neck and nipping the soft skin delicately.
“I’m not…” Danny sucked in a breath as Steve began kissing his neck, “…not a blushing bride. I’m a blushing groom.”
Steve lifted his head and captured Danny’s mouth with his. The kiss was as deep and passionate as the very first one they’d shared just over a year ago and Steve was certain he would never, ever get enough of Danny or his mouth.
“Babe,” Danny whispered as the two came up for air. “I’m jet lagged. Let’s throw our laundry in the machine and go to bed. We’ve got Grace tomorrow and I’d like to be able to stay awake during her visit.”
Steve laid his head on his new husband’s chest and listened contentedly to his beating heart.
“Not sure I can sleep. I’m still pretty wired.”
Danny scratched his fingers lightly through his husband’s soft, messy hair.
“Well I’m nothing if not a dutiful wife. How about I give you a blow job, would that help send you to dream land?”
Steve looked up and grinned waggling his eyebrows.
“I think that would definitely help Mrs. McGarrett.”
“Williams,” Danny replied dryly, pushing off his 6’ 1” human blanket and getting up to grab his suitcase.
“I’m also a modern bride. I’m keeping my name.”
Steve climbed to his feet and crowded up behind Danny, grabbing his ass in both hands giving it an appreciative squeeze. He bent down to whispered in Danny’s ear.
“In a few minutes you aren’t going to remember your name.”
Danny shivered at the feeling of Steve’s hot breath on his ear. He groaned then dropped his suitcase to the floor and turned around to wrap his arms around his husband again.
“Oh fuck the clean clothes. I’ll wear sweatpants all day.”
Danny sat at the table the next morning nursing his second cup of coffee and admiring his wedding ring for the thousandth time. It was a wide silver band with a smaller band of gold encircling the centre.
He grinned when he remembered the night Steve came home from work – Danny had been off sick with strep throat – and grabbed him by the biceps and pulled him close until their faces were just inches apart. Danny was nervous at first thinking Steve was angry or – god forbid – had decided their relationship was over.
“Danno,” Steve growled his eyes dark with intent. “I’m sick of pretending, I’m sick of not being able to tell the world how I feel about you. I’m sick of acting like we’re just best friends, and I’m sick of being an uncle instead of a step-father so I’ve thought about it and I’ve decided that you and I are getting married.”
“We are?” squeaked Danny partly because of his still-healing throat and partly because of the fire in his lover’s eyes.
“Yes we are,” replied Steve nodding his head firmly as if it had all been decided (and Danny supposed it had). “Tomorrow we’re going ring shopping.”
With that Steve kissed Danny firmly on the mouth – hopefully he was no longer contagious – and walked, no, swaggered into the kitchen for a beer.
Danny remembered watching after him open-mouthed for a moment then trailing along behind him.
“Okay,” he muttered earning a grin from Steve.
Danny took another sip of coffee as he thought back to the shopping trip the next day. They had gone to a jeweller recommended by friends as being open to serving same-sex couples. They were nervous. They’d never been very overt about their relationship, largely because of the restrictions of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. Close friends knew and were accepting but the two had to be careful around the rest of the world. Now they were taking this huge step and announcing their relationship to everyone.
Steve had been the one to spot the wedding bands. He said they reminded him of the two of them. Steve bigger and Danny smaller but both of them bound together forever, taking strength from each other. Danny’s throat tightened as he remembered standing in the jewelry store fighting back tears at his lover’s words. They walked out of the store wearing the bands and holding hands for the world to see.
Two months later, three weeks after Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell was officially repealed, the two had a marriage ceremony with a small gathering of friends on Steve’s beach then took off for a three week honeymoon in Italy. Now here he was, Danny Williams, married to another man, something he would never have imagined even 14 months ago, living in a beach-front house in Hawaii and happier than he’d ever been in his life – until the doorbell rang.
Danny groaned at the sound of the bell and dropped his face in his hands. He knew it wasn’t Grace since he wasn’t due to pick her up for an hour and besides, she’d just bust in and start chattering at the top of her lungs. He hoped it wasn’t Chin and Kono. He loved his Ohana and was anxious to see them again but he was looking forward to spending the Saturday with just Steve and Grace – assuming the SEAL ever got his perfectly sculpted ass out of the ocean.
Danny pushed away from the table and walked over to the front door. He peered through the spyhole to see a thin man dressed in a UPS delivery person’s outfit. Danny pulled the door open and gave what he hoped was a genuine smile.
“Daniel Williams?” the delivery man asked pen poised over an electronic signature screen.
“I have an envelope for you sir if you’ll just sign here.”
Danny took the pen and scrawled his name on the screen before taking the envelope and closing the door.
He held the envelope up to the light to see its contents. He wasn’t expecting a package. He shrugged and began tearing the paper open. Maybe super SEAL had ordered something for him. His new husband loved giving presents.
Danny pulled the papers out of the envelope and unfolded them. His hands shook as he read down the page.
Steve was about 50 feet from the shore when he decided to float on his back for a while. He loved this moment of quiet bliss just before he needed to climb out of the water and back into his daily life. Of course now that he had Danny in his life he didn’t tend to linger as long in the water, preferring instead to spend more time with his gorgeous husband.
Thinking of Danny made him look up towards the house to see if the smaller man was sitting on the lanai waiting for him with a cup of coffee as usual. His blood ran cold when he saw his husband standing on the beach staring out at the water. A sheaf of paper was clutched in his right fist and even from this far out, Steve could tell something was terribly wrong.
Steve kicked into a smooth front crawl until he reached the point where his feet could touch bottom. He climbed out of the water and jogged over to Danny coming to a stop in front of his partner.
“Babe what’s wrong?” Steve asked his voice tight with tension.
Danny swallowed convulsively for a moment before holding up the fist-full of crumpled papers.
“She’s trying to take my baby away from me,” whispered Danny brokenly.
Steve pried the papers gently from his husband’s hands and skimmed them quickly. He swore angrily.
“What the fuck!” he spat. “Why is she trying to take away your visitation?”
Steve looked up to his husband’s tear-streaked face, his heart clenching at the pain etched on the smaller man’s features. Danny pointed at the papers with a shaking hand.
“They say my job is too dangerous, I’m a bad influence on Grace due to my homosexual lifestyle and we run the risk of causing Grace undue pain and suffering because you’re in the reserves can be called away and potentially die in combat.”
“That bitch!” Steve yelled. “I’m going to kill her,” the SEAL stormed off marching up the beach towards the house thinking about all the ways he would make Rachel-fucking-Edwards suffer for hurting Danny.
“Steve no!” he heard Danny yell from behind him. Still striding purposefully Steve ignored his husband’s voice.
“Steve!” the sound came out so quiet and so broken that Steve couldn’t help but stop and turn around.
Danny stood a few feet away from him shivering as if he were cold.
“Please babe…please. We can’t take the risk…please. Don’t make it worse.”
Danny dropped to his knees and began sobbing openly. Steve felt the rage that had been boiling in him seep away and he ran to his husband dropping to his knees in front of him and gathering him in his arms. He rocked his partner gently, his face buried in Danny’s hair.
“We’ll get her back honey,” Steve whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion. “We’ll hire a lawyer and get her back. Rachel isn’t going to win. She’s our daughter as much as she’s Rachel’s and we’ll get her back.”
Steve and Danny were ushered into the office of Mark Gupta, Attorney-at-Law at 9 a.m. sharp on Monday morning. Danny had been forbidden to pick up Grace as planned on Saturday and had to comfort himself with a brief phone conversation that left him depressed and emotional for the rest of the weekend. Steve’s rage at Rachel’s asshole maneuver kept him at a low simmer throughout the weekend. It was only a discussion with the Governor, who recommended they hire Gupta, the best family lawyer on the islands that had given him some sense of taking meaningful action.
“Mr. Williams, Mr. McGarrett, I’m Mark Gupta,” the lawyer introduced himself while coming around his desk to shake their hands. He was a tall, distinguished-looking Indian man in his mid-40s with an easy smile and a firm handshake. Steve liked him immediately.
The attorney ushered the couple to an overstuffed leather couch near the wall and took a chair in front of them balancing a note pad on his lap.
“You should know Governor Denning called me first thing this morning asking me to see you and to take your case. He’s concerned about this lawsuit and how it will affect your performance at work but he’s also concerned about the two of you personally.”
Steve nodded and glanced over at his partner before looking back at the lawyer.
“What do you think of our chances for this case Mr. Gupta?” asked Steve eager to get down to business. “I was thinking that maybe Danny and I should sue for full custody of Grace.”
Gupta grimaced slightly and looked at both men intently.
“I have to be honest Commander, it is highly unlikely that you would be granted full custody unless Mrs. Edwards is an unfit mother and from what you told me on the phone, she isn’t. Also, given the schedule you and your husband keep at 5-0, the judge is unlikely to give you full custody knowing Grace would spend most of her time with babysitters. No, what we need to do is fight to get back the amount of custody you have now Mr. Williams and see if we can’t get it increased. We’ll file for joint custody of the child so that you will have more say in how she is brought up and in the decisions that affect her life. Does that sound acceptable to you?”
Danny nodded and a flicker of a smile crossed his face, the first since he received the court papers Saturday morning.
Gupta flipped his note pad to a clean page and pulled the cap off his pen.
“Now, did you bring the papers you were served with Mr. Williams?”
An unusually quiet Danny nodded and handed the lawyer the creased papers then sat back and took Steve’s hand as Gupta quietly read the documents for a few moments.
The lawyer looked up at the two men.
“You were married to Mrs. Edwards for how long Mr. Williams?”
“Eight years,” replied Danny softly.
“And you were a police officer when you married?”
“Was the fact that you were a police officer a contributing factor in your divorce?”
Danny swallowed and nodded.
“She couldn’t handle the hours and the fear that she’d open the door someday and the Chief would be standing there telling her I’d been killed.”
Gupta nodded and wrote something on his legal pad then looked up again.
“Since you moved to Hawaii has your former wife expressed any concern about your daughter’s safety with you being a police officer?”
The detective nodded again and took a deep, shaky breath.
“Yes. About a year and a half ago I took Grace, my daughter, to a high school football game with my teammates and there was a gang shootout on the field.”
Gupta nodded and scratched on his pad again.
“Grace didn’t see the shootout or the aftermath,” Steve interjected leaning forward on the couch. “Danny saw the men enter the stadium and got Grace to safety before alerting me to the danger. It was because Danny is a cop that we were able to contain the situation. It could have been a hell of a lot worse.”
Gupta looked up at the Commander and smiled reassuringly.
“I understand Commander McGarrett.”
He turned his attention back to Danny.
“How has your relationship with your ex-wife been since you became involved with Commander McGarrett, Mr. Williams?”
