Characters: Steve/Danny, Grace, appearances by other main characters
Word Count: 13,425
Prompt/Summary: Written for the stevedannoslash After Holidays Prompt Fest. The prompt: A/U. Steve is raising his daughter Grace alone; he left the SEALs to care for her after her mother was killed. He was never with her mother; Steve always knew he was gay, but was trying to be straight to please his father. Grace was the result of Steve's only night with a woman.
Danny transferred to the HPD after his wife/child were killed in a mob hit in NJ; he needed to get as far away from the memories as possible. He ends up working on Steve's task force, but has a hard time seeing Steve and Grace together. It doesn't take long for Steve to fall in love with Danny, but he's too scared to do anything about it. Danny doesn't want to feel anything anymore, but is still drawn to Steve. Grace decides to take matters in to her own hands, and make the family she's always wanted.
I got to a fair bit of the prompt, but you kind of have to turn your head a bit sideways and squint to see the last bit - sorry!
Title is from the Vienna Teng song Daughter.
Author's thanks: Dear sweet mercy, I feel like I ran this through half of fandom, seriously. Eternal thanks to race_the_ace , who read parts of this even though babies are mentioned; bluespirit_star for providing an absolutely amazing beta job on the first half of this when I started having a panic attack about it; camshaft22 for telling me on more than one occasion that no, Ki, this really doesn't suck; padfootthegrim and stormylullabye and theeverdream for providing the world's quickest beta jobs ever and I owe them so many cookies (August! I will bring them!); and, finally, to calcitrix and clwilson2006 , because these ladies have little to no knowledge of the Hawaii Five-0 'verse and yet both patiently listened and let me rant about The Feelings Story for a week while patting my back. At this point, it is quite literally entirely my fault if there are any mistakes left in this. A million, trillion thanks to all of you, because eesh, needy writer is needy. This would never have happened without you ladies!
Steve gets the call on a Thursday. He’s back in Hawaii in less than thirty hours, which is a goddamned feat of determination and more than a few threats. He walks into the hospital without a word, flipping his identification at anyone who tries to stop him, until he’s standing outside the right room.
Catherine looks small and pale and fragile, nothing like the woman she is or the girl she’d been. There’s purple bruising along her face, and everything that’s not in a cast is swollen. There are tubes and wires and things Steve can’t begin to identify hooked up to her, and he has to take a steadying breath before walking down the hall and ducking into the family waiting room.
“Steve,” he hears, and he turns to find Marilyn Rollins smiling the most heartbreaking smile at him from across the room. He’s by her side in a heartbeat, wrapping his arms around her and feeling the trembling in her frame as she returns the embrace. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“Of course,” he murmurs into her hair. “Cath is my best friend, Marilyn. And Gracie-” Steve’s breath catches. “Where’s Gracie?”
“Daddy?” a small voice says from behind him, and as Steve turns, a tiny form hurtles across the room towards him. Steve is bending before he finishes turning, and in a matter of seconds, he’s holding his five-year-old tightly to his chest as she wraps her arms around his neck.
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” she repeats again and again into his shoulder. “Mommy got hurt, Daddy. Can you make her better?”
Steve breathes in against the ache in his chest and runs his hand through Gracie’s hair. “I don’t know, munchkin,” he murmurs as Roger Rollins walks over to his wife. “I just don’t know.”
“Okay,” Grace replies, still clinging to him for all she’s worth.
Steve knows the feeling.
Cath doesn’t look any better when Steve finally musters up the courage to sit by her bed for a little while. He’s always been shit at this whole thing, the bedside manner stuff; Cath knows that, had seen it as Steve had sat vigil by his father’s deathbed when Grace was only a few months old.
Grace. Grace, his biggest fluke in life, the one thing he treasures more than every other damn thing on the planet put together, the only thing that could ever make him consider leaving the Navy. He’d hooked up with Cath exactly one time; his father had just been diagnosed, he’d been desperate, and she’d understood the whole thing. They’ve known each other since high school, when he was the quarterback and she the captain of the soccer team. She’s the one he came out to his sophomore year, the one who’d rubbed his back when he’d shown up, shaking, after he’d told his dad. When he’d shown up at her door after driving away from the hospital, she hadn’t even blinked as she gathered him in. And in the morning, when he’d had a breakdown about using her and enjoying it, she’d cleaned him up and calmed him down and put him back together.
