Why Steve Stacks the Deck

By: Ridley

Beta: Tidia

A/N: I couldn't help myself after that little comment Joe made to Steve at the end of episode 5, and this so seemed like the perfect way for me to fix everything that has bugged me about this season. ;-) The guest starring dog this past week also inspired me, but there are no spoilers. If you haven't read my story 'Why Danno Don't Date' you might want to peruse that first as this is a companion piece. Using Steve in a similar situation was much more difficult. I hope I made it believable. Let me know what you think.


If you must play, decide upon three things at the start:

The rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.-Chinese proverb

Steve McGarrett peered intensely into the coffee cup clasped in his hands. It had long since grown cold, not even the perfect blend of vanilla, soy milk and raw sugar tempting enough for him to finish it all, but it gave him something to focus on, something to hold onto to keep him from fidgeting as he waited. Steve hated to wait. He hated waiting in a hospital ER admitting area even more. He would have been grateful for the privacy Dr. Hoy had forced upon him by secluding him in his small office, even if he suspected it was more for the other visitors' benefit more than it was Five-0's commander, if not for the other occupant in the room.

Steve could feel the beady eyes staring at him although he had yet to acknowledge the other's presence. The intermittent whines and squishing sound coming from across the room were obviously attempts to draw his attention, sort of like when Danny would shift about in the passenger seat and dramatically sigh when Steve was not giving him the attention he felt he warranted.

Thoughts of his partner had him looking toward Hoy's open office door, scanning the vicinity for a familiar physician or nurse he could interrogate. His intimidation factor wasn't quite as effective as it once had been. A year ago his rants and demands would have warranted him a meeting with the Chief Of Staff, hell, an audience with the hospital board of directors, not a fucking dog. Governor Denning, unlike Jameson, was not willing to pull strings on Five-0's behalf where hospital staff was concerned, and that gave Steve one more reason to want to punch the man in the face.

"Stop staring at me," Steve growled, finally turning his gaze to Dr. Hoy's therapy sidekick, Maslow.

The black Labrador took the order as an invitation to move closer, stopping short of Steve's feet. He continued to gaze at Steve, as he worked the faded pink tennis ball gripped firmly in his teeth, each chomp eliciting another grating squish as the toy was thoroughly soaked with slobber. The ball matched the bandana around the dog's neck, an oddity Steve only noticed because he was sure Danny had told him the dog was male. With a name like Maslow, one could never tell.

"What?" Steve regarded the dog warily. Danny had brought the beast into Steve's hospital room a few months ago when the Navy SEAL had been recuperating from a head wound. The initial meeting, buffered by pain medicine, and the effects of a moderate concussion had been pleasant enough, but Steve had not bought into his partner's glowing recant of the animal's innate therapy skills nor had he been swayed by the overly affectionate dog to Danno's argument as to why Five-0 should have a canine counterpart of their own. "Don't you have something better to do-client notes to enter, rounds to make?"

Maslow took another step forward, dropping the tennis ball with great accuracy onto Steve's scuffed boots before retreating to the other side of the small office to sit on his haunches and wait expectantly.

Steve looked down at the ball and then back to the dog. "What am I suppose to do with this?"

Maslow whined, cocking his head to the side.

Steve sighed, hearing the jab his partner would have undoubtedly delivered if he had been there. 'More proof that you had no childhood whatsoever, Steven.'

"Fine." The commander placed his coffee aside and picked up the ball. He tossed it at Maslow, the black lab catching it with practiced ease. "Now leave me alone."

To Steve's great annoyance Maslow returned, along with the ball which he once again deposited at the SEAL's feet.

"Really? This is the skillset of a highly trained therapy dog-fetch?" Steve picked up the ball, tossing it a little higher and harder. Maslow rose to the challenge, front paws coming off the floor to ensure his perfect catch.

Maslow trotted to Steve this time, bent on repeating the process. Steve accommodated by throwing the ball behind Dr. Hoy's desk. To his displeasure, the tactic not only failed in discouraging Maslow, but seemed to have the opposite effect as the big animal lumbered around the room joyously uprooting his dog bed, flipping a basket of magazines and tumbling a couple of umbrellas standing in the corner before triumphantly returning with the wet, pink prize.

