Summary: In honor of the holiday, I give you Steve, Danny and Grace on the 4th of July.
Sometimes it was damn good to have full immunity and means. Sometimes it was really good to have the governor on speed-dial #1. And sometimes, Steve was just glad that all of that somehow led to moments like this.
The bed of his pickup had a sleeping bag opened wide up and square to provide something soft to sit on. He wouldn't even have bothered with it, but of course when you have a little girl with you, you want to make things comfortable for her.
Their bellies were full of all the picnic foods they'd brought with them earlier in the day. Between Steve and Danny, there'd been three different kinds of sandwiches, five different kinds of local fresh fruit, and everything from cookies to caramel popcorn to Microwave Mochi. One huge cooler for the food and juice for Grace, and one smaller cooler containing a 6-pack of beer. Two of which were already gone.
Steve remembered coming up here to the North Shore every 4th of July from the time he was four years old. His parents, and him, and Mary, come to enjoy a homemade picnic dinner his mom lovingly prepared. They would eat and talk and play and wait until some of the North Shore pro surfers put on a fireworks show that, according to the elder McGarrett, put all others on the island to shame.
That had been before Turtle Bay Resort had been built, and unfortunately there were no fireworks there when Steve was seven since it was under construction. But then the Resort decided to take over firework duty and so at age eight, Steve and his family found themselves back out there for the booths and games and general kid fun that started in the afternoon. Just before dusk, his father would drive them to a smaller peninsula east of the Resort...nothing more than a glorified sandbar, really...and the family would lay out a huge blanket, sit down and enjoy the traditional celebration of Independence Day.
Every year they'd come, and Steve allowed himself to recall happier times with his family. He remembered how his mother would sit between his father's legs, Dad's arms wrapped around her, occasional soft laughs from him and giggles from her. He remembered how Mary would clap her hands over her ears because the fireworks, she complained, were so loud. But she'd never look away from them.
Steve would lie down on the blanket and imagine sometimes that he was one of those fireworks, shooting high into the sky without a care in the world and then exploding to leave his mark in the minds of everyone who saw. That was how he'd always seen his life, up until his mother's death. He always felt like he could do anything, accomplish anything, go anywhere he wanted no matter how strange or impossible it might seem. That he would be magnificent in whatever he took on, that he would shine brightly, that he would explode like one of those fireworks at some point in his life before he died. And that everyone would remember him for it.
He chuckled softly at the memory, shaking his head as they waited for the fireworks show here to begin. All those puffed-up visions he'd had for himself, for his future, had all been fueled by Mom. Mom, who continuously boosted his ego and his sense of self and self-worth until he was pretty much convinced he was as capable as every superhero in all the comics he'd ever read. For all that Danny now called him things like Super SEAL and ninja and every other manner of what were meant to be fond insults, Steve never felt like that now. Hadn't since Mom had been killed.
He shook himself from his reverie, noting suddenly that it was very quiet in the bed of his truck. He looked up to find Danny pulling a lightweight blanket over his sleeping daughter. Danny caught his eyes and smiled softly before looking back down at Grace and laying his hand on her back. Steve watched the point of contact with a matching smile, because he could almost see Mom doing the same thing to him, and he'd seen her do it to Mary. He briefly wondered if his father had ever shown the kind of tenderness Danny showed with Grace, but quickly decided it was doubtful.
Steve looked up into the clear sky, waved his hand toward it, then looked at Danny and pointed down to Grace.
"Oh, don't worry, she'll wake up when they start," Danny whispered, that same loving smile still ghosting his mouth.
Nodding once, Steve looked back down at Grace and suddenly wondered if anyone had ever told his mother what a perfect mother she'd been. Had anyone ever admired her love for her children? Had anyone ever told her how soothing just one touch of her hand had been whenever childhood woes had led to unhappiness? Had anyone ever said to her, "You're a really good mother, you know that?"
Now his eyes traveled back to Danny's face. He seemed to sense it, because he turned and looked at Steve again. "What?" he whispered, opening his hands with palms upward.
