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Finding the Path

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Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
—Audre Lorde


 

Danny sighed and shuffled a stapled document to the bottom of the stack just as Kaiko buzzed into his office with an evil grin.

"I know, I know," he said guiltily, "I hand you the equipment budget by end of day or you'll force feed me a pineapple, spiny skin and all—"

"Never mind that," she said, waving a folder at him. "Got a hot one in you've just got to see."

"Really? You're distracting me? Because you've been after me for this paperwork for like, two weeks now so we can get the new pure-tone audiometer."

She shook her head, her dark brown eyes gleaming, "Oh, and I'll have your ass if you don't get it to me by tomorrow, but this? This one is worth it." She flipped the folder in front of him and settled into the chair in front of his desk looking disgustingly smug.

Skimming the intake report, Danny said, "Are you kidding me—an adult? With how many hyperactive senses...?" He read further. "Oh, this is rich, he's a lieutenant commander on the Governor's task force. That's...seriously? Caucasian, early thirties, auditory, visual and olfactory painful hyperacuity, dermal hyperreactivity, all resulting in migraines, anemia, dehydration, spiraling reactions—" Danny scanned lower. "This is impossible—'adult onset'? Adult onset and all five senses? Too perfect! Also, I don't believe it."

"Believe it, boss. That's what the doc is saying. That's what the patient's claiming, anyway, which would be fantastic for your project if it were possible—"

"It's not just possible, it would mean I was right. I was right all along," Danny said. "And with this, I could get the go ahead to—" He closed the file and bounced to his feet. "I gotta see this guy. Are we treating him here at the clinic?"

"Well, he was making noises about leaving, but he's pretty weak. Malia wants him to get some fluids on-board, so he'll be with us at least for a little while. Also, she wanted to treat that rash on his side—"

"Awesome. He's mine. Don't let Grossinski get her grubby mitts on him."

"Would I let that happen?" Kaiko gave him a toothy smile. "Just remember you owe me big."

"Oh, I owe you, all right." He opened his top drawer, grabbed a pair of nitrile gloves and dropped them in his pocket, then tucked the folder under his arm. He had to resist giving Kaiko a giant hug, and settled for patting her thin shoulder on the way out.

"Thanks, Kaiko. Dinner's on me."

"Oh, great. Two day-old Pad Thai."

So, yeah. Kaiko was probably right about what they'd have time for, Danny thought as he headed through the covered walkway that divided the Center's offices from the clinic. Between the hours he put in here as Deputy Director of the Foundation for Sensory Research, his and Kaiko Pukui's research, and spending his allotted time with Grace in her private ward, it didn't leave a lot of room for pedestrian activities such as eating and sleeping, not if he wanted to find Gracie her cure.

On the other hand, being almost top-dog did give him high priority on all incoming subjects, which meant all it took was a few quiet words with Dr. Waincroft and he had Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett's room number and the go-ahead for twenty minutes or so of uninterrupted interview time with the subject.

"The patient's awake right now. But if he looks like he might fall asleep, for God's sake, let him rest, Danny," Malia said. "He's sleep-deprived and edgy. I have no idea how the man has been functioning in such a high-stress career since all five of his senses have manifest as hyperactive. It's mind-boggling."

Danny held up three fingers. "Scout's honor, Doc. He so much as nods and I'm outta there."

"Mmm-hmm." She smirked. "Here's his chart. I've got him on a dextrose push right now, as much as he can handle. I'm hoping we can get him to take nutrients orally tomorrow if we can find anything friendly to his system. That is, if he's willing to stick around." She rolled her eyes to show her opinion of that.

"Kaiko said he was being 'difficult'—"

Malia frowned, considering. "More resigned, maybe. He doesn't seem to think there's anything we can do for him. Well, obviously, if he's really never experienced this before—"

"Not sure I'm buying that."

She smiled ironically and bowed her head toward the door.

"I guess I'll have to see for myself." Danny pressed the button to engage the warning light inside, and after a brief pause stepped into the soundproofed wardroom. He walked right into a bloodshot glare.

"So, I'm being 'difficult,' Danny?" The patient's dark blue eyes glittered. "And apparently you think I'm a liar, too. Nice."

No fucking way. It should not have been possible for McGarrett to have heard his consultation with Malia—not only were the clinic's wardroom's soundproofed, they all had white-noise generators.

"I did not say that," Danny said carefully. "No, I didn't," he raised one hand when McGarrett tried to sit up, looking pissed as hell. "It's just that we've never seen a case of someone manifesting so late, that's all. You're kind of an anomaly."

"So, what you're saying is, in addition to being a freak, I'm a freaky freak." McGarrett gave up on trying to sit and sagged back down.

Danny swallowed his angry reply; McGarrett was malnourished, sleep-deprived, and obviously feeling resentful of his condition.

"That's not what I'm saying—quit putting words in my mouth, would you? And nice to meet you, by the way, how's about a proper introduction? I'm Danny Williams, but, hey, you already know my first name." Danny smiled and stepped over to the bed. "I'm Deputy Director of the Foundation. I wanted to talk to you because you may be the living proof of my specific field of research—"

"Terrific."

This close, Danny could see the drawn look to the guy's face, the obvious signs of malnutrition and dehydration. But otherwise he was athletically fit, strongly muscled—damned good-looking, which wasn't an assessment, just an observation. Danny grimaced.

"Look, I know you don't want to hear this, but once you manifest Hyperactive Sensory Syndrome, it's not something that just goes away."

McGarrett flicked him a glance and his jaw locked up. "So they tell me."

"And you're not coping so hot from what I read in your file, and from what Malia—Dr. Waincroft—tells me. You haven't been keeping down what you eat, or taking in enough fluids. You haven't been sleeping, either. And, see, I used to be a cop myself back in Jersey—" McGarrett blinked at him, startled, "—and I know what with you being on the Governor's task force, being sleep-deprived isn't the way to keep your skin intact. Am I right?"

McGarrett tried to cross his arms, but his I.V. fouled with the bed sheet, and he subsided with a scowl. "Yeah, well, guess I don't have to worry about that anymore; the Governor put me on leave today before she booted me over here. Actually, I'm surprised she didn't punt me back to the Navy when she first realized I was one of these...sentinels? Right? I read about all those kids. 'The New Autism,' they're calling it." McGarrett closed his eyes. "It's just a matter of time, the way they tell it."

Danny bit back his response. "It's not autism. That's unfair both to the autistic and to people with HSS. They're two entirely different fish."

"Either way we get fried, though, right?"

"Hey, now. Is that any kind of attitude?" He pulled up a rolling stool and sat down. "How did you first manifest? If you don't mind my asking."

A muscle twitched in McGarrett's jaw.

"Please. You have to realize—most of our patients first show their abilities as small children—"

"Abilities?" McGarrett was back to glaring. "Is that what you call it? I'm fucking useless like this."

Danny couldn't exactly hold his gaze. "Actually, yeah—we call them abilities. Although the genome has all but died out, the literature tells us hyperactive senses can be an amazing benefit, so that's how we choose to consider them here at the Center."

McGarrett stared hard at him for a moment then shook his head. "Right, until I go catatonic."

Danny was already shaking his head. "Not if we can change that. That's why you're here, yeah?"

A tiny flicker of hope seemed to spark in McGarrett's eyes, his mouth softening, before his jaw twitched again and he looked away.

"So, when did you first notice an increase in your sensory perception?"

McGarrett replied slowly, "I...I didn't even know that's what it was." His face twisted wryly. "It started when I was on surveillance out of country. I was camped out in the jungle waiting for this arms dealer to show up at his hideaway. One night, maybe three days in, I was warming up my MRE, but when I added water to the heat pack it started hissing like the loudest thing ever. It sounded like a steam engine. Then the birds..." McGarrett stared into space for a long moment, and Danny resisted the urge to poke him.

"So?"

"I chalked it up to sleep deprivation, and when my guy turned up I brought him in. Or tried to." McGarrett's expression went cold. "Actually, that's how our task force got formed. It's a long story—"

"Hey, wait a minute." Danny knew this guy looked familiar. "You're the lunatic who ended up in the news a while back for driving a car onto a cargo ship going after that international arms dealer? That's your task force?"

