Danny woke to the shrill tone of his cell phone. He squinted at the clock: 0140. He'd barely been asleep an hour.
"Williams," he managed to grunt.
"Danny, it's Chin, I need your help."
"Why? What happened?"
"You know that murder case I'm working on? The retired cop?"
"Yeah." Danny hadn't known the man himself, but almost everyone else in the department did, and there had been a lot of discussion and speculation about it in the station. The Navy had sent a sentinel over to help track the killer, which Danny had though a bit of an overkill, but then he tended to avoid sentinels and anything to do with them since his bereavement and retirement as a guide. Some memories were just too painful to risk having them brought up in conversation.
"The sentinel that came over went into a zone while they were trying to track the guy they think did it. They can't get him out."
"Where's his guide?"
"He doesn't have one. He's unbonded, he uses temps sometimes, but his last temp got killed a few weeks ago."
"Shit." That was bad. Some sentinels refused to use a guide, which was fine with Danny as long as they didn't bitch about the consequences -- zones, spikes, synesthesia and (in Danny's experience) ridiculously bad tempers. An unbonded sentinel in the military was rare, though, since a zone-out could easily be fatal. The guy had to be a real hot-shot to get away with it in uniform.
"Can you come over, Danny? He's so deep he didn't even register us moving him."
"If he's unbonded, his team members should know how to bring him out."
"They've tried. Nothing's working."
Danny rolled over onto his back and groaned. He was tired, he was pissed off and the last thing he wanted to do was get up out of his nice warm bed and drive to wherever Chin was to talk some military idiot out of a zone that he wouldn't have gone into if he'd had the sense to organize a temp guide like he was supposed to. Sentinel + trauma + high-stress situation = unreliable senses. It was Guiding 101, for fuck's sake.
"Danny?" Chin prompted.
Danny groaned again. "All right, I'll do it. Just send me the location."
"We're on the west side, Wai'anae country club. Go straight in the front door, we're using the manager's office."
"Fine, I'll be there when I get there."
He ended the call and got out of bed, pulling on sweat pants and top. He grabbed his gun and badge, and picked up the phone just as it beeped receipt of a message -- the GPS coordinates.
Forty minutes later he pulled up in front of the Wai'anae country club. One office was lit but the rest of the building remained relatively dark. A guy in black tac gear stood inside the door and waved him into to the office, following him in and closing the door. Inside he found Chin perched on the desk with his shotgun cradled in his arm, and another military type sitting in an armchair and looking a bit pale. The one who had followed him leaned up against the door.
Chin looked slightly ruffled but was otherwise unharmed. "Guys, this is Detective Williams. Danny, meet Chief Rosetti and Petty Officer Gray, SEAL Team Ten."
Armchair guy and door guy nodded respectively.
Danny nodded and turned back to Chin. "What happened?"
"I figured Hesse -- the killer -- would be looking for weapons, so I put the word out. I got a tip that something was going down here, so we came to check it out. We found Hesse talking to Heleka on the golf course."
"Great." They'd figured Heleka as a gun runner a while back, but it had proven very difficult to get any hard evidence on him. He ran a hand through his hair. "Where's Heleka now?"
"Meka and Kono took him back to the station. They'll sweat him for info but he didn't seem to know much -- I think Hesse was a new customer to him."
"Who was driving?"
They exchanged an evil grin, and Danny felt a fleeting temptation to call in at the station on the way home. If the dealer tried to escape from Kono - or worse, tried to hit on her -- he was going to discover that the fragile-looking young woman could pack a vicious punch.
Chin returned to his story. "There were a couple of shots fired. Heleka was winged and Hesse ran off. The SEALs ran after him but by then the sentinel was already zoned. I did a scout around the green but there was no one else there -- if he had a bodyguard there, he must have done a runner. Then the SEALs came back. One of them had a leg injury so he went with Heleka, and I helped these two bring the sentinel here. They couldn't bring him out of the zone so I rang you."
"For which I am sincerely ungrateful," Danny quipped.
"I'll pick up some coco puffs in the morning," Chin offered.
"You'd better." He gave a moment's thought to Grace, who was trying to make him eat more healthily, and then decided that what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. "OK, where is he? And what's his name?"
Rosetti nodded at the door leading to an inner office. "Through there. He's on the sofa. We kept it dark."
"And his name's McGarrett," said the other. "Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett."
"McGarrett?" Danny frowned. "Isn't that the same as the cop who was killed last week?"
"His son," Chin said, with a sigh.
Danny gaped at him, then exploded. "No, no, no, no, no! I don't fucking believe this!"
The two SEALs looked stunned by Danny's outburst. He jabbed his fingers at them.
"Are you idiots? Seriously? You put a severely traumatized sentinel into the field to track his father's murderer? After he just lost his guide?"
"The admiral said -- "
"I don't fucking care what the admiral said. It takes months to get over either one of those losses, and you just send him straight back out on his own? I couldn't write a better recipe for loss of sensory control if I sat down and studied it for a week! Between the zones and the spikes he'll be psychotic when he isn't catatonic. Seriously, you people are Neanderthals. You don't deserve to work with a sentinel."
"We didn't send him," muttered the guy by the door -- Gray.
"We just couldn't stop him," added Rosetti.
"Did you actually try?" asked Daniel.
"He was almost feral," said Gray.
"Yeah. Once he knew it was Hesse we just couldn't stop him. Even the admiral suggested he sit this one out but McGarrett wouldn't take no for an answer."
Danny couldn't stop his fists from clenching. "Believe it or not there are ways to control a sentinel gone feral."
"Yeah," said Rosetti, "and most of them involve heavy-duty tranquillizers and four-point restraint. Which means he'd be out of action for days, if not weeks."
"We don't have that much time," added Gray. "And Hesse is a real bad guy. It's not just McGarrett's dad, he's killed a whole bunch of people over the years. If we don't get McGarrett up and functional in the next couple of hours Hesse will be off the island and we'll be back to square one."
"What about your spy-eyes?"
"Hesse headed for the forest, he's under the canopy. We need ground trackers."
Danny glanced at Chin, whose expression was eloquent enough. HPD had a couple of canine units, but it would take hours to get authorization and then they would need something of Hesse's for the dogs to sniff. And with it being autumn, the chance of rain washing away all the scent trail was pretty high.
Rosetti said, "McGarrett can track Hesse like no one else can. We really need him."
Danny sighed. He wanted to leave. He really, really wanted to turn around and walk out of the door and go home and leave them to sort out the mess they'd got themselves into. But that meant leaving a sentinel - a distressed, grieving sentinel - in a prolonged zone-out. He knew from his training and a few incidents with Rachel that the longer a sentinel was left in a zone, the longer it took to get them out, and the more difficult it became.
He could feel himself weakening. He owed this guy nothing. He hadn't been introduced to the man, hadn't spoken to him, hadn't even set eyes on him, and yet ... he could feel a pull, a tenuous, fragile link to whoever was in the next room. Whether it was mere sympathy or something more, he couldn't tell, but he couldn't ignore it.
He took a deep breath. "Look, I'll try, but no promises."
Both SEALs relaxed somewhat, and Danny shook his head. They were acting like it was a done deal, which was far from the truth. "OK. What sense did he zone on?"
They both looked at him, blankly.
"Sight, maybe?" said Gray.
"No, I think it was hearing," said Rosetti.
Danny rolled his eyes. "I need more than a 'maybe'. I need to know. What exactly happened out there?"
The two SEALs exchanged looks and then Rosetti said, "McGarrett knows Hesse. Like I said, he's been chasing him for years. He knows him well enough to track him by his heartbeat if we can get close enough. That's what we were trying to do. Detective Kelly said there was a weapons guy over this side of the island who was a likely contact. McGarrett picked up Hesse's voice a mile away and we sent in the drone. Between the two of them we isolated Hesse to one of the greens. We were approaching but didn't have line of sight. Something spooked Hesse -- "
"I think he spotted the drone," put in Gray.
"Yeah, could have been that. Anyway, he threw a strobe ball at us and ran."
"Ouch," muttered Danny. Strobe balls were quite effective against sentinels; the flashing light quickly consumed all visual attention. Most sentinels were trained to overcome the impending zone, though, especially military and police ones. "But he's been strobed before, hasn't he? He's trained with them?"
"Yeah, he's normally good at ignoring it. And this one must have been defective, because it stopped flashing after a few seconds, but he didn't pull out."
Gray added, "At first I thought he was ignoring the strobe and tracking Hesse by sound, so we halted and tried to be quiet. Then we realized it wasn't just concentration, it was a zone, so I stayed with him and the others went after Hesse."
"Bastard," muttered Rosetti. "He led us straight into a booby trap. Thompson was lucky he only caught a bit of the blast."
"Did anyone pick up the strobe ball?" asked Danny.
Gray and Rosetti looked at each other. "No, I don't think so."
"I'd really like to see it."
Rosetti stood. "I'll go. I'm pretty sure I remember where it is."
"Good. I'll get started then."
"Thanks, detective, we really appreciate this," Gray said.
"Don't expect miracles, guys. I haven't guided anyone since my wife died. I don't know if he'll respond to me any more than he did to you, and it could take hours before he's able to control his senses enough to track anyone. And there's every chance that Hesse could double back to the coast road and be on the other side of the island by dawn."
Chin nodded at that. "I've already alerted the police and port authorities. Can you guys do the same on the military side?"
"Sure," they nodded.
Danny left them sorting out details and walked through to the inner office. The room was fairly dark, illuminated only by the light coming in from the door. The stricken sentinel was lying on a sofa, curled up in a fetal position, not moving. Danny left the door ajar and approached him slowly, murmuring reassurances under his breath.
"Sentinel McGarrett, Steve, I'm Danny Williams, from the Honolulu Police Department. Chin called me in to see if I could help you, he knows I used to be a guide. I know you lost your father a few days ago, and you lost your guide a couple of weeks back. I know that must have been really hard for you. I lost my sentinel three years ago. She was my wife too, so I know how it feels, I know how tempting it is to curl up and escape for a while."
He reached the bed and put out a tentative hand. There was no reaction when he gently patted the man's shoulder, so he started to run his hand up and down the arm, slowly and soothingly, still talking.
"But you can't stay zoned, you know. You're needed. You're chasing someone. They tell me it's important, that this guy killed your father. I get that you lost control when you saw him. I get that you have an overwhelming urge to kill the fucker. But you need to use your brain as well as your senses. You need to come back, out of that zone."
He talked for almost ten minutes, gradually altering the tone of his voice from soothing to 'guide imperative', but there was no response. Damn. It looked like Rosetti had been right and the sentinel had zoned on hearing. Smell was usually next, but he didn't have anything on him. If he'd been home he would have used coffee or mint or some herbs, but he didn't even have so much as a packet of chewing gum on him. He'd showered only a couple of hours ago, using the same organic unscented products he'd used while Rachel was alive, so there was no help there.
He rose and made his way quietly to the outer room. Rosetti had just returned, and Chin was examining the strobe carefully. It was the size of a golf ball, grey and innocuous-looking.
Danny spread his hands in apology. "I'm not getting anywhere with hearing. Do any of you guys have anything that smells or tastes strong? Chewing gum? Breath mints? Candies? Hell, even beef jerky would do."
Gray shook his head. "Sorry, we don't usually carry anything strong like that when we're teamed with a sentinel."
"Danny, I think you need to look at this," said Chin, holding out the strobe. "Can you hear anything?"
Danny listened, but there was nothing he could identify as coming from the ball. He shook his head.
Chin frowned again, and put the ball to his ear. "I think I can hear a pulse, very high-pitched, almost out of range."
Danny looked at the ball. "The fucker!" The exclamation was half horrified realization and half admiration.
"What?" asked Gray.
"It's a dual-sense strobe. It has to be."
Rosetti looked stunned. "Of course! The light gets the sentinel's attention, and the sound pulse keeps him zoned."
"But I can't hear anything," said Gray.
"It's ultrasonic -- probably 20 or 24 kiloHertz. Dog whistle range," Rosetti added, when Gray still looked confused.
"We have to disable it," said Danny. "If McGarrett zoned on the pulse, this will be making it worse."
Gray took it from Chin's hand, dropped it on the floor. Danny and Rosetti both yelled out but it was too late - Gray's foot came down and stamped on it. There was a small spark as the circuit died, but nothing more.
"You idiot!" yelled Danny. "That could have been rigged."
Gray paled when he realized what he'd done. "Did it work?" he asked.
They all looked at Chin, who listened for a moment and then said, "I think it's stopped."
Rosetti got out of the armchair. "I think I'll just have a word with my team member here about safe dismantling of equipment."
Danny held an arm out. "Before you do, I still need smell and taste stimuli. Do you have anything in your packs?"
Rosetti and Gray began to empty their packs. Apparently SEALs on a mission carried a lot of weird but possibly useful stuff, like ammunition, thin climbing rope, duct tape, multi-tools, gun oil, blocks of C4, detonators (thankfully carried in different pockets), small night-vision scopes, more ammunition, and, right at the bottom, some MRE packs, already stripped of the good bits.
Gray proffered the MRE entrée pack. "Chicken with noodles?"
Danny rolled his eyes. "Is there anything about freeze-dried 'chicken with noodles' that indicates 'tasty' to you?"
Gray answered ruefully, "No sir, that's why it's still there and not in my stomach."
Rosetti fared a little better. At the bottom of his pack he had the remains of his own MRE pouch, including the beverage powder, ground pepper and salt. Danny picked them up.
"They'll do for taste, but I don't think they any of them have a strong enough smell."
"There are some flowers outside," Chin volunteered. "Some of them should have scent."
A few minutes later Danny edged his way back into the dark room, laying out his props on the floor beside the sofa.
"OK, McGarrett," he murmured. "It looks like you went into a dual zone on hearing and sight, and touch doesn't seem to be working for you so I've scrounged up a few things for smell and taste." He picked up one of the plumeria blossoms and placed it under the man's nose. Was it his imagination, or was there a slight twitch of the nose? He waved the flower gently, releasing more of its rich fragrance into the still room air. Yes, that was a definite twitch, but there was no other sign of response. Smell wasn't going to be enough.
Sighing once more, he opened the packet of beverage powder -- it smelled like orange, but that was no indication of the flavor -- and stuck his fingertip in, then pulled at McGarrett's lips. His teeth were tightly clenched and Danny didn't fancy losing a finger so he made no attempt to open them, but rubbed the powder inside his bottom lip and then waited. After a few seconds McGarrett's lips moved, and Danny was suddenly reminded of the way his daughter Grace had done the same thing as a baby whenever Danny had touched her mouth. It was a primitive reflex, but right now it was clear that McGarrett was too deeply-zoned for anything more purposeful. Encouraged, Danny repeated the application of beverage powder and watched as the movement was repeated. Good, he was definitely on the right track.
He continued sensory stimulation for the next twenty minutes, sometimes talking, sometimes silent, and moving between touch, smell and taste. Just as he wondered if he was going to have to resort to pepper -- which he was definitely keeping as a last resort because no sentinel in the world was going to react well to that, no matter how zoned they were -- McGarrett's eyelids started flickering.
"Thank Christ," muttered Danny. He sat back on his heels for a moment, then got up and stretched. He winced as all the joints in his back cracked - it had been a tough day and he hadn't had nearly enough sleep. Once the sentinel was up he was going to try and get out of there fast, so he could try for two hours' sleep before he had to get up again.
The soft expletive dragged his attention back to the sofa. McGarrett's eyes were open -- barely -- and he was rubbing his face.
"Hey there," said Danny in a soft voice, knowing from experience that the sentinel would be disoriented and very anxious. "Focus on my voice and dial down to three. Dial sight down to one or two, we're in a dark room."
McGarrett groaned but Danny kept talking, giving the sentinel a steady volume of sound to help him settle his hearing.
"You're safe now. Your friends are just through in the next room. You zoned on a strobe ball -- it had an ultrasonic beeper as well as the light, so it was a dual zone."
"Yeah, figured that, about ten seconds too late." McGarrett hauled himself to a sitting position. 'How long?"
"About three hours. Took me a while to bring you out."
"Shit." He sounded disgusted with himself.
"Yeah, well, that's what you get for trying to work without a guide. Do yourself a favor and go home, get some grief counseling and then find a new guide before you go on active duty again."
"No time for that."
Danny shrugged. He could ream the guy out some more; give him the standard lecture on how severe emotional upsets destabilized the senses; point out how fucking stupid he was for thinking he could work through it ... but it wasn't his place. He wasn't a guide anymore.
"Where am I?"
