What We Bury
By: Ridley C. James
A/N: I meant to have this ready in honor of Alex's and Scott's birthdays, but it took longer than I imagined so it's a little late. It's my first multi-chapter in this 'verse, although not a terribly long one. I plan to post each week and hopefully wrap up right before the season premiere. I'd love to hear what you think. For my SPN readers, I promise I have not abandoned my post. I have a story almost finished, but my muse is struggling, and I'm hoping this keeps her happy. I loosely borrowed this plot from an old Starsky and Hutch episode- alas there truly are no new ideas. It is set a year after season one and Steve has been exonerated, the team happily reunited though I have gone to great pains not to include some of the 'supposed' changes to the show I love, such as the ridiculous addition of yet another character to Five-O.
"Grief is the price we pay for love." –Elizabeth II
Steve McGarrett was not a patient man. He expected things to happen when he said for them to happen. Whether it was due in part to being a Lt. Commander in the Navy or leader of Hawaii's foremost taskforce on crime, which afforded him to be in charge of any manner of municipalities on the island at the drop of a hat, he wasn't sure, but Steve was used to people doing as he damn well asked.
He'd already burned through his small reserve of patience while waiting to be buzzed in at the gate. The possibility of simply gunning the gas and running through the blockade became more and more likely as the minutes ticked by. Now inside the mini fortress courtyard, staring at the intricate glass door while the unrelenting sun beat down on him, the last of his control was quickly slipping away. Lucky for Stan Edwards, it was Rachel who finally opened the door.
"Steven." There was no hint of surprise or modicum of welcome in her tone.
"Rachel." Steve noted that his partner's ex-wife looked tired, her dark eyes conveying how little rest she'd probably allowed herself over the last few weeks. It was why Steve dug deep and found it in himself not to snap when she leaned in the doorway, seemingly as reluctant to invite him into their home as her husband had been to admit Steve at the gate.
"May I come in?"
"I thought we discussed this." She brought a hand to the side of her neck, trailing her fingers down her red hair which hung loose over pale freckled shoulders. It was a telltale sign of anxiety, perhaps irritation, one of the few ticks Steve had catalogued in her mannerisms. Rachel was nothing if not composed and refined, keeping her emotions neatly squared away beneath a polished surface. He'd been amazed at how opposite she was to Danny when they'd first been introduced-like a gale force hurricane and a quiet snowstorm. Both could be devastating and dangerous if underestimated. Steve had come to appreciate that Rachel complimented his partner in ways that were lost on the casual observer.
"We did, Rachel." Steve forced himself to relax, to keep his voice calm. After all, they'd managed to become friends over the years despite the disastrous sweeping repercussions of the Wo Fat incident which had sealed her and Danny's fate to be nothing more than loving co-parents to Grace. He tried for a smile, well aware it might have appeared more pained grimace if Kono was correct about the fact she hadn't seen him do anything but scowl since the Freeman case. "It's Danny's weekend."
"Daniel isn't here."
Steve tensed, tamping down on his first instinct to shout at her that he damn well knew that better than anyone- except for maybe Grace. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly because Danny needed him to be the levelheaded one for once, to corral the bull in the china shop before he destroyed everything. This sense of duty was why he hadn't drunk as much as he wanted to last night, why he dragged himself out of bed on a Saturday morning and tried to pull his shit together to face the real world instead of retreating to the solitude of the ocean. "But I am. I'm here, Rachel. I want to pick up Grace."
"You know that isn't how it works." Rachel sighed, her eyes glistening. "No matter Danny's wishes, you're not her father."
Steve was well aware he was not Grace's father. Hell, he wasn't even her uncle, not like Matthew Williams had been, but family wasn't always defined by bloodlines and Danny's wishes may have not mattered to Rachel, but they sure as fuck mattered to Steve. He would have taken more offense at the cheap shot if Rachel's voice hadn't trembled, sounding as thin and brittle as fine crystal. Steve wasn't the only one in pain. "It worked last week, it worked on Monday. I imagine it will keep working as long as we all agree it does."
"You know things are not that simple, and we can't go on like this indefinitely."