McGarrett grimaced. "Yeah. Except it was dumb luck I got him. I was way off my game—I was so out of it." McGarrett raised a shaky hand and rubbed his face. "After that, things just got worse. Sounds, smells—everything got too intense. I almost went into a coma the first time I went to the firing range. I began to have trouble eating—everything tasted so salty it would make me puke. I started living off oatmeal and milk. I had to soundproof my bedroom with egg cartons, I wore earplugs and put up blackout curtains to get any sleep. Then I started getting these rashes, having trouble breathing sometimes..." McGarrett stopped suddenly and wiped his forehead. "Anyway, eventually my team got worried enough that here I am." He gave Danny a skeptical look. "You really think you can do something?"

"I don't know," Danny said honestly. "There's a hell of a lot we don't know, and that's the truth. But what we do know is current strategies—the way family members act as support for young people with the syndrome—isn't meant to last into adulthood."

"So?"

"So that's why we think adolescent sentinels slip away from us. That's why so few sentinels are functional in adulthood, and those that are have only two or three hyperactive senses. You've seen 'em on late night TV, am I right? They'll find your lost puppy for you! Just call 1-888-SEN-T-NEL. But they aren't true sentinels."

"So, I'm fucked."

"No! Exactly the opposite, is what I'm saying. I'm saying that because of you, we've got an opportunity—you never had that support system in place at all. However you got here, you're were an adult, functioning sentinel. At some point you had control, and we're going to get it back. We're going to use you to prove that sentinels can be trained, can be taught to thrive, and in the process we're going to get you back on your feet, all right? Deal?"

Danny held out his gloved hand feeling a little like a jerk, because the hope was back in McGarrett's eyes, just a glimmer, but there.

That was okay, though, because Danny knew his theory was sound, and it would pay off, for both of them.

And for Grace.

:::

For the first time in a while, when Danny stopped by the wards for his Grace-time it was with a sense of optimism.

As always, he'd already changed into his sentinel-safe clothing when he'd arrived at the Center in the morning—everything cleaned in hypoallergenic detergent, nothing with harsh dry-cleaning chemicals. But per protocol he washed his face and hands yet again at the nurse's station before going in.

"Hello, monkey! How's my very favorite girl today?" Danny crouched down beside Grace's bed and tried to ignore the nurse-observer hovering in the corner of the room.

Today was a good day, Danny could tell, because Grace's eyes tracked to him immediately, and she softly said, "Danno," a sleepy smile spreading across her face.

"That's right, it's your Danno, bringing all the latest in fun surprises, because who else? Who else, I ask you, would smuggle in your Mr. Hoppy?" Danny extracted the stuffed bunny from under his jacket, and Grace's eyes lit up in pure delight.

"Mr. Hoppy!"

Danny placed him on the bed beside her, and she immediately buried her fingers in his plush fur, her eyes closing as she petted him.

"Don't lose yourself, honey," Danny said. "Remember our exercises."

The observer frowned, but a "neutral" doctor had approved the simple exercises, and the judge had given her blessing.

"I remember, Danno," Grace murmured. "I'm doing my times tables."

"That's my good girl. That's my smart girl," Danny said, his throat closing. "Twelve times twelve?"

Grace sighed extravagantly, "That's easy. One forty-four."

"You're so smart. Really, I seriously cannot believe how smart you are. Someday your brain is going to push clean out of your ears."

"Don't be silly. My head will just get bigger."

"And then it will get too heavy and fall right off your neck."

Grace giggled, hand still stroking over Mr. Hoppy's ears.

Danny's heart ached at how alert and vibrant she was right now, at this moment, such a contrast from the night before when he could barely get her to eat her dinner before sinking back into her senses.

"Sweetheart," he asked curiously, "what did you do this morning?"

"Nurse Kealoha made me Cream of Wheat and then took me to the park. We played with some other kids on the swings. There was a slide that twisted round and round. I wanted to go to the beach but she said we couldn't."

"Maybe next time, monkey." Danny made a mental note to talk to Nurse Kealoha.

They played some more with Mr. Hoppy, then read a book, before Danny's visiting time was over and he got shooed away by the observer.

His last sight, though, was of Grace sagging back into dreams on her narrow hospital bed, one hand petting the comforter beside her as if Mr. Hoppy were still there.

:::

It was two day-old Pad Thai, but Kaiko seemed to forgive him, and listened with bright eyes as he told her about McGarrett's first onset.

"So he was alone for a long period of time? I think I remember reading something about isolation triggers in the literature." Kaiko reached out with a slender hand and snagged the last of the peanut sauce just ahead of him. She was a tiny woman, but fierce when it came to getting her share of sticky noodles, so Danny settled for opening another beer.

"Do you think you could dig up the reference?"

"Sure thing, brah. It might mean a trip to the stacks, though."

"You are a peach. I mean that sincerely," he said, putting his hand over his heart.

She tucked her short hair behind her ear and cracked a grin. "Next time make it sushi."

:::

McGarrett seemed a little more energetic today. His first words were, "Can you convince Dr. Waincroft to let me off tether?" He waved the arm stuck with an I.V.

"No, I will not," Danny said, amused. "You realize you already look about fifty percent less likely to keel over if I give you a shove? It's the fluids and nutrients in that—" Danny waved, "that are gonna get you back on your feet. And I need you back on your feet so we can get started."

McGarrett rubbed his hand over his face. "Yeah, okay. I just—I hate being penned up in here with nothing to do."

Thinking of Grace's wistful expression the day before, Danny clapped his hands together and said, "What do you say we get out of here?"

It wasn't as easy as all that, of course. Malia didn't take to the idea, for one thing, saying her patient wasn't ready for external stimuli again just yet. They were just getting him over the spiraling hyperreaction, and McGarrett still wasn't keeping food down and wasn't strong enough to walk, period. But Danny said he'd take him in a wheelchair, and only so far as the Center's courtyard, promising to bring McGarrett back if he showed any signs of distress or reaction.

McGarrett, of course, objected to the wheelchair and the I.V. hanging off it and every damned stricture, but seemed grateful enough to be outside finally, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath as soon as they were out on the walkway just bounding the grass.

"Thanks," he said after a minute or so. "This is...thanks. And thanks for the T-shirt and sweats. I was getting tired of scrubs."

"No problem." Danny made a mental note to talk to the caregivers in the ward about bringing the syndrome patients outside for health time. It was obviously helping McGarrett, who looked about a hundred times more relaxed than he had in his hypoallergic, sentinel-safe room. Still, Danny kept an eye out for any signs of discomfort.

"So, if you don't mind my asking—"

"Like that would stop you." McGarrett raised an eyebrow. It was the first sign of humor Danny had seen out of the guy, so Danny called that a win.

"Oh, you know me?"

"The nurses—they talk."

"They do, do they? And what about?" Danny smoothed his hair back. "My rugged good looks? My natural savoir faire?"

McGarrett choked out a laugh. "Do you even hear yourself?"

"Or maybe they couldn't see past my incredible physique."

"Well, it was mostly the male nurses—"

"Your point being? I am universally attractive, my friend."

McGarrett smiled suddenly, an honest to God grin, the first Danny had seen on him. It changed his face completely. And then, no kidding, he leaned back and ostentatiously checked Danny out top to bottom before see-sawing his hand back and forth in a so-so judgment.

"What do you know," Danny grumbled. "You obviously have no taste."

"So you say," McGarrett said, still smiling a little. It was kind of irritating. "You should call me 'Steve,' you know?"

Steve. Oh, definitely not. No way. Steve was a patient, and how had Danny forgotten that for even a second?

A breeze suddenly kicked up, and Steve closed his eyes, his smile disappearing.

"What? What is it? Your senses acting up?"

Steve frowned. "I don't know. I just—I smelled something."

"Well, I hate to point this out, but you're going to smell a lot of somethings, being a sentinel and all."

"I get that," Steve said, sounding irritated. "This was an important something." He shook his head then shrugged. "It's gone now."

"So, back to my question?" Danny pulled up a chair and sat down facing Steve.

"Yeah."

"You said you never had the senses before—you don't remember any other instances before that time with the MRE?"

Steve's jaw clenched. "I said so, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did. It's just that obviously you had them. This is your genetic make-up. You don't remember anything at all, say when you were a kid?"

Steve blinked and his eyes went distant. "I don't...no."

"You don't sound so sure," Danny prodded.

"I was a kid. It was a long time ago." Steve's shoulders hunched in. "What does it matter, anyway?"

Danny grappled for patience. "Well, if we knew how you managed to control your senses all this time, that'd be something, wouldn't it?"

