Sammy and Ilna, as always, thanks for being your awesome selves. I learned this past week, just exactly how close our friendship has become. We worry about each other like family, and that's as REAL, honest and heartfelt a friendship as there is. Much love to you, ladies.

And thanks to both of you for the feedback on this one and for the proofing, Ilna.

#REALMcRollers, readers, guests, friends, you're the best! Thank you for once again breaking our records! 10,639 views on 12 Days of Nonna! And 100s of Tweets and favors! Thank you all, so very much. Your support of The REAL World and love and respect for Steve and Catherine means so much to all of us. We promise, they'll ALWAYS be safe with us!

Xoxox and Nonna hugs! Mari


A Man Like That

Monday, 4:00 p.m.
Camp Paumalu - Comsat Road Paumalu (Haleiwa)
North Shore of O'ahu

Steve McGarrett ended a call with his partner and glanced at his reflection in the rear view mirror of his truck. A shoot-out with three suspects and subsequent hand-to-hand battle had left him not too worse for wear in his own estimation, but he took an alcohol pad out of the first aid kit on the passenger seat, swiped the cuts on his knuckles and grabbed another to wipe the dried blood from his split lip. A move he'd never have thought of five years before.

Wincing slightly at the sting, he glanced down at his torn and blood flecked button-down and stepped out of the truck to shrug it off. Stowing the first aid kit and the shirt in the back seat, his lips twitched up in a grin as he caught sight of Grace's glossy braid flying as his niece's slight form executed a perfect roundabout.

She hugged her friends as the group began to gather their things and break up. She'd clearly been showing her fellow Aloha Girls a new move she'd learned at cheering as they waited for their rides after participating in a camp site cleanup afternoon on the North Shore.

"Gracie!" He waved her over.

"Hi, Uncle Steve!" She called when she spotted him. When she was close enough, he caught her in a hug.

Grace held on for a second, then pulled back and studied him. "Danno said you were coming to pick me up because he and Uncle Chin just arrested some really bad guys and he's still on the other side of the island. You, Auntie Cath and Auntie Kono got their partners not too far from here, right?" Not waiting for an answer, she stopped and pointed to the split lip that was starting to swell. "Now, let me see that."

"I'm fine, Gracie." Steve shrugged, but bent so she could look closer and tsk at him.

She touched his face gently. "That needs ice." Grace adopted a mother-hen expression that just oozed Danny.

The pain caused when a smile crossed his face was hardly noticed; it was lost in the fact that Grace was concerned for him, a fact that still never ceased to amaze Steve and warm his soul.

"There's an ice pack in the truck. Catherine …"

"… told you to use it, right?" Grace pinned him with her eyes.

His smile grew. "Right." She knew them both so well. Steve moved to take her bag. "C'mon, we've got at least an hour's drive. Danno's meeting us at our house. He'll be there by dinner. Kamekona's sound good?"

"Definitely. But you have to use the ice pack, promise?"

"Okay, Gracie." Steve nodded at a group of women waiting for their daughters as he and Grace walked back to the truck, discussing menu options for dinner.

As they climbed in, two of the women stepped back from the group and watched the handsome man with the split lip, bruised knuckles and rumpled cargoes open the door for the smiling girl and share a laugh that echoed across the parking lot.

One woman turned to the other and nodded toward the vehicle that was leaving the lot. "That's Rachel Edwards's daughter, isn't it?" She was new to the group and hadn't placed all the parents yet. She'd met Rachel at an Aloha Girls Mom and Me lunch.

The second woman nodded. "That's Grace, yeah."

"The guy picking her up looks like he just left a bar brawl."

"That's Steve McGarrett. Grace's father is Danny Williams."

"Who?"

"Really?" She looked surprised that her new acquaintance didn't recognize the names. "Detective Danny Williams? Commander Steve McGarrett. Five-0? The governor's task force?"

"Oh. Yeah, I guess I've heard of them. I mean, he's drop dead gorgeous but he looks like hell. And if that's Commander McGarrett, I've heard he's quite the loose cannon. Always shooting something up. Makes me wonder about Grace's father. What kind of parent would let his daughter be cared for by a man like that?"

Grace's leader, Madeline, came up on the conversation. "Sorry, ladies, but I have to interject." She turned to the woman who'd made the comment. "What kind of parent? Danny Williams is a single dad. When his ex married a millionaire and relocated here, he quit his job and moved five thousand miles to be near his daughter. He's actually got primary custody now.

