A/N: This story will be going on hiatus for an extended amount of time. I have been unemployed for over a year and, finally, tomorrow I leave for a nearly six-month schooling paid entirely by my new employers (due to privacy concerns I will not post who my employer is in this forum; only via PM's) before relocating to a different part of the country. The training will consist of long working days (4:30 am until 7 pm or later each night) and include rigorous physical training as well as in-class workshops. For that reason, I will have very limited time to work on the continuation of this story; however, if I do find time to write, I will post. I am going to push the "complete" button on this and, when I start posting again (most likely in September), I will start by posting a new story – My Father's Shadow 2. If you will be interested in reading the continuation of this story when I do get around to posting, you might want to add me to your author's alert so you know when I post again.
A/N 2: Thank you so much to everyone who has added this story to their alerts and just for reading this in general. Thank you to everyone who has left reviews: francis2, eviltimewaster, Catii'aSofiia', fan, NYR88, Gear's Girl, tessab, HBSpud, loveRnB, wcfan, ncis42, KimmieFern, Lovewarorwhatever, amblue36, .Chick, LadyAilith, narwhayley, lynnrxgal, Pat Toby, Ircam, kiwimeggles, simplyn2deep, Aleja21, BenJoh. This is my first experience writing fanfic so I was really nervous when I posted the first chapter. Your kind reviews and PM's were really encouraging and they motivated me to continue this story. Thank you again! Thank you to BenJoh for giving me a mini course in some Italian; chapters 23 and 24 have been edited to reflect those changes.
Also, if I get a chance today, amid all of the packing, I am going to try to fix some of the errors (typos, missing words, etc) that I have found in some of the chapters. I am a little disappointed I didn't catch them during the editing process.
With that said, here is the chapter to close out this part of the story. Talk to you in the fall!
"Eat up," Steve said, his eyes focused on the pan on the stove as he held out a plate that contained an omelet and some melon pieces. It was his daughter's first day of high school and he wanted to make sure she had a wholesome breakfast to tide her over until lunch time. As she took the plate out of his hands, he instantly forgot all about his own omelet cooking away on the stove when he saw the skirt she was wearing. Turning to face her, he stated, "You are NOT going to school dressed like that!"
Setting her plate down on the counter, she looked down at her outfit and then at her dad. She really had no clue why he had a problem with her wearing a white button-up shirt, opened over a light blue camisole, and a darker blue skirt. She had worn this same ensemble before – just never in front of him – and no one had ever had a problem with it. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" Taking in his outfit, she commented, "It's not like my shirt is as tight as yours."
"That skirt is way too short," he told her, choosing to ignore her smart-ass comment, as his eyes just about started to water again at the sight of far too much of her bare leg showing. The skirt was a good four and a half inches above her knee and, although he had seen girls her age wear skirts even shorter than that, his daughter would never leave the house looking like that. "Go change."
Putting her hands on her hips, she glowered at him. "I wore this skirt all the time in Seattle."
Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he argued, "I don't believe for a second that your mother let you out of the apartment in that skirt." Oh, shit. As soon as he said it, he regretted it. They had not talked about Cindy at all since she had announced that she would be terminating her parental rights and, when Alex had told him that she needed some time before talking about her, he had agreed to be patient until she was ready to talk. Bringing Cindy up now, like this, was certainly not the way to start that discussion.
"Mom was never home, remember?" Her tone confirmed that he had screwed up by mentioning her mom.
He took a step towards her. "Alex, I –"
"Fine I'll go change," she interrupted, grabbing her plate off the counter and leaving the kitchen. "Your eggs are burning."
"You sure you have everything?" he asked her as the climbed into the truck. Once inside, he continued, "Lunch? Notebooks? A copy of your schedule?"
"Yes, Dad," Alex answered, sounding slightly annoyed as she reached for the seatbelt. "For the fifth time, yes."
"Don't exaggerate," he told her as he backed the truck out of the driveway. "I only asked you twice."
She rolled her eyes. "Fine, but I already told you the first time you asked that I have everything."
Although she had not said anything after changing her clothes – she now wore a knee length skirt which was perfectly acceptable to him – and eating breakfast, her tone had suggested that she was still not very pleased he had mentioned her mother. Understanding his daughter well enough, he knew the importance of choosing his battles wisely. So he decided to not address her tone and, instead, simply responded to her comment. "I just want to make sure your first day of high school goes smoothly."