"I don't think it would help in this case." Steve rubbed his hands on his legs. "I think it was after...something happened."

Danny tried to catch his eye. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, I sort of remember having them. I didn't tell anyone. And then after...after, I don't remember having them after."

"That's about as clear as mud," Danny said. "After what?"

"After my mom died, all right?" Steve gave him a fierce look, then turned away. "So, I don't think that's going to help much."

"No, that's good. That's...fine." Danny made a mental note to ask Kaiko to add suppression to her search of the literature. "Doesn't matter—I have some exercises we'll start you on, some drills—good stuff."

"Drills?" A slight smile curved Steve's mouth.

"I knew you'd like that. You can take the man out of the military..."

Steve laughed, and Danny laughed too, relieved.

:::

Kaiko was using his desk when Danny came in the next morning. She had some big microfiche printouts spread out and three or four dusty volumes piled up on top. One of them was open and she was hunched over it.

Danny leaned over and tried to read upside down. "Looks like you're onto something, Number One."

"That never gets old." She smiled but didn't raise her eyes from what she was reading. "And yeah—found the isolation reference. No kidding, it was in one of Burton's journals from his time in Peru. Isolation was used as a trigger for young sentinels in the tribe."

"Somehow I don't think that's all."

"Nope." Now she looked up, and her cheeks dimpled in a grin. "I tracked down a crackpot reference to suppression of the senses, some discredited thesis by an ABD anthro doctoral candidate at Rainier. He apparently had made it all up. But there's way too much in there that reads true. He must've had a real sentinel to work with. An adult sentinel." Kaiko's eyes were dancing. "An adult who manifested as an adult."

"Holy crap."

"Yeah. And this Sandburg trained his sentinel to control his senses."

"How the heck has this never come up before?"

Kaiko shrugged. "Sandburg messed up. Someone had gotten a hold of the dissertation before he'd sanitized it to protect his informant. No one knew about sentinels back then, and the press were all over the guy, who was a cop. It was a media circus. Sandburg threw a press conference recanting the dissertation as a fraud to protect the informant. So the thesis was discredited and never made it into the literature."

Danny sat down hard. "Did he document his senses training?"

Kaiko gave a slow nod, her teeth gleaming. "Every bit of it."

Danny gripped the arms of his chair to keep himself from bouncing out of his skin. "This is huge. This is gigantic."

It could help Steve. And if Danny used Sandburg's training to help Steve...

They could save Grace.

:::

"Meditation?"

"Yup." Danny grimaced. "I know—look at me, do I look like a touchy-feely granola-type guy? No, I am not. I prefer to hug people, not trees."

Steve grinned suddenly and looked like he was about to crack wise.

Danny bit his lip and hurried on. "But sentinels aren't like other people. You have to listen to your body. You have control over your senses in ways most other people don't. Okay? So, lie down."

Steve rolled his eyes but lay down on the mat Danny had provided. He was looking much better today, had filled out some, and there was a healthy color to his cheeks. Still, Danny knew he wasn't keeping food down properly yet—Steve said it all tasted too salty. Malia had filled Danny in on Steve's daily caloric input, and they were still supplementing him with a nightly I.V. Hopefully the biofeedback sessions would help a little.

"All right. First, the relaxation exercise. And no fair falling asleep."

Danny counted Steve through the exercise, focusing hard on Steve's breathing and ignoring the way Steve's ab muscles could be counted through the thin cloth of his T-shirt, or how vulnerable his bare ankles looked sticking out from the bottom of his sweatpants.

"Good. Three more, two more, one.... Now I want you to focus on what you hear. You should be able to hear your heartbeat. Do you hear it?"

"Yeah." Steve sounded a little drugged.

"Can you hear me breathing?"

"Yeah. I can hear your heartbeat, too."

"Really? That's good."

"Also, I can hear your stomach. Did you eat lunch?"

"Heh. No, we'll have to get lunch after. Okay, now, I want you to think of your hearing like a dial, one you can crank up like the car radio. Think of cranking up my heartbeat so it gets louder, boom-boom."

"Boom-boom," Steve said, still sounding drugged. "Jungle music."

"Steve?"

"Louder." Steve's hand twitched on the mat, twitched and then turned. "Boom-boom. Boom-boom."

"Okay, that's loud enough." Jesus, it was working. "Think of that as an eight. That's an eight."

"Eight."

"Now turn it down. Turn down the radio, so it gets quieter."

"Down." Steve's hand twitched again. "Down."

"Is it down?"

Steve didn't respond.

"Steve?" Danny leaned over him. Steve's eyes were only open a sliver. Danny snapped his fingers to no response, and finally poked him in the shoulder.

Steve's eyes went wide, his mouth opening. "Danny?" he said, voice too loud and hoarse. Sweat beaded his forehead.

"Turn it up, Steve," Danny yelled. "Just a little." Danny mimicked turning his hand.

Steve blinked and shook his head. Danny patted a hand on his chest. Boom-boom. Boom-boom.

Steve took a deep breath and seemed to deliberately relax. After some painfully long moments, he opened his eyes again. "Boom-boom," he said softly.

"Thank God," Danny said. "Jesus."

"Okay, yeah. That was fucked up."

"But you got it," Danny said. "You got it."

Steve stared at him, then suddenly smiled. "Yeah, I got it."

"Amazing. That was just...amazing." They stared at each other, grinning, before Danny realized he was leaning over Steve's prone body, hand resting on his chest.

Steve looked down, his nostrils flaring. "Danny..."

"All right!" Danny said, a little too loudly. "Let's try that again."

:::

Danny brought Grace a tiny pot of African violets, the blooms a vibrant purple against the pink glaze. Grace smiled when she saw them, and insisted they put them on the window next to her terrarium.

"See? The moss is growing really well, Danno," Grace said. "I've been spraying it every night."

"That is awesome, monkey. You are a perfect caretaker." Danny brushed her hair back from her forehead. "Did you go to the Center's park today?"

"Yeah. And Makaio was there."

"Oh, yeah? Who's that?" Danny spared a glance back at the nurse, who was smiling slightly.

"He's this boy. He knows all the best games."

"Is he the same one you played with on the slides the other day?"

"Yeah."

"He is Nurse Kealoha's son," Nurse Iona said.

"Oh. Okay. Glad you made a new friend, monkey." Danny gave Grace a kiss, wondering at her unusual alertness.

:::

"Kaiko tells me you were a pain in the ass yesterday," Danny said as he came into Steve's room.

Steve lifted his head and gave Danny a frown. "I wasn't trying to be. It just wasn't working."

"What wasn't working?" Danny kept his eyes trained on Steve's face; Steve wasn't wearing a shirt today, and he was looking a lot healthier lately. It was getting harder for Danny to ignore how damned good-looking the guy was, patient or not. That was a lot of tanned skin and muscle, and Danny was no saint.

"There it is again," Steve said, his eyebrows twisting, a happy, puzzled look on his face.

"There's what?"

"That smell. It's, like...familiar, but not."

"Well, Kaiko's exercises were on scent. Can you use any of them to dial—"

"Sure, I can dial things up and down, but that doesn't help me identify anything." Steve looked frustrated. "Do you have any idea how many things there are to smell?"

Danny laughed. "I guess we'll have to make that part of your training. We'll, I don't know, make a library of scents or something."

Pushing himself to sit on the side of his bed, Steve jumped in. "Yeah. Be sure to include samples of different kinds of explosives."

Danny slapped a hand over his face in disbelief.

:::

"Seriously?" Steve examined the small mirrors mounted on wheels with the lights ringing them, and then looked up at Danny. "This is supposed to help?"

"I know it looks crazy, but this system has been used before. And with a cop, so," Danny shrugged, "just go with it, okay? Put your face right up here."

"All right." Steve sat down and settled himself on the chin rest.

Danny started his stopwatch and flicked on the motor. The mirrors started spinning, lights flashing against them and into Steve's eyes.

"Whoa," Steve said a few seconds later, sounding freaked.

"All right. Now, focus hard on the image on the screen."

"Fuck, Danny—the lights are too much."

"You can do this, Steve. Filter out the lights." Danny looked down at his notes. Sandburg had said something about "grounding contact," so Danny put his hand on Steve's shoulder, ignoring Steve's initial start of surprise. "Just keep focusing on the image. You got it?"

