lovely_ambition: (happy seals are good ones: by nuv0le_rap)
[personal profile] lovely_ambition

learn your lesson, lead me home

“I’m coming home, Dad.”

Those were big words for a man who was sent away unwillingly by his father and hadn’t bothered to return in all that time. Steve had sworn he wouldn’t come back to a place where he wasn’t wanted, but this had nothing to do with his personal life.

Coming home had everything to do with the mission. The Navy expected a result: capture Victor and Anton Hesse who had recently shifted their activity to Hawaii.

Steve was going home, led there by two criminals that he had been chasing for a year and a half. Back then, at just twenty-four, Steve hadn’t been the first choice for the task, but he consistently excelled at whatever he was given and his superiors were taking a chance on him.

Failure was not an option.

John McGarrett paused on the other end of the line. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Steve.”

Steve’s jaw tensed and he reminded himself that this was about something beyond family. “It’s not a choice, Dad,” he said, clipped. “I’m tracking down some people, bad people, and the rumors are they’ve landed in Waikiki and have been setting up operations there.”

“Steve, this is a bad idea.” It was like his father intended to play the same broken record until Steve saw sense.

Except Steve had seen sense for years now. He believed himself better than his father’s games. This wasn’t a chance for debate, this was a warning shot and Steve wasn’t going to change his mind.

“My flight gets in at 1600 hours tomorrow. I’d appreciate if I could stay at the house while I’m in town,” Steve said as he fastened the straps of his bag, throwing himself into packing for a mission and the comfort that came with the familiarity. He might be going home, but getting ready to leave for a new and dangerous situation was nothing out of the ordinary.

For a long moment, his father only responded with silence.

“Dad,” Steve pleaded, feeling like a ten-year-old asking his father to play catch rather than the twenty-six-year old that he was. “Please. All I’m asking is to come home. I shouldn’t even have to ask. Most people don’t,” he couldn’t help adding with a heavy edge.

Finally, finally, it seemed like he’d achieved some progress by the hint of hesitation in his father’s reply. “I’ll make up your old room. Do you need a ride from the airport?”

“No, I’ll get a car,” Steve said and hung up before the call could elongate into something more awkward, though he would’ve sworn such a thing would be impossible.

Twenty-four hours later, Steve was standing outside the airport with rental truck keys clutched in hand, surveying the place that he’d once considered home.

Above anything else, he had taken pride in being from Hawaii and lived with the knowledge that his grandfather fought for a better place, dying on this soil to serve his country. He loved the land and the people, and showed great reverence in respecting the culture that he was brought up with. Then, one day, Steve was uprooted. In the blink of an eye, everything in his life became unfamiliar.

He lost his mother and his home on the same day and felt his father slip away, too. Even though John was still breathing, he was barely recognizable. Steve had lost him and gained a stranger.

Steve knew that it was childish and petulant, but he held a grudge against his father for it. To this day, he still felt as though his entrance into the Navy and the SEALs was a sort of defiance to his father’s act of sending him away.

Standing outside the airport on the tail-end of a cloudburst, Steve was having a hard time remembering why all that had seemed like a good idea. Why hadn’t he just come home? Why hadn’t he boarded the next flight and disobeyed his father’s order to stay away?

Steve was a good son, though.

Even before the Navy, there was no way that Steve would refuse an order. It was something bred down to his bones. They said jump and he didn’t bother to ask ‘how high’. He just did it.

The drive back to the house was easy and familiar. Despite his ten-year absence from the island, he still remembered every inch of the place. He knew every street and every landmark. He could have even made the turns blindfolded.

Maybe coming home would have been easier if he could see that the world was different.

Instead, it looked like he’d stepped away for only a minute. Even the house looked the same, save for a fresh coat of paint over the exterior and an unfamiliar car in the driveway. He lingered in the driver’s seat of the truck, staring at the front door.

This was it. He was going to get up, bring his bag inside, and set up a base of operations.

There was a chance that if Steve didn’t think about this like a family reunion, and instead treated it like it was – a mission -- he would avoid the terrifying pitfalls lying around him, threatening to send him into a spiral of dangerous questions.

Finally, Steve buckled his resolve and forced himself to march, like any good soldier.

He slid his key into the door and listened to the heavy sound of the lock coming open. Ten years, and his key still worked. “Dad?” Steve called out tentatively as he wandered inside. He set his bag down in the corner of the front hall so that it was out of the way before continuing into the house.

