Danny knew it was Steve behind him. Chin or Kono would have announced themselves even if they would have also come in without knocking since his door was open. Steve, though, was still so much a product of his training and upbringing; the military man who waited to be acknowledged before speaking at war with the social maladroit who wanted to be included in everything. The latter consideration had only been reinforced by Steve-the-boss, who felt it was necessary (and his right) to know everything going on in the lives of those people he felt closest to, that factor then abetted by Steve's petulance over being ignored. Sometimes all that… complexity pissed Danny off, but mostly he found himself amused by Lieutenant Commander Stephen J. McGarrett. Amused and, all too often, mildly attracted to him, as Steve's quirks and personality hooked right into Danny's own.
Steve waited for a whole minute this time at the door while Danny ignored him before crossing the room and immediately set to looming.
They just fit and were almost perfect partners in so many ways. From knowing which buttons to push and how to wind each other up to knowing when to back away and when to be there for one another. That he felt closer to Steve in only months of knowing him than he'd felt to Rachel in all the years they'd been married provided its own spice to the thing between them: a measure of guilt over being a bad husband that dovetailed nicely into Danny's Catholic guilt for being bi-sexual. Then there was the general giddiness from the first blush of the attraction, even if Danny had no intention of ever pursuing anything more than what they'd already worked out between them, for fear of screwing up.
That decision didn't mean that Danny didn't enjoy it when Steve draped himself over Danny's shoulders as Steve tried to see what it was that had kept Danny's attention from turning to him. Not that he would ever admit that enjoyment; doing so would only encourage Steve to keep at it. Just as Danny's pretend exasperation encouraged Steve too. So Danny just gave a deep sigh and relaxed his shoulders under Steve's weight, just a little, as if he was resigned and giving in to the inevitable.
Danny could feel Steve shift his chin in response, as if he might go as far as actually rest his head atop Danny's. Wisely, he aborted such a move and pulled back at the sound of Danny's warning growl.
"That's why you do it, isn't it?"
Steve's words and breathing still came hot and too close to Danny's ear for comfort. He didn't growl again, though, not until the brat blew into Danny's ear intentionally, knowing exactly how Danny's body would react even if Steve hadn't yet clued in to the full implication of Danny's quiver.
"That's why you slick back your hair."
"To keep gargantuan partners with no sense of personal boundaries from using my head as a rest stop?" Danny guessed, letting loose an additional sigh. "Yes, that's one reason, Stephen," he acknowledged as he closed the file he'd been reviewing with an exaggerated flourish. "You've also seen the other on those days you've gotten me up at the ass crack of dawn to come here." His grand gesture around the office ended with him turning around to face Steve.
"It's unmanageable," he reminded Steve.
"It's cute," Steve countered with an unholy grin, as if Danny was his favorite toy. "It's fluffy in its natural state."
Steve, more than Danny, was saved by Danny's cell phone going off and distracting him from his vengeance for the fluffy remark. The Norte Dame fight song piped out, meaning a call from Grace's school. All thoughts of bantering or baiting fled as Steve, nearer the desk, picked up and handed Danny his phone. This wasn't Danny's night with Grace, and while Danny might hate that it was Step-Stan's money paying for the private school Grace attended here in Hawaii, one he couldn't have afforded even before the divorce, he couldn't dispute that the Academy of the Sacred Hearts was good at what they did. That included accommodating his and Rachel's convoluted custody schedule, so a call from them here meant something was wrong.
Steve backed off so that Danny wasn't trapped, but stayed close enough to offer support. Danny wanted to offer him a smile or at least a look to acknowledge that support, but couldn't.
"Williams," he snapped despite hoping he'd need to soften his tone if it turned out to be Grace
"Mist – Detective Williams," the woman on the other end immediately corrected herself.
The knot in Danny's stomach began to tighten.
"This is Evelyn Matthews from the Academy of the Sacred Hearts. I… that is to say, we… we are calling all the parents to… to notify – "
The knot started to feel like one of those that Grace still sometimes tied, one that needed a knife to loosen as he identified Mrs. Matthews as one of the Development Coordinators for Grace's grade. The knot then ratcheted like a tourniquet being wound with a stick when Danny heard the phone on the other end changing hands.
"Detective Williams," a new voice came on. "This is Francis O'Malley, the Academy's Principal. We regret to inform you that the school is in lockdown. There has been a report of a man with a gun on campus. If you insist on coming down – "
Danny heard nothing else; involuntarily tightening his fingers into a fist around the phone hit the disconnect as suddenly there was nothing but dead air. He didn't care that he'd cracked the phone's casing at the same time. He didn't need to hear any more to know what would have come next, though. School emergency notification systems were de rigueur now, after Columbine and Virginia Tech. This wasn't even Danny's first personal experience with a school shooting. As horrible as it had been dealing with it as a cop, being on the other side of it as an involved parent was his worst nightmare, coming second only to Grace being endangered because of his being a cop.
Danny was already halfway out the door before he realized that Steve wasn't following. His immediate impulse was to say fuck Steve and continue on; Steve drove them in most every day in Danny's car and it wasn't like Danny didn't keep the keys. He didn't give a damn about leaving without Steve's permission either, but years of proper procedures – needing to walk the walk himself if he ever expected McGarrett to wait for back-up – had Danny turning back to see what Steve was doing, even if his body was vibrating with the need to go.
Steve was on his own phone, Chin too, out by the tech table Danny suddenly noticed, and the both of them then moving in deliberation that said they had a case. Chin was heading toward Kono's office and Steve toward the locked armory cabinet. Danny overheard enough to know they were getting the same call, if from different sources. The looks of fear and sympathy he received as the other two of his team moved then to join Steve was too much. Not a call from the Governor with an emergency, not now –
Steve pulled out Kono's sniper rifle and Chin's trusty shotgun, then two hold-out guns which Steve set down next to his hip before reaching for another that he handed over to Danny.
"It’s the call about Grace's school," Steve suddenly told him, his expression flashing chagrin as he read Danny's face and the fear that this was something else.
Relief came then, for less than a breath Danny still had a deep, sick feeling as he accepting the hold-out gun. So many guns to end up near Grace and the other kids, too many, and Danny knew there'd be even more, in the hands of the HPD, with SWAT.
He'd come so damn close to killing that evil, fat-fuck of a housing commissioner for ordering the carjacking that had endangered Rachel and Grace. This was ten times worse – a hundred times – because that's how many guns would be on hand and it wasn't always the kook who got hostages killed –
"Okay, so we've got a gunman at a school," Steve started in, giving the appearance of remaining removed from personal involvement though Danny knew Steve thought the world of Grace – that all of his team did.
"Likely SWAT will already be on the scene, but this is our show. Grace isn't the only VIP who attends the Academy of the Sacred Hearts; Senator Awber has already been in contact with the Governor about his concerns with regard to his son. As has the State Department regarding two foreign diplomatic families currently in residence, which involve three more VIP children amongst the several hundred who attend there."
Jesus. Danny knew the Academy of the Sacred Hearts was supposed to be the best school on the island, but he'd had no idea who else had kids attending it. Despite Steve's intent to take over, the scene would be crawling with private security. The Feds would overrun it soon enough too, despite the Governor playing her magic trump card or whatever it was she had that made even State back down and let her Task Force have the lead. It was going to be a clusterfuck, with too many people eager to make the takedown and their careers instead of being concerned about the kids. The press was going to have a fucking field day –
"Chin, let Kono drive," Steve's continued, his words and a warm hand now squeezing Danny's shoulder pulled him back.
Not that the what-ifs and worst case scenarios faded from Danny's thoughts completely.
"Make sure Duke's on site too. Lauren Hill's being dispatched to deal with the press; Chin, I want you and Duke to handle coordinating HPD and the school administrators, to make sure of the evacuations and head counts. See if we can get a couple of HPD choppers up in the area to keep the news vultures away. I don't want anyone feeding the shooter our positions. The Governor doesn't want reporters confronting arriving parents or evacuating kids either, at least not until everything get resolved."
Steve's hand hadn't left Danny's shoulder, only now it was pushing a little, moving him from the room. The part of Danny that had been ready to charge out and into the situation on his own now warred with the doomsayer that was afraid of what he was going to find once they got there.
"Danny, give a call over to your old captain – "
"I'm not staying out of it," Danny protested with a twist away from Steve's grip, his fear of being sidelined powerful enough to override everything else.
Steve reached for him again, automatically, his expression placating. "No, I didn't mean that," he said reassuringly. "While I drive, I was hoping you might be able to find out if there's been any demand or identification of the gunman. Like I said, there's other kids attending that might be the reason this is happening and the more we know going in, the better we can prepare."
Like anyone could prepare for something like this, even if similar scenarios were part of police academies' situational ethics courses. Danny knew that Steve was right, was handling this so much better than Danny was, and he was grateful. His heart even hoped Steve was right, that this had nothing to do with him. He and Rachel were at a place now that even if this was someone with a personal grudge, she wouldn't use it in a fight for full custody of Grace once more, yet –
Focusing back on Steve, Danny saw the door swinging shut behind Kono and Chin, and that he and Steve were alone. Steve looked worried but resolute.