"Yeah, I—it's tough, though. I think I'm going to—"

Danny squeezed Steve's shoulder. "Just a little longer."

"How long?" Steve's voice was tense with strain.

"Another minute thirty."

"Okay."

"Good. I'm here," Danny said, hiding his anxiety behind his professional calm.

Steve held out for the full two minutes, but by the time Danny turned off the motor his shirt was damp under Danny's hand. As soon as the lights were off, Steve slumped back and closed his eyes. "Okay, what next?"

"Next, you rest for a bit, then we do it again, this time for four minutes," Danny said, trying to sound confident.

Steve smiled, eyes still closed. "Now this feels like BUD/s."

:::

The PHSS convention was a bust. The East Coast Center had three young sentinels ranging from eight to twelve years in age. None of them were responsive for more than a few hours a day, and none of their parents were willing to try any of Danny's experimental techniques because, as one parent put it, "We've already tried everything there is. Don't make us get our hopes up again, Dr. Williams. It's just too cruel."

"We're making progress with our adult sentinel, Mrs. Ford."

"But he isn't like Jasper, is he? Come back when you've had success with one of the children."

Danny went home empty-handed, only to find Steve had gone into a zone.

"I wasn't here when it happened," Kaiko said. "I think he might've been doing one of our exercises on his own, but I'm not sure."

"Idiot." Danny swore. "He wasn't supposed to do those alone."

"Yeah, well. He didn't perform so well yesterday with the scent drill. I think he kept trying after we finished for the day."

"Okay. Let's get Malia in here for a consult; we might have to put him back on fluids until he comes out of it."

Kaiko left to fetch Malia, and Danny settled down next to Steve.

"Idiot," Danny said again softly, and put his hand on Steve's shoulder. "What'm I gonna do with you, huh?" It was awful to see Steve's eyes open but with nobody home. "You're killing me here, Steven." Danny slid his hand down Steve's arm and rubbed his thumb over the swirl of his tattoo. Sometimes engaging a second sense was enough to break the hold on the first, or at least that was what Sandburg's writings had implied.

That was what Danny told himself as he stroked his thumb over the muscle of Steve's shoulder. "Snap out of it so I can kick your ass, all right?"

"Danny?" Steve turned his head.

"That's me." Relief flooded through him. "What is the matter with you? Why'd you go and do something so stupid?"

Steve blinked at him. "Did you just say you could kick my ass?"

Danny pulled back and crossed his arms. "Don't doubt it. You're still so pitiful—just look at you."

Steve's lips stretched in a smile. "Uh-huh." He pulled himself upright. "I'm real glad you're back, Danny."

Danny would categorically deny what that smile was doing to him, but he replied, "Yeah, me too."

:::

"Is that working?" Danny doubted it from the way Steve was frowning.

"No, it's—every time I try, it's like my hand slips on the dial. High pitches are different somehow. We need a different strategy." Steve moved restlessly in his seat.

"Okay, take a break."

Steve ripped off his headphones and gingerly rested his head back. His eyebrows were knotted tight.

"Head bad? We can stop for the day."

"Just give me a few." After a moment he said, "Talk to me, would you?"

"Talk to you?"

Steve cracked an eye. "Yeah, your voice is kind of...soothing."

Danny stifled a snort. "That's the first I've heard of it."

Steve smiled, his eyes still closed.

"So what should I talk about?"

"I don't know. Tell me how you got into this business. You said you used to be a cop."

Danny had already mentioned he had a daughter, had told Steve Grace was brilliant and beautiful, his golden star. He'd shown Steve a picture—Grace on a good day, eyes bright and alert. He didn't know why he hadn't told Steve the truth, except, except—

"Grace got diagnosed when she five."

Steve opened his eyes.

"Yeah, we were living in Jersey at the time, still married, not really happily, but things were what they were. Then Grace started having problems—unexplained rashes, attention problems in school, headaches, trouble eating. Then she had her first zone."

"Ah, man. Danny."

Steve's voice held nothing but sympathy, so Danny felt safe to continue.

"I started doing all this research, trying to find out everything I could about Pediatric Hyperactive Sensory Syndrome. And I found out more and more kids were being affected, and they thought it had something to do with the environment, but that they didn't have a cure or even any idea how to help these kids, can you believe it? So I decided to go back to school." Danny rubbed his palms over his face. "That was a real joy, I'll tell you—trying to get my Ph.D. competing with all these kids whose brains are still working three times faster than mine."

"But you did it." Steve sounded proud.

"Hell, yeah. I might be old, but I'm mean."

"You're...something else." Steve shifted in his chair. "So, I guess...all this is personal."

Except, yeah—this was why Danny hadn't told Steve about Grace in the first place, and as Danny met Steve's eyes, it was with some fear Steve would suspect him of ulterior motives now, for every gesture of kindness, for every effort they made together in getting Steve better. Because now Steve knew what he was in it for.

"We'll do it, Danny," Steve said. "We'll figure this out. And then you'll know how to help Grace."

Danny let out a relieved breath. "You know, you're really something, Steven."

Steve scowled. "What?"

"What, what? You know what."

Steve put his headphones on. "I think let's try it again. Only this time, maybe we can use the subtraction technique like we did for scent, instead of the dial."

"All right." Danny smiled, his chest glowing with warmth, and bent over the board.

:::

A tense standoff greeted Danny when he stopped by to pick up Steve for his next round of training. Malia was backed against Steve's door with her arms crossed; in front of her was a guy in blue jeans and a white button-down, a badge and gun on his belt.

"Steve invited me, Malia," the man was saying, his voice even.

"Well, he's my patient, and right now I'm not allowing any external agents into his environment."

A slim, beautiful woman slid next to the man and added in her two cents. "Is it just this particular agent you've got something against?"

"Hey there, folks," Danny said hastily. "Can I help?"

"Danny," Malia said, her relief plain. "Can you please explain to Chin and Kono here that Steve can't have any visitors right now?"

Danny weighed Steve's possible anger against Malia's definite prickliness about her sphere of influence. "Well, admittedly they haven't been through protocol, but what if they were to change into scrubs?"

The man—Chin, Danny assumed—gave Malia a pleading look. "Please, Malia. We haven't seen him in weeks."

She leveled them her fiercest look. "You will go to the station and wash your faces and hands and change into clean scrubs. And half an hour, only."

"Mahalo," Chin said, and Kono echoed him, a little less graciously.

Malia took them both off to get them scrubs, and Danny flicked the light before slipping inside Steve's room.

Steve raised his eyebrows.

"Uh, we have a protocol," Danny said.

"I'm getting that. You might've mentioned it."

"Didn't want you to worry about it. By the time you really have to worry about it, it shouldn't be a problem anymore."

"You mean by the time you let me out of here, I should be able to tolerate the company of my friends without keeling over?"

"Something like that."

"I didn't realize Dr. Waincroft was that Malia—Chin's ex."

"What?"

Steve's mouth twisted. "Chin's on my team at five-oh. He and Malia used to be together."

"Oh. That explains the undercurrents."

"Yeah."

The light above the door blinked, and then Chin and Kono stepped in, Kono yelling, "Steve!" and rushing forward to give him a hug.

Chin was a little more sedate, saying, "Hey there, brah." His hug, though, was equally strong, and Danny could see the three were close.

"Where's Duke?" Steve said as Chin pulled back.

"Someone had to mind the store," Kono said. "He said big kine barbeque when they cut you loose, though. Kamekona's going to bring all the fixings."

"Sounds awesome." Steve was grinning from ear to ear. "Hey, this is Danny. He's been helping me a lot."

"Hey, Danny." Chin turned to shake hands. "He been a lot of trouble?"

"You can't even imagine."

"Hey!"

"Oh, believe me, I can." Chin smiled at them both. He seemed like a nice guy. Kono had already seated herself on Steve's bed and was telling him some story. Danny tuned in an ear and heard something about smoke grenades and a sniper shot at four hundred yards.

"Yes!" Steve crowed, giving her a high-five. "That's my girl."

"Who're you calling 'girl'?" But she grinned proudly.

Chin was shaking his head.

"You work with these lunatics?" Danny said.

"Brother, you have no idea."

:::

After his friends left, Steve seemed antsy.

"I need to go for a run," he said finally. "I need to get back in shape. Do you guys have a gym here?"

"Whoa. Slow down, there, Rocky. We're just getting the meat back on your bones."

"I'm not fit for duty," Steve said stubbornly.