"Wai'anae country club."
"Who are you?"
"Detective Danny Williams, Honolulu PD."
"No idea. I'll get your friends, they can fill you in on what happened. This really has nothing to do with me."
He stepped into the outer office. "Your sentinel is awake. You'd better bring him up to date and then work out what you're going to do."
"Thanks, detective," said Rosetti.
"No sweat." He turned to Chin. "I'm heading home. Let me know how things work out."
"Sure, Danny." Chin smiled at him. "Thanks for helping out."
"No problem." He turned back to the SEALs. "Make sure he gets himself checked out. He really shouldn't be on a mission after major psychological trauma, even with a guide. Without one he's more of a liability than an asset."
The SEALs exchanged glances. "Commander McGarrett is used to working without a guide," said Rosetti.
Gray added, "He only agreed to take Lieutenant Rollins because the Admiral insisted. When she was killed he said he wasn't going to risk anyone else."
"Whatever. Just get him reviewed. I don't care what he tells you, he is not fit to continue this mission."
"Like hell I'm not."
Danny spun around to see McGarrett at the door, looking like thunder.
"Rosetti, Gray, get your gear together. We need to get back on the trail. Where's Thompson?"
"Shrapnel to the leg. He went back to town with the cops."
McGarrett ran an eye over the two SEALs, taking in the bandage on Rosetti's arm. "You OK?"
"Yes, sir. Just a scratch."
Danny felt a rush of anger. "You just came out of a zone. You need to rest and recalibrate. If you go out there now you'll just endanger your life and your team."
"I can recalibrate on the way."
Danny just stared at him. "What part of 'severely traumatized' did you not understand? It's going to take weeks to get over this, and that's assuming you have counseling and no more trauma."
"I can cope."
"No, you can't. You just proved that. If you'd had a guide who'd seen what happened you'd have been out in just a few minutes. Instead your SuperSEAL machismo bullshit has cost you hours. Just be thankful it didn't cost you your life -- or your team's.
He wasn't prepared for the stricken look on McGarrett's face, and felt sorry that he'd been so blunt, especially in front of the man's team. But he couldn't bear the thought of this sentinel going out alone, hurting inside, with no one to ground him. It was too dangerous.
"Danny," Chin said softly, reaching out with one hand. "You need to chill, brah. It's not your problem."
Danny took a deep breath. Chin was right. McGarrett was not his sentinel, and he had no jurisdiction over SEALs unless they broke local laws. If McGarrett wanted to go out and do something incredibly stupid, there was nothing he could do about it. "OK, not my problem. I get it." And that felt so wrong. It felt like it was his problem, and it was making him feel incredibly frustrated that he couldn't fix it.
Because he was looking at Chin, Danny didn't see McGarrett's expression change from stricken to analytical, his gaze switching from Danny to Chin and back.
"No," said McGarrett. "No way is he your sentinel."
Danny looked at him, confused. "I never said he was."
McGarrett looked around and then cocked his head slightly, obviously doing an auditory scan of the surrounding area. After a few seconds he looked accusingly at Danny. "Then where is he? Or she?"
"I -- I don't have one. She died." He stopped himself from saying anything more.
McGarrett's face closed over in reflected grief. "I'm sorry. How long ago?"
"OK. Then I can requisition you for the duration of the mission."
"What?" Too late, Danny saw the trap he'd fallen into. "No! Absolutely no way."
"You're an unattached guide."
"I'm not a guide anymore. I have a job here, family, responsibilities."
"I have a job to do and I need a guide, you said so yourself."
"So go to the Institute and request interviews with the guides who actually want to bond."
"There's no time for that."
"Not my problem."
McGarrett stuck out his jaw. "A sentinel can demand the help of any unattached guide for a limited duration in an emergency."
"I hate to tell you this, friend, but this is not an emergency. Bomb scares, child abduction, natural disasters -- they are emergencies. You wanting to play Tarzan in the middle of the jungle because your target got away from you is not an emergency."
"It is to me."
"Sucks to be you then." He turned to leave and was halfway to the door when he felt the atmosphere in the room change. Without even thinking about it, he dropped, rolled and drew his gun in one fluid motion, coming up with his gun pointed at McGarrett. McGarrett, as expected, was pointing a gun at him, and the other two were just taking aim. Chin, he was pleased to see, already had his own gun pointed at the sentinel.
No one moved for several seconds.
"So," said Danny, "it looks like we have a Mexican stand-off."
"You're coming with us." McGarrett's voice was flat and cold.
"I can have you arrested for obstruction."
"I can have you arrested for kidnapping."
Chin tried to mediate. "Guys, why don't we all calm down for a second. Let's lower the guns and discuss this like civilized people."
McGarrett ignored him. "You're coming with us," he repeated, his eyes fixed on Danny.
"No." Danny glared back. He was not going to back down on this. He had plans for this weekend, dammit!
"It's a sentinel emergency."
"It's a sentinel tantrum. Stop behaving like a toddler and work with your team."
"I want you on the team."
"Well, you're not getting me."
McGarrett leaned back slightly and looked down his nose. It was quite disconcerting. Then he took out his cell phone and pressed a speed-dial button. "Governor? It's Steve McGarrett here. My apologies for waking you. I'm on the trail of Victor Hesse but he's made a run for the forest. I am requesting that you assign Detective Danny Williams to me as a temporary guide in order to expedite the hunt." He paused, then smiled. "Thank you, ma'am. I'll have the paperwork for you as soon as we get back."
He looked at Danny as he ended the conversation and raised an eyebrow. "Happy now? It's all legal. No kidnapping involved."
Danny exploded. "You are fucking nuts! I am not going on a manhunt in the middle of the night in a tropical rainforest with a bunch of Neanderthals. Chin! You have to help me."
Chin held up his hands. "Sorry brah, but I can't go against the governor."
"Traitor!" Danny hissed.
"But it's not a real emergency!" he wailed.
"You know the regs, Danny. There's no precise definition of an emergency because no one can predict when a sentinel might need help. He's within his rights."
"So you're just going to abandon me to these ... these troglodytes."
"I'm not abandoning you, I'm coming with you."
"No, you're not," said McGarrett. "Sorry, but you're not a tracker. I'm going to have enough trouble with one civilian; I'm not taking two. Besides, I'll need you to act as base coordinator."
"But -- "
"No. Hand over your weapons and gear to Williams." He looked critically at Danny, assessing his clothing -- dark green fleecy top, black sweat pants and grey trainers. "You'll have to stay close for your own protection. Hesse isn't much of a shot but he's good with improvised explosives. He'll almost certainly have left some booby traps."
Rosetti grunted. "He already did."
Danny took Chin's tac vest and shotgun, holstering his own pistol. It was a tight fit -- Danny was considerably broader than Chin -- but he got it adjusted as best he could, and Chin gave him a run-down on the various pockets and their contents.
He nodded his understanding and said, "Make sure you tell Matty and Gracie I'll be back as soon as possible."
"I'll do that." Chin fixed his eyes on the sentinel. "Look after him, McGarrett."
McGarrett's face softened slightly as he nodded and said, "I will."
Then Chin walked out, and Danny was left with a trio of SEALs -- one of whom was a certifiably insane sentinel -- who were about to track a bomb-happy killer into the forest.
How is this my life? he asked himself.
Once Chin had left, the three SEALs lost no time in packing up and leaving the office they'd appropriated.
"Why do you think Hesse is still in the forest?" asked Danny. "Wouldn't he have doubled back to the road?"
McGarrett shook his head. "No. Normally I'd say yes -- Hesse is a city boy, he's not that comfortable in jungle or forest -- but there's only one road along the coast on this side. We're stopping all the cars, and on foot he'd be a sitting duck for a FLIR-equipped helo or car and he knows it, so west is out. The ridges run roughly east-west in this area, which makes heading north very difficult -- I could do it, but he doesn't know where the paths are. So that leaves a choice of east or south."
"There are more houses and cars to the south. More options for him."
"And a lot more activity in a couple of hours, including cops who'll have been alerted and will be looking for him. He can't afford the risk. That means we go east."
"I hope you're right."
"So do I. With a bit of luck we'll have him boxed him in between the ridges and the Naval Station." McGarrett flashed him a grin, and Danny realized with a jolt that the man was quite attractive. Not that it meant anything to him, of course. He was only here because he had to be.
They quickly made it to the green where Hesse had been talking to Heleka. McGarrett tracked the early part of Hesse's flight through the woods easily -- Hesse had been in too much of a hurry to think about the tracks he was leaving, and there were footprints and broken twigs that even Danny could see. Then the ground opened out into a clearing and they saw the scorch marks where Hesse had thrown the grenade.
McGarrett scouted around until he found the remains of the casing. "Standard Chinese military issue," he mused, turning over the fragment in his hands, and then sniffing it. "What the hell is Hesse doing with Chinese armaments?"
Danny shook his head. "Don't know, but I could ask Chin to check with the Vice team. We do have some local gangs -- triads, yakuza, and islander gangs - but they tend to use small-scale stuff, hand-guns, shotguns, the occasional Uzi. I haven't heard of any of them using hand grenades."
McGarrett pocket the fragment. "OK, we'll check it out later. Right now it's more important to get Hesse."
"Can you sense him?" asked Danny.
"No. I can generally track him by heartbeat if he's close, and by scent if he's left a recent trail, but he's getting more and more careful about that." He pointed to a patch of mud with several deep footprints. "Look, he's covered his shoes in mud, and I bet he'll have done his hands and face too -- camo for sight and smell. There's still some residue from his body odor, but it's faint and diffuse now. If there's any running water he'll douse himself in it and weaken it further."
"So we're back to square one."
"Not quite. This area can be very confusing to a non-native, and he's going to lose cell signal fairly quickly so he won't have phone GPS until he gets out of the valleys." He paused. "On the other hand, if he's already realized he's boxed in he'll be heading south west along the ridge." He turned to Gray and Rosetti. "You two, head due east until you hit the ridge, then follow it south-west. If you spot any recent tracks, or if you reach the road without any sign of him, let me know."
Danny reached for his phone. "I'll ask Chin to organize a patrol car to run up and down the coast road."
The two SEALs headed off, and McGarrett turned north, with Danny following.
Half an hour later, Danny was out of breath, his trainers were slipping and sliding over the wet leaves and loose soil, and he was hoping that they could catch up to Hesse fast, engage in the obligatory bluster and gun-fight and then get the hell out of the jungle and back to civilization. All right, so technically it was tropical rainforest, not jungle, but it was still humid and unpleasant and dark, and entirely too full of mud, a large amount of which had transferred itself to his clothing.
"I need a break," he panted. He stopped and braced his hands on his knees, sucking in deep breaths.
"You need to train more," said McGarrett, turning back. He sounded irritated.
"I do not need to train more. You are not making allowances for the fact that your legs are a metre longer than mine."
"That much, huh?"
McGarrett looked him over from top to toe. "I think you exaggerate," he said with a smile.
"Whatever." Danny certainly wasn't going to waste any more breathing time on a pointless argument. "Are you still tracking him?"
McGarrett nodded. "He's not far away now. We've made up a lot of ground, but once he realizes there's no way out he'll start setting traps."
"Are you sure there's no way out?"
McGarrett shrugged. "He can't get over the ridge, not without some serious climbing equipment. And while it's possible he might find a gap in the perimeter fence, it's not going to help him much if he ends up trapped inside the base."
"He could take hostages."
McGarrett frowned at that. "Won't do him much good. I know the governor, she doesn't negotiate."
"OK." Danny straightened up.
"Stick close behind me," ordered McGarrett. "The closer we get, the more likely he is to leave another booby-trap."
They set off again. Danny wished that he was a more experienced hiker, or at least that he had a military GPS like McGarrett did, because he really had no idea where they were. He sensed that their path was curved, but it was so hard to tell with the uneven terrain. He just hoped that Hesse was similarly confused.
They scrambled up the ridge for another few hundred metres. Danny was getting winded, and his world had contracted down to what was just in front of him -- which, most of the time, was McGarrett's ass. It was a pretty good ass, as far as asses went, and since, like all guides and sentinels, he had been encouraged towards bisexuality, he could appreciate its finer points. On the other hand, the ass belonged to an overbearing military asshole with no sense of his own limitations, and that wasn't nearly as attractive a prospect. He gritted his teeth and tried to focus on the ground instead.
Ten minutes later, McGarrett stopped suddenly.
"What is it?" asked Danny.
McGarrett turned and put a finger to his lips and cocked his head. Danny found his hand automatically going to the sentinel's shoulder to anchor him as he listened.
"We're getting closer. Stay down and stay quiet."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Hesse is a city boy, remember. He smells of gas and polyester and fried foods and some god-awful shampoo he probably picked up from his last hotel. His scent is much stronger now, more recent, and it's easy to follow here because it's so alien."
"And I think I can pick up the sound of him moving -- over there," he pointed to the south-east.
"How far away?"
McGarrett cocked his head. "Hard to say, exactly -- two hundred metres, maybe, but the margin of error in terrain like this is pretty wide."
"What's the best approach?" It didn't feel at all strange to Danny to be asking McGarrett's advice. He might be the cop but he wasn't a tracker, and here in the rainforest he was so far out of his element that he was as likely to make things worse as to help.
McGarrett paused and checked with Rosetti and Gray. After a short cryptic conversation, comprising mostly numbers and acronyms, he turned to Danny and said, "You stay here. I'm going to try and go around and steer him in your direction."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Danny started, but he was interrupted.
"I want to start pushing him south, towards the others. I don't want to run the risk of him finding a gap in the fence and getting away from us completely."
"We should stick together."
"It would take a lot longer, and it's going to start getting light in a couple of hours. I don't want to lose the advantage."
Danny rolled his eyes. "Look, you said it yourself, I'm not a tracker, I'm going to get lost if we separate."
"You don't have to move, just stay here."
"How do you know he's going to move in my direction?"
"I don't. You're insurance to make sure he doesn't head west. If you hear him, start to make a bit of noise, try to spook him into changing direction again."
"This is not going to work."
"Don't be so negative."
"I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. Flushing a man out of the jungle takes a lot more than two men."
"There are four of us."
"And the other two are too far away at the moment. That leaves you and me, and I don't think it's a good idea to separate. He might have another of those dual-sense strobes."
McGarrett glared at him. "He'd better not have."
"But what if he does? He'll put a bullet through you if you zone out and there's no one around to save your ass."
"I'll take that risk."
"Bullshit you will. You forced me to come along because you needed a guide. Well this is me guiding you. You do not go out on your own against a known killer who is experienced in anti-sentinel tactics. If you really want to commit suicide there are easier and faster ways."
"I'm not suicidal."
"Then you're doing a good impression of it."
"Not tonight, I have a headache. And too much mud getting into unmentionable places."
McGarrett raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth, but the angry comeback Danny was expecting never eventuated. Instead there was a flash of alarm on the SEAL's face, followed by a shove that sent him to the ground and the zing of bullets overhead.
McGarrett sent a few shots back and then took off at a fast pace in the direction of the bullets. There was a second exchange of shots, then, more distantly, a third.
Danny waited a few seconds, until the sounds of two men running off at speed faded, then slowly rolled over and sat up. His left arm throbbed and, looking at it, he realized that he'd been shot. He gingerly tested the movement of his fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder, and came to the conclusion that it was a just a graze, for which he was profoundly thankful. It was bleeding heavily, though, and here he was without so much as a handkerchief to bind it.
With a weary and pained sigh, he set to work removing his vest, sweatshirt and t-shirt. The t-shirt was hardly clean -- he'd been sleeping in it -- but at least it wasn't covered in mud and leaves and it was thin enough that he might be able to tie a knot in the fabric to put pressure on the wound.
He found the knife he knew Chin kept in the vest, and cut a strip off the bottom of the t-shirt. The rest of it he folded to make a pad and placed it over the wound. He had to hold his arm out horizontal so the pad didn't fall off, and it hurt a lot, which made him reel off a string of curses. Slowly, using his teeth and his one good hand, he maneuvered the strip of cloth around his arm and even managed to tie a knot -- he suspected it was a granny and not a reef knot, but he wasn't going to take it apart and do it again. It wasn't as tight as he would have liked, either, but at least he wasn't dripping blood onto the ground any more. Then, even more slowly, he put on the sweatshirt and tac vest again, and settled himself up against a convenient tree trunk to think.
He took stock of his situation: alone, somewhere in the Wai'anae forest reserve, with no GPS, no phone signal, no radio, not even a bottle of water ... it was not a good starting point. Any attempt to move in the dark would have him going around in circles, and with his luck he'd run into Hesse rather than the SEALs.