Danny could have his fucking breakdown later. He might not have had Steve's level of training, but ten years as a Jersey cop and detective had provided its own share of shitty situations. He'd learned how to detach himself in the school of real life.
At least far enough and long enough to get the job done.
"Yeah. Let's roll."
The Navy SEALs' motto was 'The only easy day was yesterday,' and it was something Steve McGarrett had lived and breathed for years. Something he'd understood and accepted; something he'd lived for, because he'd found no higher calling than protecting his country. Like his grandfather and father before him, the Navy had given Steve the training and the tools to be the best. He'd relished the opportunities to prove that all of that time and effort he and the Navy had invested into making him the man he was today hadn't been wasted.
Life after was supposed to be different, to be easier, though. After he'd transferred to the Office of Naval Intelligence, it had been, comparatively, even throughout most of the five years he'd spent chasing after Victor and Anton Hesse. Not easy, of course, but easier, because no one could stay active SEAL-qualified and ready indefinitely, day after day, year after year. You either burned out or became twisted, like Nick Taylor had, forgetting the reasons you'd first gone into the Navy and instead doing it for the sick thrill of adrenalin, killing, and making money.
Even at the end, up until the very second he heard Hesse pull the trigger that killed his father, it had simply been part of Steve's job. Not that he'd wanted his dad to die, of course, or for him to have even been at risk for something Steve was doing, but Steve had known and accepted the risks.
In the abstract, Steve had made peace with the possibility his family might be targeted in retaliation for his work in the Navy. Well, his father since not even Steve knew where Mary had ended up. Not Hesse, though; their cat and mouse interaction had been simply business right up until the very end. Doing his job had been easy for Steve, though he'd only realized why since his father's murder. John McGarrett had been simply another abstract in his life. Someone he cared for, but who wasn't part of his present life, someone he loved because he was still Steve's father, while at the same time someone Steve hated for sending him away.
In the dark hours that sometimes overtook him, Steve could admit that his grief was more for himself and having lost any hope of reconciliation – despite never meaning to reconcile. The dad he'd loved had died when his mom had all those years ago, and Steve had already grieved over that loss. Maybe the John McGarrett that Chin had known would have been someone Steve could have learned to like, but the bulk of the pain from his father's death had been that Victor Hesse had been the one who'd pulled the trigger, that Victor had made it personal between them because Steve had been forced to kill Victor's brother.
That was thing: everything he did now was personal. Forget the favors for the Governor's friends or the cases taken to keep Five-0 from being shut down for doing their job too well. Most of what his team had worked on involved either Hesse or Sang Min, or old boyfriends and mentors, past teammates, ex-partners, ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, brothers, uncles, and now daughters. In none of these instances could Steve truly detach, because if it affected his team – his ohana – it affected him. Dealing with that had turned out to be a thousand times harder than anything the Navy had ever asked him to do.
The only easy day was yesterday, but somehow Steve didn't think Danny would appreciate such a sentiment right now. Even if it was the only thing Steve could think of to say while he drove. Instead he opted to remain quiet, listening in while Danny made the call to HPD about the shooter. He stayed quiet after Danny's negative report back on any expressed demands or identification of the shooter, though he knew he should say something, even if was just to rile Danny up. A quiet Danny Williams wasn't someone he was used to, was someone who scared him, frankly, because normally Danny didn't hide what he was thinking or planning. Not even when it had involved Meka or the carjacking.
Steve had learned in their months as partners, that Danny could be just as violent and deadly in his own way as Steve's training had made him. The problem was that Danny hadn't had the same kind of training, so Steve couldn't predict what his partner was going to do in certain situations, nor the best way to then back him up. The liability of that uncertainty was not something Steve could consider in this situation. Not when the consequences of something going wrong would absolutely break Danny.
"When we get there, I need you to take the lead with SWAT and HPD," Steve finally put out there, his hands braced tight around the steering wheel for the explosion to come for sidelining Danny. "We both know that the SWAT commander is likely to ignore Chin, as well as Kono since she's a rookie," he plowed on, wanting to at least look at his partner but needing to keep his eyes ahead as traffic abruptly demanded his attention. He should have realized that no matter what the school might have advised, most of parents were going to be converging on the location in person, not to mention other emergency service vehicles and news vans.
"As far as they're concerned, I'm just a rookie too," he added when Danny remained silent., "But they'll listen to you
Still no explosion and Steve dared a second's look. Long enough to see Danny was staring straight ahead himself, maybe counting cars and mapping alternate routes in case they got completely jammed up. Or planning on how to dispose of Steve's body. The only evidence that he was listening to Steve was the involuntary close and release of the fist Danny kept making, over and over.
"I need someone I can trust coordinating the takedown," Steve finished, wishing now for the explosion because he'd rather be yelled at than ignored.
Another too long pause, then, "Fine." Danny still didn't look Steve's way.
With that, Steve's sense of unease grew, the thought of Danny simply acquiescing even more frightening than his fear that Danny was just paying him lip service and planned to go off on his own as soon as Steve stopped the car.
"Danny, I mean it. You can't – "
"Don't you dare quote procedure at me, McGarrett," came a testy response, finally.
Steve felt so grateful that he didn't even mind being called McGarrett though he and Danny were long past that.
"I am not an idiot."
Danny's tone implied he was just warming up. Steve now relaxed his grip despite Danny's continued refusal to look his direction
"I understand why there are valid reasons doctors, judges, and cops recuse themselves from certain cases," Danny kept going and now his hands were back cutting through the air . "I am not going to do anything that might put Grace or any one of those other kids in greater jeopardy. I'm not going to let anyone else do so, either. Not some trigger happy SWAT sniper, not you – "
"I'm not going to – "
"Shit. We're here. Or as close as we'll likely be able to get, " Danny pointed out.
Steve began looking for a place to pull over. Vehicles lined every curb. Belonging to parents no doubt, and also those left by the curious who'd been drawn by the sirens and multitude of police and reporters. Certainly there were clumps of people just standing around and watching, in addition to the ones running forward with panic or tears on their faces. Further ahead were a sea of police cruisers and news vans with their microwave masts crowding out the local palm trees. Already the HPD officers on scene looked harried.
In the end Steve nosed the Camaro into a driveway and up onto the sidewalk. Opening the door, a wave of sound engulfed them and anything Danny might have said was lost. In the next moment so was Danny, swallowed up by the crowds and doing his own racing schoolward, leaving Steve with the responsibility of getting their vests from the trunk.
He trusted Danny, even in this, knowing Danny wouldn't do something stupid. At least not without back-up once at Grace's school. Steve wasn't so sure Danny wouldn't single-handedly set back Five-0 and HPD relations even worse than Steve sometimes did, but that was something Steve could live with. The Governor could too, going by what she'd already hand-waved away in the past. Getting into something with the former marine who ran the Honolulu SWAT team might be good for Danny anyway, if it came to that, as it would allow Danny to let off a little steam and find his focus before things really hit the fan.
By the time Steve caught up to his partner, Kevlar vest in place while he carried Danny's, it wasn't former Gunnery Sergeant Pete Hokupa'a that Danny was confronting, but his ex-wife. Steve could see that Rachel was on a tear, had no doubt been from the first moment she'd caught sight of Danny. Danny was just standing there, accepting Rachel's low-pitched, bit-off blame and Stan's glowering as the man stood in silent support behind his wife. Danny's expression was shut down and as tight as Steve had ever seen on his own face when he was putting on his camo paint. Before he could intervene, though, before he could even blink again, Rachel suddenly crumpled, collapsing not against Stan who was reaching for her, but instead into Danny's arms. Stan's expression grew even more thunderous, not that Steve was feeling much sympathy for Rachel's new husband.
Stan Edwards had blown any sympathy Steve might feel for his situation when Stan had let his ego and pride put Grace and Rachel at risk in confronting the crooked housing commissioner instead of going to Danny, Steve, or even the HPD for help. The fact that Stan also seemed to treat Rachel as a trophy wife and possession, and treated Grace more as a marker against Danny in how he lavished things on her that Grace either didn't need or that Danny was saving to get for her himself hadn't endeared Steve to him either.
Even if Steve wasn't on Danny's side in the husband competition, Danny needed to be his concern anyway. He needed Danny right now – Grace needed Danny – to be able to do his job. And, frankly, Danny looked like he needed a little rescuing himself for all that he was holding Rachel close and letting her pour out all of her fear onto him in the form of terrifyingly quiet tears.
Steve remembered being unnerved the first time he'd experienced first hand the wailing grief of the women in places like the Middle East and even now he generally turned off the news when faced with their pain, but the silent ones scared him. Maybe because that was how he remembered seeing his mom cry when she'd been scared over something his dad had gotten involved in and was trying not to scare him or Mary. It was how he cried himself, not that he ever let the tears show.
Steve started toward Danny, only to be intercepted by a wave over from Captain Hokupa'a. Steve switched course, still noting when, in the preternatural way Danny seemed to have of knowing where Steve was and when Steve needed him, Danny whispered something to Rachel before gently pushing her toward Stan. He turned and headed unerringly toward Steve even though Steve and Hokupa'a were behind Danny and two uniformed officers handling crowd control blocked them from view.
