Author's Note: Many thanks to my superfast betareader Shaz1
'Till the Storm Blows over
Steve swung behind the wheel of his truck studying the dark clouds building up in the western sky. The forecast predicted a major tropical storm and he had already sent Kono home, who eyed the forefront waves longingly on their hub's TV.
"You're not planning to ride them?" Steve watched her, concerned.
"Aaaah, wouldn't that be sweet, Boss." She breathed, shaking out of her reverie and grinned at his deep frown. "Nah, I wouldn't dare. My mother would kill me."
"Smart woman," Steve replied dead serious and Kono's grin widened. Back in his office, he wrapped up his paperwork and headed out to his truck. Danny was still out with Chin following a lead but Chin knew the island weather only too well and would get Danny home safe.
Steve cursed under his breath as he eased into the already crawling traffic. At this speed, he would be lucky to board up his living room windows if any at all. A gust of wind shook the truck and he grabbed the wheel to steady it, eyeing the van in front of him swaying. The black clouds towering over the sea didn't look promising, and already the trees bent low under the high winds that carried dust and sand. The roads increasingly filled with people trying to get home to board up their houses, too. His cell rang and he hit the speaker button.
"Danny? What's up?"
"We're stuck, that's what's up!" Danny's frustration seeped through his barely controlled voice.
"Where are you?" Steve looked at the van in front of him fighting the wind gusts.
"Leaving the lead's house. Just creeping along en route to HQ," Chin's calm voice pitched in.
"That's an hour in normal traffic," Steve hit the brakes of the truck, as a biker shot out of an alley desperately fighting to control his bike.
"We won't make it further before the storm hits," Chin stated and Steve could hear Danny groan.
"Can you reach HQ and shelter there?" Steve steered around the biker.
"That's the plan," Chin agreed over Danny's outburst on Hawaii weather and life sucks in general tirade. Suddenly, he fell silent and Steve heard some incomprehensible mumbling as Chin updated him on the case.
"I need a big favour, Babe." Danny piped up. Steve's eyebrow perched up, waiting for his partner to continue. "I'm supposed to pick up Gracie at school in 15 min. Could you…?"
"Don't worry I'm just a block away," Steve interjected signaling to switch lanes.
"Thank you," Danny breathed, relieved. "Once I drop Chin off, I'll drive over to your place."
"Danny—," Chin objected and Steve cut in.
"Once the storm reaches its peak, nobody should drive. Let me know you are at the HQ. In the meantime, I will take Gracie home."
"If we make it to the HQ," Chin added calmly. "This storm is approaching fast."
"You two stay safe," Steve turned into the school parking lot.
"Will do," Chin said and Steve nearly hung up.
"Wait!" Danny called out, "You have got food in at your house, haven't you?"
Steve pulled a face. "Of course."
"No, no – I mean edible food for a 9 year old. No murk-green protein Ninja Seal stuff?"
Steve shook his head. "I got ice cream." He offered with a smirk.
"Great – just great, you're feeding MY DAUGHTER ice cream for dinner?" Danny took a deep breath.
"Relax, I also have fresh fruits and veggies, cheese and milk," Steve's grin widened. "She'll be fine. Just fine."
"Your words," Danny gave in. "Thanks, man."
"Don't mention it."
"Gracie!" Steve called from his truck window. Her eyes turned to round orbs at seeing him alone and she rushed down the stairs as he slipped out of the vehicle.
"Hi," she bit her lip, worried.
"Danno is okay," Steve said with a smile as he sank to his knees. "Don't I get a hug?" He opened his arms.
Grace grinned shyly. "Okay," and hugged him tight. "Danno's okay," she whispered in his ear and he pulled back.
"Oh, he's great and complaining," Steve grinned, got up and took her hand. "He's really upset, he couldn't pick you up."
"Where is he?" she slipped out of her school bag and he grabbed it.
"Stuck in traffic on the other side of the island." He walked around the truck and opened the door for her.
"That far?" she breathed disappointed.
"Traffic jam due to the storm," Steve lifted her up and handed her the seat belt.
"Will he be long?" she buckled in.
Steve leant back hand on the door. "He promised to call when they arrive at HQ."
Steve slammed the door shut against the wind and jogged over to the driver's side.