Reluctantly, he came to the conclusion that his only option was to remain exactly where he was until daylight, then head away from the sun until he hit the coast road. Once he had a phone signal he could call Chin and ask for a car to pick him up. He'd also ask if the SEALs had reported in. It had been -- he checked his watch -- over half an hour since McGarrett had left him, and he hadn't heard anything after the initial flurry of shots. Maybe Hesse was dead and they were waiting for daylight themselves. On the other hand, maybe Hesse had got the drop on McGarrett again. He shivered. The thought of him lying dead or wounded somewhere was surprisingly painful, and Danny tried to reassure himself that the man would be all right. He was a SEAL, he was a sentinel, he was used to working alone, there was nothing to be worried about ... except that Hesse knew he was a sentinel, and knew of a sentinel's vulnerabilities.
"Dammit, McGarrett," he cursed softly. "Why bother with dragging me all the way out here and then leaving me behind? You're a sentinel, not Superman, dammit."
Time passed. His arm throbbed. He thought about Rachel, the wife and sentinel he'd loved and lost. She had always believed that one should live life to the fullest, accepting and using all talents and gifts and taking every opportunity that came along. She would be telling him to work with McGarrett; to take this opportunity to be a guide again; to embrace that side of him he'd locked away for three years. He knew she was right, but at the same time he knew that his grief, while still painful, had become a part of him that he didn't want to let go just yet.
His reverie was interrupted by a sound of movement through the undergrowth, somewhere off to his right. He turned and brought up his gun, resting it on his bent knee. There were four armed men roaming the forest tonight, he told himself, and only one of them was Hesse, so that meant that there was only a 25% chance this intruder was the enemy. That didn't stop Danny from preparing to defend himself as best he might, but he couldn't afford to be trigger-happy. At least sitting on the ground he presented a smaller target if it was Hesse.
There was more rustling, then a grunting sound. "Oh wonderful," Danny muttered. "The smell of blood is attracting some wild carnivorous beast and McGarrett'll come back to find gnawed bones and a few chunks of flesh."
His gloomy prognosis was forestalled by the return of McGarrett himself, who appeared out of the jungle in front of him, like a wraith. "You don't look very gnawed to me."
Danny jumped, but managed not to fire. "Fuck, McGarrett, don't frighten me like that!"
"Sorry." He came closer, and Danny saw that he was moving slowly and carefully.
"Did he get you?"
"Not really. Vest took the impact."
"I thought you said he was a lousy shot."
"He was. He must have been practicing."
"Well, that's comforting to know," he muttered.
"How about you?"
Danny started to lift his arm, but winced. "Took a graze to the left arm."
"Here, let me take a look." He squatted down and reached for the arm.
Danny waved him off. "No, it's OK, I covered it. I'll get it looked at when we get back to Honolulu.
"Are you sure?" McGarrett frowned, peering through the hole in the sweatshirt at the improvised bandage.
"Yeah, it would do more harm than good taking it down again out here."
"So where's Hesse?"
McGarrett ducked his head a little. "He got away from me. I got winded when he shot me, and when I dialed down the pain, my hearing went too." He shook his head. "I don't know why, that's never happened to me before."
"You didn't take the time to recalibrate properly, that's why. And all your senses will be unreliable when you're emotionally upset."
"I've been upset before, it's never been this bad."
Danny stared at him. Was the man really that dense? "You never lost your father before. And he was murdered, that makes it worse. Seriously, you should have been pulled off active duty immediately. I'm surprised that your unit commander allowed you to continue."
"He knows how important this is. I can't afford to lose momentum, I have to keep chasing Hesse until we bring him down."
"You really don't hear yourself, do you? This isn't just a case to you any more, this is an obsession, and obsessions get you killed."
McGarrett ran a hand over his face, smearing the dirt already there. "Whatever. Let's get going. I still think we have a chance to intercept him if we head south and then west."
"Where are the others?"
"Down by the ridge. I'm hoping that Hesse will run straight into them."
"I still think this would work better with a lot more people."
"Well, I don't."
"That's obvious," Danny muttered. "Oh well, let's get on with it." He dragged himself to his feet and rolled his shoulders, trying to work out a little of the stiffness from sitting too long on cold ground. His arm still throbbed but there was no point in trying to improvise a sling as he would need both arms for balance.
They set off again, McGarrett leading the way, and Danny noted the difference immediately -- McGarrett was slower, more cautious, watching the ground carefully, and stopping every few steps to listen (or at least, giving the appearance of listening). He suspected that McGarrett's senses were oscillating, and once again cursed the man for being a stubborn fool who wouldn't take advice.
When McGarrett tripped and fell over, Danny decided that enough was enough. He ripped the radio set from McGarrett's head and pressed the button to talk.
"Rosetti? I'm pulling McGarrett from the mission -- hey!" he finished with a yell as McGarrett tried to snatch the radio back, but the man's fingers were clumsy, just confirming what Danny suspected.
"Ignore that last," McGarrett shouted, but Danny wasn't stopping. "His senses are completely out of control, he's lost all sense of touch and a lot of his hearing, and I suspect his eyesight is cycling. He's tripping over his own feet now. He's a danger to himself and others, and as his official guide I am giving you notice that he is not fit to continue this mission."
"You bastard," McGarrett spat the words at him. "I can feel."
Danny leaned forward, and with his body obscuring McGarrett's field of vision, he jabbed the muzzle of his gun against the man's leg. "If you can feel, how come you didn't feel me shoot you in the leg?"
"What?" McGarrett pushed Danny away and grabbed his leg to look. Finding no wound, he stared up at Danny, a look of complete betrayal on his face.
Danny sat back, grimly satisfied. "You had to look. You didn't feel anything. You had to look." He continued more gently, "You've lost all sense of touch, haven't you."
McGarrett sighed and his shoulders slumped. "Yeah. Everything's cycling, like you said. I just don't know what to do."
Danny set his gun down and picked up the radio set, still dangling from McGarrett's neck.
"Rosetti, you there?"
"Yes, detective. Is the commander OK?"
"He will be. He took a couple of hits in the vest and tried to dial down pain, and I think that just tipped everything out of control. Can you get a fix on us?"
There was a pause, then, "Yes, you're about a mile and a half north of us."
"OK, I'm going to stay here for a while and see what I can do to get his senses under control again. If we manage that, we'll start to head back to the coast, but we'll radio in before we move."
"Roger that. We'll head north to your position, not sure how long it will take us, but no more than an hour."
"Thanks, chief. Er ... over and out."
He gently replaced the headset over McGarrett's ear.
"Still with me, McGarrett?"
There was a tiny nod of the head, and Danny felt a sudden impulse to give him a hug. Yes, the man was a self-righteous, overconfident, gun-happy asshole, but he was hurting, both physically and emotionally, and Danny was a guide and was the only person in the world who could help him right now.
"Just concentrate on those dials for now, tune into my voice, my heartbeat. Look at me, feel my hand on your face, take in the scent of the forest around us. Don't concentrate on any one sense, just relax and let all the inputs flow. Take even, deep breaths, that's it, relax and open up to your senses."
He continued talking for a few minutes longer, until he noticed that McGarrett was tensing up.
"OK, so we have to fine-tune that touch dial. I'm going to keep on rubbing your cheek here, try and tune down pain so it's comfortable to breathe, but not so much that you can't feel my touch."
McGarrett nodded, and Danny watched him closely as he battled with his own brain to reassert control.
Finally McGarrett looked up. "Thanks," he muttered.
Danny guessed it had cost McGarrett a lot to say that, and he wasn't going to be a prick about it. "You're welcome," he replied with a wry grin. Their eyes met, and for just a second, Danny felt something soothing and calm flow between them. Then McGarrett's gaze dropped, and the feeling was gone.
"I think I can move safely now," McGarrett said, stretching out his arms and legs. "The chest is ... not painful, precisely, more just an awareness."
"How about the rest of you?"
"I can feel my hands and feet again, the left ankle is a little sore, I think I twisted it a bit when I fell, but it's not sore enough to be serious."
McGarrett nodded. "I'm sure. And however much I want to catch Hesse, I'm not stupid enough to try and walk on a seriously damaged ankle. It'll be fine in a couple of days."
"Good. You let your men know we're moving, then."
A couple of minutes later, they started heading back, on a roughly south-west heading that followed the contour of the ground. Danny was glad they weren't fighting the terrain any more -- his arm was distinctly painful now and he had never had much luck at tuning his own senses, though Rachel had encouraged him to try. They weren't hurrying either, but it didn't seem long before Danny could see the lights of the condos near the country club. He felt a sense of relief -- it wouldn't be long now and they would be back in civilization, with roads and electricity and cell phone reception.
"Nearly there," he breathed, as much to himself as to the man beside him.
"You should call Kelly as soon as we get reception, get a car to pick you up. I'll wait for my men."
"No. I'll call Chin, sure, but we'll both wait for you and your team."
"You need to get that arm seen to."
"And you need to get your chest and ankle X-rayed."
McGarrett opened his mouth to argue, but something in Danny's expression must have made him back off, because he said, "Fine, we'll both wait."
Danny turned his head so McGarrett wouldn't see him smile. It seemed as though the sentinel could be trained after all.
Jack McGarrett's funeral was held at the cemetery two days later. Although it wasn't an official police funeral, there was a large contingent of HPD officers there, paying their respects to a man who had spent more than twenty years in the department. Danny wasn't one of them. He hadn't known the man personally, and his midnight adventure with LtCdr Steve McGarrett hadn't left him feeling like his presence would be welcome, so he was manning the station along with a few others, including Kono Kalakaua, newly-graduated from the academy and full of enthusiasm.
"Detective Williams," she began.
"Call me Danny." He didn't usually give that license to rookies, but Kono was a good kid and not likely to try and take advantage. Besides, she had contacts on the island that even Meka took seriously, and a right hook that most guys envied.
"Danny," she said with a smile, but then turned serious again. "I got word from one of my cousins that Heleka took his yacht out this morning."
Danny grunted. Heleka had maintained that he'd been taking an evening stroll and had met Hesse purely by accident. Chin had been forced to admit -- with considerable reluctance -- that walking on a golf course at night wasn't actually illegal. After some less-than-amicable banter with Heleka's lawyers, they'd had to let him go, but they had kept him under surveillance for the last couple of days in the hope that he might do something they could connect with Hesse, who had apparently disappeared into thin air after shooting McGarrett in the chest.
"Any guests with him?"
"Just his usual crew, according to Phil. But that doesn't exclude someone having boarded in the previous day or two."
"True." Dammit, if Hesse was on board -- and it was more likely than not, come to think of it -- that meant he would have access to all the other islands and their airports. Of course they had put out a bulletin with Hesse's details and photograph, but security staff weren't infallible, and Hesse had already exhibited a disturbing talent for slipping by unnoticed.
"Does Heleka have berthing at any of the other island marinas? And what's the range of the yacht?"
"I'll check both. It's not that big though, I wouldn't think it would do an international trip. I'll see if Phil noticed bulk stores being loaded though."
With a sigh, Danny went back to trawling through Heleka's phone records. He knew it was a wasted effort (even the dumb criminals knew enough to get a disposable pre-paid cellphone these days) and reflected that the case was turning into a nightmare. He wasn't even supposed to be working on it, for heaven's sake! He still had an small-scale armed robbery series and the usual crop of drug busts to keep him occupied, but with Meka off sick and Hesse still at large, Chin had asked him to lend a hand. He liked Chin, who had extended a hand of welcome to the haole newcomer three years ago when most of the others in the station had ignored him, and he didn't want to cause unpleasantness when there was no benefit. Besides, he hadn't seen McGarrett since they'd dropped him at Pearl Harbor at dawn two days before, so helping out wasn't as much of a hassle as he had expected.
The thing that was a hassle was the low-grade headache he'd had for the last twenty-four hours, and he was trying hard to ignore it, mainly because he suspected he knew what had caused it and was hoping he was wrong. It couldn't be bond-stress, he told himself, because there was no bond. He refused even to consider the possibility of a bond. He and McGarrett had barely touched -- only the minimum contact necessary for their work -- and they didn't even like each other. Plus, even if he had liked the man there was no way he would allow himself to get attached to a military sentinel. He had Gracie to consider, after all. She had taken a long time to settle into life in Hawaii, and he wasn't going to uproot her or leave her alone here with his brother and the housekeeper -- not that they weren't good people, but they didn't look out for Grace the way her father did, and he knew if he weren't there to keep an eye on things she'd be doing all sorts of dangerous stuff like surfing and horseback riding and dating before she was a teenager. No, he had to stay here with her, and that meant no bonding, not now, not ever.
He ignored the small voice at the back of his mind that said he missed being a bonded guide. That life was behind him now, and had been for three years. He belonged here now.
Within a few hours, it was clear that Heleka was heading for the Big Island. Danny wondered if they could possibly convince a judge to sign a warrant to search the boat the minute it arrived ... but that was assuming that Hesse would still be on board.
"I wish we had a satellite," he muttered. "Then I could divert it to track the yacht, like they do on TV."
Kono laughed. "That would definitely make our life easier. You think he's going to run for it?"
"No, I think he's going to rendezvous with another vessel -- maybe a yacht, maybe a freighter -- and transfer Hesse while they're in international waters. Dammit, why didn't we catch Hesse boarding Heleka's yacht?"
"Because he didn't," came a voice from behind him. "At least, not Heleka's yacht."
He turned to see McGarrett, still in his dress uniform, striding into the room. Chin was behind him, looking grim.
"How do you know that?"
"Because he's just been sighted on Kauai."
"Are you sure? How the hell did he get there?"
Chin tapped his cell phone. "According to my informant, Heleka pulled in a favor from Hiro Noshimuri. Noshimuri's yacht left Honolulu late yesterday morning and arrived in Lihue at dawn. Hesse was spotted leaving the boat with some of the crew. I just got word. Whatever Heleka is doing, it's a blind."
Danny was stunned. If it was true, then it was a stroke of luck - he'd been sure that the next sighting of Hesse would be in Asia or Europe, probably in a country that had no extradition treaty with the USA.
"Noshimuri," he muttered softly. "Where have I heard that name recently?"
"Governor's ball, about three weeks ago," said Kono. "He was one of the VIP guests."
"No, that wasn't it." He wracked his brain but there was nothing except the faint sensation of an echo that told him he'd heard the name in the last week or two.
Chin said, "His name has come up a couple of times in connection with yakuza-related crime, but we've never been able to get probable cause."
"Would this qualify?"
Chin frowned. "I don't know, would depend on the judge. Informants aren't always right. And even if we did manage to lift prints from the yacht, Noshimuri could easily say he didn't know who the man was, or even that he didn't know the yacht had a passenger."
"We have to try."
"I'll see what I can do." Chin started scrolling through the directory and sighed. "This would be easier if we had state-wide jurisdiction. I'll have to liaise with Kauai PD and see who their best option is to execute the warrant if they won't let us go over ourselves."
Danny nodded. "I certainly don't want to get the Feds involved." Actually, he was surprised they weren't there already, wrapping their grabby little hands around the case, but he wasn't going to complain and risk jinxing himself.
"OK," said McGarrett, looking up from his phone. "Transport is arranged. Plane leaves at 1408, I'll expect you at the airport at 1330."
"What?" Danny almost shouted. "You can't be serious."
"I'm serious." He glanced at his watch. "You have ninety minutes."
"I'm not going with you."
McGarrett huffed. "You're my guide."
"But that was just for one night."
"It was for the mission, and the mission isn't over."
"I have plans for this weekend."
"Do I have to call the governor again?"
Danny hesitated for a moment while he considered calling McGarrett's bluff. He really didn't want to go, particularly not at a moment's notice, but on the other hand he didn't want to end up in the governor's bad books. While he'd never met her in person, he'd heard enough about her that he was reluctant to provoke her legendary temper.
He sighed, and capitulated. "All right, you win. But I need a couple of hours to sort things out with my family. I can't make half past one. Seriously, not even if I wanted to. I have to arrange for someone to pick my daughter up from school, and then make sure my brother will be here this weekend."
McGarrett hesitated, then nodded a grudging acceptance. "Fine. I'll get seats rebooked for ... 1545. Happy now?"
Danny glanced at his watch. He had three hours to sort out coverage for Gracie, get home, pack, and get to the airport. Fuck.
Danny made it to the baggage drop with thirty seconds to spare, and that was after having shamelessly used his police badge to jump the queue. The trouble with Hawaii was that it was tourist season all year 'round, and it seemed that every single one of them wanted to go to another island for the weekend.