And then, a few weeks later, she’d told him she was pregnant.
His father had been overjoyed, and Steve could only be grateful that it seemed to push his father harder. He swore he’d live to see his grandbaby, come hell or high water, and Steve is still convinced that Grace is what kept his dad around for so long.
Cath, in her infinite wisdom, had gracefully declined when Steve had proposed. “We’ll both be miserable,” she’d said gently. “Don’t let your father push you into something you don’t really want.” He was living in her guest room at the time, helping her to appointments, making her ridiculous ice cream sundaes when she woke up cranky after a nap, and generally trying to do the right thing by her without having the slightest idea what the right thing was.
Grace was born on a Monday. Steve woke to Cath yelling and groaning from her bedroom, and Steve leapt up and had her and their bags in the car in less than ten minutes. He’d held her hand the whole time and tried not to think too much about what was actually going on, but then there had been a long groan from Cath and a shrill, angry sound from the other end of the table, and Steve had dropped her hand and turned to look at the tiny wailing bundle in the nurse’s arms.
It was the first and only girl that Steve had ever loved, right there, and he took in a sharp breath as the nurse laid the baby in his arms.
Steve smiles as he thinks back to the day, how happy he’d been, how happy Cath had been. And sure, it’s been a little difficult since then – Cath had had to take a job on the island in order to stay with Grace, and Steve didn’t get to see his baby girl nearly as often as he would have liked – but Grace is growing up strong and beautiful, and things are going pretty well.
Or they were until Cath’s car had been hit dead-on, until she’d fallen into a coma, until Steve had gotten a phone call about brain damage and uncertainty and Cath probably going to die. Until he’d had to rush home to watch as his best friend slipped away, until he’d had to hold their daughter and try to think of how he was going to explain this to her.
Steve sighs and grabs for Cath’s hand, holding it gently in his fingers. He traces the cast with his thumb as he sits, waits, hopes against hope.
She passes away less than five hours after Steve gets there.
Everything is a blur after the machines start making their terrifying noises, pulling nurses and doctors into the room. They shoo him out and fly around, moving this way and that and crowding Cath’s bed for what seems like days, keeping her from view. Marilyn is gripping his arm like a vice as she stands beside him, staring into the room; Frank is on her other side, tears already rolling down his face. Grace is, thankfully, asleep. She doesn’t even stir when Steve takes her from Marilyn’s arms and cradles her gently, and Steve tries desperately to think of the words he can use to explain to her that Mommy isn’t going to wake up, that they’re going to have to bury her, oh, Christ, Cath.
Because that’s a grim-faced doctor coming out of her room, speaking levelly and quietly, that’s Marilyn letting out the most god-awful sound he’s ever heard, those are his own knees threatening to give out as the doctor offers them his condolences.
It’s hazy after that, making arrangements and letting people know. The next clear thought Steve has is at the funeral, wearing his smart dress blues and Gracie’s little hand in his own, her face tear-streaked as she tugs on his hand and asks him why Mommy has to sleep under all the dirt. He accepts condolences and murmured words of comfort and doesn’t think about what comes next, doesn’t think about tomorrow. He has no idea what he’s doing tomorrow; as of this point last week, his plans had been to arrive in Algeria tomorrow, but that’s clearly no longer on the agenda.
Then he’s at his house, Grace curled up in his lap as he slumps on the couch, Marilyn and Roger hesitantly offering to take Grace in, to raise her, and he’s not sure how to turn them down without seeming ungrateful, but Grace is his. He owes it to Cath – owes it to Grace herself – to stay with his baby, to be her father; he’s already put in the paperwork to transfer to the Reserves. Marilyn must see it in his face, because she gives him the same watery smile that she had in the hospital and kisses his cheek before pulling Roger out the door.
And now Steve is alone in the house he inherited from his father, wondering what his life is going to be like.
Governor Jameson isn’t what Steve was expecting. For one, there is not a single bullshitting bone in her body; when she tells him what you see is what you get, Steve believes her without hesitation. She explains what she wants in no uncertain terms before leaning back into the chair on Steve’s lanai, taking another swig from the beer she’d asked him for. Grace is playing in the sand a few feet away, moving it from one pile to another as Steve watches her intently.