"Gunny," Steve acknowledged the SWAT leader, having timed his own advance to coincide with Danny at least getting into range of hearing. Chin and Kono were moving his direction too. From the expression Kono shot toward the back of Hokupa'a's head, Steve suspected the cousins had already been blown off when asking for a sit rep.
"Commander," Hokupa'a acknowledged back, obviously more comfortable thinking of Steve as a military man than anything else.
"It's a tragic thing we have here. I understand the Governor wants you to take lead, but even you must admit that my team needs to be calling the shots. My team negotiator was unfortunately away on personal time when we got the call, but he's on the way now, maybe twenty minutes out."
"We may not have those twenty minutes," Steve said before Danny could. "Give me the sit rep and I'll decide when and where we can use your team."
"Now, Commander, I'm going to have to insist – "
"Chin," Steve pointedly turned away from Hokupa'a, "do we know where the gunman is holding himself up right now? Do we even know if it's a him?"
"It's a him," Hokupa'a growled. "He's barricaded himself in one of the second floor classrooms on the north side of the school. There's no high ground near there so we don't have actual eyes on him. I've already got a couple of men on the roof getting ready to rappel down, but we're also looking to construct something back on the soccer field to give us the high ground."
"Has anyone tried to talk to him yet?" Danny asked.
"I told you, our negotiator won't be on site for another twenty minutes."
Danny threw up his hands, speechless in face of Hokupa'a's intractableness, or just too livid to find the words. Steve was pissed too, but he was used to marine sergeants, and found words quick enough.
"Captain," and if he maybe emphasized the man's current rank a little more than what was called for in normal circumstances, it still worked. In both their former military statuses, and in the current situation, Steve outranked him.
"I don't intend to just stand around and let the people with the guns, on either side, work themselves into a state. We're going to set up a command post in one of the corridors close to the room with the gunman, and while I'd prefer if you or one of your people joined us so we don't start working to cross purposes, I'm prepared to shut you down and freeze SWAT out entirely, if necessary."
He held the former marine's gaze until he saw the point Hokupa'a realized that Steve was serious about who was in charge and about what was going to happen, then continued:
"If you're willing to work with us, we will work with you, including using your negotiator if he gets here in time to be of any use. In turn, you will make sure your men do not make a move unless I or Detective Williams gives the word. We're all on the same side here, and that's the side of the kids, their teachers, and their parents. Right?"
That got him a nod, one maybe more sullen than enthusiastic, and Steve wasn't convinced there still wouldn't be some sort of problem down the line, but he'd take what he could for now and leave the rest and any fallout for later.
"Now, do we know how many hostages the gunman has? Do we have any injured? Do we have any kids missing who might be hiding instead of having evacuated?"
One of the nearby uniforms answered Steve's questions, coming toward them, with a man in tow that Steve guessed must be the school principal from his suit and air of importance.
"Francis O'Malley, the academy's principal," the man introduced himself. "You're Commander McGarrett, of the Five-0 Task Force?"
Steve nodded, but didn't bother to introduce his team. O'Malley had to know Danny, but for now Danny was staying next to Hokupa'a, something Steve figured Danny had a reason for if only to keep from wanting to pound on the principal's face for allowing Grace to be endangered.
"The gunman entered the school under the pretext of delivering and installing a four hundred gallon coral reef aquarium," O'Malley continued. "From an anonymous benefactor as a gift for Mrs. Jenkins' combined third-fourth grade class."
Steve didn't need to hear the pained noise from Danny, quickly cut off, or to see the devastation on his partner's face to know that Mrs. Jenkins' was Grace's teacher. While he'd never come to the school alone to pick up Grace, of course, Danny had brought Steve a couple of times when he had had week-day custody and work had kept them together. Danny had made sure Mrs. Jenkins met Steve and that the school administrators knew that Steve had access to Grace in an emergency, whether Danny was there or not. Meeting O'Malley hadn't been on the agenda that day, though, and Steve could understand why. The annoying little man seemed more like a politician than a teacher.
"Yes, we did make a call to the business before we allowed the delivery person in," the principal defended himself from Kono's sour look. Steve kept his own cynicism from showing and Danny's face had returned to its blank mask as he finally moved to stand next to Steve.
"Indoor Oceans is the same company that's been working with the displays at the Bishop Museum," O'Malley continued, obviously impressed by the reference and thinking it somehow reflected on the school.
Steve suspected Indoor Oceans was likely one of the only custom aquarium makers on the island, which didn't diminish the work they'd done at the Bishop, something Steve agreed was stunning. It didn't mean squat here, though, beyond giving them the start of a trail to find out who the gunman was.
"The purchase was real, or at least they were able to confirm the invoice number, the order, and that payment was made. And, well, it's not like we don't get the odd donation here and there from alumni or parents looking to ease their own child's acceptance to our facility," O'Malley added, again making even this incident somehow about his school and the money it commanded.
"This order was specifically for Mrs. Jenkin's classroom?" Danny asked.
Steve figured no one outside the team could hear the hint of scorn underlying his partner's question, but from the quick, narrowed, and pained expression that showed before O'Malley got his face back until control, Steve decided this might not be the only time Danny had made his thoughts on admission practices here at the Academy of the Sacred Hearts clear.
"Yes, Detective Williams, but no, that didn't raise any red flags either, I'm sorry," O'Malley exuded sympathy that sounded insincere to Steve's ear.
"Shavaughn Jenkins is one of our best teachers; she was awarded the the Milken Educator Award two years ago. She spent most of her award for her class that year, and at least one parent matched her spending the following year, so we simply thought this was another carrying on the tradition, despite these troubled financial times."
"Fine, so we know how he got in, and we can assume he had his weapon mixed in with the equipment he'd brought along," Steve brought them back to the matter at hand before the principal became too much of an apologist – or kept fundraising.
O'Malley sniffed but nodded. "Mrs. Jenkins elected to rearrange her class schedule and take her students out for their physical education practice while the aquarium was being installed, then to an early lunch, with the students returning in time to assist in placing the coral and other decorative elements. What happened next we know from young Master Kekipi – "
Another name that got a reaction from Danny. Not one Steve recognized, but then Grace didn't talk about her friends and classmates with titles such as young master.
"– he was sent out by the gunman to report to us what was happening. To the best of our knowledge, no shots have actually been fired. Thomas is too young to know for certain whether the gun is real or not – "
Steve could see that Danny was ready to say something again, to scoff. Even Steve knew that by the age of nine, most kids these days had enough exposure to guns and violence in their television and video games to recognize a real firearm. That was without Danny having been asked by Mrs. Jenkins to come in just last month and give a talk to the kids about police, crime and violence. Steve was still a little pissed that Danny had asked for Kono's help in that instead of his own, even if he agreed that Kono had been much better with the kids than he would have been.
Instead, Danny asked, "Did the gunman send out any demands with Tommy?"
The principal nodded. "He's agreed to let half of the students go in exchange for Commander McGarrett's presence."
The thought that Grace could be in danger because of him left Steve as gutted as when Hesse had shot his dad. He turned, intending to somehow apologize and praying that Danny could forgive him, but the explosion that Danny had managed to stave off until now suddenly let loose, and Steve was abruptly more concerned about keeping his partner from completely losing it.
"Jesus fuck! You've known that for – " a quick look at his watch, "– forty-seven minutes and you're only now mentioning the guy's asking for McGarrett!" Danny shouted, having picked up a different implication of O'Malley's words than Steve had.
"You couldn't have mentioned that when you first called HPD or, hell, when they arrived on scene? Maybe even when you called me?"
O'Malley took a step away from Danny and his flailing hands, but that only put him closer to Rachel, who'd obviously heard her ex's words despite Duke keeping her, Stan, and any number of other parents at bay while the Task Force was getting the low down.
"Obviously he needed the time to call the reporters and insure his photo op," Rachel pointed out in an even more scathing tone, low and quiet against Danny's rising volume but just as vitriolic.
"I assure you, I did not --"
Rachel didn't let him finish. "Oh, but you did. Or someone did for you. News crews were here before parents, Dean O'Malley. Not to mention you were too busy preening in front of the cameras when we did start to arrive. So far I am unimpressed by your handling of this crisis, sir, and I am of a mind to start a petition for your removal if your behavior continues in this appalling manner."
Steve only knew of Rachel's temper from Danny's past grumbling. When he'd finally met Danny's ex, Rachel had acted quite civil and even turned engaging in their subsequent interactions, never more so than when Steve had also gotten the chance to meet Danny's brother, Matt. He'd wondered, actually, if Danny had been exaggerating, had at least been letting his own bitterness and despair color his reactions and that more of the acrimony belonged to the lawyers' involvement.
Now, though, Steve understood as he watched Danny, an expression of satisfaction on his face, step back and let the mother of his child take over. Steve could also better see and understand how Rachel and Danny had gotten together; something else he had found himself wondering about in the past. It appeared that while ninety percent of the time Rachel Edwards nee Williams nee whatever was the perfect English Rose and at ease with money and sophistication whether she'd been born to it or not – like a modern day Grace Kelly – the other ten percent shining through here in the way she laid into O'Malley in front of everyone showed that Rachel had a temper and passion as intense as Danny's even if she was ice to Danny's fire.