Like the rest of the island, it looked basically unchanged. It was like he blinked and when he opened his eyes, ten years had passed and nothing significant was different. Steve couldn’t tell if that was a blessing or a curse.

The further he got inside the house, the more he could smell the inviting aroma of food coming from the kitchen. He kept going, coming around the corner to find his father standing above a crock-pot with a ladle, liberally dousing a large piece of meat with its own juices.

“Dinner will be ready in fifteen,” John said, barely raising his gaze to acknowledge Steve. “Set the table, will you?”

It was like he’d never even left.

That fact made Steve angrier than he thought possible. He brushed past his father and opened the cutlery drawer, slamming it shut with his hip. He wasn’t the same kid that left, but his father wasn’t going to acknowledge that. He left a child and returned an adult, but to John McGarrett, there wasn’t a difference.

Steve set the forks and knives down on the table, barely able to refrain from a look of contempt as he stared at his father. “So that’s it? You send me away for ten years and when I get back, it’s ‘set the table’?” he scoffed.

“I don’t expect you to understand, Steve,” John said calmly, opening the fridge to get out two bottles of beer, extending one by the neck to Steve with two fingers clasping it firmly. “But one day, when you’re a father, you’ll know why I did what I had to. You’ll know what it feels like to want to protect your children and to value their safety over your own.”

“There were other ways,” Steve said, hearing an immature petulance in his voice that he hadn’t allowed in almost a decade. “I was sixteen and Mary was even younger. We’d just lost Mom, you think we wanted to lose you, too?”

“And do you think I could have taken losing you?” his father retorted instantly, almost heatedly. “Steven, you have to trust me. I had my reasons. When you finish this mission, it’s still not safe for you here. I hope beyond all hope that one day, one day soon, it will be, but it’s not today. It’s not yet.”

“Why can’t you just tell me? I’m a grown man, I can help,” Steve protested, the frustration building and bubbling to the point he thought it might make him break.

John brought dinner to the table, but gave no immediate answer.

“I’m getting close to something,” John said tentatively and while it was an answer, it was one that came too late as far as Steve was concerned. “I’ve had help lately. There’s a detective from the mainland. He’s new, but he’s good. And there’s someone I trained. We’re working on it, but we haven’t made enough progress that it’s safe for you to be here. You’re a target, Steve. You’re in danger because I love you. I know I don’t say it enough, and you might not believe me, but it’s true.”

“Dad,” Steve said, barely able to swallow past the lump in his throat. This wasn’t where he expected the conversation to go, and he felt trapped in a nether space of confusion where nothing made sense and nothing had changed. “I can take care of myself. More than most people,” he insisted.

“I’ve heard,” John quipped with a wry smile. “Some of your instructors are very vocal on the subject.”

Steve’s brow furrowed and he stared at his father in confusion. “Have you been keeping tabs on me?”

“I sent you away to protect you, Steve. You and Mary. I never stopped loving my children.”

The rest of dinner was spent in silence. Steve didn’t know how to argue with a man who refused to see sense and John was too occupied with the meal. It wasn’t until later with beers in hand and the game on TV that the subject changed. By then, Steve’s contempt had faded but hadn’t extinguished completely.

“Can you talk about this mission?” John asked, setting a third empty on the table with the others.

Steve hesitated as he gripped his bottle tighter, debating the finer points of discretion when it came to the mission. He was, at some point, going to have to involve HPD and so keeping the facts from his father would be a petty thing to do. Still, there was a part of Steve that couldn’t help feeling as though it would be a righteous kind of bookend to being sent away with no explanation ten years before.

His need for HPD information won out, in the end. “I’m on the trail of two brothers suspected of terrorist activity. Victor and Anton Hesse. They’re both smart and they’re both on the cutting edge when it comes to bomb-making. They killed four people in Belfast two months ago and are suspected of having visited North Korea obtaining nuclear materials. The latest intel says they landed here under fake papers. My job is to bring them in, alive, for information. I don’t have more than a few weeks before they move on. They never stay in one place for too long.”

Steve leaned forward, resting the weight of his forearms on his thighs.

“I can bring them down. I can do good with this, but there’s something strange about them coming to Hawaii. Why here? They’ve never had a base of operations in Oahu before, why now?” Steve hadn’t been able to explain it from the moment he first received the briefing and his confusion was just as thick as ever.