McGarrett, Gray and Rosetti were already at the gate. McGarrett deliberately looked at his watch.
"Bite me, McGarrett, I got here in time. No need to play the schoolma'am."
Gray chuckled, and even Rosetti smothered a grin. McGarrett tightened his lips but made no comment, which was just as well because Danny was just itching for the chance to offload some of the bad temper he'd endured over the last few hours.
They started boarding just a minute later, and Danny was pleased to note that he wasn't sitting next to any of the team. It gave him another hour or so to himself, time to relax as much as he could, and to think about ways he could act as a guide and do his job professionally without allowing McGarrett to get any closer.
At least he'd got Grace's care organized. Thank Christ, Matty hadn't planned to go away this weekend and was happy to look after Gracie. Miriam, their housekeeper, had also agreed to work on Monday, her usual day off, if Danny hadn't returned by then. So after that it had been just the packing -- or, rather, finding a case and throwing in anything that might be remotely useful, including the hiking boots and backpack he'd bought three years ago with the aim of trekking through Hawaii's lush national parks. Naturally, the only time he'd used them had been a day-trip with Gracie's class to Koko Head. He'd also thrown in a couple of meditation aids -- he wasn't sure if he'd get the chance to use them, but if he was going to be a guide he was damn well going to be a good guide -- and two bottles of Tylenol 3.
The one thing he hadn't brought was a packet of condoms. He had a feeling he might regret that in the long run, but he was determined not to allow the embryonic bond to grow any further, and if things ever did get a little heated, the need to go out for supplies would be a sufficient dampener ... he hoped. Either that or he'd end up getting swabs and blood tests again, and the thought of that was enough to make him glare at the back of McGarrett's head.
Less than an hour later, they landed at Lihue. The amount of gear that Rosetti and Gray pulled off the carousel made Danny's eyes widen, but he stopped himself from asking the obvious questions while they had an audience. It was probably just surveillance equipment, he told himself, though he wouldn't put it past this lot to get an exemption for military explosives.
McGarrett had been on the phone as soon as they were permitted, and stood to one side From the tone of his voice, not everything was going to plan. Danny rang Chin himself, but it went straight to voicemail, leading Danny to suspect that Chin was the unlucky person on the other end of McGarrett's conversation. He sighed and concentrated on the luggage.
Five minutes later, the baggage carousel held only a couple of lonely-looking cases and a child's car seat and the crowd had dispersed.
"Everyone ready?" asked McGarrett, shoving his phone back in his pocket.
Danny nodded, having picked up his one checked bag and followed the others out to the van they'd hired.
Apparently their first stop was the hotel, which surprised Danny, but he supposed it made sense to get their gear stowed away before embarking on what could be a long and tedious hunt. Conversely, he wasn't surprised when McGarrett indicated they'd be sharing, since he was far too used to the government's attempts at economy to have expected anything else. He just hoped the man didn't snore too loudly.
The room wasn't bad: it had two double beds, a small table with two dining chairs and an en suite bathroom, but the air was a bit musty, as if the room hadn't been occupied for a few days. Danny went immediately to the windows and opened up the door that led onto a minuscule balcony, letting in the fresh air and a small sliver of sunlight.
He then did a quick scout through the bathroom and removed the toiletries, placing them in the plastic disposal bag which he then folded over securely -- hotels always used the cheapest possible ingredients for their "free" amenities and very few sentinels could tolerate them. He set out his own scent-free soap, shampoo and deodorant, and hoped that McGarrett had brought his own, since he didn't like sharing if he didn't have to. The towels seemed fairly soft to his touch, and had very little smell, so unless the sentinel was spiking, he shouldn't have a problem with them. He grabbed one of the face flannels and wiped down the sink, taps, bench and toilet seat with plain water. He left the light and fan on to remove any residual odors from cleaning products and returned to the bedroom to finish unpacking.
He could feel McGarrett staring at him, and suddenly felt self-conscious.
"What?" he asked, a little more belligerently than he'd intended. "Don't you like fresh air?"
"I like fresh air just fine. How did you do that?"
"You -- you changed the room. Made it tolerable."
Danny was taken aback. What he'd done was so basic, so instinctive after years of caring for Rachel, that he'd barely even noticed. It seemed that guiding, like riding a bicycle, was a skill one never forgot. "Didn't your temp guides do a room check when you had to stay somewhere?"
"Not unless I was having problems."
"Sentinels always have problems outside their own homes. I know that airing out the room will only go some way to easing the impact on your senses, but every little bit helps, right?"
McGarrett smiled at him, and Danny felt a rather disconcerting squirming in his gut. "So," he said, hurriedly, trying to change the subject, "where do we go from here? KPD headquarters?" He picked up a couple of shirts and strode over to the wardrobe to hang them up.
"I'm waiting on a callback from the governor's office - they were going to smooth the way for us. And Chin was trying to get more information on Noshimuri's contacts here."
"There can't be many, it's a small island." Danny was now hanging up a pair of slacks. "I still can't understand why he'd come here. Why Kauai?"
"I don't know."
"Are you sure this isn't just a red herring?" asked Danny. "To get out of Hawaii, his best bet is through Oahu or the Big Island. International flights only go from Honolulu, and so do ninety per cent of the cargo vessels. Even Maui would have been a better choice - lots of tourists, flights to the mainland, cruise ships every other day, and more private yachts."
"That's true, but the major shipping lanes from Oahu to Asia pass just north of Kauai. If he wanted to make a transfer to a freighter, it would be a lot easier to do it unnoticed up here rather than closer to Oahu."
"Damn. That would make sense. It's what my gut tells me he's going to do. He could be gone already."
McGarrett shook his head. "I don't think he wants to leave Hawaii just yet."
"Because I'm still alive." McGarrett's voice was flat and his face expressionless. "He's chasing me now, as much as I'm chasing him. I got his brother killed, he killed my father. We both want to find the other, and when we do, only one of us is going to survive."
"That's -- that's just crazy. This is America, we don't have blood-feuds."
McGarrett just looked at him, and Danny guiltily thought of all the killings he'd seen in his career. At least half of them had been revenge-motivated, so yes, in a weird way they did have blood feuds.
"All right, so we do," he admitted, "but they're still wrong."
"Right or wrong, I'm going after Hesse. If I get the chance to arrest him, I will, but if it's a choice between killing him and risking the rest of the team or any bystanders, I'll kill him."
Danny figured that was as much of a concession as McGarrett was going to make.
It was late when they left the station. They'd spent a largely unproductive evening talking with a couple of senior detectives from the Kauai Police Department, as well as a few informers they'd brought in, but for all that, they didn't have much more now than they'd had when they'd arrived. Noshimuri's yacht had been searched, but -- as they had expected -- his papers were in order. The only suspicious fact was that there were very few fingerprints anywhere, but when every member of the crew stated that Mr Noshimuri was a clean freak and demanded that all surfaces were wiped down daily, it was hard to insist that it indicated criminal activity.
Lihue wasn't as well-supplied as Honolulu with late-night stores and restaurants, but they managed to find an Italian place not far from the hotel. Danny sniffed the garlic aroma appreciatively, and wondered if the food would be as good as the small family-run restaurant he'd frequented back in Newark. After a cursory glance at the menu, he decided on penne a quattro formaggi, on the grounds that a four-cheese sauce was difficult to get wrong. Gray ordered spaghetti all'amatriciana, while Rosetti decided on the lasagne. McGarrett bucked the trend and ordered a Hawaiian pizza, with extra pineapple.
Danny looked at him in horror. "You cannot be serious."
"Don't you like pineapple?"
"I used to like pineapple, when it came in tins and was eaten only for dessert. Pineapple on pizza is an abomination. It's put me off for life."
McGarrett raised an eyebrow. "I guess you're a plain-cheese pizza type of person then?"
"There's nothing wrong with a plain cheese pizza. Or pepperoni. Pepperoni is fine. But that's it. No fancy stuff."
For some reason that triggered off a discussion of everyone's favorite pizza toppings, and Danny soon found that he was in the minority when it came to pizza purity. Gray liked spicy toppings with extra jalapenos, while Rosetti -- in what Danny considered a complete betrayal of his Italian heritage -- enthused about a lamb and rosemary pizza he'd had in Sydney once. McGarrett just smiled and said he liked the Hawaiian the best.
One thing that Danny did pick up on was that McGarrett was eating a lot more than he normally did, judging by the covert looks he was getting from the other two. He suspected that McGarrett's sensory control when he was on his own wasn't as good as he liked to pretend, which worried him professionally, and that tonight he felt well enough to be hungry, which dismayed him personally. It was one more sign of a nascent bond, and that was something he really didn't want to think about, even though he was grateful that his own headache had gone.
He sighed. If he could get through the next few days without something disastrous happening, he'd count it a miracle.
He was woken up by a harsh, half-strangled cry from the next bed. There was something in the quality of the sound that had him up and on his feet before he even registered he was awake. He stood there for a moment, getting his bearings and casting a glance at the radio-clock -- it was 2:27. McGarrett cried out again, and Danny approached the other bed.
McGarrett was obviously having a bad dream. With Gracie, Danny would have held her until she woke up properly and calmed down, but he had a suspicion that if he tried to touch McGarrett now he'd end up with a broken limb. On the other hand, if he didn't try and settle the man down he wouldn't get any sleep himself, and a tired Danny was a very crabby Danny, as anyone who had ever worked with him could testify.
"McGarrett," he whispered, "wake up, you're having a bad dream."
There was no immediate response, so Danny approached the bed and began speaking softly, much as he did when a sentinel was in a zone, but this time the words and the intent were soothing. Eventually, he touched the back of McGarrett's hand, and was relieved at the response -- instead of a violent attack there was a soft sigh, and McGarrett seemed to relax a little. Pleased, he stayed there for a minute, rubbing the skin gently, and when it appeared that McGarrett had slipped back into sleep, he rose and returned to his own bed.
Fifteen minutes later he was back on his feet, looking down at McGarrett's contorted features. Whatever nightmare he had interrupted before had returned in force, and the sentinel was twitching and groaning. With a sigh, and a fervent plea to whatever gods there might be that he wasn't about to do something monumentally stupid, Danny pulled back the covers and slid in beside McGarrett, who immediately settled down.
Within minutes, they were both deeply asleep.
He woke at six to a harsh buzzing sound in his right ear. He tried to ignore it. In his opinion, six o'clock was an obscenely early hour at the best of times, let alone when he'd had a late night and interrupted sleep. He was deliciously warm and the covers were heavy, and ...
Memory returned with a vengeance. He was in a hotel in Lihue, lying in bed with one tall, lanky military sentinel draped over him like a centrally-heated hot water bottle, head nestled comfortably against his neck, his breath wafting over Danny's chest, stirring up currents that were disconcertingly arousing.
After a bit more mental effort, he worked out that the buzzing noise was coming from the heavy diving watch on McGarrett's wrist. He tried to shift, but McGarrett simply made a small protesting noise and tightened his grip, pressing on Danny's still-injured left arm.
"Come on, sunshine," Danny murmured, trying to lift McGarrett's arm away from his chest. "Time to get up. We have leads to follow, scumbags to find, remember?"
"Very eloquent." With a smile and a bit more effort, Danny managed to slither out from under McGarrett's grip and headed for the bathroom.
On his return, fifteen minutes later, he found McGarrett standing on the balcony, taking deep breaths of fresh air. He was naked apart from his boxer briefs, and Danny couldn't help but take an involuntary breath at the sight of the man's body -- lean, muscled, and so very, very enticing. He was glad he'd jerked off in the shower, and hoped that his sudden resurgence of arousal wasn't too obvious to the sentinel.
"Good morning," he volunteered, reaching into his bag for clean underwear.
McGarrett turned to him. "What took you so long? We have too much to do today for you to spend an hour in the bathroom."
Danny was taken aback. "Well, who pissed in your Wheaties this morning? I took as much time as I needed -- which, incidentally, was about fifteen minutes. And if that seems like a long time to you then no wonder you look terminally frustrated."
It was almost amusing to see the startled look on McGarrett's face, followed by a mixture of anger and embarrassment. Danny smiled sweetly at him and then deliberately turned away and dropped his towel. From behind him he heard a muffled cough and then McGarrett hurried into the bathroom.
He counted that as a win.
It was another frustrating day.
The van, along with Gray and Rosetti, was down near the marina so that they could keep an eye on Noshimuri's yacht, even though the chance of Hesse reboarding was considered low. Danny, meanwhile, accompanied McGarrett as he questioned the few people that KPD had listed as possibly being involved in either gun-running or people-smuggling, but it soon became clear to them all that if any of them were contacts of Noshimuri or Heleka, they didn't appear to be involved in hiding Hesse. The man had simply walked off the yacht the previous morning and, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.
It was also becoming clear to Danny was that McGarrett's senses were not well-controlled at all. He couldn't be sure how much of that was destabilization from the incipient bond and how much was due to McGarrett's lack of guidance in the past, but when he saw McGarrett dry-swallow his third dose of Tylenol that day, just before lunch, he decided that enough was enough.
"McGarrett, come with me," he ordered, standing up.
"You need a break and some fresh air."
McGarrett looked mulish, but Fraser, the KPD detective who was accompanying them, jumped up.
"Hey, we all need a break. I'm going to follow up a couple more leads, why don't we meet back here at four?"
"Good idea," Danny agreed, and led McGarrett out outside. He didn't miss the slight relaxation of the man's shoulders as they left the artificial lighting and moved into the sunshine, even if it was bright enough that they both put on their sunglasses.
There was a café a few doors down the street, with a few chairs and tables spilling out onto the sidewalk. He bought a couple of sodas and handed one to McGarrett. They were cold, at least, and he hoped that the fluid would help with the sentinel's headache.
As they sat down, he said, "OK, normally I would ask what routine you use to re-establish control, but I'm beginning to suspect that you haven't had much control over your senses for a very long time."
"I can control them."
Danny snorted. "Sure you can, and I'm just here because I'm pretty." He looked sternly at the other man. "Look, you asked for me. I didn't want to be here, but you insisted that I come on this wild goose chase. You said you needed a guide - well, this is me guiding. Now, I know you were having serious problems in there. I think it was the fluorescent lighting -- I noticed a slight flicker in the tubes, so it must have been really bugging you. Am I right?"
McGarrett looked down at the can of soda in his hand and didn't answer.
Danny sighed. This was worse than trying to deal with a sulky eight-year old. At least he could bribe Grace with ice-cream and dolls -- somehow he didn't think that would work on a military sentinel; although the ice cream might be worth a try later on.
"Look, I know you're having problems, and I think you've been having problems for a long time, much further back than your father's death. You don't get to be as thin or as exhausted as you are on just a week's grief. I saw the way the other two looked at you last night - when was the last time you ate a full meal?"
"You don't eat enough."
"Of course you're fine. Which, as my wife used to say, stands for frustrated, insecure, neurotic and emotional. You're out of control, and you've been out of control for so long that you can't even remember what being in control is like. How long is it since you had a day when you could dial up or down automatically, without even thinking about it? How long is it since you had a day without a headache? Without a spike?"
McGarrett didn't answer, which Danny took as confirmation and continued his argument. "You're a poor excuse for a sentinel, you know. You've coasted along on what little remains of your Institute education, but you haven't really put any effort into maintaining your skills or improving your control. I think if it weren't for your military training you'd have ended up in a psych ward by now."
"You make me sound like a head case."
"Well, if the cap fits ..."
"Fuck this." McGarrett got up to leave but Danny grabbed him by the arm.
"Listen to me. You have to work on getting your control back. I know you're grieving, and I know you're determined to find the man who killed your father. That's understandable. But he knows how to fight sentinels, remember? He knows how to derail your senses, how to incapacitate you. If you don't work with me now, there is every chance that Hesse will kill you. Do you really want to make it easy for him?"
McGarrett didn't answer, and Danny sighed in exasperation. He wondered just how long it had been since anyone had spoken this frankly with the man; how much his team had been shielding him, either from sympathy or respect for his purely military skills. From his point of view as a guide, McGarrett had been spoiled and indulged, and had got by on some innate ability and a whole lot of luck. He really needed a guide to keep him in line, and while Danny wasn't going to volunteer to join the team, he was going to try and do the best he could in the limited time available, not only from a sense of professionalism, but also because he didn't like the thought of McGarrett being vulnerable to the next criminal with a strobe.
He softened his voice. "I know it takes time, and you don't always have much to spare, but this should be as much a part of your daily routine as running is. You know this. You've been lazy and now you're reaping the consequences of that."