"Tell you what, caveman—you start doubling up your caloric intake, I'll get Malia to let you start doing workouts."

"Yeah?"

"You'll have to work on your taste drills some more," Danny warned, raising his hand. "You didn't like those."

"No problem," Steve said, looking hopeful.

Danny shook his head. "You make no sense to me. You want to do more of the drills you hate so eventually you'll have permission to go out and torture yourself."

Steve just smiled.

:::

"All I'm saying is most kids we've seen manifest sometime before puberty," Danny said. "What do you remember?"

Steve was lying on a bench in the courtyard. They'd accomplished a lot today, sound drills, sight tests, and a taste test. Steve had identified one part per ten thousand of various inert chemicals, and then had "reset" his dials and eaten a cheese sandwich without any evident discomfort. It was a banner achievement.

"I remember—I don't know if it's real or not, what I remember." Steve crossed his arms over his chest.

Danny appreciated the view for a moment, then said, "So tell me what you're not sure you remember."

"I think I need a drink for this," Steve muttered.

"Don't know if you're ready yet."

"You've got to be kidding." Steve slid around until he was seated facing Danny. "I'm not allowed to drink?"

"How well do you think you'll handle the senses if you're tanked?"

"Sounds like another test," Steve said, eyes bright with challenge.

"I've created a monster." Danny pointed. "Evading, that's evading, as if I didn't notice. Answer the question."

Steve dropped his head. "I told you my mom died, right?"

"You did."

"So, turns out it was a car bomb."

Jesus. "Okay."

Steve ran his palms over his legs. "Thing is, the night before, I thought I saw who did it through my window. Only when I told my dad later, after it happened, he told me I couldn't have seen it—it was too dark, it was too far away. People would say I was crazy, a freak. I didn't see it. He told me I didn't see it, and so I guess I convinced myself I didn't. I couldn't have." Steve raised his head. His eyes looked broken. "I never had the senses after that."

"What did you see, Steve?" Danny said.

Steve shook his head.

He wouldn't say another word.

:::

Danny had to attend a Board meeting, so he was gone for a couple of days. When he got back, Steve was cranky as hell and it took them a while to get back in the groove. Still, they were making progress.

He desperately wanted to start trying the same training with Grace. If it weren't for her bright-eyed awareness for his two-hour visits, and Kaiko talking him down from doing something stupid, he wasn't sure what he'd have done.

He just had to hang on.

:::

Another lunchtime meeting, this time with Kaiko. A sub for him, Spam musubi for her.

"The new audiometer is working like a dream," Kaiko said.

"And you say I never do anything for you."

"Well, one more thing you can do is take over the rest of McGarrett's sessions. He just seems to respond better to you," she said with a shrug. "Who knows why. Chemistry, maybe." She shot him a sly grin.

"Oh, don't go there. He's a patient."

"For now."

"For the foreseeable future."

"We can't foresee the future. That's why we call it the future." She flicked a bit of rice at him. "Anyway, I think it's better if we stop kidding ourselves and you do his slots. I'll do the write-ups from your notes. I'm a better writer, anyway. Don't worry—I'll still give you co-authorship."

"Generous of you."

Kaiko's eyes softened. "We both know you're just in this for Grace," she said softly. "How's she holding up?"

"She's been doing better, actually. Has herself a little play friend. I think he's keeping her engaged."

Kaiko frowned. "Burton said something about that, too."

"Oh, please tell me you're not going to haul out that old 'guide' bullshit." Danny had already been over this. "Everyone got excited six years ago when they first found the reference, like guides were some cure. They tested thousands of possibles but nothing came of it."

Kaiko shook her head. "Maybe because they were working the wrong angle. Nothing so simple as a cure. Maybe the guide is just that: someone to show the path."

Danny sat slack-jawed for a moment. "Or a trainer. Oh, my God."

"What?"

"You...you are a freaking genius."

"Well, we both knew that." She grabbed a handful of his potato chips and popped some in her mouth.

He was too stunned to bitch. Because all the pieces were falling into place. His hand on Steve's shoulder grounding him; Steve's head rising alertly whenever Danny came into the room; Steve coming out of the zone; Steve asking him to talk to ease him through a spike; even Steve's complaints about that elusive scent.

He was searching for Danny.

"Pheromones," Danny said slowly. "Holy crap. It's all about pheromones."

Kaiko considered it. "Well, that should be easy enough to test."

Except Danny found himself shying away from the thought of testing it for some reason. Which was stupid. This was the ticket, right here. The training had to be effective, replicable, or Danny wouldn't be able to help Grace.

"All right," Danny said. "What do we do?"

:::

"You want me to what?"

"It's pretty simple," Danny said. "Put on this shirt, then run through the mirror test with Kaiko. I'll be in the other room."

"Okay..."

"Then tomorrow we'll repeat the test without the shirt."

Steve looked at him like he was nuts.

"Pretty simple."

"You're the doc," Steve said, still staring at him.

They already had the test results from Danny's run-through with Steve the previous day. Steve had no way of knowing, of course, but Danny had worn the shirt the night before—had slept in it, in fact. After jerking off. Blushing the whole time, thinking about what the shirt would be used for.

All in the name of science, Danny thought now, semi-hysterically, and sat down to watch through the observation window.

:::

"This is completely nuts," Danny said to Kaiko not half an hour later.

"We still have tomorrow's test to get through."

"But you have never had results like these with him."

"Nope," she said cheerfully. "Want me to take him through the sound test? Just for kicks?"

"No," Danny said. "I don’t want to make him more suspicious than he already is."

:::

But Steve was already onto him. In fact, he was waiting in his room with the shirt neatly folded in his lap when Danny came in after dinner. As soon as Danny walked in, Steve lifted the T-shirt and buried his face in it, sniffing audibly before raising his head and staring at Danny evenly.

"Let me guess," Danny said, mouth dry. "The smell you kept talking about."

"Yup." Steve bared his teeth. "The one I notice whenever you catch me without my shirt on."

Danny swallowed.

"Took me a while to figure it out."

"Well if you figured it out, why didn't you say something, you big dummy? We could have made faster progress!"

"No, I didn't, not about that. All I thought I'd figured out was maybe you're attracted to me. And since you're basically my doctor, I didn't bring it up." Steve looked indignant.

"Oh, right."

"I mean, you caught me checking you out on the day I met you."

Danny blushed.

"Just so we're clear." Steve grinned.

"Yeah, we're clear." Danny coughed. "The problem is, this." He waved his hand between them. "It's—we're—" There were no words.

"Hey, hey." Steve got up and came over, then pushed Danny's shirt into his hands. "Number one, we figure this out. That helps Grace. Right?"

Danny breathed out in relief. "Right."

"Nothing's changed."

"Nothing's changed."

Except everything had.

:::

The next day Steve ran the mirror test without either Kaiko or Danny or the shirt. It was a pure baseline of Steve's skills without any grounding whatsoever. He held on as long as he could, a full twenty-eight minutes and forty-three seconds.

By the time he pushed the buzzer and Danny hit the kill switch, Steve was drenched in sweat and pasty white.

He was fourteen minutes shy of his time with the shirt. On the other hand, he'd barely made it two minutes with Danny's help when he'd first arrived at the Foundation, so Danny wasn't sure, ultimately, what that meant. Except that Steve was an extraordinary person.

But Danny already knew that.

:::

"So what do we know, from our extremely tiny sample size of one," Danny said.

"We know we have enough to justify a full study," Kaiko said, rubbing her pencil against her lower lip. "We know we can get Grace into the charter program since she fits all the parameters, including already having Makaio as a guide." Kaiko grinned. "And we know I did most of the research while you were playing with our subject, so I get to name the paper."

"Yes, you get to name the paper."

"And I get my own office when they start awarding us with field medals for saving all these kids."

"God, we are going to save all these kids."

"We are, brah." She flashed a smile at him that could light a stadium.

:::

"So, we could either put your name in it, or we could protect you as an informant by keeping you anonymous."

"Anonymous."

"Yeah, you know, as in Subject S—"

"Right. I need to be anonymous."

"Oh."

"Because I'm a cop, Danny. No one can know I'm a sentinel."

"Right. Right. They could use it to hurt you."

"Although I suppose now that I'll be able to do surveillance that's beyond reasonable expectations of privacy, it'll be a new one for the legislators." Steve looked thoughtful. "What's my range again? I guess I'll have to read up on wire-tap laws."