"Were you this antsy on your first day of high school?"
Steve shook his head. "No, but my Mom was." In fact, as that particular memory popped into his mind, he had had this exact conversation with his mother on his first day of high school. She had asked him at least twice if he was sure he had all of his supplies and money for lunch and, just like Alex, he had gotten annoyed.
"It's just school, Dad," she told him, before it dawned on her exactly what this was all about and why he'd been such a pain in the butt since she woke up two hours ago. "You don't like that I'm old enough to be in high school. That's what this is really about." Hearing a familiar song on the radio – and knowing that he would not respond to her observation – she turned up the volume. "I love this song!"
As his daughter sang along with and danced in her seat to the song on the radio, he thought about her comment. Sure, his little girl was growing up – it seemed like only yesterday when he held that six-pound, three-ounce baby girl in his arms for the first time – and he didn't like it anymore than the next guy, but that was not what was bugging him. Not entirely, at least. Alex was entering high school. She was entering high school with the knowledge that her mother wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. Although Alex had seemed perfectly fine over the last eight days since their return to Honolulu, he, on the other hand, had not. Maybe Jason was right when he said that this was harder on them than on the kids.
That afternoon of the surprise welcome home party had gone tremendously well. Every time he had looked up at the sign that Lori, Kono, Grace and Sam had made, with the words 'Welcome Home' painted on, he had been unable to keep the smile off of his face. All he could think was that, after ten long years, he finally had his daughter back home for good. Only eleven weeks prior, Alex had stepped off that plane, not only surprising him with her growth in height but also her maturity. At that time, he had never imagined that she would end up staying in Honolulu with him, giving him the opportunity to be a full-time, actively involved father again. He had thought about everything they had been through over those eleven weeks – Alex's kidnapping; her up and down emotions; her doubting his love; their mutual pain over his father's death; everything with Cindy; bonding over shared interests; getting to know each other all over again – and, through it all, their relationship had blossomed into one that was closer than most teenagers probably had with either of their parents. At least he liked to think that was the case.
What had made that day even better was the way she had naturally interacted with everyone. Alex had made it a point to engage in conversation with nearly everyone – for some odd reason, she had not been very open to speaking with Joe – and she had had a smile on her face the entire evening. She and Kono had taken a surf board down to the beach for an impromptu, albeit short, surfing lesson; she and Max had talked about an article on parallel universes found in this month's Scientific American magazine before they started discussing what work of Chopin's was their favorite to play on the piano; Chin and Alex had had a lengthy talk on the beach – as to what they had discussed he still did not know – before they decided to joke about Chin being the better quarterback; Alex and Lori had had an interesting discussion on the science of profiling; Kamekona had asked Alex's opinion about some of the shrimp dishes he served at his shop – she politely told him that maybe having 31 different dishes really wasn't the best of ideas – before he recruited her to help out during the next week; Danny and Alex had an animated discussion about their two favorite things – baseball and teasing him; Alex had been polite enough to Joe but she had only talked to him when it was in a group setting. Later, accompanied by her three young partners-in-crime, she had disappeared into the house for awhile before coming back armed with water pistols and water balloons which they unleashed on the adults, focusing mostly on him, Danny, and Jason. Simply put, it had been an afternoon full of merriment that had helped him take his mind off of Cindy.
That evening, after the backyard had been cleaned up, the trash taken out, and everyone had left, he had told her they needed to run an errand. Wanting to help ease her transition from living in Seattle to living in Hawaii full time, he had driven to a home improvement store, leading her to the paint aisle and telling her to pick a color to paint the walls of her room; he wanted her to feel at home in her bedroom. As she decided – she ended up picking a shade of lavender – he had asked if she wanted to go get anything – a desk; a new sheet and comforter set; wall hangings; anything – to help make her room hers. She had told him she had everything she needed to decorate her room. She wanted to keep her grandfather's desk; she'd use the current comforter set on the bed until hers arrived in the mail; she still wanted to hang the framed pencil rubbing of her grandfather's dog tags and the official military picture of Steve – both of which they had brought with them on the plane – and, when they arrived in the mail, the pictures of Italy and France that had been hanging in her bedroom in Seattle. The only thing she wanted to add were several pictures she had taken over the summer – some of her and him; pictures of her, Josh, Sam and Grace at summer camp; others taken with every member of 5-0 and Kamekona; a picture of her and Mary – and asked if they could buy frames for them once she figured out how many and what size she would need.
