Hahai'imi (The Hunt)
Gabrielle Day & Takada Saiko
Disclaimer: Hawaii 5-0 belongs to CBS. Sigh.
Summary: Danny and Rachel get kidnapped by criminals playing a wicked, deadly game. Danny can't stop himself from protecting Rachel; Steve races the clock to save them both.
Note: This started as one of the shorts for Because You're Always Right, but clocking in at just over nine thousand words we figured it might need to stand on its own. ^^; Occasionally, we get a little wordy. Happy New Year, everyone! Enjoy.
The body lay in the sunlight of the warm Hawaiian morning, the blood standing out against the whitewashed stairs leading to the porch. Yellow crime scene tape blocked the area off; the flash of the forensic team's camera harsh against the quiet, overshadowed only by the faint sound of sobbing coming from within the house.
"Damn. She's young." Danny Williams murmured, pulling off his sunglasses. "Is she the daughter?"
Steve shot him a look. "The wife."
Danny whistled lowly. "Let me guess, not killed here, found this morning by relatives and or servants."
"You would be correct."
"Just like our other four."
"Just like." Steve agreed.
The homicide division had given over the mysterious chain of killings to 5-0 when the third body, that of a young man working for the Lieutenant Governor's office was discovered. All of the victims had been moved postmortem and thus far no one had been able to find the kill site. All had died from rifle wounds, but all bullets had been removed. It was disgustingly little to go on, now there was a fourth victim, and Steve was not in a good mood about it all.
"This house isn't far from where Rachel and what's his face live, is it?" he asked. Danny frowned. "No. They live down the road a ways."
"We can't keep this out of the media much longer, boss," Kono murmured as she approached. "Reporters are at the roadblocks on both directions. They want answers."
"Vultures," Danny grumbled as he bent to look at the body. "If they really wanted to help they wouldn't spin this the way they're going to."
"How do you know how our media will spin it?" Kono asked, cocking her head slightly to the side.
"Because every media spins things the same way: to get reviews." He peered more closely. There was a surprising amount of blood on the body for being moved post-mortem.
"Yeah?" The dark haired man knelt next to his partner to get the same view.
"I don't think this lady was dead when they dropped her off."
Steve frowned. "That's a first."
He scanned the body, taking in the tattered state of her sundress, the thin scratches on her arms and legs, the hollow look in her empty eyes and her left hand curled into a fist. Slowly, he reached out and uncurled the fingers. They were still pliable, which meant Danny was right, she hadn't been dead long. A scrap of paper rested in the palm of her hand. Danny pulled a latex glove onto one hand and gingerly unfolded it. Danny squinted at the paper.
"Her husband said she and her friends liked to go out to a few of the trains on the North Shore to go jogging," Chin announced, appearing behind them. "She'd gone alone yesterday and never came back."
"Why out to the North Shore? There are plenty of places around here," Danny thought out loud.
"Just her thing," Steve murmured. "What's the receipt for?"
A small smile ghosted across Danny's features. "Ammo." He clapped Steve on the shoulder. "This receipt is for ammo."
"Smart girl." Steve said. He looked up at Chin. "Did her husband find the body?"
Chin shook his head. "No. The maid did, when she was bringing the daughter out for the school bus."
"What, they don't have a driver?" Danny asked.
"Mom usually took the kid to school. Quality time, the husband says. They'd been arguing so he wasn't surprised when she didn't come back. They decided to use the bus until they could arrange for a driver." Chin said.
"Kono, Chin, you two continue questioning the staff and the husband. I want to know every detail, and look into that fight. He's going to need an alibi."
"I take it we're going to the ammo shop?" Danny asked.
Steve nodded. "I'll drive."
The ammo shop that was listed on the receipt was small and out of the way. Steve explained that it was geared more towards the wealthy clientele that tended to come out and shoot in certain parts of the North Shore. Probably the biggest surprise was not anything that they found in the shop upon entrance, but the person who was standing at the register.
"Rachel?" Danny asked, mouth quirking downward in a frown. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," she snipped.
"Following a lead," her ex answered in the same tone. "But you... you hate guns."
Rachel gave Steve a long look. "Yes, I do." She turned back to the cashier. "I take it everything is in order."
"Yes, ma'am. You'll just need to sign here."
"What are you doing, exactly?" Danny demanded, coming up to the counter.
"Are you a detective or aren't you?" Rachel asked coolly. "It should be obvious to anyone that I am purchasing a weapon."
"For what, you're newly hired bodyguard?"
Steve thought Danny might gag.
"Does he know how to shoot off anything other than his mouth?"
"I don't want a gun in the house with Grace with nobody that's actually trained to use it, Rachel."
"That's not your concern, Danny."
Steve watched as Danny turned the shade of red that usually warned of inevitable explosion.
"Not my... Listen, Rachel, she's my daughter too!"
Rachel signed her name on the line and smiled prettily at the clerk who stood trying not to gawk at her. "And it'll be delivered on time?"
"Thank you." Her voice, sweet sounding, suddenly took a low turn. "Only two week ends out of the month. If you manage that," she snapped, walking away.
Danny stood rooted in his spot for a moment. He had a job to do, he reminded himself, but every part of him wanted to finish the conversation.
"I'll get started," Steve offered, giving him the silent go ahead.
Danny nodded his thanks and was out the door after Rachel, catching her before she gone into her shiny new car.
"How many times have I told you not to call me that?" she demanded harshly. "This conversation is over, Danny."