Danny wanted to hug him. Seriously. This was getting to be a problem.

"We really don't know the outer limits, especially as pertains to real world conditions." Danny grinned.

Steve grinned right back at him. "So, that's it? I'm free to get out of here tomorrow? Roam in the wild?"

"Well, you'll need to come back for regular check-ups. And if anything weird comes up, you'll call Dr. Waincroft right away, capiche?"

"Got it. Still, if this is my last night..." Steve trailed off.

"What? Okay, what is that look? Because that look means trouble, and as hot as you are—and admittedly you are an attractive man, I am not denying that, Steven—you are still my very important research subject of an unpublished paper that could very well save the health of—mmph." Steve's hand stopped Danny's babbling.

"Party, Danny. That look means farewell party involving barbeque, and shrimp, and possibly Spam cooked in ways that will make you bitch." Steve grinned, and Danny resisted the urge to lick Steve's palm. "And hopefully alcohol, because we never did run that particular test." Steve removed his hand from Danny's mouth. "Okay?"

"Okay."

:::

The party was awesome. Chin, Kono, Duke Lukela, and Max Bergman, whom Danny had already met, were all there, and someone very large named Kamekona showed up bearing a tremendous amount of food. Chin's Uncle Choi brought moonshine that could strip the paint off a 1977 Mustang. To Malia's immense displeasure, about an hour in Steve took a shot of the moonshine and spent the rest of the party slouched in the corner couch with a loopy smile on his face. Danny took his pulse every so often just in case. Steve's wrist was warm and wide under Danny's fingers.

At one point, Steve grabbed his wrist back and said, "Thanks, Danny. Thanks for everything."

"Right back atcha." Danny swallowed and let his hand rest between them, the backs of his fingers against Steve's thigh. He watched Steve's friends laughing and talking, and memorized the warmth of Steve's body next to his.

"Gonna miss...this place," Steve said quietly.

"Yeah," Danny said, and couldn't say another word more.

:::

So, Steve went home and back to his life. That was great.

Except Danny missed the ever living hell out of him.

:::

Danny's phone rang at a godawful time of the night. He pawed at his nightstand until he came up with it.

"Hey, Danny."

"Steve! What's up? Are you having problems? You should have called Malia—"

"No, no problems, everything's awesome." Except Steve was slurring into the phone slightly. "I mean, I thought I would have to come crawling back, you know?" Steve choked a laugh. "But you did it, Danny. Jeez, you saved my life, you know that? I can't ever thank you for that. Never."

Danny had to talk around the lump in his throat. "What happened? Why are you calling?"

"It worked, Danny. Worked like a dream. I mean, I got knifed, but I—"

"You got knifed?"

"Yeah, but the training worked! It really worked, because for a second the pain almost took me out, but then I heard your voice telling me to turn the dial, so I did, and I went for the gun, and I got 'im." Steve's continued, more subdued. "Man, that sucked. But anyway, thanks, Danny. I just wanted to say thanks."

"Where are you?"

"I'm at the hospital."

"Shit. How bad is—Steve, listen—they can't put you on painkillers. You have no idea how you'll react to them."

"No painkillers. Just Tylenol and some stitches. Don't worry, buddy."

"Don't worry. The man tells me not to worry while he's out there getting knifed."

Steve laughed, an aching sound. "Danny. Wish you were here, man." A voice said something in the background, and Steve added, "They're ready for me. I gotta go."

"Yeah, okay. Jesus. Take care of yourself, you idiot."

"Will do."

:::

"She's my baby, Danny. I don't care about your studies or your reports. Why can't these other children go first?"

"Don't you want her to get better, Rachel? I'm telling you, this guy was completely wasted, couldn't get out of bed, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, and by the time the training was finished he walked out of here and back to his job a completely healthy guy."

"Then why can't we see him for ourselves?" Rachel crossed her arms. "What's the big secret?"

"I told you. God." Danny clenched his jaw in frustration. "We have to respect the anonymity of our informant. This man has a dangerous job. If anyone knew about him they could use his senses against him."

"I wouldn't tell anyone, Danny."

"You can't ask me to—I can't break confidentiality."

"So just ask him if it's all right. What's the big deal?"

"And, what—I'm supposed to ask him for every parent? You're just special, is that it?"

Her eyes slitted dangerously, because of course she was. Of course she thought so.

"If you want Grace in the first round, I guess you'll have to. Otherwise, we'll wait until I'm sure it's safe for her."

:::

Of course, Danny could wait. Grace was stable. Danny had spoken to Waleka Kealoha and for a small fee she was willing to have Makaio come sit in the training room with Grace for her sessions. Waleka thought it would be a good learning experience for her son, like a first job.

But Danny didn't want to wait three months to get his daughter back. It would be at least that long until the first trial finished, and if it weren't entirely successful, the Foundation might not fund another.

That was why he found himself swallowing his pride and his better judgment to knock on the front door of Steve McGarrett's home two days later.

Danny heard a groan from inside, and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. "Steve, you okay?"

"Danny," came Steve's faint yell.

Danny tried the door, but it was locked, so he went along the side until he found a lanai. The back entrance was wide open, and he hustled inside to see Steve lying on the floor among the remains of some busted up furniture.

"Someone crash your party?" Danny caught him under his arm and helped him to the nearest ottoman.

"Three someones." Steve groaned again and clutched the side of his neck.

"Let me see that." Danny pulled his hand away to look. "Jeez. You got tasered. Been there myself and it ain't fun."

"Never felt anything like it," Steve said. "I'm still feeling it. It's like all my nerves are on fire."

"Yeah, okay. Let's do something about that."

Steve gave him an incredulous look.

"What? You're in the field. Think of it as field testing."

"All right." Steve bit his lip. "Hit me."

"'Kay. Touch dial. Where is it? Take a deep breath and tell me."

Steve took more than one, the frown on his face testament to how difficult he was finding the task.

"You work on that; I'll get you some ice for that burn."

In the freezer, Danny found some ice cubes and some peppermint patties. The ice cubes he put in a baggie; the patties he munched on while Steve focused on his touch dial.

"Okay, I've got it. Turning it down now."

"That's good. Here, slap this on your neck while you're doing it. I'll call your friend Chin." Danny had his number for emergencies; good thing, too, since this definitely counted.

"Chin? This is Danny. Steve's had a break-in."

:::

"Listen, Danny," Steve said while they were waiting for his team to arrive. "I didn't exactly tell you everything about my mom. About the car bomb."

"Okay."

"Thing is, it was a cop who planted it. And my dad was investigating her murder, and that's what these guys were after—they took all the evidence."

"Your life isn't very complicated, is it?"

"You're one to talk. This is the first I've heard from you in weeks. Why'd you stop by, anyway?"

"Oh, that." Danny rubbed his palm over his mouth. "It's my ex. She, ah. She wants to meet you. Or more—she wants to meet Subject S, to confirm you're healthy and the training devices won't hurt Grace." Danny groaned. "Look, I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't ask—"

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah. She can keep a secret, right? She won't go blabbing to the other parents?"

"We'll make her sign a non-disclosure agreement. Getting lawyers involved always makes it real for her." Danny smiled a little bitterly.

"Oh, yeah?"

Steve's team showed up then, sparing Danny from what could have been an awkward conversation. Chin swung into work analyzing how the thieves had broken into Steve's security system, while Kono questioned him about his attackers. Duke took a quick canvass of the neighbors.

"Three of them. They were professionals—organized and precise."

"Figured it had to be more than one, brah." She smiled reassuringly. "How's your head?"

"Doing better."

Kono shook her head. "Stun guns, gloves. These guys knew what they were doing and what they were after."

"What I don't get is how'd they know about the evidence," Steve said. "Did you guys mention the Champ box to anybody?"

"No," Chin said.

"Nope," Kono said.

"Not a soul," Duke said.

"And you never talked about it with anybody at all," Chin said to Steve.

"I talked to the people in this room. You guys." Steve stared at Chin. "And my sister. I talked to my sister." Steve's face went pale and he jumped to his feet. "Danny." He gave Danny an agonized look.

"You better believe I'm coming with you."

Steve frowned. "You can't. You're a civilian now."

"But you need—never mind," Danny said, biting his lip in frustration.

After a beat, Steve said, "Chin, you're with me. Kono, Duke, get back to five-oh and coordinate from there. Danny..." Steve stared at him.

"I'll call you later."