"Things are only as complicated as you make them." Steve licked his lips, desperately trying to keep anger and frustration from his voice. He rubbed a hand over his face, wishing he'd found the energy to shave the three days growth of beard. If Rachel wanted to she could keep Grace away. For maybe the first time Steve truly appreciated the powerlessness and helplessness Danny experienced when it came to the fight for his daughter. "I'm not asking for infinity, only this weekend."
"I don't think this is good for Grace." Rachel steeled in the face of his rationality, switching tactics. It was a counter Steve had witnessed her use on Danny quite often when she felt cornered or accused. He'd come to realize that even the most good-intentioned parent could unwittingly use their child as a weapon. Rachel's tone softened to one he often heard her use with Grace. "You don't look well, Steve. Have you even slept?"
"Did Gracie say she didn't want to come with me?" Steve avoided the question about his state of welfare. He was so sick of being asked the ridiculous. Steve was not well. He had long since forgotten how a good night's sleep felt. He took another calming breath willing to prove that contrary to what Danny often accused, Steve could negotiate without an ensuing armed conflict. "When I talked to her last night she seemed set on me picking her up like usual. She was excited, counting on it, in fact. I don't want to let her down. Do you?"
"She's ten, Steven." One single tear slipped past Rachel's lashes. She quickly wiped it away with a huff of annoyance. "She doesn't understand."
"She's her father's daughter. Ten or not she knows her mind." Steve hoped the levity might help in the thawing process, but Rachel seemed immune to his ploy. He sighed, swallowing pride along with the lump that had seemed to have taken up permanent residence in the back of his throat. Steve shoved a hand in his pocket, wrapping his fingers around his cell phone and reminding himself he had a lifeline, an anchor to keep him strong. He replayed Danny's message in his head, using it to keep the crippling guilt at bay. "Don't make me beg, Rachel."
"I don't want you on your knees, Steven. I'm not trying to punish you so stop looking at me as if you're a five year old boy and I've stolen away with your puppy." Rachel narrowed her gaze at him, but angled her body away from the door. It was an invitation, albeit a put upon one, for Steve to slide by her and come in. "She's my daughter, too, damn it. I just want to protect her. Hasn't she had enough heartbreak?"
"Haven't we all?" Steve's tone was rough, but he reached out and squeezed Rachel's shoulder to take away some of the sting as he finally entered the house. He waited for her to close the door, watched as she pressed her back against it like a bolster. He was ready to catch her if her legs didn't hold. "The last thing I want to do is make this harder than it already is," he said, quietly.
"I know you're trying to help-to honor Daniel." Rachel's dark eyes raised and locked with Steve's gaze. "No matter your intention, I don't want her at that dreadful place all weekend. Do you understand me? It's no place for a child."
Steve wanted to point out that it was no place for anyone, especially Danny, but he knew that would not aid in his mission. "I have plans for a normal weekend. I promise."
Her mouth twitched and she gave a welcomed, breathy laugh. "We both know your version of normal can tend to be rather skewed, Commander McGarrett."
Steve's smile was more genuine this time, unplanned. "Now you sound like Danny."
"I'm willing to bet you haven't missed Daniel's daily rants and reprimands of what he referred to as your insanity handicap." Rachel pushed away from the door, rubbing her arms with her hands.
"You'd be wrong. I miss everything about him."Steve's honesty surprised him. His grin faltered. No one but the tight ass Governor Denning had dared to call him out on any of the crazy shit he'd pulled the last few weeks. Even Kono's disappointment had been carefully voiced in a completely caring way, which had earned her a dark glare and an undeserved dressing down that Steve had yet to apologize for despite Chin Ho's not so subtle suggestion to do so or face his wrath. Steve was certain he was due a couple of ass kickings from his team. The fact he was unscathed was a testimony to the type of people he was lucky enough to call his ohana. "I'd give just about anything for a good dressing down from Danny right about now."
Rachel raised a brow. "From what I hear he'd have legitimate cause to berate you."
"You've been talking to Kono or Kaye?"
"The girls and I have crossed paths a few times. Ironically, Oahu is not such a big island. They told me Governor Denning ordered you to take a leave of absence. They're very concerned about you, you know. Daniel wouldn't have wanted this; he wouldn't want you to blame yourself. He loved you and..."
"Denning is an ass and I'm fine." Steve glanced at his watch, unwilling to have this conversation. He'd already had similar ones with Mary and Catherine. "Is Grace about ready?"