Steve glanced towards the door, assured the ruckus would have garnered some attention, but found the nurses still entranced with their computer terminals. Maslow was sitting at his feet when he looked back, ball once again grasped in his mouth. He nudged at Steve's hand, pressed the disgusting toy against the SEAL's leg.

"You don't give up, do you?" Steve took the ball, turning it over in his hand. He briefly thought of shoving it in his pocket, successfully ending the game, but felt a stab of guilt when the dog whined, brown eyes going from the toy Steve was holding to the commander's gaze, then back as if he could telepathically translate the message he desperately wanted Steve to understand. Play.

Steve bounced the ball on the floor, arching it high into the air which allowed Maslow to leap for it. He quickly lost track of how many times he'd repeated the process, the thud of tennis ball on the floor, the click of Maslow's paws on the tile becoming rhythmic, repetitious and somehow soothing. He felt a little let down when Maslow moved to his side, but didn't give up the ball.

Steve frowned. "You're tired already?"

Maslow's reply was to lay at his feet, head resting on his paws with a contented sigh. It reminded Steve of the way he felt after a long swim, collapsing onto the warm sand, heart racing, every muscle alive and strumming with endorphins.

He'd experienced that very euphoria this morning, coming off the dive with Joe. They'd cast off at sunrise, taking his mentor's boat to a beautiful spot about ten miles off the coast. The ocean was like an alternate reality for Steve, the one refuge where he could shed the heavy skin of responsibilities, free to be buoyant and unfettered if only for a short time. Steve had jumped at the rare opportunity to have a Saturday to do nothing but hang out with Joe, do something he and his father had done on rare occasions.

His lightheartedness had vanished instantly upon returning to the boat and finding his phone. The missed calls from Danny hadn't worried him at first. His partner knew where he was, so Steve expected a taunting voicemail inquiring if Steve had managed to do battle with a reef shark or been electrocuted by an eel. At the least he thought Danny might have been confirming plans for that evening. He and Gracie, along with Chin and Kono were coming over for dinner, which Steve promised would be a fresh catch of the day. He hadn't exaggerated; him and Joe had pulled in an amazing hall. There was no message from his partner, but it was the subsequent calls from Chin, the four from Duke at HPD and the one from Homeland Security Special Agent, Muncey that set Steve on edge.

It was the news every commander fears, the one call Steve had sworn would never be placed to him.

"I should have been there." Steve didn't realize he'd spoken out loud until Maslow sat up; ball abandoned for what he seemed to hope was a more leisurely interaction with the human. "I should have been leading them on that raid, watching their backs."

Steve had helped plan the takedown with HPD and Homeland Security. Homeland Security had received intel the shipment of weapons and money would be coming in to port early Sunday morning, a tip that one of Wo Fat's top emissaries would be overseeing the exchange-a possible chance appearance by Wo Fat himself. Everything was laid out in precise detail down to the SWAT positions. Homeland's team would assist with Five-0 taking the point. Steve had been so wired, so intense since Wo Fat had registered once more on their radar that he suspected Danny might have asked Joe to provide a distraction.

Maslow leaned his body against Steve's legs, the warm heaviness steadying. "Wo Fat always manages to stay one step ahead of me. He moved up the meet, or at least made it look that way. My team never saw it coming."

Steve ran his hand over the dog's head, imagining the analytical and logical steps Danny would have followed before taking charge of the situation. Every would have, could have, should have scenario crowded Steve's thoughts, bringing the pounding behind his eyes to a crescendo. "There was no meet, probably never was. The building was rigged with C-4. We SEALS have a special word for missions like that, Maslow buddy. FUBAR. Typically, my partner, Danno would tell you that's not a word, that it's some elitist military acronym, but I believe even he would agree it's fitting in this situation."

"Your partner tends to have a stubborn streak, doesn't he?"

Steve glanced up at the door, watched as Maslow excitedly wagged his body towards Dr. Hoy who entered his office with a brown bag in hand, which warranted an intense investigation by the dog.

"He does." Steve willed himself to relax, not to bound up to the doctor as Maslow had done though the urge was strumming at the prospect of Hoy having heard about his team. "Have you got news?"