:::

It sucked beyond belief not knowing what was happening, not knowing if Steve was all right, if he'd found his sister, if he was getting his head blown off—what.

Sometimes Danny really fucking missed being a cop.

He put his focus in his work, in getting the trial set-up, running the paperwork on thirteen PHSS patients—hopefully soon to be fourteen if Rachel wised up—and putting the necessary resources in place. They also needed to find "guides" for their patients; that was a little trickier, but over breakfast burritos Kaiko had the bright idea of testing pheromones, not people, the idea being that some sort of synthetic olfactory supplement could be used in much the way Danny's T-shirt had been, to provide the necessary "bump" in focus the patients needed.

Really, Kaiko would get the Nobel on this one. All Danny wanted was his Grace, whole and healthy.

Steve called the afternoon after being tasered to let Danny know he'd gotten his sister Mary back. All it had taken was quick helicopter jaunt.

Danny imagined Steve dealing with the vibrations and noise while flying a helicopter and shuddered.

Steve called again two days later to tell Danny he'd sent his sister away for safety. They'd arrested the guy who kidnapped her, but he had a long reach.

"So, is everything cool for now? Can Rachel and I come to see you?"

"Yeah." Steve sounded tired. "Tomorrow would be good."

"Try to get some sleep. You sound like crap."

Steve laughed a little. "If you say so. Listen, you want me to wear my uniform? Really impress her?"

"Uniform?"

"Yeah, you know—my dress blues."

Danny swallowed hard. "What the hell."

:::

Big mistake. Big mistake. Steve opened the door, introducing himself to Rachel and apologizing for his "get-up" saying he was heading over to the naval yard later for some function.

Danny couldn't take his eyes off him.

Fortunately, neither could Rachel, who followed Steve into the living room and sat down where directed without a peep.

"Can I get you guys some coffee? Tea? Actually, I don't know if I have any tea," Steve said bashfully. "But coffee?"

"Coffee will be fine," Danny's tea-drinking wife said.

"I'll just...help," Danny said, following Steve into the kitchen.

"You weren't kidding about the uniform," Danny whispered as Steve pulled down a couple of mugs and started pouring. "Sheesh." Danny felt the tips of his ears turning red.

Steve grinned at him over his shoulder. "Thanks, I think. Here, take this." He handed Danny two coffees and followed with his own and a container of milk.

"Here you go, Mrs. Williams."

"Call me Rachel, please."

"All right, Rachel. I'm Steve. So...Danny said you had some questions about the training. Thanks for signing the NDA, by the way. Obviously, I can't let people know what's going on with me."

"No, of course not. I'll tell no one."

"Thank you. It might be dangerous, but I love my job. Of course, if it weren't for Danny and the Foundation, my condition would have ended my career. In fact, I wouldn't have much of a life."

Danny felt his chest tighten, and he took a sip of his coffee to cover.

Rachel gave him a quick look, then said. "Tell me more about the training."

Steve closed his eyes for a second. "We were kind of finding our way, so I think what the kids end up going through will be different from my experience. But I can tell you it was mainly about figuring out what my senses were trying to tell me, and learning to pay attention differently." Steve lifted his hand and ran a finger along his coffee cup. "I touch something and I feel...a thousand different things, everything comes rushing in at once. It's too much. So what Danny taught me with the exercises is how to narrow the focus on just what I want to take in, and throw everything else away. There are a bunch of different ways to narrow the focus. Sometimes you can use distraction, sometimes subtraction—filtering, we call that—or sometimes hyperfocus, but whatever tool I use for each sense, I need to practice using it, because otherwise I get overwhelmed."

Steve looked over at Rachel and nodded earnestly. "I think that's what's happening to the kids. I think they're getting overwhelmed all the time. I think the only reason I didn't get overwhelmed too is I shut it all down when I was really young, and having me, as an adult, to play guinea pig gave Danny an opportunity to finally develop these techniques." He smiled at Danny. "And I'm lucky he did."

Danny was so dumbstruck to hear Steve putting into his own words what they'd been working on for the past two months that he'd barely registered Rachel's reaction, but when he turned to look at her, she was smiling, tears of hope in her eyes.

Danny smiled back.

"Thank you, Steve," Rachel said. "I think we're all lucky."

:::

Grace finished the trial in nine weeks along with twelve other successful PHSS patients. Only one little girl, Amelia M., wasn't considered a success and had to remain in the wards. Kaiko had been unable to find an RP, or Response Pheromone for her, and so she was only able to partially complete each training session. Still, she had better control than before she entered the trial, and was more alert, and would be continuing her training from the ward.

All the ward nurses would be trained in the new protocol.

And Grace, well—Grace finally went home.

:::

"I want balloons, and cake and ice cream. And pizza with pineapple."

Danny groaned. "Does it have to be pineapple, monkey?" Inwardly, he was over the moon. Grace was asking for pineapple, when not three months ago she could barely tolerate Cream of Wheat.

"Yes! Pineapple and ham." Grace bounced in her seat. "Will Malia be there?"

"Yes, Malia will be there, of course she will. All of your friends from the trials will come if they aren't having parties of their own."

"Oh, we talked, and Suzie is having hers tomorrow. Will Makaio come?"

"Yes, Makaio and Nurse Kealoha will both be there. And I'm bringing my friend Steve if that's okay."

"Is he the one who helped you?"

"Yes, babydoll."

"Then he can come," she said graciously.

"Thank you very much."

And Danny just smiled and smiled, because this was his Grace, bouncing and curious and so very much his girl again.

:::

"Do you hear that?" Steve said to Grace, his hand on her shoulder, and she nodded, her head tilted at exactly the same angle as his. "What do you think it is?"

"Is it...dolphins? Really?" She sounded breathless.

"Yup. How far away do you think?"

"They sound really far."

"Don't lose yourself," he warned her.

"I won't," she said confidently. "I've got this. My Danno gave it to me." She showed Steve the sea urchin shell he'd given her. Danny's heart seized up. "See? It's really rough."

"That is awesome," Steve said, and flicked a grin at Danny over Grace's shoulder. "He gave me a piece of sandpaper to split my focus with."

"That's just mean," Grace said.

"I know, right?"

Danny had to laugh.

:::

The party was winding down. All the kids were crashing hard from their sugar highs, and Grace was crumpled inelegantly on the couch in her purple dress, one glittery shoe lost between the cushions. Danny had to get up and kiss her one more time, stroke her hair back. His girl, his monkey, so playful and alive again and making three times the mess.

All better.

Danny stepped away and smiled in passing to Rachel, who was on her way to take Grace off to bed.

He re-took his seat next to Steve. "So you could smell the blood wasn't Mary's?"

"Well, I could smell it was male. Weird, huh?"

"Weird, but useful," Danny said.

"Not sure if it was useful. I mean, a lab could do that. But it was a load off my mind knowing Mary wasn't the one who left that puddle of blood. Or that tooth." Steve grimaced.

"Having the senses is bound to help in the field, though," Danny said, his voice low. "You just have to know how to apply them."

"Yeah, well. Most of the time I'm just thinking about pointing and shooting. I don't have time to think about that other stuff. Although they've helped with my distance shooting." Steve grinned.

"Like I bet you needed help with that."

Steve's grin widened.

"Seriously, though, think about it."

Steve lost the grin. "Maybe you should think about it for me."

"I'm—"

"Not a cop anymore, I know." Steve took a sip of his beer.

There was a general rustle as people got to their feet, and Danny realized it was time to go. Except he didn't want to stop talking to Steve. One look at Steve's disappointed expression made Danny say, "You got some more beer back at your place?"

Steve brightened. "Yeah. Let's go."

They'd come in separate cars, and Danny lost Steve's truck two minutes into the drive. He felt nervous anticipation growing in his gut as he approached Steve's house.

It was then he realized—with Grace finished with the study, with Steve back in the field, and with the results safely published in a neuro-sciences journal, there was nothing standing in the way of the two of them anymore, not if they wanted this. Not if they both did.

God knew Danny did, had ached for it countless nights and shoved it into a drawer, because Steve was off-limits in more ways than one, and it didn't pay for Danny to let himself want what he couldn't have.

But now it was his to try for.

The lights outside were already on as he pulled up next to Steve's truck. Danny jogged up to the door only to have it yanked open under his hand.

"Nifty trick," Danny said.

Steve grinned and handed him an opened beer. "You made it. I thought you'd gotten lost."