There was a look on his father’s face that he didn’t like; it was the kind that said he knew something. And it was also the sort of look that said that while he knew might know something, he wasn’t going to tell Steve about it.

“What is it?” Steve asked warily.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” John replied dismissively. “I set up your room again. There are fresh sheets and you can stay as long as you need.”

It was like he’d been gone for a week on vacation. It was like he had never been sent away.

“Have you spoken to Mary?”

His father’s silence was all the proof he needed to know that he hadn’t been in contact with her. Steve couldn’t exactly get too indignant because when they had been sent their separate ways, he hadn’t exactly picked up the phone to call her in Los Angeles. He still hadn’t. It was like they were only family up until their mother’s death when suddenly their lives diverged on separate paths and made them, too, into strangers.

John shifted uncomfortably, turning the game off. “I speak to your mother’s sister once in a while. She keeps me appraised when it comes to Mary.”

“How is she doing?” Steve asked, ignoring the guilt of not finding out for himself.

John paused, pressing his lips together firmly. “She reacted to being sent away a bit differently than you did.” Mary had always been something of a troublemaker before their mother died. Steve could only imagine the messes Mary was getting into now.

The hours crept on haltingly while Steve gave up more information on the case. Eventually, John gave information in turn and talked about the latest case he was working on. “It’s a man by the name of Doran. He’s a gun-runner and we suspect he has ties to human trafficking. The new guy, he says that protecting the island from scum is what he came here to do. He heard about it via a couple minor players on Oahu’s crime scene.”

“Who is this guy?”

“Most of the people in the department are calling him a haole. I’m sad to say that I’m just grateful they’ve stopped calling me that,” John said wryly. “He’s your age. He moved here with some of his family, and he’s good. He’s got fresh eyes and he’s one of the most devoted detectives I’ve ever met, even if he’s only been off the streets for two years. I’ve got him on the case, and Chin Ho Kelly.”

Steve’s brows lifted in surprise. “Chin Ho? The guy whose records I broke?”

“You know, he still hasn’t forgiven you for that,” John said with a proud smile. “I’ve been training him since he first joined the force. I trust him. I trust both of them, which is more than I can say for the rest of the department. Something is going on, Steve. And all I can tell you is that it has something to do with why I sent you away to protect you, but don’t ask for any more past that.”

That was more than Steve had been given in years and while he wanted to press for more, he knew that all he would be pushing was his luck. He took what he was given and knew that if he was staying for a matter of weeks, he could pry later.

Doran, the human-traffickers, and his father’s suspicion of something would all be there in the morning. “I think I’m gonna turn in. I had a long flight.”

“Where were you coming from?”

“It’s classified,” Steve said, pressing his lips together tightly. He rose to his feet steadily, despite the number of beers he’d drank, and scratched his fingers over the nape of his neck. “Thanks,” he said, after a long pause. “Thanks for letting me stay here. You didn’t have to.” In fact, Steve had expected, in his heart, that he would be turned away at the door.

“If you had to come back, I would rather you be under my roof where I can protect you,” John said.

“I’m an adult now, Dad,” Steve said defiantly. “I’m more than capable of taking care of myself. I don’t need protecting.”

“You’re my son, Steve. You’re always going to need protecting.”

After ten years, Steve thought that he had effectively created enough of a disconnection that he wouldn’t feel emotionally manipulated. He was supposed to be angry at being sent away, but there his father was, making it sound like it was the best thing that could’ve been done for him.

Steve cleared his throat and cast his gaze to the ground. “I want to prove to you that isn’t the case,” he said stubbornly. “If you’ll let me.”

“You can try,” John offered and that was the foothold in the door that Steve needed.

He had weeks to prove his case. This time, he wasn’t being put on a plane and sent away for reasons that he still didn’t know. He was home now. If he left, he would leave on his terms, by his choice.

Steve was used to being woken by the sound of other voices in close proximity. After years of sleeping on narrow cots stacked three or four high, the presence of silence was more unnerving than calming. When he woke up the morning after returning to Hawaii, he could hear three distinct male voices drifting up from the kitchen in addition to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee.

“It’s risky.”

“I know it’s risky, you don’t have to tell me it’s risky, I’m the one who said how risky it was. We have to get someone on the inside.”