Danny licked his lips and glanced from Gupta to Steve and back to the lawyer again.
“It’s been a bit strained. Rachel is not a homophobe – at least I never thought she was – but she has been a bit standoffish. I just assumed she was, I don’t know, jealous or something. I think she and Stan have been having some problems. Still I never thought she’d do something like this.”
Danny swallowed heavily and Steve squeezed his hand.
“Has Mrs. Edwards ever expressed her concern about you being in a same-sex relationship and the influence that might have on your daughter?”
Danny shook his head.
“Not in so many words. She’s hinted around things like reminding me that Steve and I should behave with ‘decorum…’” Danny pulled his hand away from Steve’s to make quotation marks in the air with his fingers, “…around Grace but she’s never come right out and said she has a problem with our relationship. She even congratulated me when I told her Steve and I were getting married.”
“What about Mr. Edwards?” questioned Gupta, “Is it possible that he has a problem with your relationship with the Commander and he is pushing his wife to take this step?”
Danny looked over at his husband who shrugged.
“Danny and Stan have never been friends,” explained Steve, “but I don’t think either of us ever got the sense that he disapproved of our relationship.” He looked back at Danny. “Maybe we were wrong.”
Gupta turned his attention to Steve.
“Now Commander, you’re still in the Naval Reserves is that correct?”
“Since you and your husband began your relationship, have you been called back to duty?”
The SEAL nodded again.
“About nine months ago I was away for four weeks.”
“And how did Grace react to your deployment?”
Steve took Danny’s hand in his again and rubbed his thumb over his husband’s knuckles.
“It was difficult for all of us,” he replied quietly. “She was upset and scared but she was brave.”
A small smile passed between the two men and Danny turned back to look at Gupta.
“Grace is very proud of Steve. She always talks to her friends about her Super SEAL step-father even though he’s only been her step-father for just over three weeks. She knows the dangers Steve faces when he’s deployed, just as she knows the dangers we both face as police officers. But she’s proud of the work we do and she’s never asked us to quit or consider another line of work.”
Steve leaned forward again, an elbow on one knee.
“If it will help our case, I’d be more than happy to resign my commission.”
“What?” Danny gasped, staring at Steve in shock. “I don’t want you to do that. You shouldn’t have to give up something you love…”
“I love you and Grace, Danny,” Steve interrupted. “You’re my family and nothing is more important than that. I’ve served my time in the Navy and I’ve done my job. If I need to quit to ensure we keep Grace in our lives, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Danny bit his bottom lip and looked away from the other two men. Gupta shook his head and stood up.
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it shall we? First of all, let’s get your visitation rights back Mr. Williams.”
He walked over to his desk and dug around for some forms.
This afternoon I’m going to file an emergency appeal asking the judge to return your visits with Grace until the custody case can be heard.”
“How long will that take?” asked Danny standing up with Steve.
“If we get lucky the judge will see us tomorrow in chambers. If he or she grants our appeal, you could have Grace back on her regular schedule by tomorrow night.”
Steve and Danny grinned at each other in relief.
Gupta came out from behind his desk again and stood before the two men.
“Of course there’s always a chance the judge will deny the appeal but I don’t really see that happening. Grace is in no immediate danger, there’s been no question of you being an unfit father and since Grace obviously loves both of you and is comfortable with you, I think Mrs. Edwards’ lawyer will have a tough time arguing that you shouldn’t be allowed to see her.”
“If that’s so why wouldn’t the judge just dismiss the case?” asked Steve, his annoyance rising again.
Gupta shrugged slightly.
“The judge is going to want to hear both sides before he makes any kind of decision. Something happened to cause Mr. and Mrs. Edwards to seek to revoke custody. The judge is going to want to find out what that is.”
“What about…” Danny’s voice broke and he had to take a deep breath before he could speak again. “What about our chances in the custody dispute itself? Will I…could I lose my baby girl?”
Gupta smiled sympathetically and squeezed Danny’s bicep.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen, Mr. Williams.”
He looked at the couple intently for a second. “The three of us are going to work together to keep that from happening.”
Danny shook Gupta’s hand gratefully having to fight down the urge to pull the man into a hug.
After receiving assurances that he would call as soon as he knew when the judge would hear their appeal, Gupta saw the young couple out of his office and sat down at his computer ready to work. As the computer came out of sleep mode, Gupta paused for a moment to gaze the screen saver picture of himself with his husband and their four-year-old daughter in Disneyland.
Steve put his cheque book back into the pocket of his cargo pants and took Danny’s elbow steering him out of Gupta’s office.
“A $5,000 retainer,” sighed Danny heavily shaking his head. “My god how am I going to…”
“You’re not, we are,” replied Steve pushing the button for the elevator.
Danny turned to look at his husband in dismay.
“Steve it’s so much money.”
The SEAL shrugged as they walked into the elevator.
“I can handle it. I’ve got quite a bit put away; didn’t have a lot of places to spend money when I was on missions. Besides, I inherited the house mortgage-free. We have enough money to make this thing happen.”
The two men left the lobby of Gupta’s building and walked across the parking lot to the Camaro. As usual, Danny slid into the passenger seat.
“Steve…I don’t know, that’s your money. You shouldn’t have to spend your money on my problem.”
Steve had started to back out of the parking space but slammed on the brakes and turned to stare at Danny a mixture of anger and hurt in his eyes.
“What do you mean ‘your money’ and ‘my problem’”? We’re a couple Danny, we’re married. We took vows together; vows that we would share everything. That meant something to me; didn’t it mean anything to you?
Danny felt the blood drain from his face.
“Wh…yes of course but…”
“There is no but! My money is now our money. Your money is our money. My home is our home. Your daughter is our daughter. Do you really think that I’m more worried about a few thousand dollars than I am about keeping Grace in our lives? Danny I will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever I need to sacrifice to keep this family together alright?”
Danny chest was too tight to speak. Instead he reached out and cupped Steve’s face with his palm and nodded. The SEAL turned his head slightly to kiss the palm of his husband’s hand.
“C’mon babe,” Steve said quietly. “Let’s get back to work.”
“Danno!” Grace shrieked as she ran through the gates of Rachel and Stan’s sprawling home toward her father, pigtails flying.
“Monkey,” Danny whispered roughly dropping to his knees and opening his arm to allow the 75 pound tornado to crash into him.
Neither father nor daughter spoke for a moment. Both too overcome with emotion to do anything but cling to each other, rocking back and forth and sniffing loudly.
Standing a few feet behind them next to Danny’s car, Steve and Mark Gupta watched the tearful reunion, each man fighting to control his emotions.
Finally Danny climbed to his feet, Grace still clinging to him. As he was about to turn to go back towards Steve he caught a glimpse of Rachel’s face in a window. He felt a flash of hatred for her he’d never experienced before. He hoped she was suffering too.
Danny turned around and walked back to his husband and lawyer. Grace lifted her head and looked over at Steve thrusting her arms out to him when she saw him.
“Dad!” she cried out wiggling her fingers until Steve stepped forward and took her from Danny’s arms and pulled her tight to his chest. He looked over her shoulder at Danny and felt his eyes fill with tears. Grace had only ever called him Uncle Steve or sometimes Super SEAL like her father. Hearing her call him Dad was almost his undoing. After a moment of hugging her, Steve put out an arm and Danny stepped into it to share a three way embrace.
Gupta watched for a few moments then cleared his throat nervously and the three stepped apart laughing and wiping their faces. Danny was blushing when he looked over at the lawyer.
“Sorry Mr. Gupta.”
Gupta grinned happily and shook his head.
“Oh no not at all, these sorts of reunions are the best part of my job but we do just have a few small matters to discuss. Why don’t you and Grace go for a short walk while your husband and I chat, then he can fill you in on our discussion later?”
Danny smiled and nodded his head taking Grace’s hand in his. He didn’t want his baby to hear any kind discussion about the case and he trusted Steve to ask the right questions. He looked over at his husband.
“Pick us up at that playground at the end of the block?”
Steve nodded and gave Danny a quick kiss before father and daughter turned to walk down the street.
The SEAL turned to face the lawyer.
“Does that fact that the judge restored Danny’s visitation rights temporarily mean we have a good chance at the custody hearing?”
Gupta tipped his head left and right before answering.
“It’s a hopeful sign definitely but one can never be sure how these things will go.”
Steve sighed and slumped against the car rubbing his face roughly.
“This is just killing Danny. Having Grace back on her regular schedule will help a lot but he’s not eating properly; barely sleeping. If he loses his time with Grace…”
Gupta turned to lean against the car next to the SEAL.
“I do understand how emotionally wrenching these cases can be Commander but on the plus side, the Judge has set the hearing for two weeks from tomorrow so we won’t have too long to wait. Not to mention the judge has refused to hear any evidence of the affect your role in the Naval Reserves might have on Grace. I think he knows that being on Hawaii with its heavy military contingent he would be opening up a can of worms for future divorces among military families.”
Steve nodded distractedly. He meant it when he told Danny he would resign from the reserves but he wanted that decision to be one he made in discussion with Danny, not because he was forced to by Stan and Rachel.
The SEAL took a deep breath and pulled himself up to his full height. It was time to plan this battle. He turned to face the lawyer, his face now hardened with determination. Gupta couldn’t help admiring the man.
“Okay, what do we do to prepare for the hearing? What do you need from us?
“Character witnesses are the most valuable. Get as many as you can and we’ll decide between us who will actually testify. To start I’d recommend Officer Kalakaua and Lt. Kelly. Any other friends you and Danny have that have seen the three of you with Grace would be wonderful as well.”
Steve pulled out his iPhone and began making lists of names while Gupta spoke.
“I’m going to round up a couple of psychiatrists and counselors who will testify that being raised by a same sex couple has been proven to have no deleterious effect on children.”
“What about the complaint that our jobs put Grace at risk?” asked Steve.
Gupta considered for a moment.
“I think we need to attack that head on. Let’s be honest, you head a high profile task force taking on some dangerous criminals. I would say that puts Grace at a somewhat higher risk for a revenge crime than the children of other police officers. However, you’re a Navy SEAL and your husband is an experienced detective. Grace’s Aunt Kono and Uncle Chin are also highly trained and well able to take care of her. In my opinion you’ve taken every possible precaution to protect Grace’s safety. There are lots of children of celebrities and millionaires who face the same concern and no one talks about taking them away from their parents. Like everything in parenting, it’s about managing risks.”
Steve thought about the lawyer’s words and nodded.
“Ok, that makes sense to me. How would you like us to proceed?
Gupta straightened up and pulled his car keys from his pocket then smiled up at the SEAL.
“First thing I want you to do is go and have a lovely day with your daughter. When your visit is over you can start contacting people who will serve as character witnesses. You can email me their information in a couple of days. I’ll have my assistant call you then and make another appointment for us to meet.”
