|The Five Lives of Chin Ho Kelly
Author: Paradoqz PM
There's a certain Tao in simply focusing on moving.Rated: Fiction K - English - Chin Ho K. - Words: 2,213 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 1 - Published: 04-21-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6924510
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
TITLE: The Five Lives of Chin Ho Kelly
SHOW: Hawaii 5-O
ARCHIVE: Please ask.
DISCLAIMER: Main characters mentioned belong to CBS. No profit is being made.
Chin Ho Kelly tends to forgive a lot when it comes to Steve McGarrett. It's something of a habit by this point. Early on it was a debt to his old man, who took a hapless rookie under his wing and had shown him the ropes. But that time had passed.
These days Steve is a face that is forever linked in Chin's mind with a new chapter in his life. And he knows that this is a tab that will never be covered. The fact that McGarrett is utterly blind to that reality doesn't change it.
Chin's first life has no clear start; its beginning is hazy and ragged, snatches of memories and vague remembrances of sitting at his grandfather's knee listening to the stories of the glory days. Sean Kelly was a proud scion of the long line of Irish brawlers and troublemakers, and he looked the very image of the stereotype that his name suggested. Even in his declining years only a glint of iron marred the dark red mane and his presence was still a towering and awesome thing, filling to the brim every room he entered (along with the truly overpowering smell of cheap bourbon) .
Sean's memory remained strong to the end as well, even as he embroidered the past and spun the tales more for the effect than accuracy. By the time it was Chin's turn to be exposed to the barrage of Sean's stories, his wife's quiet influence had smoothed some of the old patriarch's rough edges and he made vague efforts to downplay the more disreputable episodes of his early history.
Not very successfully, of course. He was, after all, as proud of his great-uncle Michael, who had fought alongside O'Bannion for the control of Chicago's bloody streets against Capone, as he was of his father's clan whose names had been a fixture of the Windy Cities 'thin blue line' almost since the institution's founding.
The Kellys were born, put on the uniforms and the guns, married, drunk and died. It was the way things were – with the occasional vacation outside Chicago, usually taken on Uncle Sam's dime.
Sean had been too young for the tour of Europe and the cruise of the Pacific that claimed two of his older brothers, but it never even occurred to him to pass up the opportunity to visit scenic Korean peninsula as the 1950s opened with a bang.
He comes away from that war with sure knowledge that the communism is the devil's work, just as the Bishop had told them before Sean ships out for Camp Lejeune; with an iron-strong conviction that the Garand is the best damn rifle this sorry world has ever seen; and with a wife – whose name quickly becomes Diane.
He also never returns to Chicago, founding instead a cadet branch of the Kellys among the sun-swept suburbs of Honolulu.
It is at Sean's knee, more even than his father's, that Chin grows up. Grows up knowing without any real doubt that the only worthy goal in life is encapsulated by a gold-and-blue shield that the gnarled and callused fingers would absently twirl in front of him as the deep basso of his grandfather fills the room.
It is a good life. A shockingly normal and happy one, in fact. He is popular without really trying. Athletics come easy to him, as does his knack for electronics. His grades hold up, his name eases the way, and the Academy is a breeze.
Somewhere between the Graduation and his grandson's first bust, Sean passes away, taking with it Chin's childhood.
Chin's second life is stamped by John, who enters it with silent propriety and guides him through the intricacies of the job that does not, as Chin had once naively supposed, begins and ends at the streets.
Sean Kelly was not a deep man, for all that many a crook rued underestimating his innate intelligence. Yet he was never too concerned with thinking too much about the things that were out of his weight class. Which is, perhaps, why he stayed a beat cop all his life, and was content with it.
Chin wouldn't be, and knows it. But it is John who makes him see what that entails and the work and cost of those amorphous dreams. He gives him tools and names, the keys to that hidden kingdom that get things done, that expedite the tests; that allow favors to be owed not just traded; the words and the looks that get the information instead of strident denials of having seen anything or anyone. He teaches him the unspoken codes of conduct and untold secrets of the life.
It is a harder time. But a happier one too. The easy part is over, but Chin finds that he loves the challenge for its own sake, that the charge of doing a hard job well is an addictive feeling.
And step by step he is building his life.
Until, one day, he turns around and finds himself alone and broken.
John tries to help him even then, but it is too late. Too late for Chin, whose very name has been so thoroughly poisoned that there is no return. Proof is never given but that makes the deathblow all the more effective. Rumor can not be fought, Scuttlebutt reigns eternal and supreme.
McGarrett rages at him, a rare and terrible spectacle out of that grimly reserved man who usually gets by with a narrow range of scowls. But John is out of the loop by then and, for once, he is dealing with something outside his experience. He may have understood what Chin's life has now become – the isolation, the hum of whispers and dirty looks that grow to be its constant background, the rat carcasses left on his desk and car's hood, the demonstrative emptying of tables within near vicinity of his chosen lunch spot…
The chilly voices that answer his calls to the place he used to call home.
John probably does understand. But he doesn't get it. And so he doesn't get how Chin can just… give up. He wants him to fight, to stand his ground, to storm the fortress of gossip and innuendo. But Chin is so very tired by then…
His third life is that of a quitter.