“They know everyone we have on the inside. It’s not a big island.”

“Do not, do not smirk at me like that, I can practically read the disdain on your lips. Oh no, not you too, the both of you can go to hell. Yes, I’m new, but I can look up the population of an island and make an assumption based on that. I swear to god, you people...”

The voices grew mired in quieter conversation. Steve turned to his side and scrubbed a hand through his sleep-mussed hair. Against all odds, he had slept deeply through the night. It was like being back in his old room sent him into the kind of heavy sleep that he’d experienced in his teen years. He roused slowly, hearing the tell-tale creak of feet on the stairs as he opened the bedroom door to head to the bathroom.

He was clad in a pair of old boxer shorts and a threadbare white t-shirt, hair mussed and eyes half-open.

That was how he first met Danny Williams.

He walked straight into the man’s space thanks to barely looking where he was going, stepping back and settling his body before it went on-guard.

“Hey,” the short blond guy said with a scowl. “Watch it.” His angry glare turned into a curious onceover and then all at once, he lit up like he’d suddenly realized something. “Oh, hey! You’re the guy, yeah? The prodigal son. Steven McGarrett,” he marveled, extending his hand excitedly. “I’m Danny Williams, I’m working with your Dad on this new case. He will not shut up about you.”

“ Dad?” Steve asked warily, wondering what twilight zone he had woken up in. Danny had claimed his hand and was shaking it thoroughly, even past what was usually the accepted length of time for a hand to be shaken. “I think maybe you’re mistaking my Dad for someone else.”

“Are you kidding?” Danny scoffed. “I could recite your high school football record at this point. Won’t shut up,” he insisted, using his hand to emphasize the last three words pointedly. “I heard you got in last night. You look like you went a couple rounds with something three times the size of you. You look, well, you look exhausted.”

“It’s been a long few months,” Steve conceded, alert enough now to really take in Danny.

He was shorter than Steve, shorter than most men Steve had met. But his eyes were also a brighter blue than most peoples, so Steve guessed that it all balanced out in the end. While there was an easygoing smile on his face, it looked like he was hiding a little bit of turmoil, judging from the way his eyes never seemed to brighten as much as the rest of his face. Steve took away two important things from his onceover.

First, that Danny looked absolutely ridiculous in his tie, shirt, pants, and loafer combination. It was like he wanted to be spotted as law enforcement from a mile away.

Second, Steve really couldn’t find it in him to mind looking at Danny Williams.

“What is this?” Steve asked dubiously, reaching across the distance to press two fingers to the end of Danny’s tie, flicking it upwards and against his chin. “Are you serious with this?”

“What do you mean, ‘am I serious’, don’t I look serious?”

“You’re wearing a tie,” Steve said with heavy disdain. “In Hawaii.”

“I’d think I’d have heard if there was a law against looking good and professional.”

Danny really did look good, too. That was the kind of thought that Steve hadn’t entertained in over ten years. When his father shipped him away, Steve turned to the Navy. The fact that when Steve left the island, he left behind a boyfriend too, faded away in the face of serving a higher cause. Years of not asking and not telling had stripped Steve of a part of himself.

Coming home was dredging up more than just old memories.

“There you are,” a new voice entered the conversation.

Steve dropped Danny’s tie like it was a hot potato and looked over his shoulder. With great surprise, he found that he recognized the man. “Chin Ho Kelly,” Steve said with delight. “I haven’t seen you in...” Steve trailed off, speechless. He gave a broad laugh and stepped back one long stride from Danny, as if extra space would make the scene that Chin stumbled on less awkward.

“McGarrett says he found something in the wiretaps,” Chin said to Danny. “He wants you to take a look.”

“Be right there,” Danny shouted downstairs before turning his attention back to Steve. For a long pause, Danny did nothing but stare at him. Steve tried not to flush and stood at attention. “It was good to meet you, Steve. Guess I’ll be seeing you around?”

“Yeah,” Steve replied quickly (maybe too quickly, given how he seemed to jump all over Danny’s words). “Yeah, you will for a bit, yeah.”

Then, Danny was gone and Chin was still standing there.

“Howsit?” Chin asked with a lazy drawl. He was clearly amused, but Steve wasn’t sure what he was so pleased about. There was a determined look on his face, like he was trying to figure something out. For the life of him, Steve couldn’t figure out what. “I thought I heard that you joined the Navy.”