"No it's not," the blond growled. He forced his temper down. "Listen," he said in a calmer voice, "I'm not comfortable with this. I mean, does he even know how to use the thing? What if Grace goes looking for Christmas presents in the closet and finds it and it goes off or something? All sorts of things can go wrong."
"You've always had a gun around her and it never seemed to bother you."
"It's always in my line of sight, too, and I'm trained to use it," he retorted. "Rachel. Please?"
Her shoulders slackened and she looked as if she were trying to stay angry, but was losing the battle. She opened her mouth, closed it, and then opened it again, no words ever leaving it as her ex stood staring at her, waiting.
"We've heard rumors in the neighborhood. Everyone knows one of those people who've been killed recently and now that woman this morning…believe or not, Danny, I care about protecting my family, too. And I'll do whatever it takes, including bringing a gun into my home and making Stan take shooting lessons. But let me make it clear to you that you do not get a say in what happens in my house, despite the antics you and McGarrett have pulled before. Because while Grace may be your daughter two weekends out of every month, she belongs with me in my home with Stan."
Danny tried to ignore the twist he felt in his chest. "Rachel, where did you hear rumors about the murders?"
Her face scrunched. "I don't see…"
"Rachel, this is important. We haven't told the media anything. If somebody in your cute, tight knit little circle is withholding evidence-"
"Do not treat me like a damn suspect, Danny Williams!" she snarled.
From inside the store, Steve and the clerk watched them yell and wave their arms at each other.
"Is that her ex?" the clerk asked, looking a bit frightened.
Steve snorted. "Yeah." Steve shook his head, turning back to the young man. He reached into his pocket and dug out the receipt folded in plastic. He placed it on the counter along with his badge. "This is one of yours, isn't it?"
"Yes sir. Did something happen?"
"Is there a way that you can look up the customer that bought this?"
The clerk looked at the receipt and a strange sort of look flashed through his eyes. "Ooooh. That was that pretty blonde," he murmured. "Sorry, it was right before my lunch break, that's why I remember the time. She came in here in here to buy ammo. Really strange. She didn't look the type, but hey, who am I to question, right? Is she in some sort of trouble?"
"She's dead. Was she alone?" Steve asked.
The clerk had paled. "Dead? My God."
"Stay focused. Was she alone?" Steve repeated.
The clerk nodded. "Yes…yeah, she was alone. A van pulled up in front of the store. She got out, came in, bought the ammo, got back in the van and it drove away."
"What did the van look like?"
"I don't know…white?"
Steve licked his lips and sighed with frustration. "Any way to narrow that down for me?"
The kid shifted nervously. "Um…it didn't have any windows!" he supplied eagerly. He lost some of his enthusiasm at Steve's dark expression. "You might want to ask Roger."
"Who is Roger?"
"The assistant manager. He's off today, but I told him about the blonde and he said the same thing happened a couple of weeks ago."
Steve frowned. "With the same woman?"
"No, with a man."
"Give me Roger's home address."
"Now!" Steve barked. "I don't have all day and I'm going to have to extract that man from arguing with that…woman."
The clerk hurriedly wrote down the information.
Outside the conversation had only gotten more heated. Rachel had grabbed Danny by the arm and all but dragged him to the side of the gravel parking lot as soon as she had noticed that people had started to stare.
"Maybe if you didn't yell so loud people would be looking at you like you're crazy," Danny offered sarcastically.
"I don't think they were looking at me," she shot back, huffing. "Now listen, I have a daughter to pick up from school-"
"Oh don't give me that. That driver's picking her up and you and I both know that."
"Because you pick her up so often."
"Every time you let me! This is how custody battles work out, Rach, in that I get screwed and only get to see my daughter when you're generous enough to allow it! If I picked her up without your expressed permission, you'd probably say I kidnapped her!" He paused, throwing his arms in the air. "Hell, you'd probably say that anyway, even if you did express permission."
Rachel turned bright red with irritation and turned to leave. A van pulled into the parking spot and cut her path off. "Of all the rude..." She let out a frustrated sound as the driver got out. "You could have hit me, you know."
The clerk pointed out the window. "Dude." he said. "That's the van."
Steve pocketed the scribbled address and turned to look, just in time to hear Rachel scream and see Danny drop to the pavement.
"Danny!" Steve shot towards the door.
Two men were hauling Danny into the back of the van and the driver was hauling Rachel into the front. She was kicking and screaming. Steve hit the parking lot just as the back door of the van slammed closed and it sped out of the lot.
"Danny!" Steve shouted again. He pulled his weapon but realized he couldn't risk shooting at the vehicle carrying his partner. He dashed for the Camaro, pulling out his phone as he went. "This is McGarrett with 5-0. I need a rundown on a license plate number." Steve ran the number off and waited for half a second, the car engine purring to life. "Yeah. An APB out on it. Suspected in a double kidnapping and may have to with that string of murders we've been following." He paused, listening to the coordinator on the other end. "And hey? One more thing. One of the people kidnapped is Detective Danny Williams. Yeah. Patch me through to Chin, would you?"
Danny came around slowly, his head aching from the after effects of what felt like being tasered. He reached up and felt the burn marks on his neck where the prongs had hit him and groaned. He really hated tasers. He sat up gingerly, unsure of his surroundings. Last he remembered he and Steve had gone up to the ammo store to follow a lead then he'd seen Rachel. He and Rachel had fought and there had been a van that cut her off. He jerked his head around, looking for his ex.