Stan's look of abject, horrified embarrassment over Rachel's current tirade was a small, bright spot in this whole fucking mess.
While Steve was also still trying to get his head around the fact that so far neither Rachel nor Danny seemed to be holding him to blame for Grace being in danger, Danny, like always, had his back, noticing the approached of Captain Hokupa'a, the SWAT commander.
"Captain Hokupa'a, we'll need radio sets for each of us," Danny said with a snap of his hand toward the SWAT commander. Kono and Chin also approached. "Also, do you have a lighter-weight vest in your van?"
The SWAT commander nodded. "Something to fit the Squid under his shirt, yeah?" he asked of Steve. "Nahele, you're about Commander McGarrett's size. Get him one of yours."
"There's a cross corridor about a hundred and fifty yards from Grace's – Mrs. Jenkins' classroom," Danny continued; Steve content to give his partner the lead since Danny knew the school's layout.
"We'll set up the inner command post just back from there, commandeering one of the teacher desks from a different classroom. We could use two of your men at the intersection covering the door, Captain. For when McGarrett goes in and when, hopefully, the guy lets the first batch of kids out. Chin, we'll need half a dozen officers to help escort the kids out."
Chin gave a quick look to Steve to make sure he wasn't going to contradict his partner and Steve nodded.
"I'll take care of it, Danny."
"I assume you're going to want Kono out with her long gun?" Danny then turned to Steve himself.
"Yeah, if you can you think of somewhere she could get in position without needing to lower herself from the roof."
Danny twisted, obviously looking for something even though the north side of the school was on the opposite side of where they stood. In a moment he set his eyes on a boy smaller than Grace, but one who looked close to the same age. The kid was being engulfed by both his parents, his dad having gone down to one knee to clutch at his son's shoulders and his wife who sat on the curb with the obviously embarrassed boy on her lap.
Steve made a gesture that didn't have any meaning other than catching Danny's eye back his direction, then pointed toward the eye-rolling boy. A short nod from Danny confirmed that this was 'young Master' Thomas Kekipi, no doubt the infamous Tommy of whom Grace spoke often, mostly in regard to wildly exaggerated boasts of knowledge about things eight-to-nine year old boys shouldn't really know.
Danny strode over, first addressing Tommy's father, then kneeling himself to address Tommy when it became obvious that Tommy's mother wasn't going to let her boy go. After a couple of minutes, Danny headed back, a cautious look of optimism on his face.
"Tommy says the gunman only showed the kids that he had two handguns, no rifle. And Tommy was one of the kids picked to help empty the boxes so he's pretty sure he didn't miss seeing a rifle still tucked away."
"Handguns can still do a lot of damage," Steve had to point out, not sure why Danny was looking pleased; a rifle wouldn't have worked well other than to scare the kids, not once the rest of the kids were evacuated from the school.
"Yes, they can, but not against someone who's out on the soccer field, perched up on one of the light posts," Danny retorted, now moving to help Steve with the fit of the new vest as Nahele trotted back with it.
He'd also brought four sets of headsets and belt transceivers to connect the Task Force to SWAT's radio channels
The new vest was still obvious with just Steve's t-shirt over it, but once he put on his over shirt most of the telltale signs were covered up. It would cover up a gun, too, but Steve had no doubt he'd be patted down or made to flip up his shirt to show any obvious hiding places. Hopefully the gunman wouldn't be surprised or annoyed that Steve was wearing a vest.
"Assuming you can do your Tarzan thing again, Kono?" Danny was continuing with his strategy even as he was eyeing Steve.
Kono nodded with a scary amount of enthusiasm. "SWAT will have a belt and a harness that I can clip on the lights once I'm up."
Chin looked as much proud as displeased, since they could be wrong about the gunman not having a rifle, and Kono taking up a sniper position would put her on her own. Like Steve, Chin knew that she could do it, knew that Danny trusted her to do everything including covering his partner's back. Steve himself couldn't think of anyone else he'd want covering him other than one of his team, no matter how skilled Captain Hokupa'a's men might be.
"The best we're going to have to work with back there is our own van," the Gunny offered, any objection he might have made about Kono taking the place of one of his men stillborn in the face of the look Steve gave him. "We'll back-up you – and her – to the best of our abilities, but from our eyes in the sky, he hasn't gone anywhere near the windows yet. No one's had a shot so far."
Kono frowned. "I'd be just as happy if no one has to take a shot," she softly made clear. "The kids don't need to see that."
Steve joined in his teammates' nods of approval, then bent down to remove the two ankle holsters he'd so recently outfitted himself with; that would be the second place he'd be frisked for weapons, he knew.
"Well, yeah," Hokupa'a and his man agreed with Kono's sentiment too.
"Better a long range melon shot, however, than them seeing one of their classmates capped at close range," Nahele then spoiled it by adding.
"Captain!" Chin reprimanded before Steve could rise up and do it himself.
Hokupa'a scowled at his man, as did Steve even more fiercely, but the damage was already done. Face even more livid than when he'd ripped into the school principal, Danny took a step toward the stupid shit. Not that Steve really thought that Danny would take a swing, but he moved automatically to step between the two of them in any case, thrusting one of his now redundant guns into Danny's hands and holding the other one out to a closing Chin.
Kono closed ranks too, without needing any prompting, in turn further engaging Danny's attention by asking about the layout of the north-side playing fields. Hokupa'a took the hint too, and pulled his man aside, saying something that had Nahele heading back to the van.
The expression Steve received from Danny showed he was well aware of what his team had just done. He went along with it anyway, answering Kono's questions with details and generally calming down to a less angry and more focused pitch of intensity.
Good enough. Steve took the opportunity of being surrounded by his team to first claim his KA-BAR from his right cargo pocket of his pants, then drop the pants to his knees so he could attach the knife's sheath around his left thigh with the blade facing inward. The sudden silence between Danny and Kono caught his attention.
Chin, Danny and Kono were all staring at him with wide eyes.
"What?" he challenged. "It's not like I'm going commando, or like this isn't similar to what I wear in the water sometimes. Like you[re not wearing a bikini under your own clothes instead of a bra and panties," he accused Kono.
Okay, so Steve's trunks were more pastel than he normally bought. Catherine had picked them out as a joke, or maybe that had been Mary the last time she'd come home –
"No, by all means," Danny responded, his voice somewhat strangled but still clearly mocking, his hand waving counterpoint in a broad gesture in the general vicinity of Steve's robin's egg blue-covered groin.
"Yeah, it's no big deal, boss," Kono sniggered, proving she was still the seven-year old brat Steve remembered from high school.
Even Chin had to get his licks in. "You get to field all the parental complaints, though, brah. And the Governor's."
Steve refused to acknowledge the dull flush he could feel stealing up his neck and ears and instead completed his task in making sure he'd positioned and adjusted things properly before pulling his pants back up. So, he might have forgotten he was on display in front of hundreds of kids and parents, not to mention news cameras that could have gotten an angle despite the sensible, thank you, precautions he had taken.
"I'm not going in unarmed," was all he said, testing the knife's position through the slit in the front left pocket that was common to all of his work pants and ignoring the further strangled noises Danny was making. He knew what it looked like, what it would look like if he needed to pull it, but no one was going to be thinking anything but life or death if that had to happen.
Despite the red flush Danny's own face sported, his eyes mostly held gratitude and approval. Steve could ignore the rest – needed to ignore the rest for right now – and just be thankful that Danny wasn't fighting him on which of the two of them would go into Grace's classroom.
Grace would no doubt have preferred to see her dad, but the gunman had asked for Steve.
Danny was glad to see the fuckwad sniper wasn't one of the two men Captain Hokupa'a sent along; wasn't surprised the captain didn't send himself. Steve had made it clear that Five-0 was in charge and there was no place for second-guessing a decision. If it was also that Hokupa'a wanted to stay outside and get on the news, or to make nice to the VIP parents or O'Malley, Danny didn't give a fuck, even if the Governor herself showed up for her own photo ops showing her support and concern.
Danny also knew he was deflecting in his preoccupation with Hokupa'a and Pat Jameson, by dealing with minor details so he didn't have to think about the big things. Like Grace, since that way lay only madness.
Thinking about Steve wasn't any better. Danny wanted to be pissed that Steve was going to sideline him, his own comments about accepting the division of duties aside. It wasn't that he needed to be Grace's hero; his ego wasn't that bad and as long as someone made Grace safe, he could put aside his own needs because they would never be more important than his daughter's. Still, it was easy to rage at Steve, even though Danny knew that Steve deliberately goaded him sometimes just to give him that outlet.
What wasn't as easy to deal with were his concerns for Steve's own safety. While Danny had gotten used to Steve going into situations half-cocked and flying by the seat of his pants with no hint of calling in reinforcements, Danny was always there with him. If not Danny, then Chin or Kono would be with him. Kono perching on a light pole didn't count in this instance, nor did Danny being only a hundred and fifty yards back. This time he didn't even have a visual to at least try and give Steve some kind of heads up like the other times he'd been sidelined because of his knee. Steve was going in alone, and listening in while someone maybe tried to kill Steve was going to kill Danny too.
Only not being able to listen would have made it worse.
"Is everyone in position?" Steve said from Danny's side, speaking softly into his headset.
