koa is Hawaiian for warrior. Ku'uipo is Hawaiian for sweetheart.
This is what happens when I start randomly writing a character study of Chin and Kono's relationship and it turns into this. This one is for the Lady, whether or not she actually reads it. We made it through the year!
Their relationship is based on belief – undying belief and a strange form of optimism that keeps them going through the days when by all standards they should fall down.
It starts with her. It starts with that moment, that second where everything is taken away from her and nothing will ever, ever be the same again. That moment where the water comes rushing up to greet her and she thinks, strangely calm through the pain, I'm going to drown.
She doesn't, of course. Strong arms of the emergency team pull her out of the water and drag her onto the sand and she thinks, she knows, she'd rather feel the ocean waters than the warmth of the sand because it is firm beneath her back and she can't stand it. Life spins out before her eyes in a hazy mess that tells her in no uncertain terms her surfing career is over. There's a tiny part of her that says drowning would have been better and that is not her philosophy, not her way of thinking, but it's there in her mind.
She vomits into the sand as what feels like the entire world watches.
Some part of her is still out there, floating, drowning and she's never going to get it back, never –
"Kono. Kono, focus. Focus on me, ku'uipo." There's a familiar hand on her cheek as the stretcher beneath her moves. Just as soon as it's there, it's gone, but she's opening her eyes to try and find him.
And then she's in the ambulance, can hear him arguing through closed ambulance doors that she's practically a minor and he's going to get in that ambulance with her and she smiles, smiles through the pain that brings dots in front of her vision, spots that swim like fish in front of her eyes.
Then the ambulance doors open and she can see Chin through the water in her eyes. He sits next to her, has a hand on either of her shoulders, and she closes her eyes and listens to his words. His fingers rub tension from her shoulders and she lets his words drown out the mutterings of the EMTs.
He wasn't the only cousin of hers to show up today. It was a big event. Chin's the one she's closest to, the cousin she followed around when she was little, five or six, clinging to his side and asking him to teach her how to surf. They were only kids then, young and for the most part unafraid.
She longs for it, a pain deep in her chest nearly as sharp as the one in her knee.
"I want to go back," She says, probably sounding irrational but she was always closest to Chin. He understands in that way two people can understand each other without any other explanation needed.
She keeps her eyes shut as he pushes dripping wet hair from her forehead. "You need to stop analyzing every second. It was a wild one. Not your fault."
She wants to get up, tries to for a second before pain makes her dizzy and she sinks back down to the stretcher and he hushes her.
"What am I going to do?"
Her words are whispered, tentative and afraid in a way she's never been before. This, surfing, every second in control with the waves around her and the sun beating down on her neck, is her life. The waves are how she lives.
"You're a koa, cuz." Chin tells her fondly. "You're not at the hospital yet. You haven't heard any-"
He's not giving her false hope, she knows that. He's only telling her the truth but she can't stand to think for even a second that she might be able to compete again because she knows. She knows it's not true.
"I can feel it."
It's the end of one road but he makes sure it's not the end of all of them. He sits down next to her on the emergency room bed and lets her bury her face against his shoulder and cry before her mother gets there. He stays even after her mother gets there and she thinks that maybe his presence is what speeds up the doctor because she's not waiting half as long as they said she would.
And when the news comes, the news that she's done with the pro circuit, he holds her hand and promises there's more to her than surfing. It's the moment she realizes just how much he believes in her.
There's physical therapy, of course – paid for even though she'll never surf for Ian's team again – but the emotional therapy, the real voice of support, comes from Chin. It comes from him when he lets her rant, from that one time she actually threw things and screamed, screamed until she couldn't speak the next day. He lets her be silent when she needs to be. And even though others drop by, she's always glad when it's Chin.
She tells him it's because of him when she decides to join the family business.
And it is, it really is. But it's more than the simple assumption that she admires him.
He believed in her. Had faith in her.
So she really doesn't know why he's so confused when she returns the favor.
She feels sick, absolutely sick, when she hears the news. It's the second time in her life the earth has shifted beneath her and left her scrambling to stand up, struggling to grasp at straws and understand.
They're wrong. She doesn't have a single doubt. They don't know him like she does, HPD simply has their facts wrong. Her cousin is a good cop. He didn't take the money. Her family will understand that, they have to. They won't take the same route that HPD did.
But she's wrong. She watches them start to slowly back away when it looks like the investigation is going south. One by one she watches them disconnect, cut the tie that holds them together as though the bonds never existed. Stragglers hold on by a thread, family members with a shaky belief in a man who was once honored family.
"You should go." He tells her, the night before he's going to be called in by IA for the final time. It's not the only time he's said it to her, but it's the first time he's said it like that. Self-deprecating and venomous like he never is.
But she's tough. She can deal with this.
She's twenty two and two years away from graduating the academy. Resistance, change, an iron will – they are part of her daily constitution. Sitting in her cousin's house at night is nothing new, not since some punk threw a brick through his window and he did nothing but look at it, a spark of anger hidden just out of reach. No, she's not leaving him alone.
"Give me on reason why I'd do that." Kono's words are playful, trying to be normal. She grabs for the remote – and he stops her. Grasps her wrists and holds it until she drops the remote. He gives her a glare.
"All right!" She holds up a hand. "Jeez. No TV."
"Why are you still here?"
The words hurt more than she'd like to admit, even when she knows where they're coming from.
"I'm always here."
"You know what I mean, Kono. I told you. They're going to think you're dirty." His words are slow and calm, but she knows him. She can hear the pain underneath and she despises it.
"And I told you HPD can suck my-"
"Kono. That's not a solution."
"Considering I don't have one, I don't think-"
"This isn't a joke."
She huffs. "You think? So stop trying to kick me out."