The room was small and dim, the windows heavily boarded, the floor stripped down to cement. Danny blinked and tried to adjust his eyes to the lighting. He caught sight of a shape lying in the corner, light brown hair pooling on the floor. She was facing away from him, completely still. For a split second, Danny's breath caught in his throat.
"Rachel?" he heard himself ask softly.
He slowly made his way across the floor towards her. This was the kill site, his mind told him, and Rachel had been next on the list and dear God what if they dumped her on the porch like the last one and Grace was the one who found her? His fingertips brushed against her shoulder. She shivered and began to stir, rolling and startling.
"Hey, it's just me," Danny hushed her.
Her eyes stared widely at him, fear evident. "What happened?"
Danny chewed on his bottom lip. More than likely she didn't know the whole story, but bits and pieces from what she and her friends sat around gabbing about. It wasn't like they had anything better to do with their days. He didn't need her panicking on him.
"Oh my..." Realization sunk in as she put the pieces together. "Was that them?"
Danny frowned. "You're going to have to be more specific than-"
She slapped his shoulder. "Don't give me that. You know exactly what I mean. Why would they come after us? I mean... It was broad daylight. I told you that violence follows you!"
"Yeah well, actually, Rachel, I think this time it was following you. How long have you been going to that ammo shop?"
"What?" "How long have you been going to the shop?"
"That was my first purchase."
"No, no. I know you. You've been checking it out, popping in with your haut couture giggly chick friends, watching what they bought. How long?"
Rachel shook her head. "I...I don't know, exactly. A couple of months. Rita was the first one who wanted to stop buy to get engraving done on a gun handle for her husband."
"Great. So escalation." Danny mumbled to himself. He stood and began pacing, running a hand through his hair. "Four victims, two out of the same neighborhood. Maybe all the targets used the ammo shop."
Rachel stood. "What's going to happen?" she asked.
Danny stopped and looked at her. "What?"
"What's going to happen...to us?" she asked.
Danny remembered the last time she'd asked that. Of course, then it had been a rhetorical question that she had then given him the answer to six ways from Sunday and then taken his daughter halfway across the world. This time he was the one with the answer, and it wasn't any prettier.
"We're going to get out of this, and then we are going to negotiate me taking Grace to New Jersey for a holiday." he said firmly.
"This isn't a joke, Danny!"
"You think I'm joking? You just got me kidnapped."
"Well I suppose we're even then."
"That was not my fault."
"Really? What about you and your partner deciding to descend on my home?"
"This isn't the time, Rach." Her face turned a deep color red and she stood, eyes blazing with anger.
"How many times?" she growled out, looking as if she were ready to physically lash out at him. It wouldn't have been the first time, and probably wouldn't be the last. If it meant them getting out of this, Danny wouldn't mind it not being the last. If he were going to respond he never got the chance as the door to the room opened and two figures walked in, their features obscured by the blinding light that came flooding in the door.
"Well, well. We've not 'ad a matched set before." The taller of the two leaned easily against the door frame.
"We're getting a nice bonus for a strapping thing like him. Even more because he's a cop." The stockier one added.
"Bet you he outlasts her. He looks durable. Better shoes, too."
"Nah. He'll take the hit for her, wait and see."
"She's his ex!"
The stocky man laughed the sound low and grating. "Once a woman's got a piece of you, it don't ever get loose." He stepped forward and Danny stepped in front of Rachel.
"I don't know what the hell you weirdos want, but you leave her alone. I'm a cop."
"She's the one paid for, can't leave her. And we know yer a cop, Mr. Williams. We'll get paid extra for that two." He pulled a gun from the waistband of his jeans. "Come along, then. Time for you kids to run."
Danny felt Rachel take a death grip on the back of his shirt and all he could do was stare dumbly. Run? What the hell was this?
"What? We gonna play hide-n-seek or something?" Danny growled out.
The man with the gun grinned toothily. "Sort of. I'd take the high road if I were you. Might give ya a few extra minutes. It's the Riley brothers today, so you won't last long."
He motioned for Danny and Rachel to move out of the holding room and the sun hit them hard, causing them to squint against it. "Now get movin'."
The shot hit just at their feet, sending both prisoners scurrying away from it.
"He's letting us go?" Rachel asked hopefully. "Are you letting us go?"
"You ain't going to get far, but you can go as far as you can make it."
Rifle shots. The images of all the victims they'd found played through Danny's mind. "Rachel, run!" he barked.
He ripped off her bright red jacket and tossed it before grabbing her hand and dragging her into the jungle. They could hear the whooping and hollering of the two men behind them.
"Danny, Danny, what's happening?" Rachel asked, breathless from fear and the mad dash.
"We're being hunted. So keep it down." He replied.
"What?" Rachel gasped.
The young woman stared up at Steve, dark eyes wide and honest. "I'm truly very sorry, Commander. This man does not live here." She handed the picture of Roger Emerson, the ammo store's assistant manager back to him. "The people who lived here before us were gone long before we moved in."
Steve clenched and unclenched his fist. They had nothing.
Danny and Rachel had been missing for almost two hours and he had nothing. The young woman sensed his frustration and shifted the baby on her hip. "My husband is a carpenter. When he was redoing some of the house, we found an address on a piece of paper behind some shelving. I can give you that if it would be helpful to you."
"Anything." Steve said. "I'll take anything."
The lady moved to the large desk and started rummaging through it. "Oh, he said he put it in here for some reason," she murmured, oblivious to Steve's impatient appearance. "Is everything okay, Commander?"