"Sorry, no, just taking a quick break. Saturday evenings demand I grab a free moment when I can. " Hoy gestured for Steve to stay seated. " I'm not really in the physician circle of information-unless there's need for my services."

"Meaning I don't want you to hear anything about my team before I do." Steve sighed, running a hand through his hair. He was certain Dr. Hoy was brought in when a patient's family would not react well to the news being delivered. In Steve's case he was sure the nurses knew him well enough to know finding one of his team to be the barer of ill tidings was a far better bet, only that wasn't possible this time around, seeing as his whole team was down.

Hoy joined him on the couch, pulling the brown bag onto his lap and out of Maslow's reach before giving the dog a quick rub behind his ears. "Detective Williams' tenacity seems to extend to your entire team. The nurses here have a theory that mule-headedness is a prerequisite for being considered for an appointment to Five-0-that and incredibly good bone structure. It seems they may have a valid point in the former as I have seen all of you at one time or the other defy the odds."

"This situation is different." The job went to hell quickly. From what Steve understood, it took hours to dig his team out of the mess. Hours Steve had been floating in a deep blue abyss. He looked past Hoy out to the nurse's station, convinced there should have been some kind of news by now. Homeland Security had been informed of their men more than an hour ago, and although the news had been grim Steve found himself jealous of the agent in charge. Muncey was now sitting with his surviving team members.

"So your tall, intimidating friend told me." Hoy opened the bag, pulling out a bagel and small tub of cream cheese. "It sounds like your FUBAR assessment summed it up nicely."

"Joe talked to you?" Steve's former commander had left with the promise to go tell Rachel about Danny in person. Steve was unwilling to leave the hospital, but hadn't wanted to give her the news over the phone, nor had he wanted his partner's ex driving to the hospital upset, especially in her very pregnant state.

"Before he left." Dr. Hoy spread cream cheese on half the bagel before handing the bare piece to Maslow. "He wanted to make sure someone was keeping an eye on you."

"That sounds about right." Steve would have been lying if he had said he hadn't enjoyed Joe's astute attention the first few months he'd been on the island. It was like having his father back, or at least as close to the real thing as possible. The last few weeks after their latest run in with Wo Fat had been different. Joe's preoccupation had felt stifling, reminiscent of when he was under the man's command. "He's witnessed men lose their entire teams in battle, kept a few from eating a bullet. Joe knows what it's like to have the proverbial rug pulled from under your feet."

"I'm sure you do as well."

"I've had some experience." Steve suddenly found the close proximity to the doctor as oppressive as Joe's attention. He stood, making his way across the small room for some much needed space.

"Before coming to work in the ER last year most of my experience was with people who lost or were losing the people they loved in very meticulously slow and cruel increments of time." Dr. Hoy took a bite of the bagel, chewing for a long moment before lifting gaze to Steve. "Maslow and I are veterans of the oncology unit."

Steve nodded, grateful for the opportunity for deflection. "Cancer is a formidable enemy."

"It is, but at least it usually gives you a warning of impending doom. Here, in the ER, people don't usually get that kind of leeway. Car crashes, fires, cardiac emergencies, bombs- all much stealthier foes." Dr. Hoy took another bite of the bagel, before handing the final piece to his partner. He dusted his hands on his pants, relaxing into the leather couch. "I understand Commander White's concern."

Steve sighed, realizing that he was not being offered a reprieve, but spun in the silk of a spider's web. He wasn't so easily caught. "So you see a lot of bombing victims here?"

"I was merely pointing out that all those scenarios have the potential to leave people reeling, not able to process what's happening. Unlike having a band-aid removed, I think losing someone completely unexpectedly, having them torn away so quickly is much worse than having a chance to say goodbye-even if the alternative is sometimes a long painful process."

Steve's thoughts turned to his mother, how she'd disappeared from his life, their final moments together. He'd never expected it would be the last time he would see her-the same with his father. Steve tried to remember what he'd said to Danny the night before to Kono and Chin before leaving the palace that afternoon. Whatever it was, it couldn't have been meaningful, positive it was not infused with even a modicum of the depth of what he felt for his ohana. It was most definitely not a final goodbye. He cleared his throat, eyes finding Hoy's once more. "Why did you leave oncology?"

