Danny was in his office instant messaging with Grace. It was finally Friday of their 80 hour week. Things had been more chaotic than usual with explosions, car chases, gun fights, foot chases, even bicycle chases. Chin had caught one perp by becoming an ostrich and first tripping him then sitting on him. Kono had twice turned into a sleek black jaguar, terrifying three more suspects into surrendering. And Steve morphed into a sea creature almost daily.
Danny was trying very hard not to feel badly about his current lack of ability to morph. If he had been able to, he could have run down several perps much more easily, one of whom nearly killed Kono. Fortunately, Danny was able to get the knife away from him before he could inflict any major damage. The cut Kono sustained was deep but not as serious as it would have been if Danny hadn’t intervened. After she’d morphed twice, the cut had completely healed.
Not being able to morph to help the team was bad enough. But being still blocked from morphing was even worse on his soul. He felt confined in his Human skin, trapped and frozen. Becoming an animal was freeing and invigorating – smells were sweeter, food had more flavor, the sun friendly and warming. Remaining stuck as a Human felt like he was a cardboard cutout trying to navigate the 3D world.
Grace was telling him via instant message how exited she was that she was going to swim with Steve the dolphin this evening, Danny agreeing that it was great fun for her to swim with him. He tried not to feel even worse that he couldn’t become a dolphin to take her swimming. At least Steve never begrudged her requests and was both patient and careful when he took her swimming.
He looked up when the subject of their conversation appeared in Human form at his door.
“Hey. What’s up?” Danny asked as Steve came in to sit on his couch. Well, he folded his long legs and gathered his long arms to rest on the couch. Why did he have to be such a freaking giant and why were all of his movement so fluid? And mesmerizing?
Danny realized he was staring when Steve cleared his throat, startling Danny back to the present. A quick glance up at Steve’s face confirmed he was silently laughing at Danny, something he did frequently.
“I called my friend the nynisia. He’ll be glad to talk to you.”
“Oh,” Danny said, stalling for time to think. “Uhmmm…when?” He was torn between being excited and nervous - excited that he might finally find the solution to his inability to morph, and nervous that he would never be able to again.
“Now if you want,” Steve said.
“Oh,” Danny said, glancing around his office as though he was looking for an out. “Oh, uhm, okay. Now’s good. I guess.”
“What?” Steve asked, studying Danny. “What’s going on?”
“What if he can’t help? What if I never morph again?” Danny said giving voice to fears he really didn’t want to admit to having.
“Of course you will,” Steve said. “He’ll help you figure out why you aren’t. You’re still a regenerator. That’s a really good sign.”
“Yeah,” Danny agreed. “Then we’ll pick up Grace from Rachel’s? She was just telling me how excited she is that you’re going swimming with her. She’ll never to speak to either of us again if we stand her up.”
“Of course I’ll take her swimming. Plus it’s Little Mermaid night. How could we possibly miss that?” Steve asked, making Danny laugh. “Come on. Let’s go to talk to Mamo.”
“Yeah. Okay,” Danny agreed, explaining to Grace that he had to sign off but he and Steve would be by to pick up her in a couple of hours.
Okay. Bye Danno. Tell Steve hi for me.
“Grace says hi,” Danny said, shutting down his computer and getting his car keys out of his pocket, keys that were immediately snatched away by Steve.
“Thanks for passing on the word, Danno,” Steve said with a laugh.
“What have I told you about calling me that?” Danny ranted as he followed Steve out. They slowed as they went through the main office. Kono was currently a black cat, curled up on the tech table where it was the warmest. Chin was in eagle form, squawking up at her, no doubt telling her to get off his table. Kono stretched her elegant neck enough to look down at him before licking her paws. Chin squawked up at Steve and Danny who could only shrug.
“It’s between the two of you. Go home,” Steve said before fleeing the office and going down to the Camaro.
“Don’t think this is over. You are not Grace. Ergo you do not get to call me Danno. That is Grace’s name for me and Grace’s name alone.”
“Ergo?” Steve asked as he pulled the car into the street.