She turned to look at him, a question forming on her lips, but at the look in his dark blue eyes she decided against it and continued her search. "Oh! Here it is! Out in the middle of nowhere, too."
She held it out and Steve took it eagerly. He knew the area. It was at the edge of the Kapu hunting grounds. "Thank you," he said and then was gone, dialing a number as he left. "Chin, meet me at the address I've just texted you. I think our victims are being used as game."
"What kind of game?" Chin asked, grabbing Kono and heading for the parking lot.
"Wild game. The house is listed in the name of two people, Roger Emerson and Craig Smith. According to Smith's record, he got in trouble several times for importing animals for illegal hunting."
"Now he's graduated to people." Chin said darkly.
"Yeah. And Danny and Rachel are the next targets. Get here fast." Steve said, hanging up.
"He won't wait for us." Kono said to her cousin.
Chin shook his head. "No."
Kono stepped down harder on the gas.
Danny and Rachel hit the thicket of trees and the blond all but dragged his ex-wife into them.
"Stay low," he hissed, still firmly gripping her wrist.
She had taken hold of his as well, face white with fear. "I don't understand," she forced out between gasping breaths.
"They're going to start shooting, then you can't miss it," her ex growled.
Rachel's eyes widened and she tripped, taking Danny tumbling with her. They lay there for half a moment before Danny realized that her heels were to blame.
"Kick them off," he ordered. "They're going to get us killed."
"I can't run barefoot! Not through all of this!"
He grabbed her face. "Rachel, I will pay for you to get a whole damn foot spa treatment when we get out of here but right now take off your shoes!" he hissed.
They laid perfectly still for a moment before Rachel shifted her leg, her knee brushing against Danny's calf as she kicked off one shoe. He inhaled unsteadily as she shifted her other leg to lose the other shoe.
"I'm holding you to that." She whispered.
He afforded her a small smile before offering his hand, moving so that he was crouching in the brush. His knee ached against the shift, but she took his outreached hand and they were off again, just in time to miss the bullet that bounced off a rock where they'd been. Rachel bit back a scream. Danny tugged her sharply to the left, avoiding another bullet that nicked a tree. He could hear the panic in her breathing and prayed silently that she wouldn't give into it. He turned back to look at her and they hit a sloped hill. There was no holding back the sound of surprise this time as they both half jogged, half tumble downward.
Danny lost his grip on her hand in the slide and they both stumbled to their knees at the bottom. Both of Rachel's knees were badly scraped as were the palms of her hands. She pushed herself up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and turned to look for Danny. She could hear running water somewhere nearby and wondered if the others had made it to the water only to be killed at its edge, or if they had even made it that far. Danny crouched against the hill, eyes trained upward. Seconds ticked by and Rachel fought the urge to run. Finally, Danny saw the glint for which he'd been waiting. He reached again for Rachel, surprised to find her reaching for him at the same time. Too late he saw the second glint and threw himself over her as the shot rang out.
Rachel found herself falling back on the ground, Danny shielding her. She hadn't seen whatever it was that had tipped him off, but she'd heard the shot. Fear seized her when he didn't move.
"Danny?" she murmured into his ear, gripping his shoulder and shaking him. "Danny!"
Steve's blue truck pulled up to the address that he'd been given. Chin and Kono shouldn't be too far behind him, he told himself, as he stepped out, readying his gun. He'd fastened the bullet proof jacket around his midsection just in case and moved quickly and stealthily towards the cabin. As he rounded the corner, something on the edge of the thicket caught his eye. A red piece of clothing, not unlike the jacket he'd seen Rachel wearing at the ammo store. Steve moved further into the jungle after Rachel and his partner.
Roger Emerson stepped outside just in time to see Steve move into the trees.
"Craig! Craig!" he hissed. "We've got trouble! Get the rifles!"
Craig came to the door and tossed Roger a gun. "You've got trouble. Kill him."
Roger shot him a dark look, but took off after Steve.
Rachel struggled underneath Danny's weight until his breath hit her ear. "Hold still. They might think they got us both. It'll buy us a couple of seconds."
Rachel froze, her fingers digging into his shirt. "I thought you were shot!" she whispered.
"And you thought Jersey was dangerous." Danny grumbled. "When I tell you to, I want you to cross the stream and head into the trees to the left."
"What are you going to be doing, exactly?"
"Creating a distraction."
"You're pretty distracting right now." She murmured.
Danny grinned before he could stop himself. "Get ready to go," he whispered. "Run fast. Stay low. Tell Grace I love her."
One of the brothers had crested the hill, hunting weapon lax in the assumption he'd taken both down. Rachel raced for the water, Danny raced uphill, ignoring the pain in his arm. He prayed silently that they'd follow him and not her. The ricochet of the bullet off a tree to his left proved his prediction correct and he steeled himself against his instinctual reaction to dive down. He needed to be a distraction. He needed to draw their aim. Gracie had to have a mother to go home to. He took half a glance back to see one brother yelling at the other to go after Rachel.
"Hey. What? You can't hit an unarmed target with those rifles? Really?" he called out, gaining both attentions.