The next morning, after arguing with her that she was in no condition to run seven miles that morning – he had heard her coughing throughout the night – he had taken her to the clinic where, after Alex informed the doctor – a female – that she had noticed a little bit of blood in her urine the last couple of days, they had determined she had a urinary tract infection on top of the coughing and was prescribed an antibiotic that should take care of both. Leaving the clinic with pills in hand, he had gotten upset with her for not telling him about urinating blood and stressed the importance of letting him know when something like that happened. She had apologized but told him that it was weird to talk to him about that stuff; it was easier to talk to a female. At that, his anger towards Cindy had returned. He had then reminded himself to speak to the three main women in their life – Kono, Catherine, and Mary – and hoped that maybe at least one of them would become Alex's go-to person for personal things that she didn't feel comfortable talking to him about.
After that they had driven over to Alex's new school for a meeting with her assigned guidance counselor who would help finalize Alex's class schedule. He had received a call from the Governor while they waited in the hallway and, after apologizing to Alex, who, it was decided, would walk to Headquarters when she was done, he had headed to the crime scene – a boat in the harbor. An hour and a half later, he had been sitting in his office, waiting for positive identification of the victim to come from Max, when Alex had walked into his office, her fall semester schedule in hand. She had taken the seat next to his desk before handing him the schedule. He had scanned the list of classes – Geometry; Chemistry; History of Hawaii; Honors English 9; Computer Science; Introduction to Japanese – before being shocked when he spotted the last class on the list: Naval ROTC. They had discussed her interest in learning Japanese but she had never mentioned any interest in ROTC. After their case had been transferred to HPD – the victim had been identified as a man involved in an active HPD investigation – Steve and Alex had returned home, where, after lunch, they had started painting her room.
The next morning had involved Steve taking Alex to an appointment with her new therapist. He escorted her upstairs to ensure that she actually went to the appointment and then he was called to a case. When he had met Alex at Kamekona's for lunch – she had been helping him out in exchange for free food – he had been delighted to hear that she had only positive things to say about her appointment and the therapist. As they had finished sharing their mixed plate of garlic scampi and lemon butter shrimp, Alex had asked if Josh – who was stuck babysitting Sam – could come over that afternoon to help finish painting her room. After careful consideration and a serious lecture about being alone with boys, he had agreed, due largely in part to the antibiotic that had thus far done very little for her cough. He had preferred that she be at home hacking up a lung rather than at Kamekona's shrimp truck; he wasn't sure Kamekona's 'immunity' would make him exempt from a health code violation. When he had arrived home later that night, the boys were gone, Alex's room was completely painted, and she was fast asleep in his bed, wearing his clothes again in what would become the start of a new habit of hers.
The rest of the week had passed quickly with him barely seeing or even speaking to his daughter all day. He had left the house early each morning while Alex, who had acquired a fever and stomach bug on top of everything else, was still asleep. Then, regardless of what time he had gotten home – four in the afternoon; seven in the evening; ten at night – he had found Alex asleep in his bed, wearing one of his t-shirts and either a pair of his sweatpants or board shorts, with the TV on. Thanks to her illness – she rarely got sick but, when she did, it hit her hard – she had been unable to make any progress on her room. So, in order for it to be ready before the school year started, he had gone to work in her bedroom each night after tucking her in under his sheets. He had spray painted the dresser white – something she had mentioned wanting to do during their lunch at Kamekona's – as well as re-hung curtains, rearranged the furniture according to a sketch he had found left on the desk, and refolded her clothes – he made a mental note to teach her how to fold her t-shirts into perfect squares – before returning them to the newly painted dresser. By the time she had finally started to feel better late Friday afternoon, all that was left for her to do was decorate her walls.