For a while, they drove in silence. Steve wondered if he were supposed to ask something as he glanced into the rear view mirror. Danny was constantly talking with Gracie, but then Danny was constantly talking-period.
"Where are we going?" Grace caught his glance.
"My house," relieved to have a topic, Steve went on. "To board it down." Grace threw him the same full of doubt sidelong glance Danny did when he thought Steve said something stupid. Steve brushed his hand over his mouth to hide his grin. "What?"
"Why is your house bored to the ground?"
Steve whipped around laughing. "It's not. BOARD – you know lock the windows with boards."
Gracie's frown deepened. "Don't you like your view? Why do you want to live in the dark?" Steve looked back to the road. How does Danny do it?
"I like my views," Steve said slowly, "and I don't like to live in the dark," he eyed Gracie to see her reaction. She watched him expectantly. Steve scratched his head. "I'm protecting my windows, so the storm doesn't smash them." Gracie nodded in acknowledgment. A wind gust shook the car from as the clouds ripped apart, expelling rain the size of cough drops. Gracie's eyes flew to the window. Steve's focus zoomed back to driving and he swore under his breath as he avoided oncoming traffic, broken off branches and other debris, he decided that he would rather not know where it came from or what it once was. Grace clasped her hands staring out of the window.
"Uncle Steve?" she suddenly said in a small voice.
"Yes?" He didn't take his eyes off the road as the windshield wiper was nearly blown off.
"This is a big storm, isn't it?' she kept staring out of the window.
"Oh yeah a major," Steve turned into his street barely seeing the sidewalks. "That's why I need to board down the house, so the windows won't get smashed." He rolled into his driveway and Gracie turned to him, wide-eyed.
"And Danno?" she questioned softly.
"He'll be fine," Steve turned off the motor and turned around. "A bit of wind won't scare your dad." A branch crashed down. Gracie shrieked and covered her eyes as it skittered over his hood. "Let's get you out of here," Steve reached back and unbuckled Grace.
She peeked through her hands at the rain gushing down the windshield. "You want to go out there?"
"It's safer in the house, sweetie. Sit tight and I'll come around to pick you up. Can you do that for me?"
Gracie bit her lip. "Alone?"
"It's just a second while I race around." He reached for the door. She chewed her lip more. "I'll be super fast," Steve promised hand on the door handle.
"Oh-kay," Grace mustered up all her courage, twisting her hands. A flash cut the sky lightening up the trees bending heavily under the rain. Gracie nodded bravely. Thunder shook the car and with a squeal, Grace leapt forward and over the seat. Hiding her face in his neck, he patted her gently on the back.
"Or we could do it this way," he said suppressing a smirk.
Another lightening thunder combo struck in quick succession and he held Gracie's little shaking body in his arms waiting for the right moment to leave. They would be drenched by the time they reached his door. Steve looked around. Was there nothing he could use? His gaze fell in his blazer from yesterday's court appearance. He grabbed it and pulled it over Gracie.
"Okay, on three I'll run to the house," he squeezed her reassuringly. "You just hold on." "One," he grabbed the handle. "Two," the door nearly blew out of his hand. "Three," he jumped out, kicked the door close and sprinted to the house. Fingering the key in the lock, he sheltered Gracie with his body as a thunder rolled over them. Steve slipped through the door leaning against the wind to close it. "There we are," he wiped the rainwater from his face. "All safe inside." Grace lifted her head from under his jacket still holding on for dear life.
Steve walked over to the couch and turned on the lamp, which flickered and went out. He opened his mouth to curse, but Gracie's interested look stopped him, he smiled. "Guess you and I have a candle light dinner."
"A date?" her face lit up. "Mum and Dad used to have those lots." Steve lifted an eyebrow, but before he could come up with a smart remark, he felt her shivering under his jacket.
"First we find you something dry."
Her cheeks burned. "I don't have extra clothes," she looked to the ground quickly.
"Mmmh," Steve climbed up the stairs. "I'm just fresh out of pink girl's clothes." Gracie giggled in his arms. "But I bet I find a nice tee-shirt for you."