"Stan went to help her finish packing the rest of her things." Rachel had stopped trying to warm herself, but left her arms wrapped around her body as she regarded Steve. "It seems he has little confidence in my resolve to tell you no. My husband has a ridiculous notion that Grace and I are both suffering from a terrible case of transference."
"I'm not trying to take Danny's place, Rachel." Steve was merely standing in, holding Danny's spot. He'd made a promise and he damn well meant to keep it. He could give a shit what Stan thought about any of this.
"That's good, because you can't." Rachel's voice was gentle, and Steve understood she wasn't trying to hurt him. Even if she had been hoping for a reaction, some well-deserved retribution, complete emotional numbness had set in for Steve weeks ago. Watching your best friend bleed out on a dirty sidewalk tended to make every other conceivable injury seem trivial. She cleared her throat, reclaiming his attention. "Things will have to change eventually, you understand. We'll have to go back to life as usual."
Steve ignored her warning, instead looking up the stairs that led to the bedrooms. There was no need in crossing any bridges he didn't have to. "You know she has everything she needs at my place."
"Everything but Daniel."
Steve was spared responding to the quiet observation by Grace's exuberant dissent of the stairs, her boisterous squeal as she rushed towards them.
"Hey, Gracie!" He bent to catch her up his arms, knowing she'd go straight for the hug. She was her father's daughter, after all.
"I knew you'd come." She clutched a pink, stuffed cat in one hand, the other she wrapped tightly around Steve's neck. Her voice was low, breath warm as it brushed against his ear. "Stan said not this weekend, but I knew you would."
"I wouldn't break our date, Kiddo." Steve held on a moment longer, taking in the scent of strawberry shampoo and the unreserved way in which she fiercely clung to him. She was solid and tangible-so alive, and a reminder that not all was lost. He was surprised when his eyes grew hot with unshed tears, which he quickly blinked away before setting Grace down, holding her at arm's length. "Let me look at you. I think you've grown a couple of inches."
"You just saw me a few days ago, silly."
"Something's different." Steve frowned, tilting his head to study the little girl. He took in the faint trace of glittery blue eye shadow smudged over her dark eyes and pink lip gloss smeared slightly at the corner of her mouth.
"I'm trying a new look." Grace smiled, giving a slight curtsey as she held out the edges of a frilly pink skirt, dotted with sequins. It clashed with the green mermaid t-shirt she was wearing, but the scarf around her neck had a swirl of color that he imagined was meant to tie the two pieces together. It was not her typical outfit and Grace's dark hair hung loose down her back instead of in her trademark braids or pig tails.
"I see that." Steve cast a quick glance in Rachel's direction, but kept his smile in place. Rachel bit her lip, giving a quick shake of her head. Kids weren't equipped to handle their emotions like adults, repression still not yet in their arsenal of survival skills. Steve vividly remembered Mary cutting the hair from all of her Barbie Dolls when their mother died, spreading long blond strands from the front door to the kitchen table, and into her bedroom, like a gruesome bread crumb trail."It's very stylish, Gracie."
"I don't think Danno will like it one bit." Grace beamed, extremely proud of herself. "He says I can't wear make-up until I'm twenty. I bought a new bikini for the beach, too. Auntie Kono helped me pick it out. He'll be so mad."
"That does sound like something Danno would hate." Steve ran a hand over the little girl's hair before standing. "Now all you need is a couple of boys blowing up your cell phone."
"I can't wait to tell Danno what we've both been up to. Tommy told me you got fired for punching the governor of Hawaii!" Grace latched onto Steve's hand, just as Stan made his way down the stairs with her well-worn Hannah Montanna suitcase in tow.
"I didn't punch Governor Denning and I didn't get fired. We just had a little miscommunication and I'm taking an unplanned vacation." Steve ignored the snort from Stan, silently praying the man showed some sense for once and kept his freaking mouth shut. He didn't think Rachel would be so understanding if Steve beat the hell out of her husband in their fancy front foyer.
"Danno would say you're spinning it."
"Yeah, but we both know how uptight Danno is."
Grace nodded, her eyes shining. "Can we go see him now?"
"You bet." Steve chanced a glance to Rachel and found the glare he was expecting. "After we go surfing with Kono, do some swimming, eat way too much shave ice, and watch a marathon session of Sponge Bob."