Steve smiled warmly and put out his hand. Gupta gave it a firm shake.
“I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy following you into battle Mr. Gupta.”
The lawyer laughed and turned to walk down the street to his own car.
“Just as long as there are no explosions Commander,” he called over his shoulder. “I know all about you.”
Steve, Danny and Grace had just finished Grace’s favourite meal of barbequed hamburgers, potato salad, grilled veggies and ice cream sundaes and were now sitting on the lanai watching the sunset. Grace was sitting in between the two men, holding a hand of each.
“Danno?” Grace asked softly.
“How come Mommy didn’t let me come to your house last weekend when I was supposed to.”
Danny glanced at Steve over his daughter’s head and his husband gave him a sympathetic look. Danny smiled at his daughter.
“What did Mommy tell you Monkey?”
“She said she was talking to a judge and the judge didn’t think I should visit for a while but I don’t know why. Did I do something wrong Danno?”
Danny felt his heart break as he gestured for Grace to climb in his lap. When she was curled up against him he began stroking her hair as he considered his words.
“Baby you could never do anything to make me want to stop seeing you. It’s just that…Mommy and Stan have some questions about how much time you should spend with Steve and I and how much time you should spend with them. Since Mommy and I couldn’t decide, we’re asking a judge to make the decision for us.”
“So it’s a custody hearing?”
Danny pulled his head back in surprise and looked at his daughter in shock.
“You know that term?”
Grace rolled her eyes in a perfect Danny impersonation.
“I am 10 years old Danno. I watch TV. Besides, my friend Marci’s parents got divorced last year and they had a custody hearing; now she lives mostly with her Dad.”
Steve smiled and reached over to caress Grace’s hair.
“I think we sometimes forget how grown up this little lady is.”
Danny nodded and tried to ignore the twinge of sadness that realization caused.
“Danno,” Grace’s voice was quivering slightly, “will the judge say that I can’t stay here with you and Dad anymore?”
She looked up at her father with moist eyes and Danny couldn’t reply as the reality that the judge might say exactly that ripped through him. Fortunately Steve stepped in.
“Gracie, there is a very small chance the judge will say that but Mr. Gupta is a very good lawyer and he’s pretty confident that won’t happen. If it does, Daddy and I will appeal to a higher court and we’ll keep appealing until we get a smart judge who understands that you belong with your Danno just as much as you do with your mommy ok?”
The little girl nodded but her bottom lip was quivering and when her father pulled her against his chest she buried her face in his shirt.
“Your honor I call Mrs. Rachel Edwards to the stand.”
As Rachel, looking beautiful in an elegant grey suit made her way to the front of the court room and was sworn in, Danny took another look at her lawyer from his place at the defence table next to Mark Gupta.
The detective would have been ashamed to admit it to Grace, who he encouraged to be open-minded about everyone, but Danny hated Jonathan Wheeler on sight. The man was tall, had pale skin and black hair with dark blue eyes. When he glided into the court room wearing his $3,000 suit that looked like it had been created with him standing in it, Danny couldn’t help but notice all the women in the court room running their eyes up and down the lawyer’s admittedly trim body. Danny could hardly wait until Steve testified; he would give the women something to look at.
Danny turned his attention back to Rachel and tried to mentally prepare himself for her testimony. He wished Steve was sitting nearby but since his husband and most of their friends were due to give testimony, they couldn’t sit in the court room until they were done. Danny was alone.
“Mrs. Edwards, how long were you married to Mr. Williams?” asked Rachel’s lawyer.
“Just slightly over eight years.” Rachel’s voice was quiet but strong and Danny couldn’t help but admire her poise.
“And Mr. Williams was a police officer when you met him is that correct?”
“Were you concerned about marrying a police officer?”
“Not at first,” replied Rachel smoothing her hair in a way that Danny knew meant she was nervous. “Of course I knew his job could be dangerous but, well, I loved him and I thought I could handle it.”
“And how were the first years of your marriage?” questioned Wheeler.
Rachel had a small smile on her face as she flicked her eyes briefly to Danny.
“We were very happy at first; very much in love. Then when we had Grace we were over the moon.”
“But things began to go wrong,” prompted Wheeler.
“Yes…well Danny was promoted to Detective. At first I was terribly proud as he was one of the youngest officers to receive a promotion to detective in the history of the Newark PD. But with that promotion came longer hours and more dangerous cases and days and sometimes weeks of undercover work.”
“And that was difficult for you?”
Rachel nodded and looked down for a moment before raising her eyes back to Wheeler’s.
“Yes, I was working full-time at my own job and trying to raise Grace pretty much alone for that time. Of course Danny’s family helped when they could but I needed my husband and Grace needed her father and so much of the time, he wasn’t there.”
Danny took a deep, shaky breath and twisted his hands on his lap. After all these years it still hurt to hear her suggest that he’d let his family down.
“At some point you decided to divorce Mr. Williams.”
Rachel nodded and when he looked up Danny thought he could see tears in her eyes. He hoped she wasn’t just putting on a show.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” she replied with a small quaver in her voice. “But I felt it was the best one for Grace and me – and Danny too. It would allow him to focus on his career. It’s always been very important to him.”
Danny clenched his jaw at that comment.
“Somewhere in that time you met Mr. Stanley Edwards?” asked Wheeler.
The detective almost snorted at that. He had long suspected that Rachel knew Stan – in all the ways she could know him – before she kicked Danny out of the house.
Rachel smiled brightly.
“Yes, my firm provided financial services to his firm. We worked together on a project and there was instant chemistry.”
“And what was your first impression of Mr. Edwards?”
Rachel smiled over at her husband. Since he was in the court room Danny supposed that he wouldn’t be testifying.
“Well he was obviously very good looking and very successful, but beyond that he was very sweet and calm. He never got angry, never yelled. He was very dependable and kind. Most importantly he loved Grace immediately and she loved him.”
Danny grimaced. Rachel had scored a direct kick to his teeth with that one.
“So the two of you married?”
“And you moved to Hawaii.”
“Was Mr. Williams angry about the move?”
“Yes Danny was livid. He threatened to sue me for complete custody of Grace and at one point he threatened to punch Stanley.”
“Did your ex-husband take you to court?”
“Yes and the judge granted me full physical and legal custody of Grace allowing Danny visitation rights of about 28 hours a week.
Wheeler shuffled some papers on his table before looking back up at Rachel.
“Soon after you moved to Hawaii your former husband also moved here is that correct?”
Rachel nodded and pursed her lips in a way Danny recognized as a sign of annoyance.
“Yes, he arrived about two months after we settled into our new home. It was…well it would have been nice to have a chance to get Grace settled in her new life with her new step-father but Danny wanted to be near his daughter and I suppose I can’t fault him for that.”
Danny made a disgusted sound in his throat and Gupta gave him a sharp look.
“Mrs. Edwards,” Wheeler continued, “how long was it after Mr. Williams moved here that he began having a sexual relationship with Lt. Commander McGarrett?”
Gupta jumped to his feet.
“Objection your honor; calls for speculation on the part of this witness.”
Wheeler put up his hand and patted the air as if calming a small, angry child.
“I’ll rephrase your honor,” He turned back to Rachel. “How long until Mr. Williams told you that he and Commander McGarrett were…seeing each other?”
“He informed me of their relationship just over a year ago.”
“And how did you react when he told you he was having sexual relations with another man?”
Rachel swallowed hard and took several ragged breaths. Danny knew she was faking her reaction.
“Well I was shocked quite frankly. Danny never told me he was…that he had those feelings for other men. He’d kept it well hidden. Of course he was no longer my husband so I could hardly object but I was concerned about the impact their relationship would have on Grace.”
Wheeler gave her a small, comforting smile and it was all Danny could do to keep from throwing up.
“And how did Grace react to the relationship?” Wheeler asked softly as if Rachel would break at any moment.
“I think she was confused and a bit upset. She didn’t say it in so many words but she was acting out a bit in school and at home around that time and I think it was related to her father’s relationship with another man.”
“Jesus!” Danny hissed earning another sharp look from Gupta and a raised eyebrow from the judge. Gupta leaned over and whispered in Danny’s ear.
“We’ll get our chance ok? Calm down!”
Danny nodded and returned to stare angrily at Rachel ignoring the dirty look Wheeler threw at him.
“Mrs. Edwards, can you tell me why you are here today asking the Judge to revisit your custody arrangement?”
Rachel nodded and took a few moments to gather her thoughts. Danny had to admire her acting abilities.
“It’s just that, I know Grace loves her father, but I think she finds his relationship with Commander McGarrett very…unsettling. First they’re dating then they’re living together and now they’ve gone through some sort of faux marriage ceremony. She keeps asking me questions about their relationship and about…well…sex between two men.”
Rachel blushed and dropped her eyes coquettishly to the floor. Danny wanted to stand up and applaud the performance.
Wheeler shook his head slightly as if horrified by the trial Rachel had been forced to endure.
“What about Mr. Williams’ work? Does that hold any concern for you?”
The woman nodded almost reluctantly flicking her eyes to the Judge before looking back at Wheeler.
“Yes, Danny and Commander McGarrett are part of the Governor’s 5-0 task force. They take on some of the worst crimes in the state and they are constantly in danger. Danny often referred to Steve as a ‘maniac’ and a ‘psycho’ in my presence and kept warning me that someday Steve would get him killed. Obviously I’m concerned about my daughter being around a man like that.”
Danny was now vibrating with rage and it was only Gupta’s hand on his arm that was keeping him from standing up and yelling at his ex-wife.
“Has Grace ever been in danger because of her father’s work?”
Rachel nodded and wiped a lone tear from her face. Danny shook his head. God she was good.
“Yes, last year he took her to a football game – a simple high school football game. There was a shooting and Grace was very near where it happened. She wasn’t hurt thank God but she could have been.”
“You’re frightened for your little girl’s safety?” asked Wheeler.
“Yes,” Rachel replied firmly. “I know Danny’s a good father and he loves our daughter but the dangers of his job, coupled with this new relationship, are making life very difficult for Grace and I feel,” Rachel turned her eyes to the judge, “with all due respect to the court,” and turned back to Wheeler, “that they shouldn’t see each other as much. At least until Grace is an adult and is more comfortable with adult concepts.”
Wheeler smiled at Rachel for a moment before nodding.
“Thank you Mrs. Edwards, I have no further questions.”
Mark Gupta stood up beside Danny and gave Rachel a friendly smile.
“Good morning Mrs. Edwards.”
“Good morning,” Rachel replied dropping her eyes to the floor.
“You testified that when your former husband became a detective his workload as well as his hours increased is that correct?”
“When he was offered the promotion, did he speak to you about it? Did he tell you that might happen?”
Rachel swallowed and looked up at Gupta with a slight flush on her face.