"No, I just don't drive like a lunatic." Danny strolled inside and took a nervous sip of his beer.

"Let's go out to the lanai." Steve turned off the lights as he went, so by the time they stepped out onto the deck the only illumination was the full moon glittering over the ocean.

"Nice," Danny said, settling into deck chair.

"It's different now," Steve said.

"You mean beside the bullet holes all over your place?" Danny couldn't help noting.

"I'm working on those," Steve said. "No, I meant—since I got the senses. Moonlight looks different. Everything is so crisp."

"No mystery left?" Danny turned to face him.

Steve was staring at him, a question in his eyes. "There's still plenty of that," he said softly, leaning in but stopping short.

"Oh, you are kidding me. After everything we've been through, you even have to ask?" Danny's heart was thumping hard in his chest.

Steve reached out between them and rested his hand right over Danny's heart. "I can hear that. But," he shook his head, "I don't know what it means, Danny." He pulled back. "I've been waiting for weeks, ever since Grace started her training."

Danny blinked. "Oh, you idiot."

"What?" Steve scowled.

"Look, see those things dangling at the end of your hands? You use them to dial—"

Steve shook his head, his jaw tight. "You were the one with all the rules."

Okay. Danny could see that. He'd been telling Steve what to do for months. And until Grace was finished, it had felt like nothing was truly settled. Which was stupid, because once the trials started, he could have called Steve anytime.

Apparently Steve had been thinking the same.

"Okay, maybe we're both idiots," Danny said grudgingly, and leaned forward. He had time to see Steve's disbelieving smile, and then Steve's mouth was covering his, a faint groan of happiness leaving Steve's lips and trembling into Danny's mouth.

Danny dropped his beer into the sand and grabbed Steve's shoulder, because this, this was electric. Steve's tongue was soft and insistent and sending signals straight down Danny's spine. Danny pulled back before he lost it completely. They needed to get somewhere horizontal.

Steve seemed to be in agreement, because he pulled Danny from his chair and dragged him by his wrist inside and up the stairs, unerring in the dark of the unlit house, until they reached a bedroom.

The senses were apparently practical as well as a pain, Danny thought hysterically, and then he started shucking his shirt and pants and kicking off his shoes. He wished he could see better himself, because finally Steve was naked, all that skin—Danny caught a flash of pale cheeks as Steve bent over his nightstand, and then he dropped a tube and a condom packet on the bed and gave Danny a grin.

"Wanna drive?" He flicked on a small lamp.

"Hell, yeah," Danny said, suddenly unaccountably nervous. "Unless you think—with the senses—"

Steve stopped and ran a hand over his chest, his eyes closing. "That's, uh, why, I— Gotta figure this part out."

Danny looked at him, his erect nipples and hard cock, the swirl of his tattoos over his shoulders, and found himself kneeling onto the bed and crawling toward him. Steve joined him half way and pulled Danny down on top of him.

"God, yeah. I have been waiting for this—you have no fucking clue, Danny," Steve said, his hands running over Danny's back and then sliding around him to pull him closer. Steve buried his nose in Danny's throat and inhaled slowly. "You smell like..."

Danny shivered as Steve exhaled over his skin. "What? What's the big fascination?"

"...like the sun drying on your skin just after you've come out of the ocean. Or like fresh sheets, or...I don't know."

"So I smell like laundry?" Danny tilted his head down and smirked into Steve's face.

Steve growled something inarticulate and lunged up to kiss him again.

Danny's brain fuzzed out a little at that point. He was conscious of squirming against Steve's warm, muscular stomach, trying to ease the ache in his cock, and Steve holding him away saying, "No way, don't waste it," and then rolling him to the side and handing him the condom.

"Better let me," Danny said when it came time to slick the condom, and a few moments later Steve repeated, "Better let me," with a sly grin and grabbed the lube back, wetting his own fingers and reaching down.

Danny swallowed and definitely did not watch, no, he did not, because he was in trouble as it was, already running those handy multiplication tables in his head. It was bad enough watching Steve's expression as he opened himself up, tongue swiping over his lower lip, his eyes going vague with pleasure.

"Ready? Seriously. Because I'm going to bust a nut here," Danny said after a minute, and Steve blinked at him with a glazed expression and swiped his hand on the sheet before lying back.

"Hit me," he said, just like always, trusting, and Danny swallowed hard as he maneuvered between Steve's long, long legs. Steve helped out, pulling one knee up and out, and his expression went uncertain as Danny pushed himself right up against him.

"You all right?"

"Yeah, I'm just...I'm real close, Danny," Steve said breathlessly. "I can feel everything."

"You feel this?" Danny said, teasing him with the head of his cock, rubbing it around his hole.

"Fuck, yeah," Steve croaked. "And don't you fucking dare tell me to mess with the dials."

Danny laughed unevenly and started a slow push in. Steve groaned and bit his lip. Pulling back a little, Danny started to push in again, a sweet glide. He was halfway home when Steve arched his back with a gasp and started to come.

Startled, Danny started to thrust slowly, saying, "That's good, that's beautiful," because it was—Steve's face was a sight, no lie, his eyes blissed and half-closed, his lower lip caught in his teeth.

Steve moaned softly and opened his eyes, then looked down ruefully at the spunk covering his stomach. "Terrific."

"So? We'll work on it." Danny tried to ignore the ache in his cock, which was still firmly clasped in that warm, soft place.

"Great. More exercises," Steve muttered sheepishly.

Just then he tightened around Danny's cock, and Danny groaned. "Okay if I—?"

Steve flexed his leg over Danny's arm. "Go for it."

"Oh, thank God." Danny started to thrust. "You are a saint," Danny grunted, but Steve's eyes had gone vague, and he was licking his lower lip again. Danny leaned over and bit a kiss on his collarbone, and then he was falling, falling into pleasure so intense he was making whining sounds as Steve said, "Yeah, yeah, Danny you feel so good, you're amazing."

"I am amazing," Danny said a few minutes later when he finally mustered the energy to push himself to the side. He dealt with the rubber while Steve stretched out with a series of pops that made Danny wince.

"Hey, come back here," Steve said, and wrapped an arm around his neck, manhandling him back beside him. "Mmmm," Steve said, licking the side of Danny's neck.

"Eww, please, what was that? You Neanderthal." Danny wiped the spit away.

"What? You taste good." Steve was grinning, eyes crinkled almost shut.

"What I'm going to do with you, I don't know." Danny's heart thumped hard, and Steve's smile faded a little, his hand falling to rest on Danny's chest.

"Whatever you want; you know that, Danny." Steve's eyes were soft and dark with emotion.

"Yeah. I know." Danny trapped Steve's hand, fingers curling around to capture Steve's pulse. He could feel it, beating strong and true.

"Same here," Danny said, sealing his fate.

:::

"I always knew you were here for Grace. I guess I just didn't think you'd be dumping us quite so fast." Kaiko smirked around her chewed-up pencil.

"Hey, I can do a lot of research observing a sentinel in the field as a cop," Danny said as he finished packing the rest of his books. "And, anyway, we both know you've always coveted my office."

"Well, I've always been better at paperwork, it's true," Kaiko said. She'd already commandeered his chair—well, her chair, now—and had her feet on the desk.

"Oh, you don't know from paperwork until you've been a cop," Danny said. He covered the box and taped it up. "I bet as the rookie I'll end up doing everyone else's."

"And yet somehow you sound excited about it."

Danny paused and considered it. "I guess I am, yeah."

"You really missed it."

"Well, my knee didn't, and I didn't miss getting shot at, but the rest of it—bringing down the bad guys, making the streets safer? Yeah."

"But all those years of work—"

"Hey! Like I said—I'm not going anywhere. We still have the second paper to write, and more studies to do. I'll be around."

"I know you will." Kaiko dropped her feet and stood up to fold him into a hug. "We're ohana. Don't you forget it."

Danny hugged her back just as tight. "You know I won't."

:::

"The point is, rule number one, if you get somebody shot, you apologize!" Danny fumed.

"I'm sorry."

"And you don't wait for a special occasion, like birthdays—"

"I'm sorry, man, truly—"

"...or frickin' President's Day—"

"I'm sorry, I'm sincerely sorry. That's what I was trying to tell you, last year, when this conversation first started."

"Your ah...apology is noted. Acceptance is pending."

Steve grinned. "You let me know, now."

 

End.