It is restful and anxious, fast and dragging. It blurrs by as if on stuttering fast-forward, giving him just enough time to look around occasionally and wonder how he got there.
He learns how to ride a bike and gets fired from a bar. He finds God for a while, then loses Him somewhere. He surfs and drinks. Then quits from the sheer banality of it.
Nothing really bothers him after a while. There's a certain Tao in simply focusing on moving. Passing through.
There are only three constants in that life.
John is one. Sometimes just disgusted, sometimes silently understanding, but always there. Waiting for something.
No. That's a lie, of course. Chin knows exactly what McGarrett is waiting for – for him to wake up, to find the purpose, to find HIS purpose, to fight for it after all.
But that's John all over. Cop to the very marrow and so waiting is as natural to him as breathing. Hell, he's been waiting for his children for most of his life.
But Chin is not playing. He just tries to keep moving. And if sometimes he remembers that he's moving in circles… Well, then he just speeds up.
The second constant appears when a wave breaks bad and Kono comes home – an invalid before she can legally drink and her entire future a mirage burnt out by the midday's sun.
Sean Kelly had been married five times (twice to Chin's grandmother), so sometimes it seems that Chin has more relatives than the island can contain. But Kono has always been his favorite cousin.
He doesn't even know she's on the island until she shows up at his place. It's another week before the rumors reach him of the truly spectacular hissy fit she throws at her welcome home party when she realizes Chin hasn't been invited.
Somewhere after that she tells him that she wants Chin to help her become a real cop.
He can place exactly when the epiphany strikes him. They are all on the beach, the sun is about to set, Kono is inevitably burning the steaks into something vaguely resembling cured shoe leather and he is (equally inevitably) trying to walk her through the reality of working a crime scene when he turns unexpectedly and catches John watching them with strange contentment over the brim of his beer bottle.
"Old haole fuck," Chin tells him later, still feeling vaguely shell-shocked. "You turned me into you!"
"You wish, rookie." John snorts scornfully.
There is a measure of happiness to be found in that life. Despite the last and greatest constant that feels his stomach with hollow, unrelenting, dull ache. Despite waking up every morning and grabbing for his badge, despite sleeping as much as he wants, despite having too much space in his car, despite getting ticketed for going a mile over the speed limit and cops crossing the street when they see him.
Despite all that. It's a life and it goes on.
Until John dies and Steve comes back.
The life after John is a step off the world's axle. He knows he should feel guilty, he should mourn more, he should not be … happy. But he is.
Even though, in the back of his mind, he knows it won't last, can't last. But here and now – he has the job and he has Kono. Whatever else he may have learned, he has learned to grab the moment. And so he does.
Working cases feels as natural as breathing, even as he has to adjust to the Pattonesque approach of his boss. He feels like a kid again, while feeling older than the hills. Somehow Chin finds himself as the vague Elder of the group.
He shows Kono the ropes, and the pitfalls; and she absorbs the lessons like a sponge.
He tries to teach Steve, but gives up quickly and simply does his best to cover his back in the maze that this McGarrett has never known and is refusing to acknowledge.
Out of inertia more than anything else he even tries to instruct Danny, before the ridiculous awkwardness of those attempts becomes clear to both and they go out for that first quiet drink at O'Shaughnessy's.
Danny is East Coast to the very bone, and so he fights the stress by embracing it. Everything about Hawaii is vaguely ridiculous to him, and he finds the fact that a glorified pirate is his boss less amusing than quietly horrifying. And, of course, he is in constant state of terror that when the team is disbanded he will lose his daughter.
But he is still a consummate cop and a professional. In fact, Chin sees a lot of himself in Danny. Tacit understanding emerges quickly after that.
Neither is sure whether the other two ever realize what Danny and Chin are doing for (and to) them, but paperwork gets done, Kono's name is surrounded by a slender firewall insulating her from the worst of the team's reputation and giving her a ghost of a chance.
Steve is trained, in secret and by subterfuge, through vague insults and careful suggestions. He is not an idiot, of course, but it is easier for him this way, and so Chin obliges. As does Danny.
Kono is easier and not. But always a joy and wonder to watch. And even as she plunges with sunnily grim determination into the work of becoming a cop - she looks in on him, nags him into eating right, into leaving his house and asking someone out. Dragging him out of the cocoon of work he so happily wrapped around himself.
Until she sleeps with Danny and Chin's life gets rapidly surreal for a while.
But he adjusts – not as if she gives him a choice in the matter really. And somewhere in the middle of all of this he becomes Uncle Chin and understands why Grace is not allowed ice cream before bed, why giving her a drum set was a mistake, and learns to loathe Justin Bieber with a passion of wronged Samurai.
And every day is a bonus.
That life ends in fire and blood, outside a burning mansion, as Danny cradle's his ex-wife's head in his lap, white-lipped and empty-eyed, focused utterly on trying to stop the bleeding.
Chin's next life begins and ends in darkness, following Steve down the rabbit-hole, tracking Gracie and Victor Hesse.