"I'm not lazy!"
"Physically, no. Mentally, yes. A good sentinel works on his senses every day; I doubt you've done anything regularly for months."
McGarrett looked mulish. "And I suppose your previous sentinel was a paragon?"
Danny laughed as he thought of Rachel, feeling both joy at the thought of his wife and the familiar pain of loss. "No, Rachel wasn't a paragon. But she understood that she had a job to do, and she had a duty to maintain her skills so that she could do the best job she could possibly do. People relied on her, and she didn't want to let them down, so she did her sense exercises and her physical exercises and her meditations, and she was so fucking good at what she did -- " his voice broke, and he turned away so that McGarrett wouldn't see the tears that had suddenly flooded his eyes.
"I'm sorry," McGarrett said, softly. He sounded sincere, and Danny nodded, still turned away.
"What did she do? Was she police as well?"
"No." He looked up at the sky and blinked a few times, clearing the tears away. "No, she was a child psychologist. She worked mostly with very young children, because she could pick up on their reactions even if they didn't have much in the way of language skills."
"That's unusual, but I can see how sentinel senses would help there."
"Yes, they did. She didn't have all five -- taste was only a little over the norm, but she worked hard at the other four. Her sense of touch was fantastic. I kept telling her she should have been a doctor, she could have diagnosed most injuries without an X-ray, but she didn't want to take the time to do that. She wanted to work with children and the Institute -- well, she grew up in England, so it was the Guild over there -- they agreed she could do psychology instead of medicine or nursing."
"So how did an English child psychologist end up with an American cop?"
"I know, it's weird, right?" Danny couldn't help smiling at the memory. "She was over here for a post-graduate course at Johns Hopkins. She hadn't got used to driving on the right side of the road and hit my car coming around a corner. We hit it off straight away -- yeah, OK, it's a pun, get over it -- and we got married three months later. She'd worked with the police before, so I managed to talk the Newark PD into retaining her as a consultant, and once they'd seen what she could do, she was called in a couple of times a week. It was good job, and she enjoyed it, even though it made her cry sometimes -- Christ, the things some people do to children are beyond belief -- but we had the best record in New Jersey for catching pedophiles and child abusers, and our false positive rate was really low. And there were other cases, not abuse, where a young child was a witness and she helped us to get court-certified statements. She really made a difference, not just to me, but to all of us."
There was a moment of silence, then McGarrett asked, softly, "So what happened to her?"
Danny took another mouthful of soda, taking a minute to gather his thoughts. "She was killed. A couple of teenagers ran into the station and started shooting up the place. She got hit in the neck by a ricochet, and bled out before they could get an ambulance."
"Yeah. Never did work out why -- they were high on meth, that's all we knew. She wasn't even supposed to be there that day."
"I'm sorry," said McGarrett, and his hand reached out, a little tentatively, to touch Danny on the arm. "Life sucks sometimes."
Danny nodded, too choked up to speak for a few seconds. "I miss her," he managed, eventually. "I miss her every single day."
McGarrett's hand was warm on his arm, and he could feel the sympathy emanating from the man. He closed his eyes and let himself absorb the comfort.
"You have your daughter, though," continued McGarrett.
"Yeah, I have Gracie. I don't know what I'd do without her."
"How old is she?"
"Eight and a half."
"Did you have family here? It seems a long way to come from Newark."
"Yeah, my brother Matt, he's been out here for a few years. He offered me a place here. I was having trouble working out how to look after Grace. My mother helped for a few weeks, but she wasn't well herself, and I couldn't afford a nanny. Rachel's parents offered to take her for school holidays, but they couldn't take her full time, and I couldn't be without her that long anyway. So there I was, trying to organize after-school day-care and emergency babysitters and it was getting really difficult and I missed a couple of things at work ... anyway, Matty told me he had room for us over here. He'd talked it over with his housekeeper and she was happy to help look after Grace, so I started looking for a job. Honolulu PD had some openings and they liked my résumé, so here I am."
He finished his soda and crushed the can. "So, that's my life in a nutshell. What about yours?"
McGarrett shrugged. "My dad was HPD, so I grew up here. My senses were discovered when I was eight, and I transferred to the Institute."
"Wow, that's pretty young," Danny commented. "I thought most Institute schools started at junior high."
"Hawaii has a high proportion of guides and sentinels so the Institute in Honolulu has an elementary school. We take kids from all the islands, plus any children of military or State Department parents stationed in Asia or the Pacific. We actually have the fifth-largest Institute in the country."
"I didn't know that. Still, it must be tough for parents to send their kids away so young."
"Well, some of them don't. The Institute runs regular after-school classes in the other island capitals, and they have some distance-tutoring schemes for remote areas. The thing is, it's part of the Polynesian tradition, so most islander families know how to spot a guide or a sentinel and they're comfortable with it, and a lot of the immigrants have intermarried with them so the traditions have spread throughout the population. It's really no big deal here. It was a bit of a shock when I went to Annapolis and heard some of the stories from other states."
"My dad used to threaten to move to Arizona when I complained about the Institute in New York."
"Yeah, it can be tough in some places. I met a sentinel from Iowa once -- his family wouldn't even let him go to summer school. Joining the army was the only way for him to get out of the state." He shook his head in bemusement.
"So how did you end up in the Navy?"
"All my aptitude tests showed a strong correlation with military careers. They tried to get me to join the Army, but I wanted to be Navy like my dad and grandfather, and since I hadn't found a guide yet they were happy for me to do Annapolis. But after I finished my degree I wanted to go to special ops and they wouldn't let me because I still didn't have a bonded guide." He frowned. "I think they were starting to worry that I couldn't form a bond and might go rogue. I figured I was going to end up as an ensign on an aircraft carrier for the rest of my career, but they decided that I might be useful in intelligence work, since no one would suspect a sentinel working alone, so I did that for a few years. Sometimes I had a temp, but mostly I was on my own. After five years I re-applied for SEAL training and my CO was able to convince them to take the risk. I've been in the field ever since."
"I really didn't think there were any unbonded military sentinels. Wouldn't it be too dangerous?"
McGarrett shrugged. "They don't like to talk about it, but there are some. More than you'd think."
"That's ... unexpected. I remember seeing all the army recruiting posters at the Institute in New York and they always featured a guide-sentinel pair."
"And I bet they were all young too."
"Well, I was just a teenager myself so they looked grown-up, but now I come to think of it, they must have been early or mid-twenties."
McGarrett gripped his soda can and spoke in a low voice. "There are very few bonded pairs who've lasted more than ten years in service. Our skills mean we get sent to the hot spots, so the attrition rate is high. They try to pair up unbonded people as best they can, but it's not perfect. Most of us learn to get by on our own, just in case."
"Attrition rate ... you mean death rate?"
"Or permanent disability. Sometimes it's just plain old-fashioned battle fatigue."
Danny was stunned. He had never really considered the implications of having sentinels and guides in a war zone, but he should have realized that a lot of them would die. No wonder they were always keen to get new recruits. "Is that why you never bonded? Too much risk of losing your guide?"
"I don't know. I just never found anyone who felt right. Well ... maybe," he added, a small reminiscent smile on his lips. "There was a woman I met on a ship once. She wasn't a registered guide candidate, but I felt very attracted to her. I wasn't sure if she felt the same way, though, and we were an active unit so it wasn't as if there was time or opportunity to ask her on a date, and then the mission was over and I posted out. I haven't seen her since then."
Danny leaned back in his chair, trying to digest what he'd just learned. It put the events of the last few days into a very different light. McGarrett hadn't commandeered him expecting a bond, because he'd never had one. He'd expected a temporary partnership, the only sort he knew, and had probably acted on instinct when the first symptoms of bond stress had manifested. He obviously hadn't given much thought to what was going to happen at the end of the mission, and Danny was certain that he had no idea of how bad it was going to get. Danny knew, though -- at best they would be in pain for a few weeks, and at worst they might both end up in hospital under sedation, and that was something he really didn't want to consider. But given that he knew a hell of a lot more about sentinel-guide bonds and the risks and benefits thereof, it fell to him to take responsibility for this situation they found themselves in.
He took a deep breath and concentrated on working out what to do next. He ought to talk seriously about bonding, how the two of them had started down that road already and how to cope with bond stress and bond shock. But he didn't want McGarrett to start second-guessing himself and his reactions, not now; not when they had a terrorist to catch, and not when a moment's hesitation could get them both killed. No, that talk would have to wait until afterwards, when Hesse was either behind bars or in the morgue. In the meantime, he'd suggest a meal, and then a walk to somewhere relatively quiet where he could take McGarrett through his sensory exercises, and with a little luck Fraser would have some more information for them when they got back.
Danny's phone rang at 3.30, as he was bringing McGarrett out of a meditation session that had gone a lot better than he had anticipated. After their mutual soul-baring before lunch, McGarrett had seemed a lot more receptive to Danny's plan to meditate and do some sensory exercises. At McGarrett's suggestion, they'd driven out to a local headland and sat there with the wind in their hair (which Danny hated, but put up with on the grounds that McGarrett's cooperation was worth a little discomfort on his part) and the smell of the ocean surrounding them. The sentinel had relaxed much more once away from the town, and had managed to regain a lot of control in the three hours they'd been working. Danny had no illusions that it would last for long, but at least it was a start. He was also slightly awed -- if McGarrett was half as good as he seemed to be with a modicum of control, he might easily be one of the most powerful sentinels Danny had ever met.
He set that thought aside for the moment and answered the phone. "Williams."
"Hey, brah," Chin's voice was as cheerfully non-emotional as it always was. "How's Kauai treating you?"
"Not so bad," Danny responded, with a smile. "How's Honolulu?"
"Fine and sunny. Any developments your end?"
"Not a thing. No one seems to have heard of either Hesse or Noshimuri here. How about you?"
"Not much. Kono didn't find anything in the phone records we pulled, and so far surveillance of Noshimuri hasn't shown him doing anything out of the ordinary."
"Yeah, well, it was always a long shot."
"I know. Meka says hello, by the way. Duke said he rang up to say he'll be back on Monday."
"That's where I heard the name!" Danny exclaimed.
"Noshimuri. I knew I'd heard the name recently," he explained. "Meka was talking with Duke a couple of weeks back. They were talking about people-trafficking ... I can't remember the case, it wasn't one of ours. Anyway, Duke was saying the word on the street was that the Yakuza was getting very interested in some of the traffickers. He mentioned one of them had been spotted talking to one of Noshimuri's lieutenants and wondered if he was going to try and take over this guy's operation or just use him to transport his own guys. I didn't pay much attention at the time, but I'm sure he said Noshimuri."
"That's interesting. Which one was talking to Noshimuri's man?"
Danny frowned, trying to remember. "Sam? San? Something like that -- sounded Asian. I'm sorry, I wasn't really paying attention. It wasn't anything to do with the case we were working on, just idle gossip. Meka would know."
"OK, I'll talk to him and Duke, and I'll check with Organized Crime, see what they have. I'll let you know what we come up with."
"Thanks, Chin." He sighed. "I just have the feeling that this is a wild goose chase. Either Hesse has doubled back to Oahu already, or he was never here and your informant was mistaken yesterday."
"I guess that's a possibility. Kono's been checking the airport security data from the last week, I'll make sure she includes yesterday and today."
"Thanks - though I don't think he's stupid enough to use commercial air, not between islands anyway."
"Maybe not, but it's all we have to go on at the moment. We can't check every fishing vessel and yacht."
"I know," Danny sighed again. "OK, we have to get back to the station, see if they've got anything new. If not, I'm going to suggest that we fly back in the morning."
"Sounds good. I'll keep you posted."
"Thanks." Danny ended the call and looked back at McGarrett.
"Giving up so soon?" McGarrett asked, his voice hard.
Danny shook his head. "I am not giving up. I just think that we're playing into Hesse's hands by staying here, doing exactly what he wants us to do. And if he wants us here, then it means he's elsewhere."
"Or he's trying to double-bluff us."
"No, it's not that. He's not here. It feels wrong. Please, trust me on this."
McGarrett stared at him for a few seconds, then, surprisingly, he nodded. "OK."
"We'll check back in at the station, and if there's nothing new for us to follow up we'll fly back to Oahu in the morning."
Danny breathed out. He wasn't sure why he'd expected to fight with McGarrett over this, but the man's sudden capitulation puzzled him. He thought about it on the drive back to Lihue (McGarrett had insisted on driving, and Danny didn't care enough to make an issue of it) and came to the conclusion that maybe -- just maybe -- McGarrett was starting to trust him. He smiled to himself, but he knew that it was one more step on the way to bonding, and that worried him.
Chin met them at the airport when they flew back the next day. It was another bright sunny Sunday morning in Honolulu, and the airport was relatively quiet.
"Where are the other two?" asked Chin.
"They're on a later flight. They had to sort out the rental van and a couple of other things," answered Steve.
Danny suppressed a smirk. Gray had accidentally dented the van backing it into a parking space, so they were going to have to do a whole heap of paperwork before they could fly out. He didn't expect to see them back on Oahu before the afternoon.
They walked out to the SUV Chin had brought and stowed their bags.
"Good call on that human trafficker, brah," said Chin, as soon as they were on their way.
"What did you find?" asked Danny.
"His name is Sang Min. Born in China, came out here in the 80s as a kid with his parents. We don't have much in the way of a criminal file -- juvenile stuff, mostly -- but the guys in Organized Crime say he's known in the right circles as the man to go to if you need to get someone in or out of the islands on the quiet. They didn't care so much while it was just ones or twos, but lately -- since we took down Brian Wong's set-up last year -- it seems he's expanded into the wholesale market, and appears to be developing closer connections with the triads. He's starting to move serious numbers of people, so they've had him under surveillance. Unfortunately, the guy is as slippery as a snake, and they haven't been able to get anything they can use in court."
"I hate people-smugglers," muttered Steve.
"Yeah, me too," answered Danny. "You got anything we can use?"
"Not much. We know where he lives, but he's smart enough not to do business there. He has a legitimate small-scale import-export business with an office and a small warehouse in Honolulu Harbor, but it's very hard to get anyone in there. He only hires people he knows personally or on personal recommendation, and Honolulu is small enough that it's hard to find anyone who can work undercover for any length of time."
"What about bringing in someone from the mainland?" asked Danny.
"Can't do that, they'd stick out like a sore thumb," answered Steve.
"I didn't say he had to be white."
"No, it's not that. Islanders aren't like the rest of the country. We have our own dialect, a particular way of looking at the world. No one who didn't grow up here would be able to fake it."
"He's right, Danny," Chin added. "Infiltration is pretty much impossible."
"Couldn't we just raid the place?" asked Steve, a little wistfully.
"Couldn't get a judge to agree we had probable cause."
"What about sentinel surveillance? Surely one of them has picked up something?"
"We've tried, but he has white noise generators going all the time, plus some sort of odor masker.
"And that isn't probable cause?" exclaimed Danny?
"According to OC, Sang Min claims that the white noise generator helps him to concentrate on all the paperwork the government makes him fill out, and the odor masker is to counteract the smell of diesel fuel, which gives him headaches.
"That is such a crock of shit. I want to arrest this guy for being annoying now."
"You and me both, buddy." Chin sounded tired, and Danny wondered how much sleep he'd got the night before. Probably no more than he had got himself. They were all too tired, and he hoped it wouldn't lead to mistakes being made.
"How close can you get to his warehouse without a warrant?" asked Steve.
"We can drive by the front or the back, no problem, but stopping for any length of time would be difficult. I'm not sure we could get access to one of the neighboring spaces without alerting him, either -- it's very much a closed world there."
"Corrugated iron. No way you could be up there without them hearing you."
"Well, let's try a slow drive-by anyway. I might be able to hear something."
"You can hear through a white-noise generator?" Chin asked.
Steve looked at Danny. "I can try."
Danny considered that. If anyone could do it, Steve could, but it was going to be hard, and there was a pretty high risk that the concentration would trigger a zone. "It's worth trying."
"OK," Chin replied, and turned onto the Sand Island Access Road.
Sang Min's warehouse wasn't one of the new shiny buildings that featured so prominently in Honolulu's business publications. It was old, poorly maintained and years overdue for a coat of paint, and the alleyway between it and the next building was littered with an assortment of crates and containers.