"All set, boss," came Kono's reply, then:
"We ready for go," from Hokupa'a.
Chin signaled from where he waited with the HPD officers further down the hall, the ones who were ready to hustle the kids out, assuming the gunman inside Mrs. Jenkins' classroom followed through on his trade for Steve. Which left only Danny to give Steve the go ahead.
For a second Danny balked, but this was Grace and, dammit, he wouldn't have been backing out were he the one the gunman had asked for. If he couldn't let Steve do this he might as well resign right now because it was one thing to maybe have feelings for his partner and quite another to allow those feelings to get in the way of doing the job.
"Yeah, ready," he pushed out past the dryness of his throat. "Don't do anything stupid."
So of course Steve had to defy him, right off the bat, giving Danny one of his stupid, goofy grins that Danny had finally come to realize was not about being jazzed up about the chance to do mayhem but instead an expression of gratification that a friend – that Danny – was there covering his back. Steve gave a wave and a nod to Chin and the other officers, told Kono, Hokupa'a, and anyone else on their frequency that he was moving out, then at the last second reached over and grabbed up Danny's hand.
"I'll make sure she's safe, Danno. That they all stay safe."
Danny could only nod and clutch back in return, unwilling to open his mouth for what might come out. Fortunately Steve wasn't expecting anything better and, with another one of those stupid, heartbreaking smiles, let go and stepped away, then stepped out into the cross corridor and walked boldly down the middle toward Grace's classroom.
"Mrs. Jenkins, this is Commander Steve McGarrett, Five-0," Steve called out about halfway down, his hands held out wide from his sides even though the door looked to be closed from where Danny stayed back at the corner, with one of the SWAT team crouched down next to him. The other marksman stood on the other side of the corridor, covering the high position.
"I understand you have a guest in your classroom who wishes to talk to me.
Long seconds passed, long enough to hear murmurs across the headsets though no one was actually saying anything decipherable. Danny didn't have to understand what was being muttered under their breaths to know that at least someone was speculating that they'd taken too long, or that perhaps the gunman had just pulled a name out of the news but didn't have any plan or agenda beyond scaring and maybe shooting kids and cops. Just when Danny thought he'd be the one to actually break first, the door Steve now stood ten or so feet in front of opened, and Mrs. Jenkins filled the narrow opening, blocking any glimpse further into the room. Although Danny didn't have position to actually see any part of the gunman, he could clearly see a gun held against Mrs. Jenkins' temple, and that she was shaking.
"Commander McGarrett, yes, thank you. I…" she paused and it appeared as if she was leaning back, listening to something being whispered. Steve's mic wasn't picking it up, at least not enough for Danny to make out any words, and Steve's expression didn't give anything away beyond an effort to look harmless and reassuring for Mrs. Jenkins' benefit.
"He wants you to come in," she said at last. "I'll need to frisk you."
Steve nodded and when he spoke, it was only because of the mic pick-up that Danny heard, as Steve kept his voice calm and non-threatening, just as he kept his expression and body positioning.
"That's fine, Mrs. Jenkins. I am wearing a vest," Steve then called out just a little louder for the gunman hiding behind his own corner, going the disclosure route and Danny didn't blame him. There was no doubt Mrs. Jenkins would have reacted to feeling the vest underneath Steve's shirts, and this way she wouldn't freak, not then and maybe not if she brushed her hand along Steve's knife eventually.
Steve made a show of removing his outer shirt and lifting up the back of his tee when he turned under Mrs. Jenkins' hands. He lifted his pant legs too, to show the top of his snug hiking boots. Danny knew first hand that Steve kept things in the soles of those boots. Knew too, that Steve didn't store weapons there, well nothing except a small flick knife that he obviously wasn't going to be pulling out under the current circumstances. Just lockpicks and nylon filament line that wouldn't be much use, not unless Steve planned on doing a little fishing in that fucking donated aquarium.
"I'll come in, but I believe you agreed to let half of the kids go in return?"
Mrs. Jenkins nodded before Danny heard a soft spoken yes. Steve made a move to transfer Mrs. Jenkins behind him as she was let go in favor of the door being opened wider, but Danny watched her shake her head and step back toward the classroom. Danny knew what she was doing, Steve too, from how quickly he bit down on the protest he'd begun and how quickly he let his hand drop. Shavaughn Jenkins was exactly the type of teacher who wouldn't consider getting herself to safety as long as even one of her kids was still endangered.
Kids started coming through the door. Danny couldn't help himself, he moved into the corridor, Chin just a few steps behind him. Together they started shepherding Grace's classmates back toward the waiting HPD officers.
Twelve students came through, half of the class as promised in Tommy's report, rounded down as Mrs. Jenkins taught twenty-five kids. Danny couldn't meet Chin's gaze, nor Steve's, when Grace wasn't one of the twelve. He couldn’t protest, though, didn't want Steve to do so on his behalf, as he was no more deserving than any other scared, breathless parent waiting outside the school. He didn't convey that to Steve, however, as his altruism only went so far. He didn't want to single Grace out, either, just in case the gunman hadn't already identified her.
Not that Danny had a chance to convey anything to Steve anyway. Even before the gunman made any follow-up demand or signal, Steve followed Mrs. Jenkins through the door and into the class room, leaving Danny standing in the no man's land of the empty school corridor. Alone, as Chin assisted the last of the twelve students away to safety.
The door closed behind Steve, providing Danny's cue to go back to the command post.
"He's in," he announced to the others, doing his best to hide his devastation. He'd been given the master radio, the only one which could give orders across all channels, the hope being that by segregating SWAT and HPD to separate frequencies, confusion would be avoided. Chin would coordinate with Duke and HPD, Captain Hokupa'a would handle SWAT, and the both of them would pass on anything Danny needed to know. He'd keep an ear on Steve and provide the assessments for who needed to move when.
Steve had adjusted the gain on his own radio, it appeared, as Danny suddenly began picking up the ambient noise from the classroom as well as Steve's own vocals. Being able to hear an adult call out Grace's name, an adult who wasn't Steve or Mrs. Jenkins, however, wasn't doing Danny any favors.
"Go on, Grace," Danny heard the man say next. "Follow your friends and get out of here." Those words had Danny slowing and sent his heart soaring from the well of despair he'd felt when she'd abruptly been singled out.
"No. I'm not leaving Uncle Steve."
Danny couldn't move. He didn't know if he wanted to laugh or to cry as his heart nearly burst with pride over Grace's loyalty. He was also contemplating tanning her backside for the first time in her life, for talking back to the man holding the gun. He certainly didn't want to think that Grace might have become inured to guns or even to threats after two threatening incidents – two too many in Danny's world – so she was simply being as stubborn as only his and Rachel's child could be.
Rachel had done much the same thing when faced with the car-jacking, as Danny had found out later reading over the report. Refusing to move or be cowed until she had Grace with her. Which meant Danny could never punish his daughter for following her mother's lead – for being so fucking brave no matter what that bravery was doing to him.
"Grace, it's okay," Steve's voice abruptly overrode Mrs. Jenkins' starting background admonishment. "This man and I are just going to talk. He's not going to hurt me, Mrs. Jenkins, or any of your classmates. You can go. Your parents need to see that you're all right."
"Are you sure?" Grace's voice this time sounded more tremulous than defiant. So much closer, too, as if Steve had just picked her up or, more likely, knelt down to be closer to her height so that he didn't give up any advantage to the gunman.
"I am, Gracie Girl. I know for a fact that Danno, your mom, and Step-Stan are all here, waiting, and they need one of your hugs too, now that I've gotten mine. It's going to be okay."
Steve would get a hell of a lot more than a hug from Danny, would get whatever he fucking asked for or wanted for stepping up there. A kidney or maybe a lung – well, maybe not one of those, since Danny's didn't seem to be working right and he found himself struggling to breathe when he heard the classroom door open again behind him.
Slowing down only to mute his radio because there were certain things that didn't need to be overheard, Danny turned back and raced down the corridor toward the now visible Grace. Who was doing the same as best she could, once she caught sight of her Danno. He scooped her up into his arms and immediately twisted, putting his back toward the door instead of hers. Shooting him didn't seem to be part of the gunman's agenda, however, and Danny moved the two of them back to the safety of the crosscorridor without further incident.
"Oh, Monkey," Danny choked out and held her too tightly, letting her squeeze him just as close. Grace was crying now, sobbing his name, and Danny wasn't doing much better. The petty side of him rather hoped one of Hokupa'a's men there might prove to be as big a jerk as Nahele and make some comment, even felt disappointed when he heard nothing. He was going to have to give Grace up in just a few more seconds, to get back to doing his job, and nothing would restore his focus like ripping an asshole a new one.
With nothing spoken to earn his ire, however, that left whomever was trying to take Grace from his arms to bare the brunt of Danny's tightly wound anger. "Back off," he growled. "Take your hands off her --"
"Danny, brah, it's me. I've got her. Let me get her down to Rachel."
For a moment Danny resisted, not carry that it was Chin who'd come for Grace instead of one of the HPD officers. He relented, though, recognizing that Chin was right and that he was here to save all the children, not just his own.