“I’m sorry about your wife,” Jameson says after a silence that’s gone on for probably too long. Steve jerks his head, never looking away from his daughter.
“We weren’t married,” he tells her. Sometimes half-truths are better, but sometimes people need to know all the details; if the Governor is seriously considering giving him this position, she needs to know. “Cath was my best friend, Governor, since high school. She’s one of only a very few people who knew about me.” He hesitates, thinks in for a penny, and adds, “I’m gay.”
To her credit, she doesn’t even blink. “Then Grace isn’t-”
“She is,” Steve cuts in. He gives her a lopsided smile. “It’s a little complicated.”
“I see,” Jameson replies, taking another swig of the beer.
There’s another stretch of silence before Jameson stands. “I know you have a lot on your plate right now, Commander,” she says gently. “But I’d really like you to consider my offer.”
“I’ll think about it,” Steve says, standing to shake her hand, already knowing he’s going to decline. His eyes flick over to Grace as he picks up his empty beer bottle. She’s still moving sand from one pile to another, singing something under her breath.
Jameson takes the empty bottles from him and smiles a little when he turns to look at her. “I’ll rinse them and leave them on the counter,” she tells him. “You stay with your daughter.”
Steve watches her go inside and hears the water turn on before he sits back down to watch Grace play.
Steve changes his mind about the Governor’s offer two weeks after Cath dies.
He’s mostly been wandering through his days, trying to settle himself and Grace into this new life of theirs. He took her to the Home Depot and let her pick out obscenely bright colors for her room, and they’d spent time turning everything purple and lime green. It’s a truly atrocious sight to behold, but Grace absolutely adores it, so Steve resigns himself to repainting in a few years and goes with it. Roger and Marilyn come for supper twice a week, and everything still feels rough around the edges, but it seems like they’re all finally starting to settle.
It’s Saturday morning, and Steve and Grace are in their pajamas on the couch, watching Spongebob and Patrick amble around underwater. Grace had woken around daybreak screaming, sobbing for her mother, and Steve had held her helplessly until she’d worn herself out. He’d carried her into his bedroom and curled around her as well as he could, trying to shield her dreams, hoping she’d get a few sound hours of sleep.
Out of nowhere, there’s a knock on the door. Steve is instantly on alert; he can’t put fifteen years of training behind him, especially not when his daughter is involved in the situation. He tucks Grace carefully into the crook of the couch where she’s hidden from view and makes his way to the front door, opening it a crack with his left hand while keeping his right lightly on the semiautomatic he’d retrieved from the top of the bookcase.
“Commander McGarrett,” the man on the porch says, flashing a badge almost too quickly for Steve to see. “Detective Danny Williams, HPD.”
Steve assesses him quickly. He’s short but solid, broad in the shoulders, and carries himself confidently. He’s clearly not from around here – he’s wearing a tie, for crying out loud – but he’s also not a rookie. The easy way he carries the weight of the gun on his hip can attest to that.
“Detective,” Steve nods when he’s done, only a few seconds after Williams stopped speaking. “What can I do for you?”
Williams hesitates. “Look, can I come in? This is kind of – it’s not really the happiest news, and I’d really rather not deliver it on your porch.”
Steve tenses, thinking of Marilyn and Roger, thinking about Mary somewhere on the mainland. He steps back and opens the door silently, making his way back to where Grace is still nestled in the couch, eating Apple Jacks out of the box.
“Who’s here, Daddy?” she chirps, twisting as Steve enters the room. Williams trails after, and Steve turns to make introductions. The words die on his lips as he takes in Williams’ appearance: tense, closed-off, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else doing anything else. Steve’s not sure what could have possibly prompted the reaction, so he makes his way to his daughter’s side.
“Grace,” he says as he swings her up into his arms, “this is Detective Williams. He’s a police officer.”
Grace regards him solemnly before extending her hand. Williams takes it gingerly and shakes it once before dropping it like it’s on fire.
“I’m Grace Elizabeth McGarrett,” she says. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
Something in Williams’ expression cracks, and he lets a tentative smile through the mask on his face. “It’s nice to meet you, too,” he tells her, before looking up at Steve. “I have to talk to your dad for a little while. Is that okay with you?”