“I did,” Steve said.

“Well,” Chin replied, arching his brow and casting one last glance over his shoulder in the direction that Danny had gone. “Suits you well. You look good, McGarrett. Finally come home to give the old man a visit?”

Steve didn’t think that bringing strangers into their family issues was wise, so he kept quiet about the fact that he never wanted to leave in the first place. “I’ve got a mission that’s brought me back here. Until I crack the case, I’ll be staying with Dad.”

“Can’t say I’m too excited about the man who destroyed all my records being back,” Chin joked, “but I think I can make do. We should get a beer sometime,” he insisted. “You and me, we can catch up. And another time, we’ll go out and I’ll invite Danny. He might even come.”

He said it strangely, like there was something more going on there. Steve wondered what he was missing.

“You and Dad brought on a haole, huh?” Steve wasn’t trying to be mean, but after seeing Danny, he wondered how anyone could not bring it up.

Chin’s smile seemed almost sad. “You have to give him a break, brah,” he said. “There’s more to Danny Williams that he lets on. It’s not all smiles and cheer.” Steve latched onto the words and knew that he wasn’t going to press the issue immediately, but he wasn’t about to let it go, either. “Can’t believe you came back, Steve,” Chin said warmly, shaking his head. “I’m heading out with your Dad in a while to pursue a lead, but we’ll definitely make those plans.”

“You bet,” Steve agreed, smiling warmly and feeling about a hundred times better than he did when he got in the night before.

Plans with a friend and meeting Danny Williams put him in a strangely bright mood. It was only overshadowed by the reason behind his presence in Hawaii. He watched Chin head back downstairs before continuing along to the bathroom to clean up.

An hour and a half later, he was well-groomed, refreshed, and had his head buried in several maps, cross-referencing wiretaps that had been placed on the Hesse brothers. They were up to something in Oahu, he knew that much, and the best way to get information was to find out who they were allying themselves with. Victor and Anton Hesse weren’t likely to talk, even under Steve’s occasionally unique information-extraction techniques. He was sure that he could make a lower-level criminal talk until his voice was hoarse.

“Steven!” John’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

Steve glanced over to the clock and found he’d lost two hours with his mind deep in the case. “Yeah?” he called back, loud enough to be heard through the heavy doors of the house and down a story.

“I need a favor.”

That was enough to get Steve downstairs, where he leaned casually over the banister, arching a brow to wordlessly ask what it was his father wanted. He felt sixteen again almost immediately, as if he was in trouble for something he’d done, but wasn’t sure which thing he’d done had gotten him in trouble.

Steve watched Chin packing up files, his father digging out a set of keys, and Danny leaning against the counter with a smile edged with trepidation. “Sorry about this,” Danny said.

“Sorry about...” Steve frowned, not sure what Danny was talking about. “Dad?”

“Do you mind driving Danny back home? We were supposed to, but there was an urgent call and Chin and I need to head into the precinct,” John said as he tossed car keys over to Steve, who caught them one-handed easily. Steve’s focus drifted to Danny, who was staring down at the ground.

“Why isn’t he going with you?”

“Family stuff,” Danny said simply, trying to avoid looking at Steve. Normally, Steve would find that behavior suspicious, but Danny wasn’t a suspect that Steve needed answers from.

Steve nodded, figuring that he could use a break. “Yeah, come on,” he agreed.

“I’ll call after I look into the wiretap and see if there’s anything worth pursuing there,” Danny promised, packing his things together with an edge of a rush.

“Williams,” John said. “Family first.”

Steve pretended not to have heard that. He pretended that he didn’t care. Most of all, he pretended that he wasn’t bordering on livid at his father’s presumption that he could throw around advice that he didn’t understand anything about. He clenched the keys tighter in his hand and nodded at the door.

“Come on, let’s go,” he snapped, storming out of the house without waiting to see if Danny was ready. He slammed the car door heavier than he needed to, but it felt good to have an outlet for his frustrations.

Danny didn’t look half as impressed with Steve’s antics. “What the hell is your problem?” he asked mildly, strapping on his seatbelt. “Not enough protein in your Army-diet or something?”

“Navy,” Steve corrected out of rote, gripping the steering wheel tightly with one hand as he reversed the car. “Where am I going?”

“I’m uh, I’m up in Kahala. And, not to rush you, because you’re already doing me a favor, but the sooner we get there the better,” Danny said.