Dr. Hoy favored him with a tolerant smile, obviously recognizing the last ditch effort to take control of the conversation. "Maslow and I lost a very special patient to breast cancer after a long hard fight. We didn't have the heart for the work after that."

Steve's eyes went to the doctor's left hand, the faint impression on his ring finger faded and barely visible. He watched Maslow who had reclaimed the pink tennis ball and was nudging it against his partner's hand. "Your wife?"

Hoy nodded, wrestling the ball from Maslow to bounce it for him. "I had eight months to tell her goodbye and it still wasn't long enough."

Steve had spent enough time with military shrinks to know self disclosure was a useful tactic, but Dr. Hoy had nothing to gain from getting him to open up, no one to report to. Still, he'd found that the quickest way to shut up a psychiatrist was to confess the darkest recesses of one's soul as if offering up your grocery list. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he once more searched the nurse's station for any indication on his team. "My mother was killed in a car crash when I was kid. My dad was murdered a few years ago. I don't even remember how many buddies I've been talking and joking with one minute, only to end up being smeared with their blood and brain matter moments later. I've never gotten the chance to say goodbye."

"It's amazing what the human spirit can endure and still remain intact."

Steve met the doctor's gaze, not surprised when he found a completely unreadable mask of practiced affect. It was Maslow who sneaked up on him, effortlessly maneuvering past his defenses in a move worthy of a certain Jersey detective offering sympathy and understanding in a way professionals avoided. The dog leaned his big body against Steve's legs, head pressing into the SEAL's thigh with a throaty whine as if he had not only understood every word Steve had spoken, but grasped the pain that was well hidden beneath the calm demeanor in which they had been presented.

"I think I've reached my limit." Steve found his hand moving to Maslow's head, fingers treading through the soft fur. The dog looked up at him, pink tongue lolling as he continued to speak, more to the animal than to Hoy. "I can't lose one more person that way, not my team…not Danny." It was why Steve always had a plan, why he was always in control. "If they're gone…then the game may be finished for me."

"Interesting that you would equate what's happened in your life to a game."

Steve continued to give his attention to Maslow. "I've found the world's easier to navigate if it's viewed as one big football field."

"Or a battleground?"

Steve lifted his gaze to Hoy. His military background was no secret, and it didn't exactly take someone with a doctorate in psychology to figure out how being a SEAL supported Steve's warped world view. "That works as well."

"I suppose that puts everyone on teams, doesn't it?"

Steve removed his hand from Maslow, crossing his arms over his chest. "It defines people as competitors, I guess."

"I see." Hoy didn't seem surprised by the revelation, merely intrigued. "One is either a winner or loser depending on how well they play. Fate and chance can be overruled by strategy and hard work? Those who are smarter, faster, stronger take home the trophy, and those who let their guard down are left in the mud yards away from the end zone."

"Something like that." Steve had never taken the time to analyze the ins and outs very thoroughly, though Danny loved to try and shed light on his demented psyche on a daily basis. There was no need for self discovery when a guy had Danno for a partner.

Hoy scooted to the edge of the couch, propping his elbows on his knees to study Steve. "If that's true, then you could rationalize that what happened with the bombing and your team this morning might be you dropping the ball on a very important play."

"What happened today was me being outsmarted by a very formidable foe." Joe had been right. Wo Fat was stepping up his game; going after those closest to Steve was merely the next level. Steve would be next. For him to think there would have ever been any other outcome was naïve on his part. It was a mistake that could cost him his team, his best friend.

"That makes your people sound like pawns when from what I understand about them they are all very capable, intelligent officers of the law?"

"They're the best at what they do, but what happened this morning was personal. It had nothing to do with how good they are at their jobs. It had to do with me and the positions in which I've placed them." It was too much to ask someone like Hoy to understand the code men like he and Wo Fat followed. Wo Fat knew all too well what wiping Steve's team out would mean.

"Positions directly in the line of fire because they're the only thing standing between the quarterback and the other team's defensive line?"