He knew Rachel was cursing him right now in her creative, proper sort of way that always drove him nuts. In a bad way, he reminded himself as they pursued him. He felt a bullet clip his right shoulder and it sent him stumbling slightly. He tried to regain his balance on the slippery slope before he felt a sort of thud against his ribs that said that one of the bullets had hit full on. Danny grabbed his side, feeling the slick, warm blood between his fingers and watched with a sort of horrified fascination as his shooter's chest suddenly bloomed red as well. The man stumbled to his knees, his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed to the ground. Danny wondered if he was a mirror image of the same macabre act. Steve appeared at the top of the hill, gun drawn. Danny's lips curled upward.
"You're late." He croaked.
Steve lowered his gun. "Danny?"
He half slid down the hill and caught Danny against him just as the blond's legs gave out. "Danny?"
"How the hell do I get into this stuff?" Danny demanded weakly.
"I guess it just comes to you," Steve whispered with a forced half smile, easing his partner to the ground.
"There's another one. Did you get the other one?" Danny asked urgently, eyes suddenly going wide as he jolted back to full awareness from which he'd begun to slip.
Steve stiffened. He grabbed his gun and aimed it back up the hill just as Roger Emerson came into sight. "Put your gun down!" Steve demanded. "I'm Hawaii PD, 5-0 Unit and I order you to drop your weapon."
"You lower yours!" Roger returned, keeping his gun aimed.
"I will shoot you if you don't drop it now." Steve warned. He was crouched low over his partner.
"Steve, that's not him. That's not the other guy." Danny said.
Both men jerked around when they heard a scream. The other brother stood with a gun to Rachel's head.
"I swear, man, if you don't drop your weapon I'll kill her here and now!" he yelled, voice shaking.
His eyes skimmed the terrain before landing on Roger, his brother's body just beyond his line of sight. "Rog. Where's Devin?"
"The cop killed him," Roger answered, eying Steve carefully. Rachel gave another desperate sort of sound as her captor gripped her arm tighter, digging the barrel of the gun harder against her temple.
Steve gritted his teeth, glancing between Roger and the desperate brother.
"Do it now!" he screamed.
"What are you going to do with her once I put my gun down, huh? I'll make you a deal. You want a hunt; I'll give you the hunt of your life. Let her go. Let her walk out of here. You can have me."
"She knows too much!" Roger protested.
"She won't say anything. She's got a family. I'm the one you want. I killed your brother." Steve insisted.
"You'll drop your gun?" the brother demanded.
Steve nodded. "Let her go. Let her take my...let her take her ex with her. He's already down. There's no sport there."
The brother's eyes were wild with anger and blood lust. He nodded shortly. "Put your weapon down. It's a deal, dead man."
"Steve, no." Danny rasped.
"Chin's meeting me up at the house," Steve said quickly and lowly. "If you can get a shot, take it, but don't' do anything stupid." He pressed the gun into the blond's hand.
"Yeah, because you're the one to tell people that." Danny tightened his grip on Steve's arm. "This is suicide."
"And the alternative is that you bleed out and Rachel takes one in the head. I'm a good shot, but even I'm not that good."
"You're done! Get moving!" the brother yelled, voice shaking. He shoved Rachel towards the men. "Run, little girl, run."
She did. She rushed to Danny and Steve, gasping at the sight of Danny's side and arm. "Oh my God." she breathed.
Steve grabbed her arm. "Rachel, you've got to get him up the hill, okay? Keep him steady."
Together, Steve and Rachel helped Danny to his feet, Rachel taking on as much of his weight as she could.
"Roger, take these two good people back to safety. As for you, Seal, you have a thirty second head start. Go!"
Danny looked at his partner, fear and frustration in his expression. "Steve..."
Steve lightly patted the side of his face. "Don't worry, Danno. You couldn't get rid of me if you wanted to."
And then he was gone, his speed serving in his favor.
"Danny, we have to go," Rachel whispered, fear tingling ever syllable.
Roger snorted. "Get moving or I'll leave you to bleed out here." He aimed his gun at them. "Move!"
They started up the hill, Roger grumbling and cursing to himself all the while. "Hurry it up."
Rachel glanced at her ex, noting the pained expression seemingly a permanent fixture on his features. A thought struck her. The gun. She opened her mouth to ask and Danny shot her a look. Only at the right moment. She nodded very slightly and focused on getting them to the top.
Steve felt the foliage bight at his bare arms. In the remaining brother's haste and blinding rage he'd overlooked the vest that Steve wore. That didn't really matter, the dark haired man realized, as bullets started bouncing off trees at head level.
Three quarters of the way up the hill, Danny pulled Steve's gun. Roger turned at the motion and almost threw the detective off balance, but Rachel held firm and kicked Roger in the knee. Roger spluttered and cursed and tried to get the gun back up. Danny recovered more quickly and pulled the trigger. Rachel screamed at the crack it made and clutched Danny's arm as Roger fell to the ground. Danny's arms fell to his sides, gun heavy in his hands. Danny swallowed and slowly eased himself down to sit on the ground.
"Rachel, get back to the house. Chin should be there by now with back-up. Tell him to send for an ambulance."
"I'm not leaving you like this." Rachel said.
"I'm not leaving without Steve." Danny said evenly. He gently pushed her away. "Go. The faster you get there, the faster we can be done. Be careful. Make sure you see police cars before you charge the house."
"Damn it Rach, don't get mushy about it now. Just go!"
She stood stiffly. "Fine. Stay here and bleed." She stalked indignantly away for about ten feet before she had to return to careful creeping.
He watched her for several long seconds with a sort of ache in him that had nothing to do with the bullet still lodged in him somewhere. After she moved out of his sight he shifted his weight and stood, a bit unsteady, but slowly started to make his way in the direction of where the gunshots had been coming from.