They did a slow circuit of the warehouse, but apart from a couple of guys by the door, there was nothing to see. Chin managed to stop the car on the far side of a container, and Steve closed his eyes. Danny could almost feel the power of his concentration as he dialed up hearing and shut down all other senses except touch. Danny put a hand on his arm and commenced a touch program that would -- he hoped -- stop Steve from zoning. As the minutes passed, he became less hopeful, but continued the random tapping, stroking and pinching of Steve's arm, making an effort to avoid falling into a regular pattern that would feed into a zone.
Unfortunately, there was nothing to hear. Steve tried for nearly fifteen minutes, but all he had to show for it was a blinding headache and tense shoulders. Danny handed him some Tylenol and rubbed his neck gently, easing out the knots.
He caught Chin looking at him and tried to stop himself from turning red, but he could tell from the heat in his face that he was failing. Luckily Steve was still looking over towards the warehouse so missed Danny's embarrassment completely.
"I'm sorry," said Steve. "That white-noise generator is industrial-grade. I could only make out snatches of conversation from people at the door -- at least, I think they were at the door of Sang Min's place, they might have been neighbors." He shrugged. "Someone is expecting a delivery later this morning, that's all I could get."
"Was there anything to indicate it might be illegal?"
"Not from what I heard."
Danny sighed. "Oh well, it was a long shot anyway. Come on, let's get back to the station, we can review the files and see if we can come up with a plan."
"OK. I could do with a coffee."
"We can stop at the Aloha Tower on the way."
Chin started up the car and they made their way slowly to the exit.
There was a container truck coming through the gate as they got there - it was a tight turn and the driver was going very slowly, using both lanes of the drive to avoid hitting the fence. A dent in the gatepost and the crumbling remains of the kerb indicated that many other drivers weren't so careful.
Suddenly Steve's head snapped up and he looked around. He looked at the container on the back of the truck, then around at the various buildings. "Is there a school or a child-care center around here?" he asked Chin.
"Not that I know of. Why?"
"I can hear a kid crying. And ... someone trying to soothe them. Asian language, possibly Mandarin. People moving around, frightened ..."
Danny looked all around but there was nothing that looked like a residence, day-care or health center. When he looked back at Steve, he saw that the sentinel was concentrating on the truck's container, which was now passing them and proceeding into the dock area.
"The container?" he asked.
"Yes. At least ten people, maybe more." His nose wrinkled. "It stinks, too. They've been in there for several days."
Danny looked at Chin, who was already reaching for the radio. "Even if it's not heading for Sang Min, we have to take them down."
"I know." Chin called it in and asked for immediate backup, but from the look on his face he wasn't getting it. "Bad news," he told them. There's been an accident on the highway, all units have been called in to help. Best estimate is thirty minutes."
"Too long," said Steve. "Once the container is delivered the people will be split up and transferred. We need to get to them before they open it."
"Yeah," Danny agreed. "Did the driver see us call it in?"
"I don't think so," Chin said, turning the car around and following the truck as it wove through the dock.
Steve leaned over into the back and pulled his vest and gun out of his bag.
"I think this is our lucky day," murmured Danny as the truck turned between warehouses. "He's heading for Sang Min's place."
"Let me out," said Steve. "I'll approach from the other side. It'll take them fifteen minutes or so to offload the container, and their attention should be on the truck for most of that time."
"I'll come with you," Danny said instantly.
"No, I need you to give me info from this end -- be my eyes."
"You don't have any spy-eyes?"
"Rosetti has them." He shrugged. "I wasn't expecting to need them so soon."
"OK then, I'll give you a running commentary. But stay out of sight -- they'll be keeping a close eye out for intruders."
"I'll be careful." He gave Danny a grin and slipped out of the car.
"You'd better be," Danny said under his breath.
"Looks like you two are getting on a whole lot better than you used to," said Chin with a smile.
"Bite me," said Danny, succinctly. "I'm just doing the job you volunteered me for."
"Sure," said Chin, his smile broadening into a knowing grin.
Chin parked the car behind a pile of containers. He and Danny quickly put on their vests, checked their weapons and made their way cautiously around the warehouse opposite Sang Min's. The truck had stopped right outside the main doors, about halfway down the long side of the building, and the driver was chatting with one of the men, handing him a clipboard. Chin got his phone out and started taking pictures.
"You think the driver's involved?" whispered Danny.
"Hard to tell. I got the impression from OC that he preferred to use his own guys, but would they be so careful about paperwork if he was?"
"False trail? Plausible deniability?"
"Maybe. We'll take him in, anyway, even if we can't charge him."
The driver climbed back into the cab and started up the crane mechanism to offload the container. It was a slow, laborious process but eventually the container was on the asphalt and the men were uncoupling the chains.
"Steve, don't move in yet," said Danny in a low voice. "We want to see them open the container if possible, to check the contents."
There was no acknowledgement that he could hear, of course, and he could only hope that Steve had heard and was prepared to wait patiently until Danny and Chin moved in.
"Do we let the truck go?" asked Chin, as the driver stowed the crane mechanism back on the trailer. "If he's not involved they aren't going to do anything until he's left."
"Yeah, I think so. We have the registration plate and photos. We can pick him up later."
They watched as the truck moved slowly off. The men milling around the container became a lot more furtive as soon as it had left, casting anxious looks around the area. Danny and Chin ducked back behind the wall, hoping they hadn't been seen.
"I wish that backup would hurry up," Danny murmured. "It looks like they're going to open it."
"We'll have to move soon. They probably have vans inside the warehouse already."
"I guess we're lucky they didn't take the container inside. At least this way we get to see the people come out of it."
"Containers are a bitch to move without a crane, especially if the load shifts. My concern is they might wait for nightfall before moving the people out," said Chin, as he cautiously pushed his phone around the corner, took a photo and pulled it back. "No, I'm wrong. Looks like they're about to open it."
They peered around the corner. A lanky Asian man was coming out of the warehouse, flanked by a huge islander.
Danny could scarcely believe his eyes. "Wow. I haven't seen a mullet like that since the eighties," he whispered.
"That's Sang Min. Weird fashion sense, but don't let the haircut fool you. He's intelligent, cunning and slippery. Organized Crime's been trying to get him for a while, but he's too fly to do anything out in the open."
"I guess it would be a slap in the face for them if we get to take him down then?" asked Danny.
"Oh yeah, brah," said Chin, smiling broadly. "And Lieutenant Aguinaldo would be devastated."
"Couldn't happen to a better prick," Danny smiled back. They'd both suffered from the lieutenant's arrogant attitude and withering sarcasm on too many occasions not to relish the prospect of him being embarrassed.
Chin risked another glance around the corner. "He's at the door, I think they're going to open it."
"We could use that backup about now."
Chin took a few more photos with the phone. "OK, they have the door open, Sang Min doesn't look at all surprised, so we're good to go as soon as backup's here."
No sooner had he said that than they heard a police siren, sounding close enough to be already in the dockyard. That was followed immediately by a torrent of voices from the warehouse and a loud clang as the container door was shut.
"Shit, didn't you tell them no sirens?" muttered Danny, hoping that the sound hadn't spiked for Steve.
"Whoever it is, I'll have him strung up by his balls."
"I'll do more than that," promised Chin. "That was a deliberate warning."
"Oh fuck," breathed Danny. If it had been deliberate, it meant that someone was on the take, and that was never good.
He quickly ran over the situation, trying to salvage as much as he could. OK, so the bad guys had been warned, the container was locked up and everyone was grabbing the nearest weapon. On the plus side, they had Chin's photos, and the people in the container were definitely expected there, so with eyewitness testimony they still had a case. All they had to do now was survive the next few minutes and try to capture Sang Min alive so they could take him to court, but given the odds were approximately three to one, that was seriously in doubt.
At that moment a man came around the corner, brandishing a gun. He gave a yell as he saw them, and Danny's heart sank. Chin shot him without hesitation, but all hope of surprise was lost, and they heard the rest of the gang hurrying towards them.
"Now would be a good time for a diversion, Steve," said Danny, and squatted down.
They shot the next two who appeared. Both went down immediately, with multiple shots through the chest. Danny glanced at the three bodies in front of them and wondered if they'd get enough to build a barricade.
He heard footsteps behind him and turned. Two plain-clothes cops were running up, guns drawn.
"Honolulu Police! Drop your weapons!"
Fuck, I don't believe this, thought Danny. "We're HPD too. Bad guys are round the corner." He couldn't remember their names, but he knew Meka didn't like either of them.
"Drop your weapons!" one repeated.
Chin turned and gestured for Danny to keep a lookout while he dealt with this. "Kaleho, get your head out of your ass and shoot the ones who come around the corner. We have approximately ten armed bad guys, a container full of illegal immigrants and a sentinel at the other end of the warehouse."
"Do not shoot the sentinel," Danny snarled.
"Right," Chin confirmed. "Don't shoot the sentinel. Tall, white, dark hair, vest. Our side. And try not to shoot the container either."
"Definitely do not shoot the container," said Danny. "Unarmed civilians."
"Sure," said one of the cops, presumably not Kaleho.
"Hey, police!" came a shout. "You gonna make a deal?" The voice had a curious sing-song quality, and Chin mouthed "Sang Min".
"No," Chin shouted back. "Put your weapons down and come out with your hands up."
Danny snorted. Like that was going to work.
"Hey, brah, it's worth a try," said Chin, almost apologetically.
Danny wondered how long it would be until Sang Min realized he could use his illegals as hostages.
"Not gonna happen. Maybe you should put your weapons down and then I won't shoot all these people."
Not long at all, obviously.
"Well, shit." That was Kaleho.
"Marks, tell HQ this has turned into a hostage situation," ordered Chin. "And get us more backup!"
"Sure," said Marks.
Danny kept watch, but there was no more movement. He was starting to worry about Steve - he'd asked for a diversion but so far there had been nothing. Had the sentinel zoned? Had he been captured? Was he all right? He wished that he had one of the semi-concealed radio sets the SEALs wore so that Steve could talk to him, but he had nothing. Communication was one-way only, and he would just have to hope that everything was going well.
"You listenin' to me?" called Sang Min. "Do I have to show you how serious I am?"
"We can tell you're serious," Chin attempted to placate him. "Don't make this a hostage situation."
"I think it's a little late for that," came the reply.
Then there was a single shot. Danny and Chin looked at each other, aghast. Had they just precipitated Sang Min into killing one of the civilians? There was a shout and a flurry of shots, and they realized -- with some relief -- that Steve must have shot Sang Min or one of his men. They risked peeking around the corner, and saw that everyone's attention was towards the far end of the warehouse. Danny took the opportunity to drop the one he had a clear sight on, and Chin managed to take out the one hugging the wall, trying to sneak up on them, though not without having to duck quickly to avoid the bullet that flew past him.
With shots coming from both ends of the alley, Sang Min's remaining men panicked. Two of them ran straight past Danny and Chin, only to encounter Marks, on his way back from the car. Surrounded by police, they gave up, dropping their guns on the asphalt and raising their hands.
Danny left Chin and the other two to secure them and ran to the container, using it as a shield while he checked the warehouse entrance. Sang Min was on the ground, cursing a streak and clutching his wrist. Another man lay nearby, bleeding from a head wound. That made seven accounted for, but he didn't know how many more might be in the warehouse -- they had only seen five when the truck was there, after all.
He kicked away Sang Min's gun and reached behind him for his handcuffs. "Game's over, sunshine. Roll over so I can cuff you."
"Go to hell."
"I don't think so," said Danny approaching him. "Roll over onto your front or I'll shoot you."
"You already shot me."
"Wasn't me, but I don't mind contributing to the cause if I have to."
He was startled by two more shots coming from the other side of the warehouse. He dropped into a squat, automatically scanning for threats, but he couldn't see anyone aiming at him. Naturally, Sang Min decided to try his luck while Danny was distracted and made a break for freedom, knocking Danny over in the process. His head hit the ground with a thump and he felt dazed. He could feel someone trying to wrest his gun away from him, but he couldn't allow that. Then his head was lifted and thumped against the asphalt, and all the lights went out.
When he came to -- which, as he worked out afterwards, was only a few minutes later -- he was in Steve's arms, and the sentinel was examining him frantically. "Danny, Danny, are you all right?"
"Mmm," he groaned. "Head hurts."
"Oh, thank Christ," said Steve, cradling Danny to his chest for a second before resuming his examination, then burying his head against Danny's neck and taking deep breaths in, as if he was absorbing Danny's scent.
"Sang Min," muttered Danny, looking around. "Where is the mullet-headed son of a bitch?"
"Chin has him, I think. He tried to get away, I shot him."
"I hope you didn't kill him."
"Don't know. Don't really care."
"You'll care soon enough if we find out he's our only lead."
"He hurt you," said Steve, simply, as if it made everything clear -- which, to some extent, it did.
Danny gave an exasperated sigh. "You are going to have to get those caveman tendencies under control, you know. You're supposed be getting information, not a body count."
"I think you managed that on your own quite well."
Danny had the grace to look a little sheepish. He and Chin between them had got five that he knew of, which was pretty much a record for him. He wondered if Steve's trigger-happy nature was rubbing off on him, then thought about other forms of rubbing off and then cursed himself for using that phrase, since it conjured up images far too stimulating for business hours. He reminded himself -- again -- that Steve would be leaving the islands as soon as Hesse was in custody or dead, and indulging in sexual fantasies was not going to make the eventual separation any easier to deal with.
There was a noise from inside the container behind them.
"Have you opened it up yet?" he asked.
It was Steve's turn to look sheepish. "Erm, no," he admitted. "I was checking you were still alive first."
Danny knew he shouldn't smile, but he did anyway. "It's OK, babe," he said softly. "I'm fine, apart from the headache that killed Elvis, so now we can let the people out of the container and make sure none of them got hit in the crossfire."
Steve concentrated for a moment. "I don't think so."
"Good. Now help me up."
They got up and moved around to the door of the container. Steve unbarred it and opened the door, coughing a little at the stench that flowed out. He spoke softly in what Danny presumed was Mandarin, though he couldn't be sure. At least two of the people inside understood him, because they answered. After a few more words, Steve stepped aside and let them out into the fresh air. They blinked as they encountered the bright Hawaiian sun, and stood around in the alleyway, still huddling in their family groups. It didn't need Danny's empathic sense to know that relief at being out of the container was mixed with equal parts anxiety at what the future might hold for them. They weren't going to get residency visas, and they certainly weren't going to get their money back from Sang Min, so they were doubly out of luck.
Chin and Kaleho approached them. "Are they all OK?" asked Chin.
"Yes, though they're understandably anxious. They'll need check-ups, they may be dehydrated and they definitely need showers, but I don't think any of them got hurt."
"Good. I've called Immigration, they'll be here in half an hour with a bus."
"You speak Mandarin?" asked Steve.
"No, brah, Cantonese."
"OK. They're all from northern China, mostly Mandarin speakers, plus a Shanghainese family," he indicated the small group standing to one side. "We'll need interpreters, since none of them speak much English."
"I'll let them know," said Chin, and pulled out his phone.
There were more police cars pulling up now -- typical, thought Danny, everyone turns up when the action's over -- and officers were milling around looking for things to do. There was more than one respectful look cast in their direction as Marks explained that the bodies were all down to Chin and Danny. Two of the junior uniforms were sent over to keep an eye on the immigrants, and Danny, Steve and Chin made their way up the alley towards the SUV.
"Should have got that coffee before," muttered Danny.
"Yeah, it's going to be a while now," Chin replied, opening up the car and taking off his vest.
"Can we go back via Liliha?"
"You need a coco puff fix?"
"Absolutely. Coffee and coco puffs, breakfast of champions."
"He needs to get checked out first," Steve interrupted.
"You were unconscious."
"I have a little headache, that's all."
Steve just looked at him. Too late, Danny remembered that he was trying to fool a sentinel, and sighed. "All right, it's a big headache. And I'm feeling like a lie-down would be a good idea, but honestly, that's all. No nausea, no photophobia, no weird flashing lights. Just a headache."
"You're still getting checked out before you eat or drink anything."
"Yes, ma," he grumbled, and got a smile in return.
"Just looking out for my guide," said Steve, and the sudden lurch in Danny's chest was so strong it was almost painful.
There is no future in this, he told himself again, and turned away. He could feel Steve's confusion, followed by resignation, and wished he could simply melt into his sentinel's arms, but life was always unfair. They had Sang Min to question and Hesse to find, and then it would all be over. He had to remember that. It would all be over and he would be alone again and he would have to learn to deal with it.
He stifled another sigh and got into the car.
Steve's interrogation of Sang Min went very quickly indeed. Unhampered by police regulations or any regard for the Geneva Convention (not that it applied here, strictly speaking, but Danny was beyond considering such niceties), he managed to extract information with a speed that impressed Danny as much as it appalled him.