"This is where you tell me my logic is flawed." Steve had heard it all before, and read about it in his file. He was a classic control freak with survivor guilt issues and slight sociopathic tendencies. Danny's terms not the military shrinks. The combination made for a hell of a soldier, but not always for such a healthy balanced person.

Hoy shrugged. "Flawed or not, it sure makes for one hell of a high stakes game."

"That's why I have to win."

"I wonder, Commander McGarrett what might happen if you just quit playing?"

Steve was spared an answer and a continuation of the impromptu therapy session by the nurse he'd been waiting for. "Sir, you're needed in the treatment bay."

"I've got to go." Steve gave the doctor a glance and Maslow one more pat. "Thank you for the coffee, and the game of fetch."

Dr. Hoy stood, offering his hand to Steve. "Tell your partner I'll bring Maslow to see him when he's feeling up to it."

Steve hesitated briefly before shaking the doctor's hand. "He'd like that."

Time in the treatment bay passed in a blur, followed by more torturous waiting in OR suites into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Chin and Danny had both needed surgeries, Kono escaping with a nasty head wound and bruising. She was released the following day, but insisted on staying with Steve and Joe until the rest of their team was declared on the mend and he could finally convince her to follow his order to let Malia take her home where she could get the rest she needed.

Chin's stay had been a little longer, Danny being the last to be released almost a week later because of the physical therapy his injuries required. With a little prompting from Steve, Danny's doctor had made it a condition of his patient's release that he stay with someone who could help him out while he recuperated. It hadn't taken much convincing on Steve's part to get his partner to agree to stay with him considering the state of the motel Danny was currently living. The day had finally arrived and Steve was more than eager to leave the hospital room behind them. They had one quick stop to make before finally heading home.

"Would you leave it alone? I can fasten my own damn seatbelt, Steven."

Steve grinned at the dour comment and subsequent one-handed swatting, as he leaned over the passenger's seat careful of his partner's sling. A flustered Danny was far preferable to the sulky, silent Danny who had appeared during his best friend's convalescence. "We'll get out of here faster if you just let me help. Besides I promised Gracie I would take good care of you."

Danny let out a put upon huff but relaxed into the seat, allowing Steve to maneuver across him. Gracie was Danny's Achilles heel and Steve was not above using the advantage. "Like you helped the nurse wheel me out of there in a chair that I'm pretty sure was not meant to get above a creepy crawl and most definitely was not intended for spins or wheelies."

Steve ignored Danny's tirade, bringing the belt across his friend and clicking it into place with a shrug. "For the last two days all I've heard is how freaking bored you are. I was trying to liven things up and get us the hell out of there as quickly as possible."

"You, my friend do not have to 'try' to liven things up. Adrenaline spikes are assured if one stays around you long enough. Stress hormones are your natural by product, like oxygen with plants. I'm quite positive the ride home with your typical driving skills would have sufficed to cure me of any ennui issues. If not, being forced to cohabitate with you most definitely will."

"Ennui? Cohabitate?" Steve cranked the Camaro, flashing his friend another grin. "Seriously?"

Danny used his good arm to readjust the belt low across his abdomen. Steve didn't' miss his partner's sharp intake of breath. "So I may have spent a little too much time with the crossword puzzles Kono brought me. You're just jealous that unlike a certain someone driving my car I have a vocabulary bigger than that of a fifth grader."

Steve cut his gaze to his friend. "Ribs hurting you? We can pick up your pain meds first thing if you need to."

"I'm fine." Danny managed a decent glare. "What did I say about keeping the 'ruffled mother hen fretting over her one- winged chick' face to yourself?"

Steve snorted. "You're just cranky I didn't take Gabby up on her offer to drive you to my place."

"If I were cantankerous, which I am not, I would be so because the last time I checked I was a grown man and quite capable of making decisions on my own. I am also fairly certain the power I gave you to make life and death emergency medical decisions on my behalf only extends to the times when I am either unconscious or lacking rational judgment due to some unforeseen circumstance like one of your escapades leading me to be struck upon the head with a crowbar, or stunned with an amped up cattle prod."