Steve paused behind a tree, realization hitting him that one of the shots he'd heard had been much more distant than the ones he was quickly becoming accustomed to. Danny. Fear gripped at him as all of the worst case scenarios rushed through his mind. They all left his partner lying on the soil with a hollow, sightless stare up towards the sky. Without giving himself too much time to weigh the options he turned and doubled back towards where the shot had come from.
Steve crept carefully, praying his arc would be far enough to give him some leeway if he stepped on anything that cracked or made any other kind of sound. Being unarmed put him at a huge disadvantage when he wasn't sure where his enemy was, and his enemy had a weapon designed for long distance kills. He had to get close or he had no chance.
The silence from the direction of the hill gnawed at the back of his mind. Each second that ticked by was precious time lost in which his fears became reality. He pressed himself against the trunk of a tree, hearing movement directly ahead of him.
After several long moments he almost couldn't bear to just sit there and wait. He risked a shift around the tree and let out a short breath when no gunfire followed. He moved forward, ears perked for anything. There were no birds, no animals, but he didn't blame them. Hell, he wouldn't be here if he didn't have to be. A twig snapped to his right and he turned just in time for a sharp pain in his leg to take him to one knee.
He looked across the undergrowth to see Kent Riley stalking toward him, a menacing smirk plastered onto the hunter's face. Steve tried to back away only to have his leg give way beneath him. He hissed in pain.
"I've been hunting a long time, McGarrett. You're no real challenge to me. Of course, I realize that you're a hunter too, in your own way. It's different, isn't it? To be on the other end? To be helpless in the face of imminent death. Sounded like Roger didn't go through with our end of the deal. Looks like you'll be joining your friends after all."
He lifted for the kill shot, but he'd come too close. Far too close. Steve sucked in a deep lungful of air and launched himself off the ground at his would be killer.
Shock was written plainly on the other man's face at the sudden move. Steve's instincts kicked in and Riley's gun was flung from his hands. He tried to scoot away, yelping pathetically.
"Please!" he squealed, tense in Steve's iron grasp. "Please! Don't kill me!"
Disgust rolled over the former Seal and he applied just enough pressure for the other man to lose consciousness. With the way he was hyperventilating himself with fear, it didn't take much.
"Looked like he was going to wet himself," a familiar voice met Steve's ears and he turned to see Danny Williams leaning heavily against a tree. Blood soaked his shirt and he was deathly pale, but a snarky sort of grin was plastered across his face. "You're bleeding a bit," he pointed out, waving lazily towards Steve's leg.
"Can't let you one up me in the bleeding department." Steve replied, glancing down at the wound. He frowned. "I liked these pants."
Danny rolled his eyes. "You have fifteen pairs of that exact same pant. In fact, no other man on this island with your inseam has pants like yours, because you took them all."
"The same cannot be said for your ties. And you could have shot him at any time, you know."
Danny shook his head with a sad smile. "Nah. Visions too blurry. Couldn't risk hitting you unless it was absolutely necessary. And here I am, bleeding to death and you're ragging on my ties. I don't even think the sell ties here. I'm going to have to buy them on eBay and have them shipped across the freaking...ocean..." Danny started to falter.
Steve pushed himself up and towards his partner. "Danno,"
Danny gave a choking sound as he slid down to the soft ground. He leaned forward, coughing violently into his hands and shaking. Vaguely, he heard Steve scrambling towards him, the bullet hole in his thigh seemingly forgotten. How was it, the blond thought absently, that Steve could just turn pain off? He'd seen him do it on more than one occasion and it irritated him. He wanted to learn that trick.
"Why the hell did you come back?" Steve murmured, hands reaching around to support the shorter man.
"I... couldn't leave you here," Danny managed. "Besides, I'm fine. It's not like I'm coughing up blood or anything." A spasm of pain and a sharp exhale of breath flecked with red proved otherwise.
"Well now you are. Shut up, Danno." Steve murmured.
Steve carefully moved them around so that he was sitting and Danny was leaning against his chest. He put pressure on Danny's side the best he could, wincing at the pained noise his partner made. With his free hand he brushed Danny's hair off his forehead. Danny's abject loyalty was one of the things Steve had both come to rely on and worry about. Steve was always willing to go the extra mile, to do the unthinkable to get the job done. Most called it reckless. Danny called it reckless every chance he got. Danny was also the first to be behind him, no matter what, even if he was giving a running commentary on all the other ways to go about their jobs.
"I told you that you couldn't get rid of me." Steve murmured.
"Yeah. You're like a bad penny." Danny said with a faint smile.
"A what?" Steve chuckled. Maybe his partner had lost more blood than he thought.
"A bad penny. Ya know, 'find a penny pick it up' and all that?"
Steve shook his head. "At least tell me someone's coming for us, because you may be short, but I don't think I can haul you all the way up the hill with a bullet lodged in my leg."
"I'm not short," Danny coughed out; body trembling under the stress it was under. He glanced up at his partner, eyes bright and pain filled. His head then lulled against the other as he mumbled his protests of "not short" again, though without his usual gusto.
Steve smiled against Danny's hair. "I'm sorry. The politically correct term is vertically challenged, isn't it?"
Danny poked him weakly in the stomach. "Shut up. There's some moral code about teasing someone while they're bleeding to death."
"You're not bleeding to death. Don't be such a girl. Oh, I'm sorry. You don't meet the female national average for height."