"Yeah," Danny agreed, not apologizing, not yet, but also not needing to, given the whole ohana thing between them. "Okay." He started to relax his grip, only Grace wasn't so accepting.
Danny could feel her jerk and twist in his arms, fighting against Chin's hold. Even as Danny tried to soothe her, he could feel her kick out. Chin's grunt as she caught him in the chest with, thankfully, a glancing blow, went almost unheard as Grace fought and spit out screams of no.
"Danny, Rachel is being escorted up," he heard over his comm, Kono proving once more to be smarter than the rest of them; not that Danny had heard her make the initial request.
He stayed kneeling, Chin simply leaving his hand against Grace's back until they heard Rachel's sharp heels tapping down the corridor. Then Chin let Rachel take his place. While Grace still kept her too soulful gaze turned Danny's direction, she did finally let her mother pull her away, and even went so far as to apologize to Chin before twisting and collapsing against Rachel's neck with another burst of sobs and hiccups.
Danny felt like he was the ass when he only slid his hand down the back of Grace's head one last time, then cupped it against Rachel's check before stepping back, turning and walking away from the both of them without a word. As Rachel had already made quite clear how she felt about how Danny set his priorities between family and job, he didn't need any new confirmation of her hate.
Or, maybe worse, her pity.
Danny allowed himself one deep, albeit shaky, breath, then pulled his game face on and turned his radio back on with a silent apology to Steve for having abandoned him for those few minutes.
"–Tommy disclosed that Grace William's father was one of your Five-0 Task Force, Commander," the gunman speaking again. "I'd hoped that in freeing her, I might earn myself some good will despite the rest of these circumstances."
"No one's taken a shot at you yet," came from Steve with a not-so-veiled warning.
It was probably a good thing that Hokupa'a wasn't listening in. Steve had obviously never taken any hostage negotiation classes. But then, most of the times he might have found himself in this type of situation in the past, Steve would have been the one taking the shot while someone else distracted the gunman with words, Danny had no doubt.
"Letting the rest of the kids go would provide a better guarantee against that happening," Steve added.
"I'm not sure just having you would be incentive enough for the police to keep their places," was the gunman's response to that. "I read the profile the Honolulu Star-Advertiser did on you and your team after that business with the fake tsunami warning, Commander. What I read there was what inspired me to try this as a last resort."
Hearing a gunman admit to something being a last resort was not encouraging, and any relief Danny had felt in holding Grace and seeing her safe dissolved in his new tension on Steve's behalf.
"The reporter made it sound like I'd get a fair hearing from you, Commander."
"He couldn't have just called our offices," Danny couldn't help grousing subvocally, getting a chuckle from Kono in return as she'd picked it up, and a hand on his shoulder from Chin.
"So, I'm here and I'm listening," Steve responded to the gunman in turn. For not having too much experience in talking a guy down, Steve did have the calm, sympathetic voice down better than Danny expected.
"I am desperate, Commander. I do not want to hurt anyone and I'm sorry it has come to this, but I already tried the Governor, both Senators, and my Congressman, all of whom wouldn't even take my call. I know Senator Awber's kid attends here, by the way. I purposely did not pick Awber's classroom for this, I want you to know. I didn't want someone to think I'm a terrorist or anarchist or something."
"So you picked mine?" Shavaughn Jenkins asked, sounded almost pissed or at least indignant.
"Your name came up in Google a lot, ma'am. It was nothing personal, I just needed a likely recipient of the gift."
The gift – right, the aquarium. The whole reason the gunman had gotten into the school without being questioned or properly searched. Maybe this would teach Principal O'Malley to be a little less eager for those big money donations and alumnae gifts.
It shouldn't have made a difference since Grace and her classmates had still been the ones taken hostage, but hearing that he wasn't in any way at fault that she'd been endangered went a long way to easing Danny conscience.
"You were desperate enough that taking kids hostage sounded like a good idea?" Steve prompted the gunman when the silence went on too long.
"I know, crazy. In my defense, I do have a brain tumor. Stage Four from the outset of the diagnosis. The doctors are giving me no more than a month since I've turned down the chemo and other voodoo techniques that aren't going to make any difference except to burn through all the rest of my savings."
"A bad turn, I get it. So you're lashing out?" Steve asked. "Looking to be heard and rail against the health care system and Big Pharma who are keeping the kind of drugs and treatments people like you need to themselves?" he posited next.
"Nothing so altruistic, Commander," the gunman said with a hollow laugh. "I simply want a chance to say goodbye to the man I love."
"What, he's in jail somewhere?"
A good guess, because if the lover was deep enough in the system he didn’t normally have visitation rights, it would take the intervention of someone like the Governor or Steve. Danny decidedly wasn't going to reflect on how easily Steve seemed to accept that the gunman was, in fact, homosexual.
"He might was well be. He's in Afghanistan, Commander, undergoing his sixth tour in the Middle East as a Force Recon Marine. I foolishly assumed that with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, his CO would grant us some compassion leave time even if that meant having to out Michael. Needless to say, that's not how it went down. The Corp lists only Michael's father as family, as someone worthy of being granted compassionate leave for. A father Michael hasn't spoken to in twelve years which, as you might have guessed, is the length of time Michael and I have been together."
"And you thought I could help because… ?"
Danny wasn't sure, but to him Steve sounded more shaken than confused, and while Danny did feel some sympathy for the guy after hearing his situation, he didn't like hearing the parallel between the lover's father and Steve's. Even if Steve and his father had been estranged for significantly different reasons.
So much of Steve's life right now, Danny knew, revolved not just about the guilt Steve felt over his father's death, but the recently discovered conspiracy behind John McGarrett's death as well as the new facts about the death of Steve's mother. Steve was not only reexamining all the things he'd thought he'd known about both of those cases, but also everything else that happened in the intervening years between him, his father and even Mary. Even if this guy was mostly harmless, Steve's focus did not need to be split right now and turning inward.
"Because you have the ear of the Governor, Commander, and she has the ear of the Chairman of the House's Veteran Affairs Committee with them having known one another in college," was the surprisingly succinct answer. "Because I am hoping for divine intervention, or at least congressional intervention, and because I read how you've served and sacrificed. Because I am hoping that no matter your own feelings about gays serving in the military, you know what it means to live with the kind of regret when you've been deprived of the chance to say goodbye. I've done this in the hope that you will help me save Michael from also having to go through and live with that."
Danny met Chin's gaze and could see that Chin was just as disturbed and conflicted hearing every one of Steve's buttons being pushed. Steve, too, going by the raggedness of the quickening breaths that they could hear over the mic.
"Babe, I'll call her," Danny said softly, making sure that he would be heard only on Steve's frequency and hoping to God that Hokupa'a wasn't listening in. Even though Danny was sure that anyone who had taken Grace hostage didn't deserve any favors, he knew the story had hit too close to home for Steve. Steve would end up doing what he could to help this guy even if it did tear him up to do it and, okay, so while Danny didn't want to do anything for this guy, he could for Steve.
"Let the kids go and I promise you you'll get your chance to talk to the Governor," Steve told the gunman. "Pat Jameson is a compassionate woman. If there is any way we can get your Michael here, I also promise you that the two of you will get your chance."
"I… yes. Here. It wasn't loaded with anything other than blanks."
Jesus. It sounded like the guy was crying now and Danny could only image how Steve and the remaining kids would be reacting. He'd tensed up himself at the admission about the unloaded weapon – could hear Steve check the gun over and remove the clip, could hear the work Steve put into something so well practiced on the surface and guess how he used the mindless routine to get his breathing and his own control back. The two SWAT guys next to Danny weren't acting any different, however, so it seemed unlikely that Hokupa'a had overheard that confession, since no one had been given the go ahead to charge in.
Or maybe Hokupa'a simply wasn't the typical overly gung-ho, glory-seeking asshole SWAT departments seemed to too easily attract.
"Thank you, Commander."
For an instant, Danny considered turning his radio off again, not sure he could handle hearing the gunman thank Steve for arresting him, only the next voice was Steve's, and he was addressing Danny directly.
"Danny, we're coming out. The kids first, with Mrs. Jenkins leading the way. Make sure everyone is ready."
Because the gunman may have sounded humbled and contrite now, but this wouldn't be the first instance something went pear-shaped after someone agreed to come quietly. Danny nodded without thinking that Steve couldn't see him and passed on the word.
"The rest of the kids are coming out," he warned across his override channel. "Then the gunman and Commander McGarrett after we've gotten the kids clear. Let's keep sharp, but also keep in control. The gunman has been talked down and I don't want someone taking the easy shot thinking erroneously to save the parents and tax payers some kind of trial."
The last bit might have been too much, but it wouldn't be the first time a cop turned judge and executioner; Danny might have been so inclined himself had they found bodies. Only the body still in danger until they had the guy in custody would be Steve's, and that one was just as important to Danny's as Grace's.
The door opened and Mrs. Jenkins appeared, then a trickle of kids that immediately bunched around her. This time Chin had a handful of officers with him to get the kids to safety. Mrs. Jenkins stayed, visibly and audibly counting as they exited and were escorted away, only moving herself once she was assured all of her charges had been accounted for.
Danny waited until even she moved out of sight down toward the stairs. "Okay, we're clear," he signaled Steve this time. "Come on out."