Grace nods and wiggles in the universal sign for ‘put me down, Daddy.’ She flops back onto the couch and picks up the Apple Jacks again, already absorbed in Spongebob.
“We’re going out on the lanai,” Steve tells her, gesturing for Williams to go through the kitchen. “Come get me if you need me, okay, munchkin?”
“Okay,” Grace replies, throwing him a sweet smile that’s so much Cath it makes his chest ache.
“Cute kid,” Williams offers as Steve walks out onto the lanai.
“Thanks,” Steve replies. “She looks like her mother.”
“Eh, she’s got your eyes,” Williams says. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Yeah,” Steve tells him. “Thanks.”
There’s a weighted silence this time, like Williams is trying to decide how to say whatever he’s got to say. “Look, that’s kind of why I’m here,” he finally gets out. “I’m working on Ms. Rollins’ case.”
Steve feels the bottom of his stomach drop out. “What case?” he forces himself to ask.
Williams meets his eyes steadily. “There’s reason to believe that Ms. Rollins was murdered, Commander.”
Steve sits heavily in the chair he’s been standing beside. “Cath was murdered?” he asks faintly. “Who – why-”
“We’re not sure yet,” Williams is telling him, and his eyes are looking out over the ocean, not focusing on Steve at all. “There’s evidence that points to a few possibilities. I just stopped by to ask you a few questions and to inform you about the investigation.”
“A few possibilities,” Steve repeats. “What possibilities?”
“I can’t discuss an ongoing investigation,” Williams says patiently, finally meeting Steve’s eyes again. “Can you tell me when you last spoke to Ms. Rollins?”
“No, no, let’s go back to the part where you have reason to believe that Cath was murdered, you have leads, and you won’t share them with me,” Steve replies. “What are you looking at?”
Williams is visibly biting back the urge to get annoyed, Steve can see. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly before repeating himself. “I can’t discuss an ongoing investigation.”
“Look, I was Navy, I was in Naval Intelligence, I might be able to help,” Steve tries a little desperately. “What’s going on?”
“I understand that you want to help,” Williams says. “That’s good, Commander, it really is, but the thing that will help the most right now is for you to just answer my questions and let me do my job, okay?”
Steve stares at him for a moment before yanking out his cell phone and paging through his recent calls. It’s not too far down the list; he doesn’t get that many calls these days.
“What are you-” Williams begins, but Steve holds up a finger and he stops.
“Governor,” Steve says into the phone. “I changed my mind.”
Williams hadn’t been lying when he’d said there was evidence; it takes Steve days to sort through it all, and before he’s halfway done he’s already decided that he knows whose help he needs.
He shows up at Williams’ apartment with Grace in tow four days after the detective had come to his home. Williams opens the door with a frown on his face and opens his mouth, but shuts it with an audible click when he notices Grace hugging Steve’s leg.
“I need your help,” Steve says without preamble, taking Grace’s hand and walking past Williams into the apartment.
Williams isn’t happy. It’s not hard to see, and it’s just as simple to discern the reasoning; Steve has swept in and taken his case from him without so much as asking, and now he’s barging back into the man’s life and dangling it in front of his face.
“Look,” he says patiently. “I need a partner who does things differently. I need someone with fresh eyes, someone who’s gonna call me on my…” He waves his hand, indicating what he means as his eyes slide to Grace, who’s looking interestedly through the magazine Steve had bought for her on the way here. “Stuff. You know.”
Williams doesn’t look at Grace, even though he’s sitting less than two feet from her. “And you want me why, exactly?”
Steve shrugs. “Something tells me you’re the kind of guy who isn’t going to let me get away with things.”
Williams smiles the first smile Steve has seen out of him. It’s sharp-edged and twisted and not at all humorous. “You’re probably right about that.”
“Good,” Steve replies evenly. “Look, I know I’m probably not your favorite person right now-”
“You’re not,” Williams interjects.
“-but I need you,” Steve continues. “I’m doing you the courtesy of asking.”
“What, you think you could get my cooperation by ordering me to do it?” Williams rolls his eyes and snorts as his hands move, fast and sure, punctuating his words. “I’m not one of your Army boys, Commander.”