“Well, yes but…I guess I really hadn’t understood what that would mean.”
“In 2006 your husband was awarded the Medal of Valor from the Newark Police Department for saving three children from a fire was he not?”
“During the ceremony that followed did you not tell your husband’s family and friends, and I quote, ‘I am so proud of Danny, he’s doing the job he was born to do.’”
Rachel shifted in her seat.
“I may have said something like that.”
“And three months later you asked Danny for a divorce is that correct?”
“Had you met Mr. Edwards by that time?”
Rachel blushed and smoothed her skirt.
“We had met casually yes.”
“Would it be fair to say that when you informed your former husband that you and Mr. Edwards planned to move to Hawaii, he was upset?”
“Yes,” Rachel’s voice was barely above a whisper and the judge asked her to speak up.
“You said that his reaction was one of anger. Did he react in any other way during that time?”
Rachel licked her lips and nodded almost imperceptibly.
“Yes we met at my lawyer’s office at Danny’s request. He umm…he begged me not to take his baby away. He, he wept.”
“But you and Mr. Edwards did move to Hawaii with Grace so that Mr. Edwards could build hotels is that correct?”
“It was a wonderful opportunity for Stan,” Rachel snapped, eyes now flashing with anger.
Gupta gave her another calm smile.
“Yes, I’m sure it was. You testified to the court that Danny moved to Hawaii two months after you did and you said, and I quote, ‘it would have been nice to have some time to get Grace settled into her new life’ unquote. Would it be fair to say that, despite your reservations, your daughter was thrilled when her father came to live on the same island as her?”
Rachel took a deep breath and sighed.
“And up until the point that Detective Williams moved to Hawaii, Grace spoke to him on the phone every night and sobbed asking to come home and telling him she missed him, is that correct?”
Rachel shrugged slightly.
“Well yes, but I only heard one side of the conversation. I have no idea what Danny was saying to her to get her so upset.”
Danny clenched his fists in disgust but stayed quiet.
“Is it also true that Grace was having trouble settling into her life in Hawaii before her father arrived and that her school had spoken to you several times about her crying in class and saying she missed her Daddy?”
“After Detective Williams moved to Hawaii did things improve for Grace?”
Shrugging again slightly, Rachel flicked her eyes in Stanley’s direction before looking back at Gupta.
“I suppose some of it was her father moving here but some of it was also just settling down and getting used to her new home.”
Gupta nodded again and consulted his notes.
“Mrs. Edwards you testified that your former husband told you about his relationship with Commander McGarrett just over a year ago?”
“Isn’t it true that both he and the Commander came to your house and told you that they had become involved and that their first concern was and always would be Grace’s happiness?”
Rachel pulled her lips into her mouth for a moment then nodded. The judge prompted her to speak for the record.
“Yes,” she blurted.
“You further testified that during that time Grace was, in your words, acting out in school and at home, and that you felt her behaviour might be related to her father’s relationship with Commander McGarrett is that correct?”
“Yes,” Rachel answered sitting stiffly upright.
“But isn’t it also true that at that time Grace was having problems with a bully in school and she was very frightened and upset?”
Taking a deep, ragged breath, Rachel nodded then blurted “yes” almost as an afterthought.
“Is it also true that Commander McGarrett visited the school and spoke to the Principal and the bullying stopped soon after?”
Danny suppressed a smile when he remembered the night Steve came home calmly announcing that Grace would have no more trouble in school. The SEAL never did tell Danny what he said to the Principal.
“Yes he may have helped but Stanley talked to the principal too and I think that helped as well.”
Gupta nodded dismissively and referred to his notes again before looking up at Rachel once more.
“Mrs. Edwards, you have also testified that Grace has been asking you questions about sex between two men?”
Rachel smoothed her skirt and blushed again.
“Yes, it was a bit disconcerting I don’t mind telling you.”
“I’m sure it was,” Gupta replied blandly. “Isn’t it also true, however, that Grace has been taking a sex education course and although the teacher briefly discussed same-sex relationships, she didn’t explain them very well and Grace had questions?”
Rachel opened and closed her mouth a few times.
“Well…I don’t remember the exact timing.”
“And did you not tell your daughter to discuss her questions with her father?”
Rachel fidgeted in her seat for a moment.
“Yes, I mean, I guess I thought he’d be an expert.”
The comment elicited giggles from the people in the gallery and Danny clenched his jaw and clasped his hands on his lap again.
Gupta tipped his head to the side in confusion.
“But if you believe your daughter is upset by her father’s relationship with Commander McGarrett, why would you encourage her to go have such a discussion with him?”
Rachel opened her mouth then closed it again.
“Well…as I said, I supposed he would know more about gay sex than I would.”
The audience broke into laughter at that and the judged banged his gavel for silence.
“Mrs. Edwards,” continued Gupta. “Isn’t it true that Grace Williams loves Commander McGarrett very much, speaks highly of him to her friends, loves to visit her father and his husband and in fact now refers to him as ‘dad’?”
Rachel pursed her lips in an angry line and nodded once.
“Yes but it maybe that Commander McGarrett insisted on having her call him that.”
“But you don’t know that for sure do you Mrs. Edwards?”
Gupta stared at her for a moment nodding slowly before shifting his gaze to the judge.
“I have no further questions for this witness your honor.”
Steve and Danny stood in an alcove down in a quiet court house hallway out of sight of passers-by. Danny had his face pressed against Steve’s chest while Steve held Danny, one hand on the back of his head and one hand rubbing slow circles in his back.
“It will be over soon,” Steve whispered and Danny nodded.
“It’ll all work out. It sounds like Mark’s doing a great job.”
“And you stayed calm too. I’m proud of you.”
Danny took a deep, shuddering breath and fisted his hands in Steve’s shirt.
“Why don’t we take Grace away somewhere this weekend, maybe the Big Island or Molokai?
Danny sniffled and turned his head to rest his cheek against Steve’s chest.
“Sure. That sounds great.”
“I love you babe.”
Danny had to take another deep breath before he could speak.
“I love you too.”
Jonathan Wheeler looked up from the papers he’d been looking through and gave Danny a bright, sharp smile that would have made a lesser man shiver in its coldness.
“So Mr. Williams I understand congratulations are in order. You and your partner had some sort of ceremony recently?”
Danny gave the man a frosty smile.
“Yes, we had a wedding ceremony on July 8th.”
“Not a real wedding though was it? I mean gays can’t marry in this state so you could still get out of it if you wanted.”
The detective shook his head slightly and sighed.
“I don’t want to get out of it Mr. Wheeler. I love my husband very much and we’re committed to each other. Maybe we didn’t have a traditional wedding like heterosexual couples enjoy but we made our commitment to each other with as much intention as any man or woman who marry.”
Danny glanced out at the audience and saw several people smiling and nodding at him warmly.
“That’s nice,” replied Wheeler in a voice that clearly stated that he thought it was anything but.
“So Mr. Williams, what do you do when little Grace comes and asks you about anal sex and BJ’s and that sort of thing?”
Gupta catapulted to his feet.
“Objection your honor, Mr. Wheeler is deliberately trying to make Detective Williams and Commander McGarrett’s relationship sound like something sordid!”
The judge turned a disapproving eye on Wheeler.
“Mr. Wheeler there is no jury in this case. You don’t need to go for titillation. Ask your question but do it in a respectful manner.”
Wheeler gave the judge an oily smile and looked back at Danny.
“Mr. Williams, what do you tell your daughter when she asks about sex between two men?”
Danny tipped his chin up slightly.
“I tell her the same thing as when she asks about sex between a man and a woman; or a woman and a woman. I tell her that people should love and respect each other before they have sex and they should be old enough to understand and deal with any consequences.”
“Do you go into details?” asked Wheeler with a smirk. “I mean do you discuss the mechanics of the act?”
“I try to explain things to her in an age-appropriate manner. I obviously don’t go into details but I also don’t want her having unanswered questions.”
Wheeler gave him a confused and slightly disapproving frown.
“Really? Don’t you think she should talk to her mother about these things?”
“I’m sure she does but I’m a man and I can give the male point of view. I don’t believe that only one parent should handle these types of questions. I want my Grace to know she can ask me about anything.”
“Very commendable,” replied Wheeler dryly dropping his eyes back to his notes. He paused before he spoke again.
“Mr. Williams, would you say your job is dangerous?”
“It can be at times yes.”
“Would you say Five-0 faces more danger under the command of Mr. McGarrett.”
“Commander McGarrett do you mean? No.”
Wheeler looked up and frowned in mock confusion.
“No. Five-0 faces more danger because of the types of cases we take on, not because of the leadership of Commander McGarrett.”
“But haven’t you variously described your – oh gosh I don’t know what to call him – your partner as “psychotic,” “insane,” and “having the self-preservation skills of the common fruit fly?”
The audience chuckled and Danny smiled brightly.
“Don’t forget Neanderthal. That’s one of our favourites.”
Wheeler showed his teeth in what Danny supposed passed for a smile.
“Very humorous Mr. Williams but I have to say I’m surprised you’d allow your daughter to be around a man you obviously consider mentally unbalanced.”
Danny shook his head firmly.
“I do not consider my partner mentally unbalanced,” replied Danny coldly. “I admit I had my doubts about him and I complained about him when we first became partners because his methods were so different from anything I had experienced before. But I came to realize Steve is a highly trained, highly skilled Navy SEAL and that training and skill has been a major factor in Five-0’s solve rate and he has saved my life more than once.”
“But given your initial complaints about your ‘psychotic’ partner and the fact that you admit that you face greater threats than other police officers, you still feel it’s appropriate for your daughter to spend time with you?”
“Yes I do. With Commander McGarrett and me, as well as my other teammates watching out for her, Grace is as safe as we can make her. In fact, given the types of business dealings Mr. Edwards seems to get involved in, she’s probably safer with Steve and I than she is with her mother and step-father.”
“Your honor!” Wheeler snapped glaring at Danny who returned the look passively.
“Mr. Williams, please confine your answers to the questions Mr. Wheeler poses to you without embellishment,” warned the judge.
“Yes your honor,” Danny replied calmly never breaking eye contact with Wheeler.
The lawyer read his notes for a moment, obviously struggling to contain his anger. Danny had to fight down a smile.
“Mr. Williams, how physically affectionate are you with your…boyfriend at home in front of Grace?”
“My husband and I are affectionate with each other. We kiss, we hug and we hold hands.”
Wheeler swallowed hard as if bile had risen in his throat.
“Isn’t that kind of uncomfortable for Grace? Does she ever ask you to stop?”
Danny gave a small smile.
“She’s almost a teenager Mr. Wheeler; she rolls her eyes and makes silly noises when Steve and I kiss or hug but nothing more than any other child would do in the face of their parents being affectionate. When I was her age I was embarrassed when my parents kissed.”