Steve appeared in the door next, clearly standing in front of the gunman who was now also wearing Steve's fucking vest. Danny supposed he couldn't berate Steve, since clearly the gunman was the one now in danger, but is was still reckless and at some point, Danny would have to let Steve know of his disapproval. Not now, though, because this was it. Crisis over, save for a couple of phone calls, with nary a shot fired.
A win – a good win, actually – that Danny didn't need to spoil. Not that Danny felt especially happy or even satisfied. In truth he felt tired and crappy beyond even the given adrenalin crash. Steve wasn't looking much better, though he did muster up something like a smile for Chin when their teammate moved forward and took the gunman off of Steve's hands.
Then it was only the two of them.
"You did good, babe," Danny finally said, instead of any of the other thoughts crowding his brain, good and bad.
No fake smile for him, but Danny was touched more by the honesty than needing the reassurance. He knew they were both sporting visible cracks with this one, neither of them hiding for once out of some sense of misplaced machismo or even professionalism. The crisis was over, but there would still be fall-out. Steve would have his share, with all this new fodder for his existing nightmares. Danny's own, he feared, wouldn't just star Grace but also Steve.
Steve must have seen something of that in Danny's expression because suddenly the reassurance was spilling out. "You did too, Danno. No one's going to be calling the Governor about anger management issues."
As a joke it fell flat, despite how Danny had, maybe, used excessive force the last time someone had threatened Grace. Steve's expression showed he knew it had been the wrong tact even as he said it, so Danny simply nodded and said, "Lets go show Grace you're okay," finding a real smile when Steve nodded yet neither of them moved beyond Steve's hand finding a resting place against the small of Danny's back for a few seconds of just finding comfort in each other's presence before Steve then gave a little push and they moved in step to once again take their places in the circus undoubtedly awaiting them.
The rain, as he and Danny finally made it downstairs, surprised Steve. He hadn't even noticed the storm building up outside the classroom windows in his focus on the kids and getting them free. He welcomed it though, as a literal as well as metaphorical sense of renewal that could wash away his residual stress. Rain also suited the melancholia the gunman's desperation had caused. That it had also chased away a lot of the crowd outside, certainly most of those who'd just come out to watch the show and hadn't even had kids attending the Academy of the Sacred Hearts, came as an added bonus.
HPD still had their command post set up, taking statements from the last of Grace's classmates and their parents, but the SWAT van was pulling around and picking up the remainder of their team while dropping Kono off to join up with hers. The school's principal still held court, surrounded by a sea of microphones and oversized umbrellas. As Steve looked closer, he identified that one of the women at the dean's side was Shavaughn Jenkins and that a second was Lauren Hill, without the Governor standing near her aide.
"There," Danny said with a hand on Steve's arm, the other pointing off toward a cluster of squad cars.
Steve supposed Danny hadn't really read his mind, that he was pointing instead toward their missing teammate and not Pat Jameson, but the result was the same. Chin had headed toward the waiting squad car with the gunman but stopped as the Governor and her security team approached them.
Steve turned back to see Duke standing next to someone – a parent if he had to guess by the tension in the man's face that was only slowly unraveling. It was this man who'd spoken, not Duke, though Steve had little doubt Duke was still running interference between the public. Which meant in turn, that whomever this guy was, Duke thought him worth Steve's time. Steve immediately headed down the last few steps into the rain, ignoring it and Danny's muttered imprecations when he kept to Steve's side. In the next instant Danny and Duke both moved off to deal with whatever was left that needed ending before they could put this case behind them.
"How can I help you, Mister – "
"Jenkins. Tom Jenkins. Shavaughn is my wife." He stepped forward and offered his hand. "I just wanted to thank you – "
"I was just doing my job and had plenty of people backing me up, Mr. Jenkins," Steve interrupted. "No thanks are – "
"Yes, they are," Jenkins interrupted back.
"I've already said as much to Sergeant Lukela and Captain Hokupa'a."
Instead of dropping his hand when Steve didn't raise his own for the offered shake, Jenkins raised his to push his hair back from where the rain was beating it down.
"This could have ended much worse, with my Vonnie caught right in the middle. That it didn't…" Jenkins stopped suddenly and turned his head, overcome by the what could have beens. When he turned back, there was no telling whether there were tears or his face was wet just from the rain.
Normally Steve would be uncomfortable with the praise and attention, but he understood Jenkins in this instance, since he was still dealing with his own what-ifs. He'd been in this kind of situation too many times as a SEAL, where even the missions that had gone right were remembered more for how they might have ended. Despite all his training, with Danny's Grace being threatened over Steve himself or even compared it to Mary's kidnapping, Steve was having a harder time dealing with it than he should have.
Steve feared Danny was in headspace right now himself, so he was anxious to get back to his partner, and to maybe get Chin or Kono to take over the follow-up with Duke and the HPD, though Steve would rather just take his entire team away with him. Instead, he offered Jenkins a tight smile and did his best to give what the man needed.
"Your wife is a remarkable woman, Mr. Jenkins. She's the one who kept her head and kept the kids calm, making it much easier for us to do our jobs and diffuse the situation. I think, though, that she needs you now more than she needs to be paraded around in a press conference, so why don't we go extract her."
Steve didn't think Jenkins would appreciate hearing how his wife had turned down the opportunity to leave with the first batch of children and had instead purposely put herself back in harm's way for the rest of them. He also figured Francis O'Malley wouldn't be so willing to let his media star get away until he'd gotten fifteen minutes of fame for the school and himself. While Steve hoped not even the news vultures would deny a husband his right to see to his wife, he still shadowed Mr. Jenkins to make sure.
Additionally, Steve had found in the past that the best way to deal with something like this was in taking care of someone else. He figured Jenkins might find solace in the same.
Being right in regard to the Jenkins' (and O'Malley) brought its own satisfaction, but overall, Steve felt little relief. He'd still need to deal with the Governor since she was on site. She waved off the press as Steve approached, moving to meet him and signaling her security staff to make sure the press abided by her intent, including turning off their cameras. In time, Steve knew his and his teams' faces would end up plastered all over the islands as the members of Five-0, until then they'd do what they could to keep the press from destroying their anonymity to extend their ability to go in undercover and infiltrate the bad guys.
Not that any of them were that recognizable at the moment except as drowned rats. Well, other than Kono, since that had been her surfer look while she'd been on the circuit competing, but…
Pat Jameson had appropriated one of her security team's umbrellas and came through the grass to stop just before Steve, meeting his eyes better, in fact, than the rest of his team, especially in her heels.
"You did well, Steve. All of you," she offered.
Steve was no more comfortable with praise from her for only doing his job, but as in the Navy, he'd accept on behalf of his team and make sure they were aware of how pleased and proud he was in their work himself.
"We got lucky in that Denton really only wanted attention." Steve still deflected out of habit. "Do you think you'll be able to pull enough strings to get his… friend back home in time?"
While he was bothered by hesitating over how it sounded, Steve found that calling someone someone else's lover in front of the Governor of Hawaii bothered him more.
Jameson arched her brow. "Are you sure you want me to?" she asked.
"I'm no homophobe – "
"No, I'm aware of that," she cut him off, offering an odd smile and a raised hand of peace that she then pointed in Danny's direction. "I was just thinking about your partner, Commander," she chided him gently. "And his feelings on this incident."
As Steve looked to Danny too, he caught the Governor's expression softening and changing to fondness, one actually pretty damn close to the look Rachel was giving Danny from where she stood back beside a pinched-face Step-Stan as they all watched Danny with his daughter. Steve figured his own expression wasn't much different as the Governor's didn't change when the two of them returned to their discussion.
"Go. Take care of your team, Steve," she ordered with a shooing motion. "This one may not turn out to be a solid win, but we also didn't lose. Sometimes that's enough."
Sometimes it really was, and Steve took her dismissal as the reprieve it was. He gathered up Chin and Kono with a head gesture, and together the three of them headed over toward Danny and Grace.
While Stan did and said nothing when he noticed the team's approach, Rachel caught their movements next and stepped over to Danny, taking the umbrella Stan had provided with her and leaving Stan standing in the rain, not doubt ruining his five hundred dollar shoes. Rachel then leaned over to tell Danny something. Danny lifted his head from where he'd buried himself against Grace again, twisting enough to catch his own glimpse of his team despite how close Grace still clutched him.
Danny did his own whispering and in the next instant, Grace peeled away from her Danno and raced toward Steve. Steve just had the time to kneel and steel himself before it was his own turn to have an armful of unabashedly wet Grace, who was now trying to hug him to death.
"Thank you for saving us, Uncle Steve," Grace whispered in his ear in turn.
In this instance he didn't mind the thanks, but was more overwhelmed by the honor he'd been given in being called Uncle Steve. Twice now, and this last one wasn't just something she'd said to maybe given Denton pause.
"You know I didn't do it alone, right, Grace?"
She nodded against his neck. "We'll make a big card for everyone else," came a less muffled promise as Grace loosened her octopus grip.
"I'm sure they'll like that," he told her. "Your Danno can tell you their names, and he and I can deliver it for you."