They had spent Saturday shopping and, what should have been a short trip to buy school supplies and a few new articles of clothing, had ended up turning into an all day affair. It had taken Alex an hour in one store alone to try on twenty different shirts before deciding that she only liked one – one! – and then another seventy minutes to pick out one skirt and a pair of Capri pants. Standing in that store, waiting on her to make up her mind – shopping with a teenage girl certainly was a lesson in patience – his mind had flashed ahead three years when he would have to take her shopping for a prom dress. In that moment, he had gotten angry and upset with Cindy again. Finding the perfect prom dress was an experience that every teenage girl should have with their mother; Alex would now have to miss out on that opportunity.
"Dad!" Alex's too-loud voice brought him back to the present.
Sending her a look, he asked, "What?"
"Can we do that?"
"What?" he asked again, having not heard a single word she had said to him.
"For our father-daughter date." She sent him a weird look; he had completely ignored her when she was talking to him. How rude.
"I'm sorry," he apologized, turning his head momentarily to look at her. "What about it?" On Sunday, while they had been lounging on the lanai and just talking, he had proposed a new weekly ritual: father-daughter date night. Once school started, her schedule would be busy. That, coupled with his already crazy work schedule, had made him want to ensure he got to have at least one night/day each week to connect with her away from the hustle and bustle of their schedules. He had set two ground rules: first that they do something different each week – try a new food; do something educational one week and something adventurous the next; visit someplace on the island she or both of them hadn't been before; etc – and, second, that no matter what was going on in their lives they both make it a point to ensure they have their 'date' each week. Not surprisingly, she had immediately taken to the idea.
"Was my singing that bad?" She asked, crossing her arms in front of her and looking out the window. "Is that why you tuned me out?"
"No," he said, before apologizing again. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to." Nudging her in the arm, he continued, "I wanna know what your idea was."
Uncrossing her arms, she looked at him again with a smile on her face. "I said maybe we can go to the Koko Crater Stairs, then to the gun range so you can teach me to shoot, and then you can cash in on that dinner you owe me. Only it would be lunch."
"Koko Crater Stairs? The gun range?"
"Yes," she replied, not sure why it was so hard for him to understand that the first time. "I want to see how many steps I can run up; it'll be good conditioning for cross-country tryouts. And, ever since Commander White and you talked about Grandpa's gun, I've been thinking I'd like to shoot with it one day."
"You know, you don't have to call him Commander," he told her. Her explanation had reminded him of something else he had been meaning to talk to her about. "Joe would be perfectly fine." At that moment, he pulled to the curb outside the main entrance of Alex's school, where dozens of kids were gathered outside. "Speaking of, why don't you like him?"
"It's not that I don't like him, Dad," she answered, removing her seatbelt. Catching his eye, she explained, "I just – there's something about him that tells me I can't trust him."
He gave her an inquisitive look that quickly turned into one of displeasure. "Joe is like a second father to me. I trust him with my life."
"I get that, Dad," she said, waving at Josh, who was standing a couple of yards away, through the window. "But I still don't trust him. Sorry." Opening her door, she said, "So, good idea or no?"
With a sigh, he decided to drop it. He couldn't force her to trust Joe; let her come to that in her own time. "I think that sounds like a great plan for this weekend," he told her as she climbed out of the truck. "Have a good day and remember, if any boys –"
"Relax, Dad," she interrupted with a laugh, as she turned around to face him. "If any boy tries to cop a feel, I'll slap him in the face." When she saw the overjoyed and pleased look appear on his face, she grinned and then said, "Unless of course he's cute." That wiped the smile right off his face. She grabbed her backpack off the floor, looked him in the eye, and said, "Love you."
"Love you, too, Sweetheart." He watched her approach Josh, hugging him before they both headed up the walkway towards the front steps of the school. Only when they entered the building did he brush a hand over his damp eyes and pull away from the curb. As he drove to the office, his thoughts were on his little girl, now nearly all grown up, and, for the first time in eight days he did not feel anger towards Cindy. All he felt at this moment was relief and a deep gratitude; he had his daughter with him permanently and that made everything feel right in the world again. No matter what life had in store for them in the future, they would be okay because they had each other. He would be okay because she was with him.
A/N: I'd love to hear your favorite/least favorite parts of this story. Any recommendations on how to improve it? Anything you would like to see in the next part of the story? Thanks!