"Anyone ever tell you you're a good father?" he asked, and felt a flutter of embarrassment in his chest.
"My folks," Danny replied quickly. "But other than them, no."
Steve held his gaze. "Well, you are," he said quietly.
Danny got a slightly confused look on his face but his smile was genuine. "Thanks," he said.
That was when the first firework launched, and Danny's attention was quickly redirected to Grace. He shook her gently. "Grace, the show's starting."
She mumbled something and Danny chuckled.
That brought Grace right out of dream land. She sat bolt upright, a big grin on her face as they watched the beehive, tiny glittering stars swirling around and around until they faded into the night. In the distance they could hear the crowd gathered at the resort cheer, but here, thanks to their pull with the governor, they had the night...and the fireworks...all to themselves on this little peninsula.
Three chrysanthemums, all in white. Grace and Danny ooh-ed and aah-ed, pointing up at them as Grace chattered about how pretty they were and crawled into her father's lap. Steve watched Danny's arms automatically come around her as she settled against his torso and her head rested back on his shoulder.
Steve remembered doing that with his mom, too, sometimes, when he was younger.
Next came comet after comet after comet, at least a dozen in rapid succession. Followed by at least thirty seconds of go getters where brightly-lit stars shot through the air randomly curling through and around each other before fizzling. Grace cheered because those were multi-colored and she giggled when Danny tickled her ribs in response.
Leaning back against the cab of his truck, Steve laced his fingers behind his head and felt himself completely unwind. For tonight, at least, there were no criminals that needed Five-O to take them down. Kono and Chin were helping HPD coordinate crowd control for the fireworks show at Aloha Tower Marketplace in Honolulu because the entirety of their extended family was going to be in attendance.
But here and now there was only Danny and Steve and Grace, and Steve felt more content than he had in almost ten years. He watched as the fireworks whistled into the sky one after another. The sonic booms making Grace clap her hands to her ears, laughing all the way. Danny taking a swig of his beer, emptying the bottle and reaching into the cooler for another. He offered one to Steve. Nodding, he reached out and took the beer, tipping the bottle toward Danny in thanks.
Then his eyes were back on the fireworks again. A large chrysanthemum, all blue, exploding like it was trying to cover the whole sky. And just after it another chrysanthemum in red, hot and fiery and beautiful, but slightly smaller than the first. Immediately followed by two more that went up, leaving showering white tails behind them until they broke into green dragon eggs.
Steve frowned, cocking his head as the next round went up. This one was a series of fast, loud pops that reminded him of the gunfight the team had been involved in yesterday in downtown Honolulu. The next four burst and trickled downward like softly falling leaves from trees, and it struck Steve suddenly how much their movement reminded him of Chin's quiet calm.
He frowned to himself. He must be losing his mind, comparing fireworks to team members.
But then came a purple dahlia and Steve knew from a boyhood spent learning about these types of things from his dad that this firework was meant to resemble a peony flower, and that led him to thinking about Kono. How beautiful and unassuming she seemed to be on the outside, like any one of the thousands of bikini-clad surfer girls to be found on the beaches of every inhabited island in Hawaii. But how dangerous and downright deadly she was underneath that flawless exterior.
He settled back with the beer in his hand and when the next round shot into the sky he held his breath. Two diadems, the big, huge, regular fireworks everyone was used to, with the willow effect trickling brightness softly downward amongst the starburst as they exploded. One was larger than the other, and at the same moment a crossette saluted directly in between the two diadems, forming a plus sign that spoke volumes to Steve.
Chancing a look at Danny, he was surprised to see his partner looking right back at him, almost like he knew exactly what he'd been thinking. Steve just gave him his patented half-grin, because of course there was no way Danny could know...or ever would know...that Steve had been comparing the fireworks to his own team. That was just nuts, and although it would probably give Danny yet another reason to call him insane...and as much as Steve found the idea of that particular conversation highly amusing...he'd never actually reveal it to Danny.
"Did you just have an entire conversation with me inside your head?" Danny asked.