That earned him a sunny smile as she pulled back then turned her face up toward Chin and Kono. Again she said thank you, before she let go of Steve and returned to Danny's side. It was Rachel who gathered her hand, though. Danny knelt back down to give her a hug before reluctantly releasing her to go with her mom back toward Stan.
"After all this, they're not going to let you have Grace at least for dinner or something?" Kono asked as the four of them watched Rachel and Grace follow Stan back into his Mercedes.
"Stan already booked some sort of weekend excursion over on Maui," Danny told them, his tone more resigned than angry, though Steve, at least, could hear the resentment too.
"Since classes are cancelled tomorrow to bring in grief counselors for Monday, Stan and Rachel have decided they'll leave right away instead of waiting. To distract Grace and help her get over what happened quickly and not waste the money Stan spent on the trip."
Kono and Chin most likely thought Danny's audible resentment here resulted from Stan's inclination to buy Grace's affection; Danny often complained about being on the losing end of that competition with Stan. After the carjacking, though, Danny had admitted to Steve that it gutted him each time Grace walked off holding Rachel and Stan's hands; when Stan was involved in providing Grace comfort. This time would be the same and worse, frankly, as Danny needed comforting too, and no one handled that better than Grace herself. While Steve had no doubt Danny would think about getting a few drinks after this as a substitute for finding relief in caring for his daughter, it wasn't going to be in any sort of celebration.
"That's cold, brah," Kono sympathized.
Danny abruptly shrugged and pushed irritatedly at the wet strands of his hair now falling from its normal arrangement. "Maybe Stan's right," Danny then muttered. "Something like swimming with dolphins and whale watching or whatever, will be distracting and fun. A lot more to look forward to than watching a movie she's already seen a thousand times or playing Barbies and poker."
Maybe, but in Steve's mind, being with her Danno would let Grace feel a lot safer, especially after the earlier danger of the carjacking, which had happened when she'd been with Rachel and because of Stan, even if they had all managed to keep awareness of Stan's involvement from Grace. Even Rachel had turned to Danny, not to her husband, just after it had happened.
"Pretty sure Grace wouldn't keep watching those movies so often if she didn't enjoy them, Danny," Steve pointed out with a bump against Danny's shoulder. "And there's a lot to be said for reassuring activities over new distractions. I'm sure Grace would have – "
"Yeah, well, woulda, shoulda, coulda, only Danno can't." This time Danny's bitterness was obvious. "Not for another nine days."
"We'll just have to plan something extra fun for Grace the next time you've got custody," Chin suggested as if it was foregone, with his standard quiet confidence.
"And in the meantime, we're done here," Steve promised them. "Done for the afternoon and I'm calling a surf day tomorrow, too."
"Drinks and dinner at Manny's?" Kono suggested, though she sounded as if she already knew the answer would be no.
Sure enough: "I'll pass," was Danny's immediate answer.
"Maybe tomorrow," he then offered in the face of Kono's expression of disappointment.
"It's a date," Kono tried gamely to give Danny something to look forward to. "Pending a new case, of course, boss," she then tossed back at Steve. Along with a look asking Steve to take care of things tonight to make sure Danny didn't end up a liar.
Steve tilted his head in acknowledgement that he had it covered. "As the Governor said, go and good job, people. We didn't lose this one, not at any step of the way. Think about and remember that tonight instead of how it could have turned out."
Trite maybe, but Chin and Kono understood what Steve was really saying and gave him their nods. The two of them then gave Danny a pat and Steve a wave before heading off together, not doubt making plans to spend the rest of the evening with one another in comfortable and comforting companionship. Something that Steve intended to do with Danny himself – for the both of them. Danny might not feel up to celebrating their success here, but Steve wasn't going to let him go off and brood either.
"I've already got the steaks and beers, but we're going to have to stop for everything else," he flung the words and offer out, going ahead and also steering Danny toward the Camaro. "Anything in particular you want to go with?"
Danny shook his head, not in answer but obviously coming back from wherever watching Stan and Rachel take Grace away had taken him.
"Dinner, my place," Steve repeated. "But we'll need to stop and pick up whatever you want to accompany the steaks and beer."
"Steve, I don't – "
Danny, if it's all the same, I really don't want to go home alone after this." It was cheating, Steve knew, to make it about him, but as he said it, he also realized it was true. Denton and Michael's situation very easily could have been his once upon a time, if Steve had ever had the courage to be that honest with himself while he'd still been active service.
He watched as Danny's reflexive protest got beaten into submission as he parsed Steve's request, then as Danny's expression turned to concern directed Steve's way. Steve shoved down the guilt from how he'd manipulated Danny and basked i
in how warm Danny's regard made him feel.
Before Steve could come clean and maybe embarrass the hell out of himself, Danny's expression turned to his 'How is this my life?' default. The one that meant Danny was making an effort at normalcy that Steve didn't want to discourage.
Danny's tone was even closer to normal when he said:
"Then we should get a salad. A real one, like one of those pre-cut bags of different lettuces with the extra carrots if actually chopping one up from scratch is too much work for you, babe. And real salad dressing - Italian – instead of that dipping stuff or your fruit marinade masquerading as dressing – "
Steve grinned in appreciation. Even if Danny had started by faking it, he was managing to find his center in the extended diatribe.
"It is dressing and it doesn't have a hint of pineapple, Danno – "
"Like mango or papaya is any better?" Danny interrupted. "And don't think of ruining good beef with that crap either. We'll baste in oil and a little pepper, garlic and onion. Hickory smoked salt too as we are not cheating by using liquid smoke."
"Oil and salt, Danno? That stuff will kill you."
"Like your ideas of proper suspect interactions won't do that long before my eating habits," Danny scoffed in return.
"Like you're not going to stroke out first, Detective Type-A times infinity," Steve goaded him back, stopping just as they reached the car to shake off the rain from his hair and incidently spraying Danny, but it wasn't like they weren't both soaked through anyway.
"Nice," Danny chided before doing it himself, though his spray of water into Steve face came from his flung hands before Danny reached into the back of the car to remove a couple of the towels he'd resigned himself to carrying in the past given the rest of the team's fondness for surfing and embracing the beach and the ocean. And that fact that it rained nearly daily.
"You really need to learn how to relax, bruddah. Hawaii is – "
"I can relax just fine, babe," Danny was saying as he ducked into the car. "I'd have thought you realized by now that ranting about something and then letting it go is a damn sight better than stuffing it down, Captain Suppression."
Steve found his own seat, on the driver's side after he'd stolen Danny's keys. The dirty look he got in return, though without a verbal complaint, was another indication that Danny was regaining his equilibrium. That despite his words and tone, he was enjoying himself as much as Steve.
"That's Lieute – "
"– nant Commander Suppression, yes, I know," Danny said along with Steve as they pulled away from the school.
With all of the interesting parties now leaving, the news vans were also packing it in. Steve didn't fill guilty at all in hitting the lights and siren to demand the right away over them.
"It's not like I always suppress my – "
"Please," Danny interrupted once more. "You repress like I wear ties – daily."
"I do not – "
"Okay, open up to me about one thing, babe," Danny challenged him. "Tell me one secret – that isn't classified," he granted, "and I'll – "
"I'm bi-sexual, actually, and in the last few months, I've found myself more attracted to you than Catherine," Steve blurted out, reacting without thought to Danny's tone and his own earlier memories of cowardice that this incident had raised in him.
For once Danny was speechless and Steve, for a second, thought his own white-knuckled grip would actually crack the steering wheel.
"Pull over."It wasn't like Danny could remain silent for long.
Not really what Steve was hoping to hear, of course, and –
"Dammit, Stephen, pull over right goddamn now!"
Steve did, with little regard to traffic or traffic laws, though he'd at least made sure he wasn't going to hit someone as he abruptly changed lanes to reach the nearest curb.
Once the car stopped, though, Danny went back to not talking, so the only sounds surrounding them were the car cooling, the raindrops, and Steve's breathing – which sounded like he'd run a marathon in his own ears. Getting that back under control let Steve get a handle on a few other things too.
"Ah, okay, maybe I was repressing that," Steve finally said when the silence became to much. When Danny's silence became too much. While it wasn't a joke and Steve didn't want it to be – or to take it back despite how uncertain he was now feeling – he also didn't want to lose what he had of Danny over the confession. If offering him a way out was the only way to salvage things –
"It doesn't have to mean anything, Danny."
Danny's fist slammed into his shoulder. "You stupid fucker! It means everything. Jesus wept," Danny now sounded breathless instead of angry, "it means everything."
Oh, so not angry or disgusted then.
"Danny – Danno – Da – "
"Shut up. Just shut up and drive, you fucker!" Danny now ordered Steve back onto the road. "We are not going to grope and make out in my car alongside the edge of the road like stupid teenagers. You've promised me dinner and I'm not that kind of guy."
"Are you the kind of guy that puts out after dinner?" Steve had to ask. "At least as far as second or third base?"
"I can see why they called you Smooth Dog, babe. But, yes, Stephen, I would be interested in visiting a few bases with you. I'll have you know that I was a power hitter back in the day. Managed a grand slam or two, even."
Steve grinned and put the car back into drive. While he suspected Danny was talking about breakfast at Denny's rather than actual baseball prowess, that was okay. Breakfast afterward was good too. Damn good.
– finis –