“Navy,” Steve corrects automatically. “And no, that’s not what I meant. When the Governor put me in charge, she said I could have whoever I want, no questions asked. I could have you pulled from HPD and sitting in the office next to mine without even breaking a sweat, but I’m asking instead.”
“Ah.” Williams seems to deflate a little. “Well, since you asked so nicely, and it was my case to begin with…”
“Thanks,” Steve says, honestly relieved that he’s not going to have to figure this out from scratch again. “Just – thanks.”
“Who’s that?” Grace pipes up from the end of the couch, and Steve turns to see her pointing to a framed photograph on the end table. It’s of a stunningly beautiful woman and a young girl, about seven or eight, if Steve had to guess. They’re sitting on a tree branch about eight feet off the ground, and they’re laughing about something, happiness forever caught in a four-by-six frame.
“My wife and my baby doll,” Williams says after a minute, and he’s got that strangled note in his voice again as he leans over and snatches it from the table, running his fingers across the glass. “Rachel and Julia.”
Steve has been reading body language and context clues for long enough to know that the people in the photograph are dead. It’s in the lack of a wedding ring on the detective’s finger, the hunch of his shoulders, the crease between his eyebrows. Steve sees Grace open her mouth, probably to ask about them, so he tosses his arm across her shoulders and draws her into his side before she can get a word out.
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly, standing and making his way to the door. He pauses before stepping out. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Yeah,” Williams replies distractedly. He never once looks away from the photo as Steve and Grace shut the door behind themselves.
Steve beats Williams to the office the next day, but it’s only by a matter of minutes. Steve can only stare at the man as he walks in, wearing crisply ironed slacks, a neat dress shirt, and a tie.
“What?” Williams asks after a minute. “What, did I drop crumbs on me or something?”
“You just-” Steve hesitates, gesturing with one hand. “How long you been on the island again?”
Williams throws his hands into the air. “Fuck you and your island,” he says with the air of someone who’s had this fight a thousand times. “There is nothing wrong with the way I dress. This, this is called professional attire, my friend. Whereas you-” He stops, squints, continues. “Are you wearing cargo pants, McGarrett? Seriously?”
Steve shrugs. “They’re comfortable. And it’s practical to wear something like this, rather than what you’re wearing.”
“Practical?” Williams has a funny little edge to his voice, like he can’t decide if he should be laughing or shouting, so he’s trying to keep from doing either. He’s kind of failing at it, though, because his voice keeps rising as he speaks. “How is it practical to look like you’re still in high school while acting as an officer of the law?”
Steve looks up at the man as he responds. “Easier to clean the bloodstains out of mine. They’re also cheaper to replace if it comes to that.”
Williams stares at him for a solid thirty seconds before turning on his heel and making his way to the next office.
Steve grins. This is going to be fun.
“Hey,” he says when he enters the other office. Williams is arranging things on his desk, files and folders and that one photo. “I had some questions about the things in that evidence file of yours.”
Williams follows Steve out of his office into the main room. Steve spreads a few of the papers on the conference table, and they spend the morning poring over reports and photos and eyewitness accounts. Williams finally pushes away from the table with a sigh.
“Lunch,” he says firmly. “Come on, McGarrett. Even you have to eat.”
Steve glances at his watch, surprised to find that it’s nearly 1500. “I’m supposed to get Grace in an hour,” he murmurs. There’s an absolute sort of stillness after that, and when Steve glances up, Williams has a stricken look on his face. Steve files the information away and smoothly stands. “Pizza? I’m buying.”
There’s a flicker of something that might be relief, might be gratefulness, before Williams stands as well. “I bet you’re one of those pineapple-on-pizza freaks of nature, aren’t you?” Steve shrugs as he heads for the door, and Williams continues, clearly building up a head of steam. “That, my friend, is just wrong. Pizza – real pizza, mind you, the kind that I apparently cannot get in this pineapple-infested hellhole - real pizza, McGarrett, is dough and sauce and mozz. That is it. Maybe, maybe once in a blue moon, sausage can be added, but this?” He waves expansively, indicating pretty much the entire island, maybe the whole state. “This, it’s just wrong. Fruit has a time and a place, and neither of those are when pizza is involved.”
They’ve been making their way towards the parking lot the whole time, and Williams has stopped next to a sleek silver Camaro. He opens the door and looks over at Steve expectantly.