Steve didn’t ask. He’d just met the man; he wasn’t in a position to pry.

They spent the drive in silence. When they arrived, Steve had to stop so that Danny could get out of the car and enter a code into a number pad, which unlocked a gate that led to a sprawling estate.

Steve had grown up on these shores and knew firsthand how expensive it could be to live in Hawaii. “Are you some kind of criminal on the side?” Steve asked with wonder, gaping up at the house. “How can you afford a place like this on a detective’s salary?”

Danny hadn’t bothered to put his seatbelt on again and was already opening the door, practically jumping out of the car. “Steve, I don’t mind explaining,” he said in a hurry, “but can we do it inside? Family emergency, and all.”

Steve had no actual reason to need to stay, but he still put the car in park, wandering inside after Danny, feeling the hint of an ocean breeze in the lobby. He whistled low under his breath as he gaped at Danny’s digs, not at all expecting what happened next.

“Oh, thank god, you do realize I am a stock broker, I am not your babysitter,” a man, taller than Danny, said as he hurried down the stairs, his arms wrapped around a heavy swath of blankets holding a tiny thing.

That tiny thing, Steve realized, was a baby. Steve watched the guy hold out the infant to Danny, who took the baby into his arms, curling it protectively closer.

“She’s a little hot, I wasn’t sure if she was feverish enough to call the doctor, and we don’t even have a doctor, so she’d be in the ER and seriously, Danny, when you said you’d move to Hawaii with me, I didn’t expect I’d be doing this.”

Steve tried to ignore the pit opening in his stomach when he realized that Danny was apparently with someone and was so serious about the relationship that they had kids. Steve tried not to let it affect him too badly. He’d only really noticed that Danny was attractive, and hadn’t pursued that thought so much as buried it deep.

He could deal with disappointment.

“Who’s this?” the guy asked.

“Oh, shipsticks, I forgot,” Danny muttered, the non-profanity so seamless and practiced that it seemed like he’d been doing it forever. “Mattie, meet Steve McGarrett. He’s John’s son. Steve, this is Matthew Williams, my brother.”

And just like that, the fantasies became open game once more.

“And that’s...?”

“This is Gracie Williams,” Danny said fondly, prying the blankets away from her face, rocking her and trying to quell her squealing as he pressed the backs of two fingers to Grace’s forehead, shushing her as he gently rocked her around the lobby.

Steve was so occupied with staring at the display of affection that it took him longer than usual to realize that Matt was gaping suspiciously at him.

“Danny, already?” Matt commented.

“Hey, shut your mouth, he’s just a friend,” Danny said instantly. “Hey, Grace, you’re meeting new people and you’re getting sick for it?”

She looked so little. It was all Steve could think as he stared at father and daughter. While Danny was busy with tending to her, Steve tried to seek out a wedding ring that he might have missed, or a chain that bore some kind of commitment to a woman, but he couldn’t find anything.

“Even now, you gotta be your mother’s child. Difficult,” Danny murmured with great fondness. “Matt, I’m gonna watch her for a couple hours. You go do whatever it is you do. Take over the world, move some money, yell about shares into a phone. Whatever keeps us in these digs, I give you permission,” Danny offered, bowing his head to press a fond kiss to Grace’s forehead.

She seemed calmer now. When Matt brought her downstairs, she seemed like little more than a fussy baby, but now that Danny had her in his arms, she was an entirely different child.

“So, you live with your brother?” Steve asked softly, not wanting to be too loud and ruin the silence.

“I’m from Jersey, originally. That’s where I met my wife,” Danny said, not even bothering to take his eyes off Grace as he spoke. “But there was an accident,” he said with a pained look on his face, a rueful smile on his lips. “Rachel was from England and she wasn’t really used to driving on the right side of the road. This truck came out of nowhere, and...” Danny took a deep breath and stared down at the child in his arms. “That was eight months ago. I’ve got three sisters in addition to Mattie, but they’re older and they have their own families. So when Matt decided to move out here for some of his more influential clients, I came with. I couldn’t take being in a city where I had reminders of her at every turn. Everywhere I looked, I was seeing ghosts. I couldn’t do it.”

Chin’s words made a lot more sense to Steve now. He stood there, frozen, and didn’t think he would be able to move if he wanted to.