She knows what he means and chooses to ignore it. 'So I can stop making these ridiculous jokes. I'm running out." But she sees him sigh and his eyes are pleading with her. He wants to know why she believes in him.
"So is Sid." It's not enough and she knows it, knew it before he said it.
"You believed in me."
She has his attention now. She thought she might.
"You didn't ask questions. You stayed with me. Why wouldn't I do the same?"
"This is… entirely different."
"Yeah, not so much, cuz. Don't ask me to define it." She grabs the remote back from where she'd dropped it, but doesn't turn on the TV. She stares instead at the blank box because it's easier than looking at him when she says, "It's what the rest of our family should be doing."
Now there's venom in her voice. She swallows it down, grinds her teeth against one another, and sets her jaw .Her thumb finds the power button without looking. She hardly pays attention to what's on the TV, doesn't even bother with changing the channel once it's on.
She doesn't understand. Doesn't know why it's so hard for him to believe she'd stick by them- doesn't know why their family is dropping him, no questions asked, just trusting HPD as if there was never any question.
"Thank you." He finally says, no more words, just that. It's enough. Her shoulders, and she hadn't even realized they were so rigid – relax and she sinks against him, knees drawn up to the couch.
He believed in her, but this is about so much more than returning the favor.
He's tired. He's tired through and through and she's the only one left standing. Nobody else decided HPD was the wrong one when her cousin lost his badge.
(She keeps quiet at work, even though she can still feel their stares. It was Chin's only request of her, but she does it because she knows he's right. She keeps her head down when she'd love nothing more than to make noise.)
And then Malia leaves him. (Or maybe it's the other way around, she doesn't ask. Either way, it wasn't Malia sitting next to him while he was on suspension, who kept an eye on him once he lost his badge.) Kono just tells him that she hates her. She opens a tub o ice cream and tells him to shut up and grab a spoon when he says he's not a teenage girl.
She drops money on his groceries and doesn't take no for an answer. He's not on his feet yet and that's okay, he can take his time.
He's a little bit drunk, more than worn out, a week since he's lost his badge. His words aren't slurred though, when he looks to her and says, in all honest sincerity, "Where do I go from here?"
It throws her off a little. This is usually the other way around. And of course, things have been different, but she's usually the one asking him for help.
She opens her mouth, closes it, lets her eyes shift around the room. Chin is resting his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands, but he's looking at her and she knows she's supposed to have the answer.
Only, she doesn't. How could she possibly?
"You're going to-" Her voice trails. He's been a cop his whole life, just like her and surfing. What is she possibly going to tell him to-
"Koa." She says it like a revelation, watches his eyebrows shoot up. "You told me I'm a koa. If I am, so are you. You have koa blood. Twice removed, maybe, but-"
The corner of his mouth is turned up. "You're twice removed, Kalakaua."
She could hit him. "Shut up. That is not even near to my point." Leave it to him, really. "Look at me, Chin Ho Kelly. Do you even remember how devastated I was? I thought I was done. Surfing was all I knew. Same with you right now. But it's just … a different path."
"I don't have another path." He sounds so… lost. Was this how she sounded?
Kono moves closer to him, reaching out and grabbing one of his hands. "Neither did I. And then I found one." She raises her brow, and waits, until there's a smile in the corner of his mouth that doesn't quite reach his eyes.
It feels like they've regained some sort of stable footing. Maybe it's not firm but it's stable enough that they won't plummet. He's out the next day, looking for a job.
It takes awhile – long enough that she has to pay half the months' mortgage and he pretends it didn't happen, save for the moment he promises he'll make it up to her (even though she'd done it without his asking, wouldn't have taken no for an answer; he'd have been homeless otherwise.)
But eventually, twenty nine days after he was dropped (not counting his suspension) he finds somewhere that will take him. A tiny bit of faith in the people of her island is restored.
(Her family is another thing all together.)
It's not enough, hardly enough to keep him going but it does. For two years he's able to keep going on half of what they paid him at HPD. He loses weight but he keeps the house. Kono makes sure he's still eating, and twice a week, she takes him surfing with her, just to make sure he's still doing something.
They keep each other going, him and her.
She's surprised to see him the day he shows up with two other men in tow. They weren't planning to surf until tomorrow.
But he's there. And he's smiling.
And for the first time in awhile, she doesn't see that hint of it being forced.
She loves working with him. They work the same way that they live – with unconditional belief, like they constantly have a hand on the other one's back.
She notices how much he grins. For people who don't know him, it's a seldom thing, but for her, it feels like it happens every ten seconds.
She taunts him sometimes, just because she can. Puts him through a little bit of hell just to get his heart pounding and keep him on his toes. And she surprises him, too. She does it just to hear him say she did it. Sometimes it feels like when they were little again, how much it mattered to her, his praise. Only this time it's a wave, it's a roundhouse kick to someone's face.
It's brilliant, how life ended up. Her and Chin on the same team, their teammates like family, every day more ridiculous than the one just behind it.
It's almost enough. This job almost has the power to make them forget troubled yesterdays.
Until the bomb collar.
Don't touch him, Kono, they tell her, but she wouldn't dream of it. Words are what she needs now. She needs to tell him he's a koa, he's got warrior blood in him, remember? But her throat closes when she tries and she can barely manage to say the vital things.
He's telling her goodbye. She's telling him hello.
They're both saying I love you.
There's never been more truth in her words when she tells Steve, "I believe him. And now that you know, so should you."
It's the words she can't speak to her family. Words that frustrate her beyond belief.
None of it matters. None of it, not in comparison. Not the ten million burnt or that out of the two of them, she's technically the thief in the family.
That's what matters.
5-0 believes in him, in a way HPD or family never did.
Almost as much as she always has.