For a moment Danny was silent. "When I'm not in so much pain, I'm going to have a scathing comeback for that. For now I'll settle with I hate you so much." He grumbled.
Steve could hear their team coming for them in the woods off to their left. He squeezed Danny's good arm. "I know, partner. I hate you, too."
Danny sucked in a choked breath and suddenly went very still. Steve felt rising panic and tried desperately to push it down.
"Danny?" he murmured, tightening his grip on the blond. "Danny, that's not... Danny. They're coming. Just hold on."
Steve perked at the sound of Chin's voice. "Chin! Get a med team here. Now!"
He could hear Chin making the call. It would take them time for the EMTs to get the liter down to where they were. Steve curled around Danny, his entire being focused on the faint heartbeat and the shallow breathing. He felt useless and worse, helpless.
"You've got to fight, Danno. You've got to." He whispered.
The blond stirred in his arms, breathing ragged and shallow. It seemed like he was struggling to regain consciousness; like he could hear him, but just couldn't respond. Steve felt the grip on his arm tighten ever so slightly.
"Danno?" he whispered, hoping for some sign of life other than the hart-wrenching attempt for breath. Anything would have made him feel better. Finally two eyes, bright with pain, slid open heavily. Steve gently touched Danny's cheek. "Hang with me. You punk out now and I'm going to be left alone to deal with your crazy ex. That's not an option, you hear?"
Danny still couldn't speak, but the flicker of amusement in his eyes told Steve a comeback was playing in his partner's mind. He stroked his thumb over Danny's cheekbone.
Chin reached them and knelt by his boss. "The two of you don't do anything half-assed, do you?" he said. He checked Danny's wounds, then Steve's. He started pulling supplies out of his pack to assist with preliminary treatment before the EMTs could reach them.
Danny let out a strained moan as Chin peeled the blood-soaked shirt away from the wound and it tugged at the aggravated skin. The Hawaiian man let out a low whistle, glancing behind him to see men in EMT uniforms rushing towards them through the thicket. Steve released his partner into their care, irritated as one EMT turned towards him and began cutting through his cargo pants.
"Hey!" he protested, waving her hands away. "There's still a potential of saving those."
She looked at him like he'd lost his mind and continued to cut at them, revealing the wound below. The pants were now thoroughly ruined, along with the shirt that was covered in blood. Danny's blood. Steve shifted uncomfortably as the EMT began cleaning the wound.
"Good thing for you it passed right through and missed any major arteries," she informed him.
"Yeah. Good for me. Listen, can you hurry up? I need to check on my partner."
"Oh no. We've been warned us about you two."
Steve grabbed her by the collar and hauled her in so close that their noses almost bumped. "Then you won't argue with me, will you?" he growled.
She gasped; eyes wide with surprise. She carefully uncurled his fingers from her uniform and nodded. "All right. Just relax. I'll be quick, and if you promise not to run off I'll get everything done so they'll just have to give you the once over at the hospital and no one will bother you."
Steve leaned back. The right side of his mouth twitched upward, but his eyes remained hard. "I thought you looked smart. Glad I was right."
She tried not to shoot him a funny look as she continued to clean his wound and dressed it, frowning at the dirt around them. She would have preferred take him up to the ambulance, but they'd be working on Williams there, and that would be a distraction she wasn't sure that he could handle. Or better yet, that she could handle in dealing with him.
Stitched and cleaned on both the entrance and exit wound, she called for a man to help her get him to the top of the hill.
"I can make it," Steve grumbled.
"Listen, they will have already taken Detective Williams to the hospital. We'll take you in the second ambulance that we ordered. Just take it easy. From the looks of him, he'll be in surgery by the time you get there and there's no use rushing."
"You're awfully sensible." Steve said.
She grinned. "What, for a girl?"
"No. For somebody in the medical field."
She laughed. "Thank you. I think."
Her partner joined them and assisted Steve up the hill and towards the house.
"Chin, what are we left with?" Steve asked as they walked.
"Devin Riley and Roger Emerson are both dead. Kent Riley and Craig Smith have both been taken into custody. Smith has already called for a lawyer, but Riley wants to deal. Of course, he wasn't completely coherent when he said so." Chin said, trying not to look pleased. "Kono is going through the house with a team. We've already found evidence that two of our victims were present."
Steve nodded. "Where is Rachel?" he asked.
"They took her to the hospital for slight injuries and shock. She had a lot of blood on her, but very little of it seemed to be hers."
"That would be Danny's."
They topped the hill and started for the ambulance. Steve grabbed one of the EMTs that was moving about.
"Hey. Danny Williams was just brought up here. How was he doing?"
"The blond detective?"
Steve nodded and the lady EMT set him down on a gurney. At the dark glare he received, he decided it was best not to argue.
The man shifted a bit, wiping his bloody hands on his pants. "He looked like he was going to tank when they got him up here." At the look on the dark haired man's face, the man quickly added, "but they got him stabilized. He should be on his way to the hospital now."
The lady EMT who'd been assisting Steve squeezed his shoulder. "I'm sure he'll be okay. He's in good hands."
"Just get me to the hospital, please." Steve said quietly. "Or I'll get there myself."
"Load him up, boys!" She shouted.
"We'll be right behind you." Chin said.
Steve nodded. He began to feel lightheaded and shut his eyes, just for a few seconds.