“That’s your take-away? I don’t want you using my daughter’s name for me and you focus on my use of ergo?”
“Who says ergo?”
“I do. It’s a perfectly good word,” Danny said, launching into a full scale rant on Steve’s vocabulary which seemed limited to fire, and grenades, and occasionally duck.
Steve could tell by the way the words were tumbling out that Danny truly was nervous about meeting with Mamo. But he was confident that if anyone could help, it would be the man Steve considered an uncle.
“Why are we stopping here?” Danny asked when they were parked by one of the most popular surfing beaches. “Please tell me he’s not a surfer. I don’t think I could stand that much humiliation.”
“He’s not a surfer, Danno. He rents out surfboards to tourists. He treats everyone like family.”
“Even haoles?” Danny asked as he followed Steve across the beach to where a colorful hut stood. The sole occupant was a native Hawaiian somewhere between the age of 40 and 140. His outfit was as bright as his hut, giving him an air of good health and warm welcome. He smiled to see Steve approaching, leaving his hut to embrace him.
“Stevie,” Mamo said. “’Bout time you came to see me. You’ve been back two months already.”
“I know, Mamo. I’m sorry,” Steve said in apology. “This is Danny.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Danny,” Mamo said with a genuine smile. “Stevie tells me you are unable to morph.”
“Since I moved here,” Danny confirmed.
“Mmm…” Mamo said, considering it. “Stevie, watch my boards. Danny and I will be back before too long.”
“Roger that,” Steve agreed, going into the hut to sit on the tall stool behind the counter.
“Steve tells me you are all mammals,” Mamo said as he and Danny walked toward a portion of the beach shaded by an overhanging cliff.
“In Jersey. Since I got here, nothing. I’ve tried. I’ve not tried. I don’t know,” Danny said, sounding worn out and frazzled.
“When was the last time you morphed?” Mamo asked, sitting on one of the rocks.
“It was three weeks before I moved here. I turned into a horse and took Grace for a ride. She left for Hawaii the next day. I haven’t been able to morph since.”
“Grace is your daughter,” Mamo said.
“She is. She’s eight so we don’t know yet if she’s a morpher. Her mom, my ex-wife, is a non.”
“And even though you are reunited with Grace, you continue to be blocked.”
“Grace has asked me why I won’t morph. I’ve tried explaining but she doesn’t really understand.”
“Because you don’t understand,” Mamo pointed out.
“I don’t,” Danny agreed.
“And this never happened to you before?”
“No. It’s a whole new, unhappy experience for me,” Danny said, looking out over the ocean with an expression of loss.
“It would be,” Mamo confirmed. “May I touch you?”
“Of course,” Danny agreed. He watched as Mamo stood up, moving to stand directly in front of Danny. He lay one warm hand on Danny’s head, closing his eyes. His breathing slowed before becoming synchronized with Danny’s. The touch of his hand seeped into Danny’s bones, bringing a warmth that had nothing to do with the temperature on the beach. Danny felt engulfed in caring, sheltered and protected.
He leaned toward Mamo when he removed his hand, wanting to return to the comfort and security he’d found in Mamo’s touch.
“It is as I feared,” Mamo said. “Your splanchnic has become sealed tight, twisted so no egress is possible.”
“Oh,” Danny said. “That sounds…bad.”
“Only in the here and now. You can free your splanchnic. You must find that which will break the seal.”
“I don’t know why it’s closed off. How can I know what will break it back open?” Danny asked.
“It is closed off because you are closed to Hawaii. You have not accepted that this is your home.”
Danny broke his gaze away from the far-too-knowing eyes of the older man. He wanted to deny it, but Mamo knew the truth. And Danny was not going to lie to him, which meant he could no longer lie to himself. “I’m sorry.”
“To whom are you apologizing?” Mamo laughed. “You have not offended me.”
“I… I’m from Jersey. It’s all I’ve ever known. Hawaii could be a different planet,” Danny said, hoping it didn’t sound like he was whining. That was not his intent. He wanted to explain, perhaps find reassurance that his plight was understandable.