“Come on, get in,” Williams says, sliding into the driver’s seat. “Buckle up, let’s go, I’m starving, McGarrett.”
“Steve,” he replies, buckling his seat belt.
Williams blinks. “Steve,” he repeats. “Okay. Okay, I can do that.”
He starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot without saying another word.
“Daddy!” Grace beams at him, jumping into his arms as soon as Steve walks through the door. “Me and Nana made cookies today!”
Marilyn gives him a tired smile as she comes out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “I made up a tray of them for you to take into the office.”
“Thanks,” Steve replies as he takes the cookies from Marilyn and sets them on the end table. “How was she today?”
“She’s an angel,” Marilyn says fondly, rubbing her hand over Grace’s back as she snuggles into Steve’s neck. “I’m glad you decided to let her stay here while you’re at work, Steve.”
“Where else would I send her?” Steve asks with a frown.
Marilyn shrugs. “There are a lot of wonderful day care services around-”
“Please tell me you’re kidding me,” Steve says, setting Grace down. “Marilyn, why would I put her in some sort of day care when there’s family around?”
Marilyn looks at him for a second before smiling and leaning in to hug him tightly. Steve wraps his arms around her automatically as she speaks into his shoulder. “I always forget that you’re one of the really good guys,” she tells him, pulling back. “Steve, I have to think that a lot of people in this situation wouldn’t try so hard to keep us in Grace’s life.”
“Oh,” Steve responds to that, mostly because he’s not sure what else he could say. “Well, she’s your granddaughter as much as she’s my baby, Marilyn. You and Roger and me, we’re all she knows.” His voice goes soft, pained. “I’m not taking anything else from her if I can help it. Not now, not ever.”
Marilyn gives him one last squeeze before stepping away. “Grace, go gather your things, sweetie.” As Grace skips out of the room, Marilyn turns back to Steve. “How’s the investigation going?”
The smile slips from Steve’s face. He’d called Marilyn and Roger immediately after Williams had left his house that first day; the man had already been to see them. Steve knows that he’s not technically supposed to, but he’s keeping them in the loop as far as the investigation goes. “Slowly.”
“Is there anything we can do?”
Steve smiles and tilts his head towards the tray of cookies. “These should help. I’m pretty sure my new partner can be bribed with baked goods.”
Marilyn lets out a soft laugh. “If that’s so, Steve, you just let me know. There’s more where those came from.”
Steve laughs as Grace comes back into the room with her backpack, stuffed to the brim with things she just couldn’t go without for the day. It looks like she hasn’t even opened it. “Ready, Daddy?”
“Give your Nana a hug,” Steve instructs, picking up the cookie tray. Grace flings her arms around Marilyn, and Steve watches as Marilyn carefully closes her arms around Grace. Her eyes close as she hugs the little girl, and she only lets go when Grace starts to wriggle against her.
“I’ll keep you up-to-date,” Steve promises as he swings Grace up into one arm, backpack and all. She giggles as he blows a raspberry into her neck. “Ready, munchkin?”
“Ready, Daddy,” she chirps as they walk out the door and head home.
Grace wakes up with nightmares again that night. The screams tear Steve out of his own sleep and have him running down the hall, gun in hand, finding his daughter tangled in her own sheets, tossing as she sobs in her sleep. He cradles her to him, shushing her gently, rubbing her back until she drops off, only to wake again a few hours later.
“What’s so scary, munchkin?” he asks gently the third time he wakes her up and calms her down.
“I miss Mommy,” she says into his shirt. “I want to give her a hug and make cookies with her and sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
“I’ll sing with you,” Steve tries helplessly, but Grace just shakes her head and breathes shakily against him.
Steve answers the knock on the door the next morning on autopilot, stepping aside quickly as his partner bustles right in, already going at a million miles an hour.
“Here’s the thing, see,” Williams starts, spinning so he’s facing Steve, who’s sipping at his tea as he shuts the door. “You, I don’t even know, you’ve gotta know that this case, it’s like the worst possible case for me. I don’t think you know that, you need to know that, I don’t want to be on this case.”