“So you’re raising her on your own?” Steve asked. “I mean, with Matt, obviously. But...” He shook his head, trying to get away from that train of thought before it led him back down a dark path - suddenly Steve was remembering his own father’s attempts to raise a family. “How old is she?”

“Fourteen months, now,” Danny said proudly, brushing back her blankets with his fingers. “Gracie, babe, say hi to Steve. He’s Danny’s new friend,” he whispered and brought her closer.

Steve felt paralyzed. He’d never been good at taking care of kids. He’d even been bad at taking care of Mary and she was his sister. This was brand new territory and all he could muster was an awkward wave of his fingers at the baby. Grace stared back up at him with wide brown eyes. Since Danny’s were so intensely blue, Steve had to assume that was one of the traits she inherited from her mother, seeing as her hair was as bright and blond as Danny’s.

“You’re not so good with kids, are you?” Danny asked, smirking.

“I can be good with kids,” Steve insisted defensively.

“Babe, you’re practically quaking in your size thirteen Rambo boots,” Danny said. “And all I’ve done is hold her near you. Remind me never to actually let you babysit her.”

“I’m good with kids!”

Danny clearly didn’t believe him. In reality, no, he really wasn’t the best example of a kid-friendly guy, but he had meant to change that, one day.

Steve thought about the work waiting for him in a big and empty house and chose to think of Danny Williams instead. When it came down to it, he knew that the Hesse brothers could wait a few more hours, especially if he worked into the night.

“Do you care if I stick around?” Steve asked suddenly. “I mean, I can help. I can warm baby bottles and test them and I don’t tire easily. I’m pretty sure I’m a match for a baby’s endurance.”

He earned a suspicious look from Danny at the suggestion, but he didn’t get an immediate ‘no’, which was something.

“Mattie, you want the night off from Grace-duty?” Danny called upstairs.

“Do I?” Matt called back excitedly. “There’s this girl I met at the Hilton, she’s a Polynesian dancer, and...”

“Please don’t say anymore, you’re my baby brother, I can’t take the mental images. Go! I got Grace tonight and I got some company,” Danny said, not taking his eyes off of Steve. He still looked mildly suspicious, but he was agreeing. “I got help. Go, seduce your lady. Don’t make a ruckus when you get back in.”

“You do remember that I pay for three quarters of this house,” Matt pointed out as he fiddled with his tie. Danny shifted Grace into one arm and reached across the space between them to help him fix it, causing Steve to try and subdue his smile.

“What?” Both of the Williams brothers echoed at once.

“The tie thing is genetic?” Steve asked, innocent as he ever got.

“Ignore him, he’s an idiot,” Danny said blithely. “Go. Go have fun.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Matt said eagerly, bending down to press a kiss to Grace’s forehead with a loud smacking noise. “Grace, don’t let your dad do anything rash or silly!”

“Get outta here, you goof,” Danny shouted after him, adjusting Grace back into his arms. “Steve, beer?”

Steve glanced up from staring at the baby and wondering if his father ever held him or Mary with such love and reverence. He tried to shake the depressing thoughts and forced a smile. “Yeah, sure,” he agreed. “I don’t know if this is hard to talk about, so you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. How long were you and your wife married?”

“Rachel and I were hitched for three years. She hit me with her car, said she needed driving lessons, and I always put them off to have coffee dates with her instead,” Danny said with a fond smile. “Anyway, you do that long enough and you have enough coffee dates and eventually, it’s inevitable to walk down the aisle. Then we had Grace. A couple months later, I’m waking up to an empty bed and eating tuna casserole from her wake. It was the most sobering moment of my whole goddamn life.”

Danny took a deep breath, handing the bottle of beer over to Steve, who took it with a quiet ‘thanks’.

“What about you, huh? Ever been married? Ever thought about it?”

“I can’t say that I have,” Steve admitted, lips pressed around the cool neck of the beer bottle. “I joined the Navy as soon as I could. I had one real relationship in high school and then a couple aborted ones in the Navy. I guess when Dad shipped me away, I turned my mind to work.”

Danny had a funny look on his face, like Steve had just said something incredibly confusing. Or maybe Steve just had something on his face.

“What?” Steve asked warily. “What is it?”

“Shipped you away?”