“This is not a different world. Hawaii is very different from Jersey. Anywhere else is very different from Jersey,” Mamo pointed out.
“You’ve been to Jersey?” Danny asked, looking up at him.
“I lived there for several years. It was a difficult transition, not unlike that which you are undergoing.”
“Could you morph there?”
“After a while,” Mamo said.
Danny nodded, looking back over the ocean and away from the piercing eyes that surely saw right through to his soul. “Chin is the only avian I know,” Danny said. “I’m actually jealous of him. Most people are jealous of me.”
“Avians are even more rare than total mammals,” Mamo agreed. “Yet your gift is an extraordinary one.”
“I wish I could use it,” Danny said. “It’s an itch I can’t reach. I can’t scratch it. And it’s exhausting.”
“It is,” Mamo said. “But it is not a permanent condition. You will find the way to break the seal.”
Danny nodded, hoping Mamo was right. Because he didn’t know how much longer he could go without turning into an animal. “We better get back before Steve charges people at gun point for your boards,” Danny said, making Mamo laugh.
“I believe he will have managed to behave while we’ve been gone,” Mamo said.
When they got back to the hut, Steve was talking to three beautiful, bikini clad surfers who were laughing way too loudly at whatever he was saying. Their smiles and obvious flirtations twisted something deep inside Danny, a reaction he wanted to pretend wasn’t real. Why should he care about anyone who might flirt with Steve? He sternly reminded himself that he had no claim.
“Looks like my shift is over,” Steve told the giggling trio.
“When will you be back?” the one in the middle asked, leaning a little closer to Steve.
“Never,” Danny answered for him. “He doesn’t really work here.”
“Oh,” the first surfer pouted. “I was going to rent all my boards from you.”
“His boards aren’t for rent,” Danny said, reaching for Steve’s arm and pulling him out of the hut. “Thank you, Mamo. I’ll keep you posted.”
“You’re welcome, Danno. Bye Stevie. Don’t be a stranger,” Mamo called as Danny drug Steve to the Camaro.
Danny did not appreciate that Steve was openly laughing at him as they got into the car. Danny tried to ignore Steve’s gleam of triumph but as he was watching Danny and not starting the car, Danny had to glance over at him. “No. Do not start with me,” Danny warned.
“Why do you care that they were flirting with me?” Steve asked with a satisfied smirk.
“I don’t care. I…it’s time to pick up Grace. I didn’t think your fangirls would fit in the car or care about Little Mermaid.”
“Uh huh,” Steve said, starting the car, finally. “What did Mamo say?”
“That you have the maturity of a tadpole,” Danny said. He only frowned harder when Steve laughed.
“What did he say about you morphing?” Steve asked.
Danny told Steve what they had discussed, Steve thoughtfully quiet when Danny had finished. Danny let him consider the conversation, knowing he would share his thoughts when he had them constructed.
“What do you think?” Steve finally asked him.
“I guess he’s right,” Danny said. “When you grow up and live in the same place your entire life, it will always be home. I know Hawaii is where I live now but I’m not from here. Living somewhere doesn’t make it your home.”
“It can if you choose for it to be,” Steve said.
“Do you feel at home wherever you are? Was traveling with the SEALs hard for you?”
“It was the life I chose. You didn’t choose Hawaii. Rachel forced it on you. That’s the difference,” Steve said.
“Yeah,” Danny had to agree. “I want to be at home here. But that’s a lot of adapting.”
“It is,” Steve agreed. “And you can’t force it. You also can’t fight it. You might settle for accepting it in the interim.”
“I’m trying,” Danny said, looking out the window at the infernal sunshine. Why did always have to be so bright? “I know you find that hard to believe.”
“I do believe it. Except for the tie,” Steve said.
“Stop with the tie. I’m not taking it off. I will not stop wearing them. I like to look like a professional. Just because you think…..”
Steve smiled to himself as Danny settled into a familiar rant, the words sounding suspiciously like home to Steve.