“Oh.” Steve pulls his mug away from his face with a frown. “Um, sorry. I didn’t – you can go back to HPD if it bothers you that much, Williams, I thought-”
“That’s just it,” Williams spits out. “I can’t. I cannot let this case go. It is going to rip me into shreds, and working with you, God, I’m going to kill myself if you don’t do it for me, but I’m so fucking grateful that you-”
“Swear jar!” Grace calls from the kitchen, and Steve watches Williams freeze and close off between one heartbeat and the next.
“You’re with your kid,” he says, like the words are burning him from the inside. “I’ll just – I’ll see you at the office. Sorry.”
And then he walks back out the door, climbs into his car, and drives away.
It’s less than half an hour before Steve gets to the office – Grace had been finished with her Apple Jacks by the time Williams barged in, so it hadn’t taken long to gather her up and get her to Marilyn’s. Steve tosses his keys onto his desk and boots his computer, mind half on the case and half on his possibly-unwilling partner.
There’s a knock on his office door, and the man in question leans his head in. Steve tilts his head and Williams walks in, dropping into the chair across from Steve’s desk.
“What’s on your-” Steve starts, but Williams holds up a hand and Steve stops mid-sentence. There’s a pause for a few seconds, and then the hand moves from midair to pinching the bridge of Williams’ nose.
“Look, I have to say a few things, and it’s really going to be easier if I can just – go with this, I guess, so let me, let me just-”
There’s another pause before Steve softly says, “Okay,” and Williams lets out a breath.
“This case, okay, it came across my desk when the accident happened. And I look into it, because I am good at my job, and I notice these things that just don’t add up, so I open a formal investigation. I track down a few leads, I rant and rave at the saint-like Detective Hanamoa for a while, and then I go to visit the victim’s family, because that’s what a detective does, right, they talk to families.”
It’s like he’s reciting facts out of a handbook as he stares at the wall somewhere over Steve’s shoulder. “And then, okay, I meet the woman’s parents, and they’re nice and clearly grieving and don’t know anything, not a damn thing, this is immediately apparent to me. So I go to the second home on my list of two, and the door is opened by this giant guy who is wearing pajamas and has hair sticking up all over the place, and he brings me inside and his daughter introduces herself, right, like any polite kid would do. Only I freeze up, see, because-”
Steve waits the silence out. That pinched, pained look is back on Williams’ face. “I freeze up,” Williams finally continues, softly now. “I can’t even talk for a few seconds, because I’m remembering Julia, right, the first time she met my new partner back in Hoboken. She held her hand out, and she goes, ‘My name is Julia Williams, it’s very nice to meet you,’ and it’s all I can think when I look at that little girl trying to shake my hand.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve says quietly. Williams nods and closes his eyes.
“Nineteen months ago,” he says, “I was working a case back home. Big thing, mob boss, the whole nine yards, and I’m lead on the case. It’s going well, we’re getting all the evidence we need to finally get this asshole off the streets, and then one day I get into the office and there’s a message blinking on my machine. And it’s this voice, right, just leaving a phone number, so I call it back – sometimes tipsters, you know, weirder things have happened.” He shrugs a shoulder. “And the guy answers the phone and I introduce myself, and he laughs a little, this creepy fucking sound that haunts my goddamned nightmares, and he asks me if I hugged my kid before I left my house this morning, if I told my wife I loved her.”
His eyes open and he finally, finally looks at Steve. “By the time I got home, they were both – and the house was on fire, insult to injury, right?” His smile is a shadow, twisting his face, and it looks like it’s physically painful. “They were everything, my whole life, and the longer I stayed and tried to put the pieces back together the more I realized that the pieces just weren’t there any more.” He spreads his hands in front of himself. “So I got the hell out of there. Left the memories, left the ghosts, I even left my fucking wedding ring with my mother because looking at it was just-”
“That’s why Gracie bothers you so much,” Steve replies after a minute. “Fuck. I’m so sorry, man.”
Williams’ expression shifts to a strange little smile as he shakes his head, looking down into his lap. “Thing of it is, you are one of maybe six people I don’t want to punch in the face when they offer sympathy, because you’ve been there, at least to some degree.”
Steve swallows past the lump in his throat and nods. “Cath was my best friend,” he says, and he can’t quite keep the pain out of his voice; it’s still too fresh. “Grace – Jesus, Williams. I can’t even-”
“Don’t try,” Williams replies, voice serious. “It’s pretty much the most god-awful thing you can imagine, but worse.”