“And yet you keep doing it?”
“Steve and I have never been very overt people so we don’t make a habit out of making out in front of others if that’s what you’re asking. But we love each other and we want Grace to see that. We want her to know how wonderful love can be when you hold out for the right person. Or even if the first person doesn’t work out, it can be better the second time around,” Danny glanced pointedly at Rachel when he said that and felt a small thrill of victory when she flushed and looked away.
“You’ve referred to your partner and yourself as Grace’s parents. Do you consider Commander McGarrett to be Grace’s father?”
“I do. He loves her as if she was his own and he’s as dedicated to her happiness and security as I am.”
“But he’s not legally her step-father is he?”
Danny sighed and looked down at the floor for a moment before meeting Wheeler’s eyes again.
“So isn’t that confusing to Grace being told that Commander McGarrett is her step-father when he really isn’t?”
“My daughter is a very intelligent child Mr. Wheeler. I’ve explained to Grace the laws in Hawaii and how Steve and I are not legally married in the eyes of the State. But I’ve also explained that Steve and I consider ourselves husbands and Steve considers Grace his step-daughter but we’ve never insisted that she refer to him in that way. She calls Steve Dad but we never asked her to do that.”
“Don’t you think that’s a bit unfair for Mr. Edwards who truly is her step-father and who has had a major role in raising her over the last three years?”
“I have no idea and I don’t care. Grace is comfortable with Stanley and is respectful to him. That’s all I care about.”
Wheeler glared at Danny for a moment then sat down.
“I have no further questions for this witness your honor.”
Mark Gupta stood up and smiled warmly at Danny putting the detective at his ease immediately.
“Detective Williams, what did you do when you found out your former wife and her new husband were moving to Hawaii?”
Danny blew out a gust of air and felt his stomach churn at the memory of those dark days.
“Well first I got mad, then I fell apart, then I begged Rachel not to do it, then I fell apart a bit more, then I contacted the Honolulu Police Department to see if they would hire me.”
“But all of your family – your parents and your sisters live in New Jersey do they not?”
“And it wouldn’t be wrong to say you had built an excellent career for yourself there and that you were a highly decorated, highly respected detective.”
Danny blushed a bit at the comments but nodded.
“So why give all that up to move to an island in the middle of the Pacific?”
Danny smiled and felt his eyes fill with tears. He swallowed hard before responding, his voice hoarse with emotion.
“I would do anything necessary to keep my daughter in my life and to keep being her Dad. I refused to be a vacation Dad seeing her once or twice a year. I love my baby girl very much and nothing is too much of a sacrifice for her.”
Danny felt his bottom lip quiver and he ducked his head for a moment. Gupta shuffled his papers for a few seconds giving Danny a chance to collect himself. He looked up and smiled again.
“Detective do you consider yourself bi-sexual?”
“Were you aware that you were bi-sexual when you lived with your former wife?”
Danny paused and chewed his lip for a moment as he considered his answer.
“Yes, I was aware that I sometimes had feelings for men but I never acted on them and I tried to pretend they weren’t real. My parents are very strong Catholics and we were raised to believe homosexuality was a sin.”
“And yet you came to Hawaii and fell in love with a man.”
Danny smiled softly and nodded feeling his throat tighten again.
“Steve is...” his voice broke and he had to clear it to speak again. “Steve is a unique person. When we first met I thought he was insane, as Mr. Wheeler pointed out. He was so intense and focused and driven that I thought something was wrong with him. But I came to see that, because he’s suffered so much tragedy and loss in his life, he was very closed off and, angry I guess is the word, when we met. But over time he opened up to me and I realized he was a big hearted, decent, caring, honourable and very loving man. I trusted him completely and more importantly, I trusted him with my daughter completely. I was bowled over by him and I was proud to be the friend of someone so remarkable. Then, when we realized we loved each other I felt so lucky and fortunate that a man like him would love me. I’m grateful that he came into my life.”
Danny took a deep breath and brushed away an errant tear with the back of his hand. When he looked up again he saw several women in the court room doing the same thing.
Gupta smiled at Danny again and nodded slightly to signal to his client that he had done well.
“Detective Williams, you have admitted your job can be dangerous at times. How do you explain that to your daughter? How do you prepare her for the idea that you could die in the line of duty?”
Danny folded his hands tightly on his lap and sat forward slightly in his chair.
“That’s not an easy subject, for either of us. It’s difficult to discuss the possibility of death with a child. But I’ve always tried to be open with Grace about the fact that something could happen to her Dad. She knows what I do is sometimes dangerous and she’s seen me in the hospital more than once. I know she gets scared sometimes and now that Steve is in our lives, I know she gets scared for him too. But life is about living and enjoying the here and now, not about worrying about what might come. I just try to encourage my baby to be happy and to enjoy our time together, however much time we have.”
Danny shook his head and looked up at the judge then back over to Gupta.
“I grew up with the same fears Mr. Gupta; so did Steve. My father was a firefighter and Steve’s father was a police officer. We knew what could happen to our Dads but we also knew there was no point in worrying about it or waiting for something terrible to happen. It’s ironic that my Dad was a fireman and when I was a kid my best friend’s Dad, an accountant, dropped dead of a heart attack when my friend was 11 years old. I think that made me realize that you never, ever know what’s going to happen in life and you just have to hope for the best and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones.”
Gupta smiled again and put the note pad he had been consulting back on the table before looking up at the detective intently.
“Detective Williams can you try to tell the judge how it would affect you if you lost your visitation with your daughter?”
Danny deflated visibly and chewed on his bottom lip for a moment. He tried to reign in his emotions but just the thought of losing Grace had tears coursing down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered trying to get himself under control. He pulled a handful of tissues out of a nearby box and wiped his face before trying to speak.
“I don’t know if I can put into words what it will be like if I lose my baby. She’s been the centre of my life since she was born 10 years ago. Everything I do, including working as a police officer, is done to keep her happy and safe. As I said earlier, I’m grateful to have Steve in my life and I know he will help me bear whatever comes, but if I lose Grace…”
Danny’s voice cracked and he had to blink several times and tense his jaw before he could speak.
“If I lose Grace part of me will be lost too. I don’t…I’m not sure…what my life will be…what my life with Steve will be. I just…”
Danny shook his head then dropped his chin to his chest. Gupta looked over at the judge.
“No further questions your honour,” he murmured quietly.
Grace entered the court room holding the hand of one of the bailiffs. She looked frightened at first but grinned happily and waved when she saw her Danno and Steve then did the same thing when she saw her Mom and Stan.
The bailiff led her up to the seat beside the judge and she climbed up on the chair smoothing her favourite pink dress after she sat down.
The judge leaned over the bench and smiled at the little girl warmly.
“Good morning Grace. My name is Judge Harimoto.”
Grace smiled shyly.
“Good morning,” she responded glancing over at her Danno who smiled and nodded encouragingly.
“Grace, do you know why you’re in this court room today?” the judge asked.
“Mommy and Danno can’t decide how much time I should spend with each of them so they came here to ask you to decide.”
Harimoto grinned and nodded approvingly.
“That’s right, very good. You’re obviously a very smart little girl. Now Grace, you’ve probably seen court rooms like this on TV and, being the daughter of a police officer, you probably know a little bit about how a court works don’t you?
Grace nodded gravely.
“Danno took me to watch a court case a few months ago. A man had an argument with his neighbour about a fence and they couldn’t fix it themselves so they came to court.”
The judge smiled.
“And did you enjoy being in court?”
Grace looked down at her feet and blushed.
“Umm, it was kind of boring.”
The adults in the courtroom laughed and Grace looked up and smiled in relief.
Judge Harimoto chuckled and leaned a little closer to the girl.
“To be honest,” he staged whispered, “it can be a bit boring but I don’t think this will be. We’ll try to get you out of here in good time ok?”
The child nodded.
“Before we start though Grace, do you understand how important it is to tell the truth when you’re in court?”
Grace nodded firmly.
“It’s wrong to lie. You have to tell the truth to the judge. Danno says sometimes people go to jail for lying in court.”
The judge nodded again.
“So you understand that Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Gupta are going to be asking you questions and you have to tell them the truth, even if you think the truth might hurt the feelings of your Mom or Dad or anyone else?”
Grace swallowed and looked at her mom with wide eyes. Rachel returned her smile and nodded. The little girl looked up at the judge again.
Harimoto sat back in his chair.
“I’m satisfied this witness understands these proceedings and the concept of perjury. She can be sworn in.”
Danny felt his eyes fill with tears as his baby girl took the large bible in both hands and swore to tell the truth. He reached under the table to hold Steve’s hand, grateful that his husband’s testimony was over and he was now allowed to sit next to Danny.
Mr. Wheeler spoke first.
“Good morning Grace.”
“My name is Mr. Wheeler. We met at your Mom and Dad’s place last week do you remember?”
Grace furrowed her eyebrows and shifted in the chair.
“Yes but my Dad wasn’t there. Stan was there.”
Wheeler paused to parse that sentence before continuing.
“Well when I said your mom and dad I meant Stan.”
“Oh. But Stan is my step-father. Steve is my dad.”
“Now Grace,” Wheeler asked gently as if Grace was a baby. “You understand that Steve is not your real step-dad and that your Daddy and Steve are not really married.”
Grace’s eyes filled with tears and she chewed on the corner of her lip.
“Yes they are,” she whispered.
“No dear they’re not,” replied Wheeler causing Gupta to jump up and object.
“Your honor is Mr. Wheeler going somewhere with this line of questioning or is he just trying to upset a little girl?”
Wheeler held up his hands in a supplicating gesture.
“Your honor I’m simply trying to determine how much this witness understands about her father’s relationship with Commander McGarrett.”
The judge sighed in annoyance.
“I’ll allow it but get to the point Mr. Wheeler.”
Wheeler turned back to look at Grace and smiled thinly.
“You do know, don’t you Grace, that the wedding ceremony your Dad and Commander McGarrett had isn’t really a legal one.”
The child nodded and fidgeted with the hem on the bottom of her skirt.
“Danno said he and Steve couldn’t get married with, like, a license and everything because Hawaii doesn’t allow boys to get married to each other. But he said he and Steve love each other and their wedding was just as nice and just as important as anyone else’s.”
Wheeler made a dismissive sounding grunt and consulted his notes again.
“Grace, are you ever afraid that something will happen to your father or Commander McGarrett.”
Grace shrunk down in the chair slightly.
“Umm what do you mean?”
The lawyer shrugged slightly.
“Well, they’re both police officers. Are you afraid something could happen to them – someone could hurt them?”
“Danno’s been hurt before. When I was little a bad guy shot him.”
Wheeler smiled and nodded.