"Neither of those incidents were my fault and I had my reasons for wanting to drive you home myself." Steve maneuvered them into the morning traffic, shooting a quick glance to his partner. "Gabby is welcome to come over for dinner tonight. I'll grill some tuna steaks."

"I am well aware you have reasons, Steven. The same reasons that demand you drive my car, know what I'm eating for lunch each day, warrant a five-point inspection of each domicile I chose to reside, and this annoying current need you have to butt your nose into my love life. Only I don't call them reasons, I call them insane control issues and kindly choose to endure them on most days because I do not delude myself by actually thinking that a leopard's spots can be changed-or in this case a SEAL's."

"Seals don't have spots." Steve hadn't realized how much he'd missed Danny's overcrowded, thrown together dialogues until that very moment-the flow of their verbal volley as familiar as the constant crash of the surf, as soothing as the repetitive bounce of a tennis ball on the floor.

Danny closed his eyes, resting his head against the seat. "I've been so wrapped up in my dislike of the physical therapy team and that nurse with the really cold hands that I'd almost forgotten how much I hate you."

Steve laughed. "Would it help if I told you I brought you a present?"

Danny turned his head, cracking one eye open to peer at Steve. "Does that present involve a new parenting plan signed by Rachel and two one way plane tickets to Jersey?"

Steve ignored the dig about his partner's beloved state and his consummate desire to return there. He reached one arm into the backseat to procure the brightly colored bag declaring 'It's a Boy' in bold balloon letters. The hospital gift shop was severely limited in choices of gift swag, but Steve found the sentiment ironically suiting. "This is something even better."

Danny took the bag with a frown and wild gesturing for Steve to keep his eyes on the road. "Would you please refrain from getting us in an accident which would no doubt result in re-breaking each and every one of my still knitting bones but leave you entirely unscathed? I'll be the judge of whether or not this gift even begins to make up for the last week of over the top hovering."

"It's actually only half the present. The big part is coming up at the next exit."

Danny didn't bother to take note of where they were before digging into the contents of his gift. Even one-handed it didn't take him long to divest the package of all the tissue that Kono had insisted on. Steve realized where Grace inherited her enthusiasm and impatience for anything wrapped as he watched Danny finally dump the contents onto his lap, part of the gift falling into the floorboard. Steve would have given money for a free hand to snap a picture as he watched his partner's face contort with confusion, the faded bruises and row of stitches above his eye not able to mar the entire experience.

"Kiddie Kevlar?" Danny lifted the altered black bullet proof vest with the Five-0 insignia emblazoned across the side. "Steven, please tell me this is not for Grace. While I'd admit the fact that you will be chauffeuring my daughter about, and she will be staying at your place for the next little while might warrant such thoughtful protection, Rachel will not be impressed considering she nearly had pea soup coming out of her nose when Grace listed Navy SEAL and cop as two of her possible career choices right along with pop star, veterinarian and professional ballerina. Seriously, the pink camo cargo pants and Navy ball cap were pushing it."

"It's not for Grace." Steve cut his gaze to Danny as he took the exit that would lead them to the federal training facility. Once they were safely on the private road he reached down retrieving the collar, leash and badge that had fallen beside Danny's legs. "It's not even for a human."

Danny glanced down at the black lead, gold shield and then up at his partner as the car came to a stop in front of one of the many tall fences surrounding the property. "What are we doing here, Steven?"

"We have a meeting with Special Agent Muncey from Homeland Security at noon. It's one of the reasons why I was in a hurry to get out of the hospital."

"Why are we meeting Muncey? I thought the case was wrapped. Wo Fat's people are off the radar."

"Do you need help with the seatbelt?" Steve made to reach over to undo the latch, not wanting thoughts of yet another Wo Fat clean getaway to ruin the day, but Danny smacked his hand.

"I can do it myself, Steven."

Steve smirked. "Then come on, what are you waiting for?"

Steve grabbed the leash, slipping out the driver's side. Muncey was waiting at the gate, as planned. The big, gray haired man nodded to Steve, then reached his hand out to Danny.

"Good to see you up and around, Detective Williams. You look a hell of a lot better without the rebar sticking through your shoulder."

"I feel a whole hell of a lot better, too." Danny shook the man's hand then patted his sling."How is it that the man who brought us this brilliant intel came away basically unscathed?"