There’s another silence; Steve’s trying to process the information he’s just heard, and Williams just looks wrung out. It’s a few minutes before he speaks again.
“That’s why I can’t drop this case, even though I’m seeing ghosts in every corner,” Williams says. “We got my guy, put him away, but I remember the search, remember how terrible everything was. If I can help you put your guy away…”
“Thank you,” Steve replies, oddly touched. “Cath wasn’t – we weren’t together, not like that, but we were friends for a long time. It means – thanks, Williams.”
The other man regards him for a long time, head tilted, considering. Finally, he cracks the barest hint of a smile. “Danny.”
“Danny,” Steve repeats, giving his own small smile in return.
“Yeah,” Danny replies. “I pour my heart out to someone, I’d like to think I like them enough to have them call me by my name.”
Steve smiles fully, and there’s a kind of peace in the office for a moment. It’s ruined, of course, by a knock on the door and a familiar face poking in. “Daddy!”
“I’m sorry, Steve,” Marilyn says as Grace rushes into Steve’s arms. “I have to take Roger to the doctor – nothing serious, don’t you worry – and I forgot about it until he reminded me just now. It’s no place for a five-year-old. I’ll only be an hour, two at the most.” She glances around, smiling as her eyes land on Danny. “Detective. Did you like the cookies?”
“They were excellent, ma’am,” Danny replies as he stands. He shoots Steve an indecipherable look as he leads Marilyn from the office, leaving Steve with Grace.
“I brought my coloring book,” she tells him, tugging on the zipper of her backpack. Steve takes it from her and gently unzips it, pulling the coloring book and a pack of crayons from the bag and setting them on his desk. Grace leans over and opens the book, showing Steve what she’s already finished in the book.
Danny sticks his head back in, looking directly at Steve, never letting his gaze drift down to the little girl in his lap. “I’m just gonna-”
He jerks his thumb over his shoulder at his office and Steve nods, a little surprised by how easily they’ve fallen into the sort of nonverbal communication that usually takes a while to develop. Steve stands Grace up before rising himself, and he leads her over and situates her on the couch by the window before heading into Danny’s office.
“So I’ve got an idea,” he begins, sitting in Danny’s office chair.
Steve’s idea is kind of simple in that it doesn’t have many steps, and ridiculously difficult in that, the next day, the subject of said idea is staring at them like they’ve grown extra heads.
“No,” Chin says flatly, looking between the two men on the other side of the table. “Either you have no idea what you’re asking me, or you’re an asshole, McGarrett.”
“Asshole,” Danny immediately jumps in. Steve shoots him a scowl before turning back to Chin.
“We need someone with local experience and connections,” he coaxes. “You’re that guy, Chin.”
The problem with the plan, Steve thinks, is that Chin Ho Kelly is one stubborn son-of-a-bitch. It’s one of the things that made him a good cop, that unwillingness to let things be, but it’s also one of his more infuriating character traits.
“Find someone else,” Chin tells him, rising from the table and walking away.
Steve watches him leave, at a loss for the right words. He’d known, of course, that convincing his dad’s old partner to join his task force wouldn’t be easy, but he’d expected Chin to at least listen for more than a few sentences before telling him to shove it.
“Here’s the thing,” Danny says when Chin’s almost to the door. “The thing, the real thing of it is - asshole or no, he’s right, Kelly. We need someone local, someone with connections, someone who doesn’t have too many ties to anything in particular. Someone who wants this.”
Chin is stopped dead in the doorway, one hand curled tightly around the frame. His other is very perfectly still by his side as Danny continues. “You’re right, too. He has no idea what he’s asking you to do here.” Steve opens his mouth, but shuts it when Danny shoots him a glare. “He has no fucking idea what it would mean to put a badge back on you. He’s not a cop.” There’s a pause, a head tilt. “I am. I get it. I know, and I’m still asking.”
Chin’s free hand is now pressed to his thigh, and Steve can see the tension in every muscle of the man’s back. Finally, he turns his head back over his shoulder to look at Danny.
“You know this is it, right?” he asks, voice low, and Danny just nods. Chin closes his eyes as he lets out a breath. He opens them a moment later and gives a decisive nod. “Okay. I know a guy.”