“Yes he told us. That must have been very scary for you but what I’m wondering is, well, are you ever afraid that your father could get killed.”
Grace pulled her lips in between her teeth and stared wide-eyed at Wheeler for a moment. She swallowed hard.
“Sometimes, but Danno said it might never happen. He said most police men never get hurt or…or die.”
“But he could though couldn’t he?” asked Wheeler with a sad look so insincere Danny wanted to punch it off his face.
The detective returned his gaze to his daughter and locked eyes with her. He was gripping his husband’s hand so tight he thought he might leave a bruise.
The little girl dropped her eyes to the floor and her bottom lip quivered again.
“Danno says that even if someone dies, they still love you and they watch over you. He says that if something happened to him I would have Mommy and Stan and Steve and Uncle Chin and Auntie Kono and everyone else to look after me. Danno says that even though I would miss him and he would miss me, he’d still be my daddy and he’d always love me.”
A tear rolled down Grace’s cheek and Danny had to fight back his own tears. He glanced at Steve and could see his eyes were wet and red-rimmed as well. Rather than looking at Grace though, Steve had focused his burning glare onto Wheeler and the detective was almost expecting the lawyer to spontaneously combust.
“Let’s move on from this line of questioning Mr. Wheeler!” snapped the judge irritably. He leaned over the bench to catch Grace’s eyes.
“Grace, do you need to take a break or can you keep talking?”
The child sat up straight in her chair and looked up at the judge.
“I can keep talking.”
The judge smiled warmly at her.
“Good girl. Your Mom and Dad are very proud of you I’m sure.”
With one final glare at Wheeler, the judge sat back.
“Grace,” Wheeler asked, his tone almost wheedling, “Does it bother you that your Daddy lives with another man?”
Grace shook her head.
“Daddy and Dad love each other.”
“Do you know much about, well, the physical side of love?”
Grace furrowed her brows in confusion for a moment.
“Do you mean s-e-x?”
The question was asked so innocently the spectators in the court room laughed out loud. Steve and Danny glanced at each other, both stifling laughter. Wheeler just looked embarrassed.
“Er, yes, I mean sex.”
“Well, we talked about it a bit in school and Mommy told me some stuff and so did Daddy.”
Wheeler cleared his throat and fidgeted with his papers for a moment.
“So you know that your Daddy and Commander McGarrett...do that.”
Grace blushed and looked down at her shoes again.
“It’s not nice to talk about that, it’s private.”
Danny’s heart swelled with pride and he gave his daughter a big smile when she looked at him.
“Well, I don’t want to talk about it in any detail, certainly not,” burst out Wheeler. “But I’m just wondering how you feel about knowing they do that?”
“Objection your honor!” Mark Gupta almost yelled as he leapt to his feet. “What has this got to do with anything? Is Mr. Wheeler going to ask this small child about her mother and step-father’s physical relationship? What Commander McGarrett and Detective Williams do in the privacy of their bedroom is no one’s business!”
Wheeler glared at Gupta before turning to face the judge.
“Your honor one of the complaints in this hearing is that this witness maybe uncomfortable with her father and Commander McGarrett’s relationship. I’m simply trying to determine how uncomfortable she is.”
Gupta snorted in derision.
“Mr. Wheeler already asked Grace if she was bothered by her father living with another man and she said no. What more do we need? How vulgar is Mr. Wheeler intending to get in order to win his case?”
“How dare you!” shouted Wheeler rounding on Gupta. The judge banged his gavel causing Grace to jump. The two lawyers stopped glaring at each other and turned to face the judge.
“Danno?” Grace spoke quietly looking at her father with wide eyes.
“It’s ok baby,” said Danny standing up and leaning over the table. “You’re doing fine. Nothing’s wrong. No one is mad at you.”
Grace nodded then looked up at the judge who smiled at her and nodded before looking back.
“Sit down please Mr. Williams.”
The judge turned to glower at the two lawyers.
“I would ask you gentlemen to remember that this witness is a small child and has to be handled more gently than an adult. I expect you to keep your tone and your questions civil.” He looked over at Wheeler. “Mr. Wheeler you will not ask this witness anything about the sex life of either of her parents is that understood?”
Wheeler hung his head for a moment looking contrite. Danny didn’t buy it and judging from Steve’s angry breathing beside him, neither did he.
Wheeler looked up at Grace again and smiled. She didn’t return his smile and actually shrank back a little. The sight made Danny’s stomach churn. He turned to look at Steve.
“She shouldn’t be going through this,” he whispered brokenly.
Steve leaned closer and put his hand on Danny’s shoulder for a moment.
“I know babe but she’ll be ok. We’ll talk to her afterwards and make sure she’s alright.”
Danny nodded and looked back at Grace giving her the most reassuring smile he could muster.
Wheeler shot the two men a dirty look before turning his attention back to Grace.
“Grace, do any of your friends make fun of you because your Daddy lives with another man?”
Grace bit her bottom lip for a moment then nodded.
“One boy teased me. He called my daddy a…” she looked up at the judge. “It’s a bad word.” She whispered.
The judge nodded and handed her a piece of paper and a pen.
“Here, you write it down and then I’ll say it for you.”
The little girl took the pad and paper and studiously wrote the word using her best letters.
She handed the pad back to the judge who smiled at her.
“The word is fag,” the judge told the courtroom, a flicker of revulsion flashing across his face.
“Thank you your honor,” said Wheeler before looking at Grace again.
“How did it make you feel when the boy called your Daddy that name?”
“It made me mad. I punched him.”
Steve and the rest of the audience laughed but the SEAL’s smile faded when he saw Danny’s narrowed eyes boring into him.
“We’re going to have a little chat when we get home!” Danny whispered in annoyance. He knew damned well who taught Grace to punch.
Steve gulped and turned back to look at Grace.
“Did it make you feel bad Grace?” asked Wheeler probing more. “Did it make you want to cry?”
The child pursed her lips together and shook her head.
“No because that boy was just stupid. Mommy says I shouldn’t let mean, stupid people upset me.”
“But some people think its wrong for two men to live together.”
Grace took a deep breath and shifted on the chair.
“Danno says if two people love each other and no one else is being hurt, they have the right to be happy.”
Wheeler nodded and consulted his note pad for a moment. He face took on an expression that Danny couldn’t identify and it made his gut clench in foreboding.
“Don’t you like your step-father Grace?”
The little girl froze and looked over at her step-father worriedly.
“Yes I like Stan a lot,” she answered hurriedly. “He’s nice and he buys me nice things.”
Danny looked past Gupta and saw Stan smile smugly.
“Then why do you call Steve your Dad but not Stan? You’ve known Stan longer and you live in his house.”
Grace looked confused for a moment and Danny could tell she was starting to get upset. The sensitive little girl hated the idea of hurting anyone’s feelings.
“Umm, I don’t know. I like Stan, he’s nice. I just…I really love Steve.”
“But you refuse to call Stan dad don’t you? You’ve been asked to call him dad but you won’t. You’ve told him that you don’t want to call him dad. That must have really hurt his feelings.”
Grace stared at Wheeler for a moment, her face flushed and her eyes wide with sudden understanding. She shifted her gaze to her mother who was sitting bolt upright looking nervous.
“Is that why you’re doing this mommy?” she asked in a shaky, frightened voice. “Is that why you don’t want me to see Daddy and Da-Steve anymore?”
Steve and Danny looked sharply over to the Edwards’.
Rachel flushed and looked down at her lap while Stan fidgeted in his seat looking everywhere but at Grace.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you Stan,” Grace repeated, tears now rolling down her face. “I’ll call you Dad if you want and…” she took a gulp of air, “and I don’t have to call Steve dad. I can call him something else!”
“Grace…” Wheeler interrupted sharply trying to stop the little girl’s outburst. “Grace I haven’t finished…”
“I’m very sorry I hurt you Stan but please don’t make me stop seeing Danno and Steve.”
Grace broke down sobbing as Danny stood up abruptly and ran over to his daughter pulling her into his arms and murmuring soothing words.
The judge banged his gavel.
“We’ll reconvene in one hour after the witness has had some time to compose herself.”
Stan had left the court house building for a breath of air not realizing Steve was following him. The SEAL stepped into the man’s personal space and loomed over him darkly as Rachel’s husband cowered in a corner on the bottom of the courthouse steps.
“You did this didn’t you?” growled Steve quietly, his eyes dark with rage. “You couldn’t get a 10-year-old girl to love you enough to call you daddy so you decided to punish her father and rip them apart.”
Stan opened his mouth but his throat was too dry to speak. He was a healthy, athletic man able to defend himself but the Navy SEAL scared the shit out of him.
“Are you really so pathetic that you would destroy Danny’s relationship with his daughter just to prove you’re the big man? Just to show everyone how much power you can wield?”
“I-I didn’t…” whispered Stan in a shaky voice.
Steve took a step closer and pushed his face up to within a couple of inches of the other man’s.
“Did you ever stop to think that you could win Grace over by loving her? By spending time with her and talking to her not just sending her to country clubs and buying things for her?”
Stan swallowed heavily.
“I…I’m very busy and…”
“And very pathetic I know.”
Steve grinned coldly.
“Unfortunately with this case going on I can’t be seen to be threatening you in any way but when this is over Stanley, we’re going to have a talk you and me; we’re going to have a very long, very serious conversation.”
With that Steve turned and climbed back up the courthouse steps not bothering to turn and look at Stanley who had sunk bonelessly onto the bottom step.
Grace sat in the courthouse hallway talking quietly to Kono while Danny took Rachel’s arm at the elbow and pulled her down the hallway out of hearing range. The British woman flinched visible at the mask of barely controlled rage on her ex-husband’s face.
“Tell me it isn’t true Rachel,” he whispered harshly. “Tell me you didn’t bring this suit because Stan was upset that Grace doesn’t call him Dad.”
Rachel huffed in indignation and looked away from Danny. He knew immediately he was right.
“Oh my God,” he whispered. “I can’t believe you would do this? Try to take my baby away from me, try to convince people that Steve and I are too dangerous to be around, try to make it seem like my marriage to Steve is something dirty and immoral?”
Danny shook his head in disbelief and walked a few paces away from Rachel running his hands over his face before returning.
“Why, Rachel? Why would you let this happen?”
“You don’t understand,” the woman hissed angrily. “You don’t know what it’s like for Stan. He’s tried to be a good father to Grace and she refuses to love him the way he wants to be loved. Then all of a sudden she’s coming back from your wedding and referring to Steve as dad! Stan was so upset. So hurt. He…he convinced me that it wasn’t healthy for Grace to become too attached to Steve. He said that because your marriage wasn’t real the two of you would break up and Grace would be devastated. He said gay relationships are only based on sex and they never last. He convinced me that she would be better off if she stayed away from you for a while.”
“And this was ok with you?”