Steve felt Muncey look his way, touching his still-bruised eye before giving a hearty chuckle. "I took my hits in the hospital, believe me."

Steve avoided the curious glance Danny flashed him, knowing he'd eventually have to cop to knocking the shit out of Muncey in the ER waiting room. "I hear your man, Delaney is going to pull through?"

"He is." Muncey scratched his chin. "He won't be returning to duty anytime soon, but at least he'll be coming home to his family."

"It's never easy to lose one of your team." It was a sentiment Steve understood all too well. He cut his gaze to Danny. "We were all lucky."

"I have a hard time letting any of my men go, even when I know they're going to a better place." Muncey gestured to a young man walking their way, a black and white dog trotting at his side. "I believe this is who you came for, Commander."

The young officer stopped beside Muncey exchanging a few words before handing off the dog and a small duffel bag.

Danny looked from Steve to the dog. "What the hell is going on?"

"I'm guessing this is Officer Weston." Steve offered the leash he'd brought to Danny. "He's transferring from Homeland Security to Five-0. Weston's going to be our new partner."

"Partner?" Danny took the leash in one hand, turning to study the dog before locking gazes with Steve once more. "Are you serious?"

"I took your request from a few months ago into consideration, and after what happened with Wo Fat, Governor Denning thought Five-0 might need a new addition."

"Governor Denning did this? He thinks we need a guard dog?"

"Officer Weston is a top notch explosives canine, claymores, C-4-you name it, he can sniff it out." Muncey reached down and scratched the dog's ears. "A Labrador and Pit Bull Terrier mix-or Bullbrador-as we like to call him. He's got all the qualities you could want in a partner all rolled into one beautiful animal-fiercely protective, loyal, willing to please with one hell of a nose. Weston's also skilled in recon and body detail. He did two tours in Iraq before losing his partner to a sniper."

"Sounds like he's had a rough time of it?"Danny bent down eye level with the dog and Steve didn't miss the tone in his voice. It was the one usually reserved for victims and Grace. "Not much worse than losing a partner is their big guy?"

"He wasn't coping very well so the marines recycled him last year with an honorable discharge and he got assigned to us to help train new recruits. Weston 's been a great asset, but he's ready to find a place of his own again, a new team." Muncey looked at the dog, giving a sharp command. "Colapi."

Steve watched as the dog's posture changed, its perked ears relaxing, tongue lolling as it tilted its head to regard Danny in a way that reminded Steve of Maslow. The dog wasn't as big as Hoy's Labrador, but they had similar features-a wide smiling mouth, expressive chocolate eyes. Weston's body was bulkier, head and chest broader.

"You can pet him now," Muncey told Danny, who didn't need any further prompting to get his good hand on the beast.

"What language was that?" Steve asked as his partner rubbed the dog's head and neck, speaking softly to the animal.

"Lakota," Muncey explained. "It means 'trusted friend'."

"So our new partner doesn't speak English?" Danny glanced at Steve. "Is it not enough that I have to deal with all the Hawaiian words and the other six languages you speak fluently, Steven?"

"Military dogs are often trained in a language other than English, Danny." Steve had read Weston's file the night before. The use of Lakota was atypical, but not out of context considering Weston's former partner had been part Native American.

"Of course they are." Danny sighed. "At least it's not Mandarin."

"Don't worry, Williams, Weston understands English commands also, but his triggers are all in Lakota to prevent Joe Citizen being able to cue him."

"So, as long as we brush up on things like 'kill' and 'don't kill' we're good."

"We'll make sure someone verses you on all the key ones when they come to assist with his training for Five-0, but I'll brief you on the two most important." Muncey knelt beside the dog and Danny. "Weston? Hoka hey." He waited for the dog to snap to attention before pointing at Danny, then to Steve. "Ciye, Weston. Ciye."

Steve exchanged a look with Danny as Weston let out a loud high-pitched whine, his whole body quivering with barely restrained emotion. The dog ducked his head, giving two sharp barks that were close to the sounds Maslow emitted when he rapturously chased his beloved ball around Hoy's desk. "What did you tell him?"

