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love cuts like a knife

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Some people, when they're asked what's the worst day of their lives, will tell you about waking up to find their cat had died in the middle of the night, or the day they got in a car accident, or maybe the day they failed a test in college and realized they'd never be a doctor. Some people can't even tell you, they'll just shrug.

The worst day of Steve McGarrett's life, though, that was no contest. It started out okay--get up, pick up malasadas on the way into work, go over procedure with the rookie, follow up some leads on a home invasion-turned-double homicide in Halawa--but took an abrupt turn when the 911 call came in about the trash bag of human remains that had been caught by a fishing boat.

Divers found twenty-four more bags. Steve wasn't sure whether it was good or bad that they'd still missed about ten.

***

"They named him the Mamala Bay Mangler," said Kono, shaking her head at the computer screen.

"What?" Steve blurted before he could check himself. "Mangler?" He was pretty sure (not that he'd given it any thought) that he should have rated a better nickname than that.

"Hey," said Chin on the way past her desk, "this is the biggest news story the Star Advertiser's ever broken. Let them have their moment pretending to be legitimate journalists."

"Bottom-feeders," said Kono, scrolling down the news story. "They should have been out there gnawing through those bags of people."

"Back to work, rookie," said Steve distractedly.

***

"This," said Lt. Jameson, "is Agent Danny Williams. He'll be taking point on the Mamala Bay Mangler case. Be nice and cooperative, kids."

Agent Danny Williams was a short guy with slicked-back blond hair and the typical cheap suit of the feds. He cleared his throat. "Ladies and gentlemen. I've worked a few cases like this in the past. These guys, they always make a mistake eventually and that's when we catch them. We're going to catch this one too, don't worry."

Kono stuck her hand in the air like she was in school.

"Uh. Yes?" Williams waved at her vaguely.

"All the vics we've identified so far were suspected or convicted murderers," she said. "What if we don't want to catch him?"

"Okay, what?" Williams said after a moment. "He's not the Batman. He's a serial killer. We do not let vigilantes do our work for us... Officer Kalakah--" He trailed off, squinting at her badge.

"Kalakaua," she said.

Chin put his face in his hands. Steve felt irrationally proud of himself.

***

Steve's hallmark was not making mistakes. Steve was careful. Paranoid, but rightly so.

But he suspected, even as Danny grinned at him across the box of victim files, tie loose and hair endearingly messy, that he was maybe toeing the line.

***

Danny rubbed at his face. "Man," he said. "I am going to love catching this guy, after all the hours I'm putting in on it."

Steve took a long pull of his beer. He hadn't killed in a month, although he had three potential victims lined up. Too dangerous. He had to find a new place to dump the bodies, anyway. There was a constant itch just under his skin, whispers in the back of his head. "You haven't been on the island long," he said, his voice sounding loud to his own ears.

Danny didn't seem to notice. "Nope," he said, picking up his own beer again. The bar was gearing up for the weekend around them, tourists and base guys and locals trickling in in twos and threes. "Got to Honolulu six months ago. This is the first case that's come across my desk that wasn't like, some rich people having their jewelry stolen and thinking the FBI gives a shit when they should be going to the cops. No offense."

Steve shrugged. "Do you like it here?"

"No. Yes. I don't know. The weather's nice. But my daughter's thousands of miles away with her mother, and I got tossed out here on my ass because of a paperwork fuckup at Quantico."

"Government," offered Steve in a wouldn't-you-know kind of way that usually worked. Danny barked out a short laugh, and Steve relaxed.

"This place, though," said Danny after a minute, and when he paused to lick his lips, he shot a glance at Steve that seemed, maybe, hopeful. "It has its upsides."

***

Steve had woken up from dreams about Danny before, Danny naked and arching under him or over him, throatily crying out Steve's name or just moaning; Danny pinned down and struggling, duct tape over his mouth and blood running from the scalpel cut in his cheek as the blade arced high and caught the light just so. Steve woke up hot and panting either way, hard against the mattress.

It was better than he dreamed. Danny's real skin was warm to the touch, soft, with firm muscle under it. He breathed in little hitches as Steve's fingers trailed down his ribs and shifted for a better angle with a grunt, but his voice sounded the same around Steve's name and when they came, the voices in the back of Steve's head stopped hissing about the other dreams.

Steve started dreaming again after a while, while Danny lay beside him snoring, but it wasn't sexual. It was him confessing, being caught, standing in court, sitting in prison in orange coveralls, skin itching, and everyone knew. Danny knew. Sometimes Steve woke up in a cold sweat and spent the day wondering if the reality of turning himself in would be better than the dreams, too, if it could be.

***

They left the station late, leaving Kono still standing in the conference room-cum-Danny's office, frowning at the twenty-two identified victims of the Mamala Bay Mangler, all murderers. Someone kept putting up clippings from the Star Advertiser and mainland newspapers calling Steve a vigilante hero. Someone else kept tearing them down and putting them through the shredder.

They went back to Steve's house for a late dinner, Danny bitching about the fresh pineapple chunks Steve was trying to put on the frozen pizza as Danny blocked the way and Steve finally shoving one into Danny's mouth and watching in amazement as he chewed and swallowed it instead of spitting it out.

"I just hate it on pizza, moron," Danny said. "Some detective you are."

"Some profiler you are," said Steve, feeling dizzy with something. "It's been two months."

Danny caught him around the middle and stole a pineapple-flavoured kiss that made Steve forget most things. "Profiling is a delicate yet accurate art."

"Whatever."

Danny straightened up, got serious, nearly straightened the tie he wasn't wearing anymore before shoving his hands in his pockets. "The unsub," he said, "is a middle-aged white male."

Steve leaned back against the counter while Danny stayed at the island, guarding the pizza.

"He had a typical childhood for a sociopath. Showed all the early signs. Fire-starting. Late bedwetting. Killing small animals."

Steve thought about mice, examining their entrails in the sun.

"He probably suffered an early trauma, mom was involved. Dad was either absent or neglectful."

Or the best cop on the force, absolutely dedicated. Long hours at work while Steve and his sister were stuck with babysitters. Terrible babysitters. He took a short breath through his nose and loosened his grip on the edge of the counter, balled his fists under his armpits and tried to look idly interested.

"Disposals were all meticulous. Surgical cuts on the bodies. They were all exsanguinated. Cops never found traces of the scenes, no circumstantial evidence related to the victims' disappearances. Our guy has military background. An intimate knowledge of police procedure. Access to a boat. And he's very physically strong and capable, yet unassuming."

For a moment, it was so quiet Steve could hear the waves hitting the beach out back. Tide was in.

Danny was quiet, which was odd; Steve glanced up at him and he was staring at Steve's arms, at the tattoo Steve got in Singapore. Steve looked down at it and back at Danny.

Danny, who had just figured it all out.

"Steve," he said, and his voice sounded broken. "Steven."

"Yes," said Steve.

Another wave hit the beach behind the house.

"Oh, god," said Danny.

 

THE END