“He’s my husband, Danny,” she spat out, “I have to make this marriage work; I can’t fail again. We have to be happy and I’m not sure we can be with you and Steve in the picture.”
Danny barked out a strangled laugh and stared at his ex-wife incredulously.
“I don’t…I can’t believe…you really hate me that much?”
Rachel let out a slow breath.
“I don’t hate you Danny but I couldn’t make marriage work with you. I have to make it work with Stanley.”
Danny nodded dumbly and realized he was shivering. He turned away from his ex-wife and walked down the hallway to sit next to his daughter and wait for his husband to return.
Grace was sitting nervously in the witness box pulling unconsciously on the hem of her skirt and blinking rapidly.
Judge Harimoto looked down at her and smiled.
“I’m sorry you got upset Grace,” he said gently. “Are you ok now?”
The small girl nodded and gave him a weak smile.
“Good girl. Now this won’t take too much longer. Your Daddy’s lawyer is going to talk to you now.”
Grace took a deep breath and let it out before turning to face Mr. Gupta.
The Indian lawyer stood up and smiled at Grace warmly.
“Grace, do you love your father and Steve?”
“Do you like visiting them at their house and spending time with them?”
“Yes, we have fun. Steve swims with me and we play games and cook stuff on the barbeque and Daddy helps me with my homework and plays Barbies.”
“Are you ever uncomfortable around your Daddy and Steve?”
The child knit her eyebrows together in confusion.
“No. I love them.”
“Does it make you feel funny when they kiss or hug?”
Grace giggled, pressing her hand to her mouth for a moment.
“Adults are gross when they do that. Mommy and Stan make weird smacking noises when they kiss.”
Danny and Steve both had to put their hands up to their faces to hide their laughter.
Gupta smiled indulgently at the child.
“It is kind of funny, you’re right. Now Grace, do you ever feel scared when you’re with your Dad or Danno?”
The little girl shook her head decisively.
“No! Danno is the best policeman EVER and Dad is a Super SEAL.”
“And can you tell us, did Steve ever ask you to call him Dad?”
Grace looked sad at that and glanced over at Stan before looking at Steve then back to Gupta.
“No, I wanted to. He never asked me. I didn’t know it would hurt Stan’s feelings. I can call Stan dad too. Or maybe pop.”
Danny glanced over to see Stan grimace at that. He hoped Grace would be sure to call him Pop from now on.
“You did a very good job today Grace,” said Gupta kindly, “we’re all proud of you, thank you.”
Gupta looked up at the judge.
“I have no further questions for this witness your honor.”
Steve woke up just after 3 a.m. feeling the bed beside him cold and empty. He searched the house for his husband before finally spotting him sitting on the beach watching the waves slide against the shore. Steve sighed and shook his head. Danny had not slept properly since they came back from their honeymoon and he’d been served the court papers. Steve was beginning to worry about his husband’s health.
The sand was cool and soft against his feet as Steve walked down the beach and sat down close against his partner.
“Oh hey,” Danny murmured softly. “I didn’t mean to wake you babe. Go back to bed.”
The SEAL put his arm around his husband and tugged gently until the smaller man had his head on his shoulder.
“You know I can’t sleep properly without you. What are you doing out here at this hour?”
Danny sighed and snuggled against his SEAL’s warm body.
“I’m sorry. I know it’s dumb but I can’t help thinking we’re going to lose this case and I’ll lose Gracie. I just…I don’t know how I’ll handle it if that happens and I don’t want to ruin your life with my misery if I do.”
Steve rested his cheek on the top of Danny’s head.
“Babe, first of all, we are not going to lose this case. And second of all if we do – and we won’t – I meant what I said to Grace; we’re going to keep fighting to get her back. And if we can’t win in court well…there are other ways.”
Danny raised his head and looked up at his husband in confusion.
“What do you mean?”
Steve stared at the smaller man for a moment.
“We take her.”
Danny sat upright and looked at Steve in shock.
“Take her? What do you mean take her?”
Steve wrapped his arms around his knees and gave Danny an impassive look.
“We kidnap her. We take her out of the country.”
Danny stared at Steve open-mouthed for a moment before shifting until he was sitting in front of his husband on his knees, his hands on Steve’s shoulders.
“Babe…I know you love Grace and you love me and you want to ensure we’re together but I could never, ever take my baby away from her mother. Rachel has as much right to our daughter as I do. That would be a terrible thing to do to both of them.”
“But she has no problem trying to take Grace away from you!” Steve snapped, starting to feel embarrassed that he’d suggested the idea.
Danny sighed and dropped his hands to his thighs.
“I know but she’s doing it legally just like we have to do. Beside…maybe…maybe she’s right…”
“What do you mean, right about what?”
Danny shrugged and looked away, his face etched with pain.
“If the judge decides we can’t have Grace stay with us anymore maybe that means Rachel was right and she shouldn’t be around us.”
Steve stared in shock at his husband then climbed to his feet glaring down at the smaller man.
“What are you saying Danny? Are you saying the narrow-minded people are right and a child shouldn’t be raised by a same-sex couple? Are you saying we have no right to have children? Or are you saying that we’re too dangerous – or maybe I’M too dangerous – to be around!”
Scrambling to his feet quickly Danny took Steve’s face in his hands and shook his head wildly.
“No babe, no. I’m not saying that, I’m not saying anything against you, you’re a wonderful father! I just…I don’t know what I’m saying. I sat in that courtroom listening to Rachel bad-mouth me and I started to wonder if she was right, that’s all.”
Steve squeezed his eyes shut and tipped his head back, away from Danny’s hands.
“Maybe I should move out,” he whispered brokenly. “Maybe you’d have a better chance of getting her back if I wasn’t around.”
Even in the low light, Steve could see Danny’s eyes glinting with unshed tears.
“Steve, don’t say that,” Danny’s voice came out rough and strained. “Don’t you understand what losing you would do to me? If I lose Grace I’ll be devastated, I know that, but if I lose you I’ll be destroyed! Please babe…”
Danny’s voice broke and Steve pulled him into a hug holding his husband’s head tight against his chest.
“I’m sorry, Danno,” Steve whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m not going anywhere. We’re getting through this together.”
Mark Gupta led Steve and Danny into a small conference room down the hall from the courtroom. The hearing was to start again in a half hour but the lawyer had asked to meet with them to pass on some news.
Gupta put his briefcase on the table and turned to meet the worried gazes of his clients.
“Rachel and Stan are offering to end this,” he reported. “They’re offering to resume your previous custody agreement.”
Danny grinned in relief and looked up at Steve who had a troubled look on his face. The detective’s smile dropped away when he saw his husband’s expression.
“What? This is great news.”
Steve glanced over at Gupta before looking back at his husband.
“I guess Danny but…fuck they’ve put you through hell for the past few weeks; insulting you, questioning your abilities as a father and now they’re willing to just shrug and say ‘oh forget it, let’s just move on.’ It’s disgusting.”
“B-but I can have my baby back. What am I supposed to do?”
He looked over pleadingly at Gupta.
“Mark what do you think?”
Gupta took a deep breath and turned his intense gaze to Danny.
“Danny I’m your lawyer. I will do whatever you instruct me to do but I agree with Steve. This whole case has been grubby. I think if you settle with Rachel now she will always have power over you. I would like to see you get at least shared legal custody of Grace to ensure that Rachel can’t make any major moves without your agreement.”
Danny took a few steps away from the two men towards a small window in the room. He stared out of it for a few seconds before turning back to his husband and lawyer.
“If…if I turn down the opportunity to settle, there’s still a possibility the judge will find against me isn’t there? He could decide Grace is better off without me.”
Gupta nodded slowly.
“There is that possibility but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’ve been watching the judge and he isn’t thrilled with these proceedings or Wheeler’s performance.”
The lawyer glanced over at Steve before looking back at Danny.
“I know you’d be taking a risk letting this play out to the end. But you asked for my opinion and my advice is we walk back into that courtroom and hear what the judge has to say.”
Danny wrapped his arms tightly around himself as he considered his options. He didn’t want to risk losing his baby girl but he also was tired of being jerked around by Rachel and her pathetic husband. He swallowed hard and looked up at the two men and nodded.
“Let’s let the judge decide.”
Judge Harimoto entered the courtroom, his gown fluttering gently around his legs as he stepped up to the bench and sat down. He opened a file folder of papers and consulted them briefly before looking up.
“I’m ready to render my decision in this case,” he intoned.
Danny shivered slightly and Steve put an arm around his husband’s shoulders and held him tight.
“Let me say first of all,” the judge began, “that little Grace Williams is a lovely child and surprisingly happy and well-adjusted given her parent’s divorce. I must compliment both Detective Williams and Mrs. Edwards for raising such special little person.”
Danny grinned and looked up at Steve who was smiling at him proudly and nodding.
“Secondly,” continued the judge, “I have to say I find this case quite distressing. I find it difficult to believe these two couples couldn’t have reached some sort of understanding between them without dragging this case – and worse, their daughter – into court.”
Danny bit his bottom lip and dropped his head. He knew Mark had tried to settle the case but was unsuccessful. Still, he couldn’t help feeling guilty about how upset Grace had been during her testimony yesterday.
Harimoto turned his gaze onto Rachel and Stan.
“I find the behaviour of the Edwards’ particularly troubling. I was shocked to hear that this case may have been initiated solely because Mr. Edwards was upset that his step-daughter doesn’t call him dad. I hope that reason isn’t true because I find it hard to fathom a less valid reason for trying to revoke custody.”
Danny looked over at the other table and saw Rachel glare at Stan before dropping her eyes to the floor.
The judge continued, now shifting his gaze to Danny and Steve.
“On the other hand I have been most impressed with the testimony of Commander McGarrett and Detective Williams and of their behaviour throughout this hearing. It is obvious these two men love each other very much and are dedicated to little Grace’s happiness.”
“After hearing all of the evidence, I find no reason to believe Grace is being harmed in any way by being in the company of her father and his partner and I agree with the therapist Mr. Gupta called that there is no evidence that children are at any disadvantage by being raised by a gay couple.”
“I also do not accept the evidence that the work Detective Williams and Commander McGarrett perform for the Governor’s task force puts Grace Williams in any excessive danger or that she is emotionally traumatized by the danger her two father’s face. Her father and his partner are well able to protect Grace and have taken every measure possible to protect her without stifling her or making her afraid of the world. There are hundreds of thousands of military men and women, police, firefighters and other first-responders in this country who put their lives on the line every day. We cannot ask them, nor should we expect them, to not have children or not be able to raise their children because of the greater risks of their jobs. In fact, I would argue that it is because of their children that most of them do their jobs. I think this is certainly true in the case of Detective Williams who works as a police officer to keep his daughter safe.”