And Steve McGarrett is like blood to Danny and Grace. That kind of man is a former Navy SEAL, a Commander in the reserves and the head of Five-0. He'd never endanger Grace Williams. I have no doubt he'd die to protect her. And for the record, both men saved all of us. Danny was shot, and Steve risked everything to keep one of my girls safe when a crazy man took her hostage." Madeline wasn't angry, she was more disgusted and it was obvious in her tone.

"We teach the Aloha Girls to be non-judgmental. Let's try to set a good example, shall we?" She didn't wait for a response as she walked away.


Kukui High School Parking lot
Tuesday, Noon

Kono and Chin made their way across the lot to her car after interviewing a group of teens who'd just witnessed a man running across school property with an automatic weapon. The suspect had been arrested and no one was hurt, but they needed the witnesses' testimony. The weapon was connected to a potential lead on an arms dealer Five-0 had been investigating.

As the team met up with Steve in the parking lot, Chin waved a greeting to a track coach who he'd known as a fellow student in high school.

Chin said, "We'll head back to HQ, I want to plug in what we have on this weapon and review any matches with Catherine."

Catherine nodded her agreement as Kono said, "Sounds good." She turned to Steve and held up an evidence bag. "I'll drop the samples by the lab on my way in, too."

Steve and Danny stayed to wrap the details with HPD while, inside the school, Zack Akemi, the coach who'd greeted Chin was stopped by a science teacher in the hall. "Hey, wasn't that Chin Ho Kelly?" Johnny Mateus asked.

Akemi nodded. "Yeah, we graduated together."

"That's his cousin, right? The surfer?"

"Yeah, Kono Kalakaua. She was world class 'til she blew her knee. She got tapped for Five-0 right out of the academy from what I understand."

Johnny shook his head. "Their family's been cops for what … three, four, generations? I can't believe it went over well when she joined Five-0. I mean I know Chin had some issues and left the force, but even so, what would make them want to work for a man like that?"

"A man like what?"

"McGarrett. Bob Kelly told me he and his partner turned their weapons on a SWAT truck. He's unpredictable; a one-man demolition force. And Williams is from Jersey, so he's gotta be more than a little nuts, with all the crime there. I read how Five-0 uses more firepower in a quarter than HPD uses in a year. McGarrett must encourage them to shoot first and ask questions later. What kind of team leader did they decide to work for?"

"You do know the crime statistics have dropped since Five-0 was formed right?" Zack looked taken aback. "And Chin was accused of stuff he never did. Cost him his badge. Without Steve he'd never be a cop, and Kono would be guilty by association. She'd be writing parking tickets until she was passed over for promotion so many times she'd bag it and get out."

"Really?"

"Really. And if McGarrett and Williams had a situation with SWAT they had a damn good reason. Look, my dad's a cop. And he knows Chin and Steve since we were kids. McGarrett was a few years behind us in school until he left for the mainland. Dad always gave Chin the benefit of the doubt, and he was right.

Think before you speak, man. McGarrett's methods are a little unorthodox for a cop but the team works. He's a good guy. McGarrett was a Navy SEAL, he reserved his commission when he came home and started the task force. It's pretty much common knowledge he always puts his team first. Chin wouldn't work with him if he wasn't a good man."


Tango Café
Saturday

Catherine laughed with Carrie as the women left the salon after getting haircuts and headed to the café for lunch. "This is okay, right? Then we won't have to move the car."

Carrie was adjusting to the never ending traffic on the island and nodded with a smile. "Do they have cheesecake?"

"They have amazing cheesecake." Catherine grinned at her friend.

"Then we're all systems go." Carrie nodded and ran a hand through her honey colored hair. "You don't think the highlights are too much, Cath?" Carrie hated the regulation bun and kept her hair above her collar instead. The stylist had convinced her to add a few highlights to her naturally blond hair and it really did look great.

"Are you kidding? They're perfect. You said you wanted subtle. They look totally natural."

The women pushed through the doors and entered the café. Catherine gave a cursory glance at the three men whose table they passed on the way to their own table towards the back of the restaurant.

Two of the three, who were all dressed in suits, followed the third man's eyes as he watched the women.

"Hey," Ed Bunker said to his colleagues. "You guys eat here all the time." He indicated the women with a chin tilt.

"Never saw the blond before." Ted Munson shrugged. "The brunette's Catherine Rollins. She's in here every once in awhile, right, Bobby?"

Bobby Reynolds nodded.