Steve wasn't sure how Danny had done it for the time following his ACL tear. He hated the stupid cane they'd given him, but he hated the limp even more. He'd tried to go without it but his leg, no matter how well they said it was healing would rebel on a regular basis. Dr. Parker had deadpanned a response that muscles were made to be torn through by small, fast moving objects like bullets. Steve sighed and shook his head at the thought, limping his way into the hospital. At least he could drive.
He gave a small wave to one of the girls at the desk. He and Danny were going to have to start dating some of the nurses since obviously this hospital was going to be a regular occurrence as long as their happy little task force was operational. And if they could get Chin to date one of them as well, they'd have the power of three to sneak real food in when necessary. He slowed when he got near Danny's door. Their unspoken tradition of picking each other up from the hospital when released carried on, so he was surprised to hear Rachel's voice from inside the room. He leaned towards the door, trying to listen to what was being said.
"Mommy says it's not nice to listen to other people when they're not talking to you."
Steve spun around to see Gracie standing, smiling up at him. She looked like she'd appeared of thin air, but was completely comfortable with the fact.
"And she says that she and Daddy need to have a 'private' talk."
"Really? Is that what she said?"
"Yup. Lift me up so I can hear better." Grace said, lifting her arms.
Carefully balancing himself, he grinned and picked the girl up, settling her on his good side. He resumed leaning on the cane and they leaned closer to the door together.
"What you did was..." Rachel was saying. She paused, as if listening for something.
"Brave?" Danny supplied.
"No, stupid." Rachel returned, concern fleeting. "I want to be flattered, I think, that you would risk your life for me...but that's what you do. That's just who you are. Protector of all creatures, great and small."
"And beautiful." Danny mumbled. "Don't forget the beautiful ones."
"Now you're just trying." Rachel said with a half laugh.
The two eavesdroppers could hear the smile in Danny's voice.
"Is it working?"
He snorted, it sounding more like a laugh than anything. "In all honesty, Rachel, I did that for you. Well, and for Gracie." He paused, and Steve could hear him sigh the sigh that said that the next words would be the complete truth. "I don't take bullets like that for just anyone, Rachel."
Grace pulled on her favorite uncle's shirt sleeve. "Daddy really loves Mommy, huh? He saved her life."
Steve felt his breath catch, unsure how to answer the little girl.
"I know he really loves you, Gracie." Steve finally said softly.
Rachel laughed again. "Not just anyone, but I could name a few."
There was a pause, a press of lips to warm skin suddenly flushed warmer.
"Thank you, Danny." she whispered.
Shifting, Danny reached out to her. "Rachel,"
"I should get going. Grace has school in the morning. If you're still at Steve's recuperating next weekend, I'll send her there, then." Rachel said.
The door opened suddenly and Steve's eyes widened and Gracie looked anything but sheepish in his arms. Rachel frowned at them.
"Grace, didn't I tell you that I needed to have a private conversation with your father?"
"Daddy says no secrets," Gracie beamed. "And Uncle Steve was curious too!"
They looked a pair, even though Rachel would die before admitting it. Grace and her Uncle Steve were all dark hair and sun kissed skin, eyes wide with feigned innocence. It was an unholy alliance if ever there was one and she was powerless to do anything about it.
"Tell your...Uncle Steve goodbye. You'll see him and your father next weekend." Rachel instructed, holding out her hand.
Grace sighed. "Bye, Uncle Steve."
Steve kissed her forehead and hugged her close before setting her down. "No frowns, kiddo. Bring your swimsuit." he said.
She nodded with a grin. "Absolutely."
Rachel took her daughter's hand. "I trust you'll take good care of him." she said to Steve mildly.
"Of course," he assured her and watched her go.
Gracie prattled the whole way down the hall on this and then and then they turned the corner and were gone. With a sigh, Steve stepped into the hospital room, knowing that a nurse would be by soon with paperwork for Danny to sign for his own release. The detective was already sitting on top of the bed, jeans and an untucked button-up shirt making him look sloppier than usual, but at least more comfortable. His feet were bare, with a pair of tennis shoes waiting. Never flip flops. It was the strange expression plastered on his face that caught Steve off guard.
The blond startled at the sound of his name and the expression vanished, hidden back away from whatever depth it'd come from. It was replaced with a halfhearted smile.
"Hey, buddy. Listen, you really don't have to put up with me. You can drop me off at my place, I'm a big boy and,"
"Danny, shut up. You're a big boy who would wind up with take out and a bottle of beer by the second night if not the first and then you'll be losing your pain pills. Then you're dead from mixing painkillers and alcohol or incapacitated with pain and I can't have either of those scenarios."
Danny blinked. "Really? By the second night? You couldn't give me seventy-two hours before I'd killed myself in your sick little mental universe?"
"You are awfully sensitive, Danno."
The smile returned and stretched into a grin. "Sensitive?" he echoed. "You think I'm sensitive?"
Steve returned the grin, thinking briefly about all that might have gone on before his arrival and in the time that he couldn't see the former couple behind the partially shut door. "Yeah. Real sensitive. Anyway, Rachel's dropping Grace off at my place next weekend, and I'm not sure I'm prepared to deal with your crazy ex if she thinks I haven't taken care of you in the way that she deems fit."
A dark look overtook the blond at the mention of his ex and the sad look returned. "Let's just get out of here, huh?"
"What about the paperwork?"
"I was just waiting on you. I mean, I'm not going to wheel myself down."
Steve eyed the ever-present wheelchair that seemed to be the bane of their leaving with some degree of loathing.
"Right." He reached over and patted the other man affectionately on the shoulder. "Let's go home, partner."