“It is my opinion that the custody arrangement Detective Williams and Mrs. Edwards have had in place for the last three years is wrong and therefore I am vacating it.”
The judge consulted his papers for a moment and Danny could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
“I am now granting Mr. Williams shared legal and physical custody of Grace Williams...”
The judge had to stop for a moment as Danny let out an almost primal cry of relief and sagged bonelessly against Steve and began to sob.
The judge smiled at Danny before turning to look at Stan and Rachel whose faces were pale and drawn with shock.
“I’m further ordering Mr. and Mrs. Edwards to pay all court costs accrued in this hearing and to pay the legal fees assumed by Detective Williams and Commander McGarrett.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Edwards your reason for bringing this suit was, in my opinion, spiteful and unnecessary. You put your daughter through a painful ordeal and you called into question the morality and judgment of two obviously good men.”
“I strongly considered granting Mr. Williams full custody of the minor child Grace Williams but despite your behaviour in bringing this case, I believe that you love your daughter and I have hope that in the future you will try to work closely with Mr. McGarrett and Mr. Williams to determine what’s best for Grace.”
Steve looked up from comforting Danny to see Rachel and Stan nod solemnly.
“I know that with Detective Williams’ schedule it may not always be possible for him to have Grace half time but by giving him this right, I hope it will encourage the four of you to create a visitation schedule that can be flexible and will be in Grace’s best interest.”
The judge picked up his papers and shuffled them together to signal he was coming to the end of his remarks. A look of sadness came over his face as he spoke again.
“I see a lot of heartbreaking, tragic stories in this courtroom; parents fighting over children like they were possessions instead of cherished human beings; parents accusing each other of the most abhorrent things in order to win their case. Despite the troubling alleged reason for bringing this case, it is obvious to me that Grace is well-loved by all four of her parents and I strongly encourage you all to learn to get along and enjoy your daughter’s childhood before she’s grown and gone out on her own.”
The judge smiled at both couples.
“Good luck to all of you. I hope I don’t see you in my court room again.”
With that the judge banged his gavel lightly, stood and left the room.
Danny and Steve had also risen to their feet and Danny was still crying quietly his husband’s arms. He started to pull himself together as Kono and Chin hurried over to the couple and the four shared a group hug.
As the four released each other, Steve and Danny turned their wet faces to a now grinning Mark Gupta. Danny opened his mouth to say…anything but words failed him. He knew he would never be able to thank the other man enough and instead pulled him into a tight hug.
When Danny released Gupta, Steve stepped over and also hugged the other man before stepping back and taking the lawyer’s hand and giving it a squeeze.
“Mark…I don’t think Danny or I can ever thank you enough. You were brilliant and we are so grateful to you for giving our little girl back to us.”
Gupta smiled at both men reaching out to put a hand on a shoulder of each of them.
“It was my pleasure, believe me. I rarely get to serve such devoted parents and such a loving couple. I’m glad it worked out so well and I hope that you will both call me if you have any other problems.”
Both men smiled at him in gratitude and watched as he picked up his briefcase and left the courtroom.
Danny’s face fell as Rachel and Stan began to make their way over to him. Steve stepped forward to stand almost in front of his husband as if to protect him from any more pain.
Rachel glanced at the SEAL cautiously before looking over at her ex-husband.
“Danny I…we’re sorry about all of this. I know you won’t believe that but it’s true. I only hope that someday you can forgive us.”
Rachel glanced at Steve again and saw that he was staring darkly at Stan, his jaw twitching in barely suppressed rage. Stan, on the other hand, seemed to have shrunk several inches and was staring resolutely at the floor.
She swallowed and looked back at her former husband who looked at her with an antipathy that made her heart sink.
“Why don’t you take Grace home with you tonight and keep her over the weekend,” Rachel continued. “We can meet next week and discuss schedules…if that’s ok with you.”
“That’s fine Rachel,” he responded quietly.
As the Edwards turned to leave the courtroom, Jonathan Wheeler finished packing up his papers and turned to follow them.
“Mr. Wheeler,” Steve said with quiet menace.
The lawyer turned to look at the SEAL and Danny watched with a smirk as the lawyer seemed to shrivel under Steve’s gaze.
“You’re a walking, talking piece of shit, Wheeler,” Steve growled. “Someday one of your clients is going to put a bullet in you and I’m going to hunt that person down…and give them a medal.”
Wheeler sputtered for a moment, his hand shaking visibly.
“Are you threatening me Commander?” he squeaked.
Steve smiled coldly and shook his head.
“Heavens no, I’m just telling you the facts as I see them. Isn’t that what you do in a court room?”
Wheeler turned and all but fled out of the room leaving Steve, Danny, Kono and Chin laughing behind him.
Steve turned back to Danny expecting a lecture on not threatening people, especially in a court room, but instead he found his husband gazing at him with a small smile and a look of pure lust in his eyes.
“God your sexy when you’re a Neanderthal,” whispered Danny, his voice husky.
Steve grinned pulling his husband into his arms.
“Does that mean we can have s-e-x later?” he whispered in his husband’s ear.
Danny put a hand on Steve’s neck and pulled him down for a kiss.
“Oh gross!” yelled Kono in a perfect imitation of Grace. “Steve and Danny are making those weird smacking noises.”
The husbands pulled apart and Danny smiled and rolled his eyes at the young police officer before looking up at his SEAL with a grin.
“C’mon babe, let’s take our daughter home.”
Chapter 4: Epilogue
I had several requests to write an epilogue for this. I hope you enjoy. I wrote it in a hurry so hopefully there aren't too many mistakes.
Danny shifted nervously on the hard bench in the gallery section of courtroom number three. It had been almost two years since he’d been in front of Judge Harimoto and he couldn’t believe he was back here again. The blond man looked over at his husband who smiled encouragingly.
“Everything will be fine,” Steve whispered.
Danny smiled back although it was a bit forced. He leaned over and rested his head on his husband’s shoulder for a moment. The last two years with Steve had been amazing and he couldn’t believe how much happier and fulfilled his life was now. Danny was still Danny – he still yelled at Steve when the SEAL did something crazy and he still hated pineapple on pizza – but Steve’s love and steady support had made Danny feel stronger in a way that he never expected. He’d always been a tough guy and always would be but now he didn’t need to be the rock all the time. He and Steve could share that load. They could carry the weight of life’s challenges together.
Danny sat up straight again and looked to his other side at a solemn-faced Grace.
“You ok monkey?” he whispered to the tall, self-possessed 12-year-old. She nodded firmly.
“Yes Danno. I just know everything is going to be ok.”
Danny nodded and smiled at her.
“Of course it will. The judge will see we belong together.”
The words were barely out of Danny’s mouth when a door at the back of the courtroom opened and Judge Harimoto, robe billowing as usual, strode out of his office in into the courtroom. He climbed the two steps his bench and sat down on his well-worn leather chair. His hair was a bit greyer and there were a few more lines on his face since the last time Danny had seen him but the judge still looked as formidable, and kind, as ever.
As the people gathered in the gallery resumed their seats, the judge consulted the files on his desk before looking up at the people gathered to watch or participate in today’s proceedings.
“Williams and McGarrett?” The judged called out into the large, Koa-wood paneled room.
Danny and Steve glanced at each other then stood moving past the knees of the people sitting beside them and walked up to stand in front of Harimoto’s bench. They looked up at the older man steadily while unconsciously standing as close together as possible.
Judge Harimoto smiled as soon as the two Five-0 officers came to a stop in front of his bench.
“It’s good to see you again Commander, Detective.”
Both men smiled back warmly.
“It’s good to see you too your honour,” Danny replied in a surprisingly firm voice considering how nervous he was.
“And Grace? Is she here as well?”
The two men nodded and Danny turned gesturing to Grace to come and stand beside them. The young girl slid off the bench and hurried to her father’s side giving the judge a bright smile.
“My, you’ve gotten big Grace,” the judge said warmly. “How are you?”
“I’m very good thank you sir,” Grace answered politely. “But I’m nervous about what you’ll decide today. I hope you’ll let us stay together.”
Steve smirked at that. Grace had a way of getting to the point like her impatient father.
The judge visibly stifled his smile as he regarded the small family gravely before looking down to consult the papers in his hands.
“Well let’s see…the home inspections went well, you have glowing character references, family services sent a positive report about the parenting abilities of both fathers and all of your legal papers are in good order...”
The judge looked up again and smiled at the small bundle cradled gently in Steve’s arms.
“And this is Madeline?”
Steve grinned proudly as he lifted the baby higher so the judge could see her. The five-month-old, attired in a lacy pink dress, lay quiet and contented in her father’s arm as she looked around the courtroom. Her intelligent, almond-shaped eyes seemed to be examining everything but were particularly drawn to the ceiling lights. Danny and Steve had adopted the little girl from Vietnam only a week after she was born and now were in court to make the adoption legal.
“Yes sir,” Steve replied happily. “Madeline McGarrett Williams,”
Judge Harimoto looked over at Grace, one eyebrow raised.
“And how do you feel about all of this Grace? Are you ready to be a big sister? Madeline will look to you for love and advice. Are you going to be there for her?”
Grace pressed her lips together and nodded firmly.
“Yes sir. I’m already a big sister to Mom and Stan’s baby – his name is Charles. I’ve had lots of practice. I love Maddie and I love helping Dad and Danno take care of her. Sometimes they let me watch her if they have to run to the store.”
Danny looked fondly at his daughter before turning his attention back to the judge.
“She’s been a huge help your honour. Changes diapers, feeds and plays with her sister. Madeline couldn’t ask for a better big sister.”
Judge Harimoto smiled and nodded as he pulled a pen out of its holder with a slightly theatrical flourish.
“I have no doubt that’s true. Between her excellent parents and her loving big sister, Madeline is sure to have a happy life and it gives me great pleasure to sign these adoption papers and make her yours permanently.”
Steve and Danny laughed happily as they embraced – careful of their baby daughter – pulling Grace into the hug as well. When the four pulled apart Danny was not surprised to see Steve’s eyes brimming with tears. While others saw a tough-as-nails Navy SEAL, Danny knew the gentler side of Steve and knew how much his husband adored both of their daughters. It would have destroyed him if the Judge had said they couldn’t keep Maddie.
Judge Harimoto folded one signed copy of the adoption papers and handed it over his bench to Danny who clutched it to his chest as if it was the greatest treasure he’d ever been given – well, one of three great treasures starting with Grace and Steve.
The judge stood up and leaned over the desk to shake first Steve’s hand, then Danny’s, then Grace’s.
“You don’t know how good it is for me to see a happy, loving family standing in this courtroom. Good luck McGarrett/Williams family. I wish you much joy in the future.”
“Thank you your honour,” Steve replied huskily before turning and grinning down at his husband and oldest daughter.
“Come on you two, let’s go home.”