“He didn’t mention that, huh?” Steve muttered, pressing his lips together tightly, unable to be too excited about the fact that his family history was anything but perfect. “When I was sixteen, I lost my mother. My father’s way of coping was to send me and Mary to different parts of the mainland. Until yesterday, I hadn’t seen him in ten years. He didn’t even want me back,” Steve said.

“I don’t buy it,” Danny said, after a momentary pause. “No, I don’t. I’ve been here for a couple months and like I said, the guy never shuts up about you. He is so proud,” Danny said, emphasizing the words. “It doesn’t jive with a dad who doesn’t care about his kids. No. Something else has gotta be going on.”

“How are you taking his side?” Steve demanded heatedly.

Danny slid his hand under Grace’s back and supported her, heading to the couch to sit down and get comfortable. “In all fairness to the man, I have known him longer.”

“Is he the one in your house drinking your beer?” Steve asked.

“Actually, yeah, he came over two days ago,” was Danny’s amused response. “Look, Steve, you seem like a good guy. I mean, we’re getting along, but I don’t get the read that your Dad is the abandoning type without good reason. Give him a chance, is all I’m saying. Chin seems to like him, I like him. Yeah, sometimes he goes creepy-scary with that laser-focus of his, but as far as faults go? It’s better than his severe distrust of HPD.”

That pulled a few warning bells. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. It’s just weird. Chin says it’s just John being eccentric, but he refuses to let us go through HPD until we run it by him. And even if we do go to the precinct, sometimes he has us send fake intel, too. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that he’s convinced there’s a mole somewhere in the department, but I haven’t seen anything to line up with that,” Danny said, rocking Grace gently. “He’s a great cop, though. I’m willing to entertain a crazy notion or two.”

Steve exhaled heavily. It still didn’t excuse all the years without explanation, and Steve wasn’t ready to give up his beliefs just because Danny had his own opinions. He set the beer on the table and perched on the edge of the couch, leaning in to brush his index finger against the blankets.

Grace kicked her tiny feet and peered at him with wide eyes, shoving her fist into her mouth.

“She’s so calm,” he observed with wonder. “Is she always like this?”

“Yeah. Grace has always been a quiet kid, even when she was a newborn crying her lungs out for food or changing,” Danny said fondly, tucking the blanket tighter around her and testing her forehead. “Temperature seems to be coming down, too. Maybe it’s just Hawaii. Maybe she’s having a hard time adjusting, just like her Daddy.”

“You don’t like it here?”

“Am I like Matt? No. No, Matthew Williams is out there enjoying the nightlife and the whole island. Me? I don’t like living in a place that has tsunamis and jellyfish and pineapple. It’s a decent fruit, but why do people wanna put it in everything? Especially pizza, that is a crime, a crime against food,” Danny insisted.

“I’m pretty sure they weren’t doing it with you in mind,” Steve said, amused.

“Yeah, well, it’s gross, is what it is. I appreciate this place for its beauty and I love that Matt loves it, but if I had my way, I’d be in New York City. I just can’t afford that and I need the free babysitting that my Wall Street brother gets me,” Danny said, his thumb brushing circles against the fuzz of Grace’s hair.

Steve stared at Grace until he felt like he was being rude for looking too long and instead lifted his gaze to stare at Danny instead. That might have been a bigger mistake, getting caught in the fond and adoring look in Danny’s eyes and the way it softened his whole face. Steve hadn’t been with a man in so long, thanks to his choices, but in that moment, he wanted Danny more than he wanted anything else.

He could blame being at home. He could blame the strange off-kilter feeling he had since he got back. Mostly, he didn’t want to blame anything.

He wanted to wrap his fist up in Danny’s tie, yank him closer, and kiss him until he was breathless.

Grace gave a light coo and reminded Steve of exactly why he wasn’t going to do that. Danny was a single father, grieving, and was still, for the most part, a mystery to Steve. He didn’t need a guy like Steve McGarrett complicating his life.

“So,” Steve said, relaxing back and trying to shake the image of bending Danny over the kitchen table, “tell me more about your family. How come you’re not with your other siblings?”

Which started Danny in on a long and colorful diatribe complete with big swooping hand gestures. He talked and talked, in such a comforting lull that it put Steve into a relaxed state and sent Grace into a peaceful doze, safe in her father’s arms.

Steve didn’t know everything about Danny, but from what he had learned, he couldn’t help but feel pulled towards him, magnetized towards this outspoken and brash haole. It was more than he expected in coming back home, he knew that much.

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