"Would it kill you to stick to the rules for once?" asked Danny, as Steve wiped the blood from his hands.
"It might," was Steve's terse reply. "And it might kill my men, so don't ask me to tiptoe around some criminal's hurt feelings when there's a terrorist to catch."
Danny threw up his hands in defeat and went in search of more coffee. It had been four hours since the shoot-out at the warehouse, and he still hadn't had anything that approximated a decent meal. He hadn't been home -- his bag was still in the back of Chin's SUV -- and if things continued the way they were headed he might not even get home tonight. He poured himself a cup of coffee and swallowed half of it down in one gulp. It was bitter and burned, as usual, but at least it had caffeine.
He had to admit, reluctantly, that Steve's methods produced results. Faced with a demonstration of how direct pressure affected bullet wounds, followed by a laundry list of charges, (starting with human trafficking and attempted murder, and going all the way down to operating a place of business without a sprinkler system), Sang Min had jumped at the chance to spill everything he knew about Victor Hesse in return for a reduced sentence. Unfortunately he didn't know Hesse's whereabouts, but he did know that one of the options he had arranged for Hesse included boarding a Chinese freighter that was due to arrive in Honolulu the next day.
Steve was already heading out the door when Danny caught up to him.
"Where are you going?"
"Where do you think?"
"You can't just board a foreign ship and search it."
"I can if it's in American waters."
"Do you want to start a diplomatic incident?"
"No, but I don't want a terrorist getting away if I can stop him, either."
"Can we at least liaise with the Coast Guard and Customs people? It's all right for you to piss them off, but I still have to work with them once you're gone. Don't make my life any more difficult than it has to be."
Steve looked taken aback, and Danny wondered if he'd given any thought at all to what would happen when the case was over.
"OK. I'll call the governor, see what she can set up."
"Thank you." He tried to make it sounds sincere rather than sarcastic, but he wasn't sure he succeeded.
Two hours later Danny was in a meeting with representatives from the Honolulu Harbor Authority, the Coast Guard, Customs and FLEA. It was a surprising demonstration of how quickly things could move given a stern gubernatorial directive. The emergency task force was briefed by Steve on Victor Hesse's background and crimes to date, including several terrorist incidents in his native Ireland and around the world and culminating in the murder of Jack McGarrett. The federal agencies, unsurprisingly, had their own files on him, but were unable to add much to Steve's presentation in spite of trying, volubly and at length.
It wasn't an easy meeting -- there were too many differences in the way each agency worked -- but eventually they had worked out a rough plan. The freighter would be allowed to berth as normal, but would be diverted to a neighboring pier that had better lines of sight from the surrounding buildings. Lookouts and snipers would be posted from dawn, a SWAT team would be on standby, and there would be several pursuit vehicles and two Coast Guard vessels available if needed.
Rosetti and Gray had turned up while they were interrogating Sang Min, and Steve had been reunited with his favorite toys. He sent them to pre-position some spy-eyes around the dock and scout out the best locations for snipers, while he loaded his tac vest and backpack with a variety of munitions.
"Are you planning on taking out the whole waterfront?" asked Danny in a deceptively casual tone.
"Maybe," was Steve's answer. "I don't know what I'll need until the shooting starts, but the last thing I want is to need something and not have it."
"I get that, but the amount of stuff you're carrying is seriously disturbing."
"So is Hesse."
Well, when you looked at it that way ... Danny sighed and ambled over. "What do you want me to carry?"
Steve glanced up at him. "What are you comfortable carrying?"
"Truthfully, I don't know. Usually I carry cable ties and spare ammo, that's about it."
"Here," Steve handed him some blocks of C4. "I'll carry all the detonators, so this stuff is just Plasticine, OK? It won't blow up without a detonator."
"OK, I can cope with that." He loaded it into his vest, making sure that the his spare ammo clips were as far away as possible. Flashlight, nitrile gloves, evidence bags, and a couple of bandages filled the rest of the pockets, and he figured that was about as much preparation as he could cope with.
He glanced at his watch. It was almost 5pm, and he really wanted to get home. He'd rung Matt earlier to let him now he was back on Oahu, but at that stage he'd had no idea if he'd be able to make it for dinner. Now it looked like he had a chance of being home by six, and the thought of seeing Grace again before her bedtime was gnawing at him.
He slung the vest over his shoulder and checked his pocket for his car keys. "Anything else to do here?" he asked casually.
"No," Steve replied, looking up from his gear. "Give me a sec to secure this and we can go eat."
Danny hesitated. He hadn't intended to invite Steve to have dinner with him, but a moment's consideration told him it was the right thing to do -- Rosetti and Gray had already been stood down, and the injured Thompson was on his way back to the mainland, so Steve would be on his own for the evening. Besides, the man had actually listened to Danny and taken his advice more than once during the day, and he was a firm believer in positive reinforcement. He summoned up a smile and said, "Don't be too long, Matt's housekeeper cooks a mean roast beef."
"Uh-huh. You finish up here and I'll grab the car and bring it around to the front."
"Sure," Steve smiled back at him and Danny felt the all-too familiar clenching in his gut. He hurried down to the car park and made a quick call to Matt, asking him to warn Miriam there'd be two extra for dinner.
"It'll be fine, bro," Matt reassured him. "You know she always cooks enough for an army."
"Yeah, but I'd hate her to get upset if I bring a guest without any notice."
"I pay her too well for that."
Danny chuckled and ended the call as he pulled up to the front entrance.
"Nice car," Steve said as he jumped in the passenger seat.
Danny grinned. "My only extravagance. I figured I'd get a head start on my mid-life crisis."
Steve laughed with him and patted the dashboard. "It's a shame there's nowhere here you can give her a good workout."
"Yeah, but she has the muscle to catch a perp when she needs to."
The journey didn't take long. Danny keyed the remote as they got to the gate and proceeded slowly up the drive, coming to a stop outside the front door.
Steve whistled when he saw the house. "Your brother must be making a packet."
"Hedge funds. Apparently hedges go for a lot of money these days."
A small yellow tornado erupted out of the front door and leapt into Danny's arms. "Daddy!"
Danny spun his daughter around and hugged her tightly. "Hey, monkey, I missed you."
"Missed you too, Daddy."
"I hope you were good for Uncle Matty and Miss Miriam."
She nodded fervently. "Uncle Matty took me to the beach yesterday and Miriam let me help bake cookies today."
"Cookies, hmm? What kind of cookies?"
"Double chocolate chip."
"Mmm, my favorite."
He glanced up at Steve, knowing that his sheer happiness was spilling over into his smile and not really caring. Grace was his life and he didn't really care who knew it.
"Steve, this is my daughter, Grace. Grace, this is Lieutenant Commander McGarrett. He's helping me with a case."
"That's funny," Steve smirked, "I thought you were helping me with my case."
Danny waved it off. "Semantics."
Grace stared up at Steve -- which was a considerable distance, given his height -- and pressed in a little closer to her father.
"Don't be shy, monkey. He's harmless." Well, more or less, he added to himself.
"Are you going to stand out there all night or are you going to come in?" Matt called from the doorway.
"We're coming in," Danny answered, and led the others into the house.
After another round of introductions, Matt sent Grace to help Miriam and took them through to patio at the back of the house for a beer.
"Nice place," Steve commented, taking the proffered bottle and arranging himself on one of the lawn chairs. "Though I'm curious why you're here and not in New York."
"It's more convenient for the Asian markets," Matt explained, "and the quality of life is a whole lot better than in New York or even San Francisco. Most of my trades are done over the net or on the phone, but if I really have to be somewhere, there are daily flights to all the major centers." He shrugged. "It's less convenient for Europe, I have to admit, but the EU is just a bankruptcy waiting to happen so I try to steer clear as much as possible."
"You really think that?"
"No, please," interrupted Danny. "Do not get him started on Europe or we'll be here all night."
Matt laughed. "Yeah, it's a bit of a hobby horse. But I'll be a good host and save the lecture on the perils of financial over-regulation for later."
"Thank god," muttered Danny. He watched Steve's throat move as he took a swig of beer and felt an all-too familiar heat in his belly. Perhaps inviting him to dinner might not have been the best move, given his rapidly-increasing awareness of every enticing move Steve made.
"So Danny tells me you're Navy," Matt continued. "I gather you're not stationed at Pearl?"
Steve shook his head. "No, just here for a mission. I'm usually based in Virginia, but my work takes me all over the world."
"And before you ask," Danny cut in, "he can't talk about his work any more than I can talk about mine, so don't start with the twenty questions routine."
"Hey, I was just trying to make polite conversation."
"It's fine, Danny," Steve smiled. "I'm trained in resisting interrogation, you know."
"Yeah, well," he muttered, trying to work out why he was being so unnecessarily protective. Just one more aspect of the bonding, perhaps?
Grace hopped out onto the patio and his brooding was forgotten as he hugged her.
"Miriam says she'll be serving in a moment so you have to come inside now."
"I'm sure she didn't phrase it quite like that, but I get the message. Have you washed your hands?"
Grace giggled and held her hands out for inspection before jumping up and tugging on Danny's arm to get him to move.
"You'll have to pull me up, monkey, I'm getting old."
He let her pull him up from the chair, making it as much of a comedy routine as he could, and then led the others through to the dining room.
The rest of the evening went well, with good food, conversation and another beer or two. Matt invited Steve to stay over, and Danny could hardly raise an objection, seeing as Steve had already transferred his bags from Chin's car to the Camaro and Danny wasn't quite sober enough to drive him back to the city or Pearl or wherever the team was supposed to be staying. So the bed in the guest room was made up and Danny brought the bags in and said goodnight, and congratulated himself on handling things smoothly and professionally and not mooning over the sentinel like he was a love-struck teenager.
Danny woke suddenly. The bedroom door was open and he could see a tall, lanky silhouette standing in the dim light from the corridor.
"Steve?" He reached over and turned on the light, wincing at the sudden brightness. Oops, he thought too late. Maybe that hadn't been the smartest thing to do when confronted with a marginally-controlled sentinel.
Steve staggered, clutching his head with one hand and reaching out for the wall with the other.
Danny was out of bed in a trice. He turned Steve away from the light and held him until the shaking stopped, murmuring softly and stroking his head and neck. He felt Steve's arms go around him and tilted his head slightly, allowing Steve to scent him. It felt good to be held like this, but his conscience was berating him soundly. Short-term gain was going to lead to long-term pain, he knew that, but he was a guide faced with a sentinel in distress and it simply wasn't possible for him not to respond.
"What the fuck is happening to me?" Steve groaned. "I feel like I'm being ripped apart."
"Bond stress," Danny said, flatly. "Made worse by the fact that the bond isn't stabilized yet."
Steve opened his eyes and looked anxiously at him. "But we're not bonded! I mean, we haven't ... you know."
Danny stared at him in disbelief. "Did you seriously work at forgetting everything you learned at school or are you just stupid? Sex is the last step in the bonding process, not the first. We've been bonding since the moment we met. I thought you realized that."
"But we only met a week ago."
"It's been a very intense week."
"But ..." Steve leaned back against the wall. "They said I'd never bond."
"Who said that?"
"The psychologist, when I had my last eval, she said the chances of me bonding successfully now were close to zero. I'm 34, I've been a sentinel since I was eight and I've never found a guide. I figured there was something wrong with me, and I was going to be alone forever."
"Oh," Danny breathed, and moved in without realizing it, until he was holding him close again. "There's nothing wrong with you, babe. Well, no, that's not quite true," he grinned up at him. "There's plenty wrong with you, including your absurd fondness for breaking rules and shooting everything that moves, but there is nothing wrong with your ability to bond. You just never met the right person before, that's all. You and me, we're bonding just fine."
"But -- "
Aware that this might be his one and only chance, he ran his hand up along Steve's jaw, then hooked it behind his neck and drew him in for a kiss. Steve froze for a moment, then relaxed, and within a few seconds it became the best kiss Danny had ever had. Steve's lips were soft and mobile against his, and he felt a sudden surge of arousal as his mouth opened and Steve's tongue slid inside. He was obviously a whole-body kisser, wrapping his arms tightly around Danny and shifting them so that they were in contact from head to knee. What's more, in just a few seconds he had completely taken control of the kiss from Danny, tilting him back and ravaging his mouth.
Oh, he'd missed this.
It was several minutes before either of them could draw back long enough to speak.
Danny dropped his head against Steve's chest and tried not to think about how totally fucked up his life was. He'd found his sentinel. He had a second chance at love and happiness, so this should have been a joyous moment, but all he could think about was the weeks and months of pain that lay ahead of them. And he knew he ought to be pushing Steve away, because every moment together was going to make it worse when they parted, but he just couldn't do that. It would be like ripping off his own arms.
He felt Steve's hand under his chin and tilted his face up. It certainly felt strange to have to look up to kiss someone, but there was no point in getting upset about it -- Steve was fifteen centimetres taller than him and that just was the way it was.
The kiss was gentle this time, and Danny could feel how much Steve was trying to maintain control and not let his emotions run away with him.
Suddenly Steve pulled away and leaned back against the wall. "I can't do this," he whispered, brokenly. "I can't have this."
There were tears on his lashes and Danny felt his own heart breaking. "You can have tonight," he whispered. "Whatever else happens, we can have tonight." Fuck, this was madness, but he couldn't stop himself. He let his hands roam over Steve's neck and chest, marveling in the heat, the sheen of sweat, the light covering of body hair on his partner.
"But what then?"
"Then we deal with it."
"But we'll bond."
"We're already bonded, Steve. Nothing either of us can do about that."
"Shit. I didn't want to hurt you."
"I know, babe, " he sighed. "Me neither. I know that neither of us was looking for a bond, but we have one, like it or not, and it's not going to go away now. Even if we don't consummate it, it's there, and we both know that if you fly out and leave me behind, we'll both be in bond shock for weeks."
"Or months. Look, I know you're still fighting it. I don't know if it's because I'm a man or it's because you're scared to be dependent on anyone, but the reason doesn't matter. What I do know is that it's a waste of energy. This bond is already too deep to break. You aren't going to make it worse by sleeping with me."
Steve looked even more miserable. Danny tried again.
"Look, I've bonded before, I know what I'm talking about. We're feeling anxious and stressed only because we haven't consummated it. Once we have, things will be a lot better."
"But we'll be stuck together."
"We're already stuck together. The only way out of this mess is to complete the bond."
"And what happens then? You're a cop, I'm a SEAL. If I'm going to have a bonded guide it has to be someone who can come on missions with me or there isn't any point."
"I can't leave my family, you know that."
"I know. Which means that going forward with the bond is pointless."
Danny sighed and rolled away, leaning up against the wall beside Steve. "I get that you're an idealist," he said. "You see the world as it ought to be and then you do your best to make it so, no matter what the cost to yourself. Me, I'm a realist, a pragmatist. I see the world how it is right now and I work out what I can't change and accept it."
"We'd make a good team that way," Steve sighed.
They stood there, side by side, for a couple of minutes, then Danny straightened up.
"Sleep here tonight," he said. "We need to be rested for tomorrow, and you won't sleep well on your own. Once Hesse is down, we can go to the Institute and they can check us out and start the medication we'll need to get through separation shock."
Steve didn't speak, but he made no resistance as Danny led him back to the bed. They got under the covers and snuggled up to each other, their bodies fitting together easily, as if they had been doing this for years.
Steve was asleep in seconds, but Danny lay awake for a while longer. Pragmatist or not, he just couldn't see a way out of this that ended well for either of them. He wasn't the military type, and he honestly doubted that he could ever train to the level required to be a SEAL. Conversely, he didn't see Steve as a detective, filling out forms and being polite to idiot members of the public. Even if they both left their jobs and tried to find something they could do together, what could they do? Private security, maybe, but babysitting some rock star or businessman was hardly a physical or intellectual challenge, and he suspected they'd be bored and frustrated within months.
No matter how much he thought about it, there was no magical solution. No, it looked like Steve was right. There was no future in this bond. They would just have to go their separate ways, get through the pain of bond severance as best they could, and try very hard not to come within a few miles of each other ever again. It wasn't exactly a pleasant prospect.
They assembled at 0600 the next morning. The freighter was due in at eight, and the pilot was heading out now, with the new pier allocation and a glib story about a broken crane. Lookouts had been in position since before dawn, and the rest of the teams would filter in piecemeal over the next hour or so, trying to avoid alerting any spies in the dockyard.