"Can we have pizza with pineapple too? You know how Danno goes crazy when we order that."
"Anything you want." Steve took the suitcase from Stan, offering only the slightest of nods in the man's general direction. The chill factor between them had dropped several degrees after Danny and Rachel's affair. Steve couldn't exactly blame the man for the whole guilty by association thing, but no matter which way Steve twisted the moral dilemma, Danny, in his eyes at least, would always come out in the right, the guy in the white hat, taking the high road in a last ditch effort to save his family.
"I want her home by five tomorrow, Steven."
"I thought I had her until Sunday." Steve was pushing his luck and knew it. The dark flash of smoldering anger in Rachel's eyes reminded him there was a valid reason for some of Danny's more unflattering nicknames for his ex.
"Then you misunderstood," she said, tersely.
"Of course I did. Five o'clock." Steve squeezed Grace's hand giving her a wink. "We don't want to get your mom riled at us."
"Danno calls that chumming the water."
"Grace." Rachel knelt in front of her daughter, who smiled innocently.
"Well, he does, Mommy."
Rachel framed Grace's face with her hands. "I trust you will behave for your uncle and listen to everything he says?"
"I'll keep Super SEAL in line." Grace swung their clasped hands, flashing Steve a smirk that was all Danny and he felt his chest clench.
"I'm sure your father would really appreciate that, Baby. He'd be so proud of you." Rachel cut her gaze to Steve before pulling her daughter into a crushing hug. "Be safe, sweetheart." He heard her whisper and felt a rush of appreciation for the trust Rachel was offering him. He wasn't sure he'd be so apt to return the favor if their situations were reversed.
"You ready, Kiddo?" When Rachel held on for a little longer, Steve decided he should get them out of there before the woman came to her senses.
"Let's go." Grace released her mother, waved to Stan and started for the door, practically pulling Steve along with her. "We're burning daylight."
"When did you get so bossy?" Steve gave a little chuckle, losing his grin when Grace drew up short at the bottom of the stairs. He realized his mistake instantly as his eyes landed on the sleek silver Chevrolet glistening under the sunlight. He mentally kicked himself for not driving his father's Marquis.
"Fuck, Gracie, I'm sorry." Steve found comfort in driving his partner's car, but understood all too well the painful reminder it could be. Kono demanded he not park in front of the Palace, even Chin balked at the idea of riding shotgun. To Grace, the Camaro represented her father, screamed that Danny should be the one picking her up, not his second rate, stand-in partner.
Grace looked up at him. "Danno says you're never supposed to say that word, Uncle Steve. He calls it the mother of all bad words."
"I know." Steve's gut twisted again. Not for the first time he questioned Danny's request that he take care of Grace. "I'm an idiot."
The little girl's smile reappeared, as bright and shining as the Hawaiian sun. "I'll be sure to tell him all about that when we get there."
Steve shook his head, the laugh that bubbled forth coming out more like a strangled sob. He blamed the damn lump in his throat. "What is it with you and this campaign to incur your father's wrath, Kiddo?"
The little girl's jaw took on a painfully familiar set. Her tone dropped, echoing her devout resolve. "I'm going to make Danno so crazy that he has no choice but to wake up."
It was in that moment, in that resonance of a little girl's solemn pledge to save her father that it became painfully clear to Steve why he was so completely desperate to see Grace. His vigilance wasn't spurned solely by an honor-bound duty to fulfill his partner's last request, nor was it a demonstration of his attachment to the little girl he'd come to love as if she were his own flesh and blood. Steve needed to be with Grace Williams because she was the only other person on the island who hadn't given up hope, didn't already have Danny dead and buried. Gracie, just like her crazy Uncle Steve, still believed wholeheartedly their Danno would come back to them.
"What do you think?" Grace's voice was only slightly less confident than before; reminiscent of the time she took it upon herself to paint a surprise seascape mural complete with pink mermaids riding seahorses on the wall of the guest room she sometimes used at Steve's house.
Steve knelt in front of her, giving her the same reassuring smile he'd managed back then. "I think it sounds like a great plan-the best I've ever heard."
"Then let's go see him."Grace's face beamed. She squeezed his hand, echoing words he'd once said to her. "What are we waiting for? Come on."
To be continued….