"You know her?" Ed's expression brightened. "Introduce me, man. Unless you're …" He didn't want to approach a woman his colleague was interested in.

"I don't know her. I know of her. And I'm not introducing you. Do I look like I have a death wish?" Ted and Bobby laughed.

Just then, Catherine's phone buzzed. With a quick apology to Carrie, she stood to walk outside.

As she reached the walkway, Steve pulled up in the truck and got out. They exchanged a few words as he stepped close and ran a hand through her hair with a smile. She nodded and beamed up at him, clearly in response to a compliment, before looking around and placing a quick peck on his lips. Even off duty, they were always conscious of PDAs.

Steve handed her an envelope, which she put in her pocket before returning to the restaurant as he drove away.

Back at their table, the three men picked up their conversation. "And that's why I mentioned the death wish." Ted gestured toward the spot where Steve had stopped the truck. "Catherine Rollins lives with Steve McGarrett."

"The head of Five-0?" Ed looked disappointed.

"You know another Steve McGarrett?"

"No, it's just … I thought he was with some woman from the task force. That they'd been together for years."

"That's her," Bobby confirmed.

"That's her? She's Five-0?"

"Yeah."

"Shame." Ed shook his head.

"Yeah, well, all the gorgeous ones seem to be taken."

"No," Ed clarified. "Well, yeah, but I meant it's a shame a beautiful woman like her is with a man like that."

"Like what? There's not a girl on Oahu who doesn't think McGarrett's hot."

"But she looks classy, and even though she's hot, she doesn't parade it, ya know? McGarret's ex-military, right? A SEAL? He's gotta be a maniac. Look how he was dressed, for God's sake." Ed glanced down at his fifteen hundred dollar suit.

When the waitress, Lily, stopped by, Ed Bunker asked her to send a dessert to Catherine at her table. Lily's brows knitted for a second. "Oh. We don't usually … and anyway … I mean … Lieutenant Rollins is, um, she's got a boyfriend, Sir. Commander McGarrett."

"Can't blame a guy for trying, right?" He smiled at Lily but her return grin was forced. "I saw McGarrett. Figure the lady might want to …" he shrugged "think maybe she'd be interested?"

"No. Look, I'm sorry, no offense, but definitely not …" Lily bit her lip. Catherine Rollins came in the café often with Detective Williams' daughter, and sometimes the whole team came by for dinner. Lily had even met Catherine's mom and grandma over Thanksgiving break and was completely charmed by the adorable senior citizen.

"Like I said, no offense, but Lieutenant Rollins and Commander McGarrett … they're together for years and years. They finish each other's sentences. And I can see how they look at each other, too."

She placed the check on the table and continued, "And she's beautiful and all but she's smart and tough, too. She stopped a crazy man not too long ago, saved her friend and warned the Commander and Detective Williams that this creepy guy was going to try to kill them. She and Commander McGarrett, they're just … like two halves. They balance each other."

"Really, huh?" Ed shook his head in resignation.

"Yeah. People think he's all hard-ass, and he is when it comes to bad guys, but he's really … well, kinda sweet with his niece." Lily smiled at the thought of the tough former SEAL acquiescing to a giant ice cream sundae so Grace Williams could try four different flavors and then grinning when she'd say, "but you have to help me eat it, Uncle Steve!"

"And last spring, while my college was doing a fundraiser for the Navy Widows and Orphans Fund, Commander McGarrett was in with Lieutenant Rollins. He asked how much I needed for the goal. I told him two hundred and twenty two dollars. He went over to the ATM machine in the lobby of the building, came back and just … gave it to me. All of it." Lily smiled. "That's the kind of guy he is."

"Guess I'm not sending over a dessert, am I?" Ed said as Bobby handed Lily a credit card for the check and said, "Thanks, Lil."

"You're welcome." She turned to Ed. "I overheard when you asked what the lieutenant was doing with a man like that. Gotta tell you, Sir, there's not a woman I know who doesn't wish she could meet a man just like that."

Lily nodded and said goodbye to the men, and as she moved to Catherine's table to pick up the check she gave her a smile.

"Hey, Lily. Those guys aren't giving you a problem, are they?"

Lily's smile broadened. "Oh, no, Lieutenant, but thanks." She indicated the tip Catherine and Carrie had left. "And thanks again." She turned to walk away, but looked back for a second. "And Lieutenant Rollins? Please give my best to the Commander."

.

End. Thanks for reading


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