Startled out of his thoughts, Steve tried to keep from laughing. He gave Danny his best scowl as Grace giggled, pointing at him. "What?" Steve asked the little girl.
"You have Aneurism Face, Uncle Steve!"
"You told her I have faces?" Steve asked Danny incredulously.
"Shh, the finale's coming up," Danny said sternly, but he was trying not to laugh.
Actually, there were five whole minutes until the finale and during that time Steve's mind had somehow turned every single barrage into something having to do with Five-O. Even as he was doing so, he seriously began questioning his sanity for real, but it didn't seem like it could be helped.
They all burned bright and hot. They all had their own reasons for being there, and each in their own way, with their own special talents, brought something new and different to the table. Yet like the fireworks display, while brilliant in and of themselves, it was only when put together with all the others that a truly spectacular show came together.
And that, he supposed, was just his way of internalizing what his life had become. He'd really questioned operating as a military man in a civilian world for a while. But after all this time, after everything they'd been through together, Steve had truly begun to appreciate that this particular team was unique.
Kind of like each fireworks show, he thought, as the finale began. Grace was now sitting on her father's shoulders, watching quietly with her large, brown eyes. Each burst, each flash of light reflected off them in the darkness. Every year there were fireworks, but even though the components were the same, each year's show was different...either by design or simply by chance.
And even though there were more task forces throughout the United States, and throughout the world, Five-O was unique in more ways than one. Steve started wondering when the hell his inner sappy child had started to shine through his psyche, but in the same instant he recognized that it was more his mother shining through than anything else.
He wondered what she would have thought of Danny, hot and fast and loud like the finale that now lit up the sky. She probably would have loved Grace to pieces. In fact, Steve thought, she probably would have treated Grace like her very own granddaughter, because to face facts, it didn't look like either he or Mary were on a fast track to giving her any themselves.
Then again, had his mother lived, things would've probably been very, very different for the McGarretts. Steve and Mary wouldn't have been shipped off to the mainland, for one thing. And Steve probably wouldn't have joined the Navy. Or maybe he would have, who could possibly know the answer to that? Would Steve even have met Danny if Mom hadn't been killed? Well, if he had, then Mom would have met Danny too. And Steve was certain Mom would've adored Grace Williams, and probably would've spoiled her rotten.
As the finale faded and the faint cheers of the resort crowd wafted through the warm night air, Steve drained his bottle of beer and watched as Danny quietly urged his daughter to stand in the bed of the truck near the edge. Danny vaulted over the side to the ground in front of her, then held his hands up. Grace nearly fell into his arms she was so tired, and Steve grinned as he began packing up the coolers, and then folding and zipping and rolling up the sleeping bag. He could hear Danny opening the rear passenger door of the truck, heard the click of the seat belt as he buckled her into place.
"Got everything?" Danny's voice was unusually quiet.
Steve nodded. "Yep," he said, walking to the back of the bed and hopping down.
Danny grabbed one side of the tailgate while Steve grabbed the other. As if by unspoken mutual agreement, they closed it as quietly as they could so as not to wake Grace. The men took a moment, leaning their butts against the bumper, folding their arms over their chests.
"You used to come here with your family," Danny finally said. Steve shot him a surprised look. How the hell could Danny have known that? "Written all over your face," Danny answered as though he'd asked the question out loud.
"Yeah," Steve said, ducking his head a bit and tightening his crossed arms defensively. "Long time ago."
Steve shrugged. He could feel all the happy childhood memories filtering downwards in the funnel of his mind, back into the tight little box he usually kept them locked in. But just as he imagined the last of the memories sliding into place, removing the funnel and lowering the lid, he felt a hand on his forearm and looked up.
Danny smiled, eyes crinkling. "Well, now it is again," he said. And then with a pat to his partner's arm, he moved around him and headed for the passenger seat of the truck.
Steve watched him for a handful of seconds and felt a smile creep across his face. "Yeah," he said softly. Maybe he wouldn't be putting the lid back on that little memory box just yet.