Steve and Danny drove there in Danny's car, while Gray and Rosetti took yet another van. They stationed themselves close to the pier but shielded by a wall of containers, and waited. And waited. They watched as the ship approached the berth and was gently pushed into place by tugs. Dock workers secured the mooring ropes, and then the gangway was set up.
As attention was concentrated on the dock workers, Rosetti sent a couple of the tiny spy-eyes over. They didn't see or hear anything out of the ordinary -- but then, they only saw a tiny proportion of the upper decks. It wasn't worth the risk of discovery to try and get them into the superstructure, where they might have gleaned more information.
They settled into a further period of waiting as the cranes started up and the first batch of containers was offloaded. Danny started to feel thirsty, and wished he'd brought a bottle of water with him. His headache was back, too, but since he didn't have any painkillers on him either, it would just have to ache until they were finished.
Finally, Kono, who had been stationed as lookout, broke radio silence. "I think we may have something," her voice was soft but the excitement came through all the same.
"Talk to me."
"Car just pulled up at the dock. I have a guy who looks a lot like Hesse getting out of it ... yes, he's headed up the ramp. There's a bit of a discussion, some hand waving. I think Hesse is trying to get them to sail early."
"Oh, that's just what I need," groaned Danny.
Steve stood up. "OK, people, let's move in."
Things became a bit of a blur after that. One thing that was clear to Danny though, it was an ambush. A fucking ambush, in spite of all their precautions. The minute they got on board, they were confronted with men spilling out of the doors with machine guns, and if it hadn't been for the Kevlar vests they'd all have been dead.
Danny hunkered down behind a container and wished they had thought of something useful, like team shoelaces. He had no idea if the feet he could see through the gap belonged to a bad guy or not, and he couldn't radio Rosetti or Kono to see if they had visual because that would give his position away.
Thankfully, before the dilemma became unbearable, the guy spoke into his own radio, and it wasn't in English. Danny took his shot, then scrambled out from behind the container. The guy on the ground took a wild shot but missed, and in less than ten seconds Danny had him disarmed, prone and immobilized with cable ties.
"Kono, where's McGarrett? Do you see him?"
"He's on top of a block of containers, with Hesse."
Shit, that wasn't going to end well. "Can you take the shot?"
"No, they're moving too fast. I'd be just as likely to hit McGarrett."
"OK, which direction?"
After a moment's thought he turned to his right and sprinted in between containers and vehicles and ladders until he saw them both silhouetted against the late morning sun. Neither of them was holding a weapon; they were fighting hand to hand, and from this angle it looked like they were evenly matched.
The next thing he knew, there was a sound of shot from his left and Steve was down, blood spraying from his left leg.
He turned and emptied his clip into the crewmember on his left, thankful that the man wasn't wearing a vest, watching the center-of-mass shots bloom red on his shirt. Then there were more shots from up above, but he couldn't see what was happening. He took a moment to reload, because if Hesse had killed Steve then Hesse was going to die, and then hauled himself up over the containers as fast as he possibly could.
Hesse was nowhere in sight, but Steve was down and there was blood everywhere. Danny ran as fast as he could, and hunkered down over him, protecting him as best he could. He hoped that Kono had seen what had happened because he didn't have time to call 911 -- Steve was bleeding to death before his very eyes.
He had to stop the bleeding. It was bright and pulsing, spilling over the container in an ever-expanding pool of red. Danny pulled off his belt and ran it under Steve's leg. The leg was floppy, telling Danny that the bullet had fracture the bone as well, which made him nauseated but didn't stop him getting his improvised tourniquet in place. He tightened it until the bleeding slowed to a trickle, then sat back on his heels, wondering what to do next. He was feeling a bit light-headed himself, probably from the adrenaline.
Steve groaned and coughed. Danny scooped him up and sat behind him, supporting him.
"Steve!" Danny choked. "Don't you dare die on me."
"Not going to die," whispered Steve, struggling up.
"Good. Where's Hesse?"
"Shot him. Went overboard. I didn't see him shoot me."
"He didn't, it was someone else. I got him though."
"Good for you. You got my back." Danny couldn't see Steve's face, but the gentle pat on his arm told him more than words ever could.
"Yeah, I have your back. Always," he whispered.
Steve subsided into unconsciousness then, and Danny held him until the ambulance came roaring up, lights and sirens blaring. Good old Kono, he thought, before he passed out.
He woke in the ER, where he answered a barrage of questions, submitted to an onslaught of tests and was finally told that as well as opening up the week-old wound on his arm, he had a significant concussion -- well, duh, he thought -- and they were going to keep him overnight for observation. The headache was bad enough that he didn't fight them.
He asked about Steve, but information was sketchy. He'd been taken straight to resus and then up to theater, but no one had heard anything since then. Thankfully, Kono turned up before he went completely mad, and he sent her on a fact-finding mission with orders not to come back until she had something concrete.
"How is he?" he asked, as she parted the curtains on her return.
"He's still in surgery," said Kono. "He took a heavy-caliber bullet in the thigh, it fractured the femur and nicked the femoral artery." She looked serious. "He's very lucky you were there. He could have bled out if you hadn't put that tourniquet on him."
He felt sick all over again at the thought of losing Steve, especially losing him the same way he lost Rachel -- he couldn't have survived that. "Is he going to be OK?"
"I think so. The people I spoke to were fairly confident, anyway. He's going to be off-duty for a while, though."
Danny thought about that. If Steve were on sick leave, he might stay in Hawaii a bit longer, and he liked that idea a lot. On the other hand, he was still going to leave one day, and that was going to hurt like a bitch, no matter whether they consummated their bond or not.
"Did we get Hesse?"
Kono's face fell. "We don't know. Commander McGarrett shot him, and he fell in the water, but we haven't found the body."
He grimaced. That was bad news. "We still have Sang Min, right?"
"Right," Kono's voice was a little puzzled.
"Get Chin to talk to him again, get the names of anyone Hesse might have mentioned, anyone Sang Min would normally call on to help someone like that. Make sure we keep an eye on anyone he would go to if he makes it ashore."
"And could someone call my brother? I can't find my phone."
"I'll do that. You should rest. That concussion isn't going to get better if you keep moving around."
"It's just a headache," he said with an attempt at a grin. Thankfully, Kono took it at face value and wandered off, promising to return that evening.
He was transferred to a ward soon afterward, and spent the rest of the morning dozing. He had no appetite for the lukewarm soup and limp sandwich he was given, and as the afternoon wore on, became increasingly anxious about Steve. He wasn't sure how much was justified concern over his injuries and how much was bond stress, but by half-past three he was as twitchy as a junkie. Not even a visit from Grace could help, though he tried hard to put on a cheerful face for her sake. She chattered away for half an hour until Miriam took pity on him and took her home.
After another short nap he alternated between staring at the ceiling and fiddling with the tinny radio built into the bedside unit, until a nurse took pity on him and brought him some magazines from the waiting room. Woman's Day had never been his preferred choice of reading material, but it was better than nothing at all.
He was interrupted an hour later by a visit from Governor Jameson, accompanied by her assistant, the very lovely -- but sadly unappreciative of Danny's charms -- Laura Hills.
"Detective Williams, how are you?"
"Fine, ma'am, apart from a headache."
"Excellent." She paused, then went on. "I've had preliminary reports from the police, FLEA and Customs. It appears that the operation was moderately successful, even if the main target escaped."
"Steve -- Lieutenant Commander McGarrett -- said Hesse was shot and fell in the water."
"Yes, police divers are searching for the body now, and we've posted an alert to local fishermen and marinas. There is a small chance that he could be alive, though."
"Yes." Danny couldn't help feeling a little chagrined at having to admit that. It would have been so much better if they could have pulled a corpse out of the harbor. "The tide was going out, I think."
The governor nodded. "So I was informed. The Office of Coastal Survey has been tasked with tracking the most likely path for an object of that size and weight. If it was carried out to sea, it may wash up on the shore within a week."
"I hope so." He also hoped that Hesse was dead. If he wasn't -- if he had somehow managed to survive and swim to shore unobserved -- then the case was far from over.
The governor spoke again. "I understand I have you to thank for saving Lieutenant Commander McGarrett's life."
"It was just first aid," he said, deprecatingly.
"Nevertheless, it made a difference, and I want to thank you for that. I knew his father, Jack, and it would have been terrible to lose them both in such a short space of time."
"You're welcome," he responded automatically. It was news to Danny that Steve and the governor were acquainted, but he ought to have expected it. This was Hawaii, after all -- everyone knew everyone here.
"How did you find working with the other agencies?" she went on.
Danny thought about that for a minute. "It was certainly good to have everyone on the same page -- once everyone was briefed in it went quite smoothly. And having FLEA and Customs with us meant no chance of a mistrial on jurisdictional grounds."
"That is some consolation. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop me having to placate the Chinese consul when he arrives later this evening. Apparently the freighter captain is claiming some sort of immunity." She made a face, and Danny almost felt sorry for her.
"Sorry about that."
"Not your fault, detective. But I'd appreciate it if you could avoid international entanglements in future."
"I'll do my best. But we did our best, considering that it was McGarrett's connection with the islands that brought Hesse here."
"True. How was working with Lieutenant Commander McGarrett and his team?"
Danny wondered where this was going. Did she have some problem with the Navy getting involved in the case? It had certainly been unusual, but thinking back, he couldn't really see that it would have gone any better under HPD control -- they wouldn't even have known that Hesse was on the island, for a start.
"He's all right," he admitted. "Very professional." Well, most of the time anyway, when he wasn't being a prima donna sentinel, but he wasn't going to tell tales out of school.
She smiled. "I'm glad to hear it. It's never easy for a sentinel to work unbonded, but he seems to manage quite well."
"He does." Danny wondered for a moment if that was a leading question. He wasn't aware of any rumors though, and there was no way that Danny was going to tell the governor about the nascent bond they shared. It was never going to be official anyway, so what was the point?
His concerns were allayed when the governor simply nodded and turned to leave. "I hope you make a rapid recovery, detective. If there's anything you need, please let Laura know."
"Thank you, ma'am, I'll do that."
An hour after that, Kono reported back with his clothes, his phone and a handful of forms to fill in concerning the operation. He took the phone immediately, told Kono to put the clothes in his locker, and grimaced at the paperwork.
"Do I have to do that today?" he asked.
"Chin-Ho says you do."
"But my arm is wounded."
Konno grinned. "You know, that excuse would work a lot better if you were left-handed. But Chin also said that I can take dictation if you can't write. Then I can type it up for you to sign tomorrow or whenever your arm is better." She brandished a ballpoint pen and put the forms on the bed table.
Danny sighed, and started his report.
As soon as Kono had gone, Danny struggled out of bed. He was driven by a compulsion to find Steve and make sure he was all right. After so many hours apart he was getting a headache, and he was fairly certain it had nothing to do with concussion.
Danny made his way to the ward where Steve was being looked after. He flashed his badge at the nurse who looked disapprovingly at his hospital garb and stared at her until she acquiesced and showed him Steve's room.
He entered and stood by the bed, looking down at the man he loved. Steve was lying absolutely still against the raised head of the bed, his leg in a complicated traction arrangement and a bulky dressing on his thigh, with a drain running down to a container hooked over the side of the bed. A catheter was draining into a bag on the other side. He had an IV in each arm, one for blood and one for fluids. His face was pale where it wasn't bruised, and the pallor highlighted how thin he was. Danny felt an overwhelming urge to take him in his arms and make sure that nothing ever harmed him again.
He gently stroked Steve's forehead, murmuring words of comfort and love, and was rewarded by an infinitesimal relaxation of features and the deep, even breaths of true sleep.
Once satisfied that Steve was resting as comfortably as possible, he returned to his own room, and the rest of the day passed more or less quietly. His brother Matt visited in the evening, bringing with him his phone charger, a couple of novels and a change of clothes for the morning. He had another update on the case, this time from Chin-Ho, who looked exhausted. As soon as he had been reassured that Steve was out of surgery and resting comfortably Danny told him to go home and sleep. It was a measure of how tired Chin-Ho was that he didn't even argue, just smiled gratefully and left.
That left Danny along for the night, feeling the gentle tug of the bond towards his sentinel. There was nothing he could do before the morning, though, so he set his phone down and turned out the light.
As soon as he had been cleared the next morning, Danny completed his discharge paperwork and hurried down to Steve's ward. A stern warning from the head nurse that visiting hours didn't start until noon was countered with Danny's police badge and a glare that beat hers into submission. Triumphant, Danny hurried to Steve's room, where he found his sentinel sitting up with a piece of paper in one hand and a phone in the other.
"Danny!" Steve exclaimed with relief. "I was just about to call you. I was worried."
"I'm OK. A bit dinged up but OK." He cast a glance over the traction frame and put his hand tentatively on Steve's, sighing with relief as the contact eased the twitchiness. "Better than you, anyway. Kono says you're going to be off duty for a while."
Steve grimaced. "Yeah. They're going to try and nail the femur next week if the artery heals up, that will make things a lot easier. If not, they'll put in an external fixateur." He shrugged. "Either way it's going to be months before I'm fit for duty again."
"I guess you'll be going back to Virginia for rehab," said Danny slowly.
"Well ..." Steve hesitated. "That's one option."
"There are other options?" Danny asked.
"Umm... the governor just called me," Steve began.
"Yeah, she visited me yesterday. Said congratulations on a job well done and please don't ever do it again."
Steve laughed. "Yes, that more or less. But the thing it, she said that she had been considering what I said about jurisdictional boundaries the other day, and that she was happy with the way the task force came together yesterday. She wants to raise a permanent task force that can do everything when a major case calls for it, with authority across the whole state so we don't have to go through the hoops like we did for this mission."
"Sounds great, if she can make it work. So who's leading, FLEA?"
Steve turned slightly red. "Well, no, she wanted someone who would answer to her, not to Washington."
"So who is it then? Not Aguinaldo, please, I couldn't cope."
"Erm ... she offered me the job."
"She what?" Danny's eyes widened, his brain instantly running ahead with all the possibilities that could mean.
"She said she wants me to set up and head the task force."
"That's ... very courageous of her." He paused. "So, are you going to take it?"
McGarrett nodded. "I thought about turning her down, but then I realized that if I stayed here ... well, that you might consider a job with the task force too. So I said yes."
"You're really going to stay here?"
"Are you sure about this? I had you figured for a life-long military career man."
"I'm sure. I spent a long time thinking about it. I love my job, but it's getting harder and harder for me to be a sentinel without a guide. I didn't realize how bad it was getting until I met you and actually felt well for the first time in months ... years, maybe." He shrugged. "The other night, when we talked, I thought about asking you to be my permanent guide, but I figured you wouldn't leave your daughter."
"I'd never leave Gracie."
"I know. So I thought there was no way to make it work for us. And ... it hurt."
"I know." Danny had been thinking of nothing else the last few days, and he knew exactly how much it hurt.
"And then this offer came out of the blue, and I realized that maybe I could have it all - a job, and a home, and ... you. If you want."
Danny thought about it and looked at the man who was his sentinel, his partner, his other half. This was a completely different McGarrett from the gung-ho special operative Danny had met only a week ago. He was quiet, almost shy as he looked up at Danny under his lashes. He sounded so unsure and hesitant that Danny had leaned over and hugged him before he even realized he was moving. "Idiot," he whispered. "I want."
The kiss that followed was clumsy and awkward and made Danny's back ache from leaning over the bed, but it was perfect, because it meant that Steve would stay here, with Danny and Grace.
"My guide," Steve said in wonder when they finally broke apart.
"Yes, I am. And you are my sentinel, so no more batting those ridiculously long eyelashes at people when you want favors."
"I do not!"
"You do. Shamelessly," he added, grinning at Steve. "But no more, understand? Those eyelashes are mine, like every other part of you."
"Yours," whispered Steve, and the longing in his voice just made Danny hold him even tighter.
"And I'm yours, babe," he confirmed. "Yours for as long as you'll have me."
"For life, then."
They smiled at each other, and Danny thought about how crazy the world was, and how much his life had changed in one short week.
Six weeks later, they moved into the new Task Force office in the Iolani Palace. Danny looked around at the command center in the middle and the glass-walled offices around the perimeter, and couldn't stop grinning. Steve was with him of course (still limping a little but doing much better now that his femur was stabilized by an IM nail) and they'd managed to convince Chin-Ho and Kono to join them. Chin was already in love with the computer table, and Kono was almost bouncing at the thought of getting her very own office. Even better, they'd managed to avoid having any federal agents assigned to the Task Force, so all Danny had to worry about was keeping Steve under control and making sure no one got the jump on them.
Yes, life was starting to look pretty good.