"Ciye is his command for partner. He hasn't heard it since Iraq." Muncey offered the duffel he was holding to Danny. "From now on, he should only hear it from the two of you. In Lakota it means 'beloved brother' and it's more a sacred vow than a word."

Danny took the bag, slipping the strap over his good shoulder. He glanced at Steve, clearing his throat. "You said there was two, what's the other?"

"Hohe," Muncey replied. Weston growled low and deep in his throat, posture snapping to a defensive crouch as he let loose with a snarling bark nothing like the previous short sharp yelps. "It means 'enemy' and I hope you get the chance to use it when you catch up with that bastard Wo Fat."

"You can count on it." Steve waited for Danny to clip the lead on Weston and stand before shaking Muncey's hand one final time. "Thank you."

"Anytime, McGarrett." Muncey nodded to Weston and Danny. "Good luck, Williams."

"Don't worry. I've worked with K-9's before and I tamed a Navy SEAL with the heart of a killer shark. A Pit Bull with the spirit of a Labrador shouldn't be a problem." Danny gestured to Steve, before nodding to Muncey. "What's the command for let's go home?"

Muncey laughed. "Hoppo."

"Hoppo, Weston!" Danny made for the car and Steve followed, shaking his head as his partner struggled to manage the door, Weston's lead and his duffel.

He didn't give Danny a chance to protest as he reached around him for the handle and pulled the passenger's side open. He waited for Weston to get in the back, waving Danny's building protest off. "Let's not argue in front of the new guy, Danno."

"You think a dog is going to keep me quiet?" Danny slid into the passenger's seat, regarding his best friend as Steve started the Camaro. "Is that the real ploy behind this huge one hundred and eighty degree turn on adding a new member to our team?"

Steve glanced at Weston in the rearview mirror as he backed out of the parking lot and started for the road. "I told you Governor Denning…"

"Governor Denning, my ass," Danny waved a hand toward the backseat. Weston had settled into the middle of the bench, so if he stretched his head fit neatly in the space between the driver's and passenger's seat. "This has to do with Wo Fat."

Steve cut his gaze to Danny. He'd done a lot of soul searching the last week, but continued to reach the same conclusion. "I can't stop looking for him, Danno. I can't quit."

"No one is asking you to, Steven." Danny rubbed a hand over his mouth. "Please tell me that GI Joe did not imply that this latest debacle with Wo Fat was somehow your fault, and then use it as grounds for you to stop our investigation into the man who not only murdered your parents, but killed Laura Hills, the Governor of Hawaii and nearly sent you to prison, because if he did I think a test of Weston's training may be called for. Hohe might be my first command."

Weston's loud bark had Steve flinching, rubbing his right ear while taking his eyes off the road long enough to glare at his partner. "That's not funny, Danny."

"That is good, Steven because I'm not exactly in the joking mood."

"Can we just drop this please?"

"No, we most certainly cannot drop this because I want us to be very clear on the part where you were not in any way responsible for what happened to me, Chin and Kono or Muncey's men. Wo Fat attempted to murder three Five-0 officers and a Homeland Security team. He's going to pay for that crime along with the many others he's committed. It's our job to make sure he does, so in my mind there was never any question as to whether or not we would continue our hunt for our arch enemy number one. I was merely wanting you to admit that bringing Weston on has nothing to do with the Governor nor was it some kind of gift to make me feel better; it's only one more attempt to stack the deck in your favor."

Steve glanced at the dog and then to Danny. Wo Fat could not get the upper hand on them again. He would not lose his partner, his ciye. Steve's luck and his teams was bound to run out eventually. "He's top of his game, a good addition to the team."

"So just like with me, you read his file and decided to commandeer the poor guy for his highly desirable skill set?"

"Look how well that worked out." Steve gestured between them."You have to admit that I put together one hell of a team."

Danny's mouth twitched. "Let's just hope for the new guy's sake that Sergeant Slaughter doesn't get him kidnapped, blown up, or shot on his first day of work."

"I can't guarantee that." Steve gave his friend a half grin, feeling the weight of dread that had settled on him since that fateful day last week start to loosen. "Besides, that's what the Kevlar is for."