He grabbed a big bath towel on his way to his bedroom and exchanged it with his dripping jacket before he set her down on his bed. A quick inspection of his wardrobe didn't prove to be promising and Gracie snuggled deeper into the towel. He opened the drawer door to display a wide assortment of neatly folded tee shirts.
"Wow," Gracie giggled and Steve looked around surprised.
An easy grin, so much like Danny's flashed over her face. "Your tee shirts are lined up all the same."
Steve shrugged. "I like them orderly."
Grace bit her lip. "They are sorted by shades. Don't you have any colours?"
Steve looked back at his tee shirts and noticed he had indeed color-coded them. "A bit anal, don't you think?" he could hear Danny laughing in his mind and with a smirk he grabbed an old seals shirt. Opening it with a flourish, he asked, "Will this suit the lady?" Grace laughed delightedly and jumped off the bed.
"The bathroom is just down the hall," Steve handed it to her and she hopped off. He quickly stripped out of his wet cloth, grabbed a pair of sweats, and slipped them on. On his way out, he grabbed a tee shirt and pulled it over his head as Grace stepped out of the bathroom.
"It fits you better than me," he exclaimed in mock outrage and Grace spun around. "Excellent. Are you hungry?"
She nodded. "What about the house?"
"I should do that first," Steve said over his shoulder as he jogged down the stairs. Thunder shook the house.
"I'll help," Grace ran after him grabbing his hand as lightening split the sky.
"Okay, you'll watch from the inside," Steve grabbed a chair and pulled it to the middle of the living room. "While I hammer them on outside."
"Inside? Alone?" Grace sat down hesitantly and Steve nodded seriously. "You'll see me before I put the boards up."
"Okay," Grace pulled up her legs. Steve grabbed his rain gear and tools.
"You stay inside, no matter what," he ordered and Gracie's shoulders fell. "It's not safe," Steve said a bit softer, kneeling down to her eyelevel. "Promise?"
She slung her arms around her knees. "Okay."
Steve smiled and got up. "Besides, can you imagine the riot act your dad would read me, if something happens to you out there?"
Grace looked at him with earnest big eyes. "And you are safe?"
"Of course," he padded her head. "I'm a seal. Water is my element."
"Even if comes from the sky?" Grace asked slyly.
He grinned. "In any form." He pulled the hood over his head and leant against the wind as he slipped out. The rain slapped him horizontally as he made his way over to the garage to get the boards. Fighting the wind, he balanced them on his shoulder.
"Should have done that this morning, son." He could hear his father's voice. He bit his lips determinedly as the wind rattled the boards turning them into a giant kite. Once he got a hang of it, the windows were boarded up in good time and he made sure to always wave at Grace first before hammering the board on. Despite the cold from the downpour, sweat ran down his back and Steve cursed at being so stupid to try boarding up the house so late as the last board slipped through his fingers. A wind gust picked it up sending it back and striking Steve straight in the face. Vaguely, he thought of Gracie scream before all went black.
"Uncle Steve!" Grace pressed her face against the cold window. She could barely see his lifeless form as curtain after curtain of rain washed over him. "UNCLE STEVE!" she hammered against the window, but he didn't move. She fell back and looked around in the room for help. A cell phone hummed as it crawled over the kitchen counter and she raced towards it.
"Danno," she breathed as she saw her father's face on the screen. She bit the green button.
"Hey, man I hope you don't feed my sweet little girl sugar," her dad's voice rang through the speaker.
"Danno!" she hiccupped in relief fighting back the sobs.
"Monkey?" her dad asked surprised. "Why are you answering Steve's phone? Where is he? He better be cooking you a big healthy dinner and keeping you out of this torrential rain…"
"Danno." Grace breathed, a sob escaping and another one. They came as hard and fast as the rain outside.
"Hey… hey now, what's wrong, monkey?" Danny asked in a soft voice. "If Uncle Steven is mean to you, he has to answer to me. Where is he?"
"Outside," Grace said between sobs.
"He left you alone in the house?" Danny burst out, but caught himself quickly as he heard her cry softly. "What is he doing?"
"Laying on the ground." Grace swept a hand over her eyes. Silence. "Danno?"
"Say that again, sweetie," Danny demanded and she could hear a muffled voice in the background.
"Is mom with you?" Grace sniffled. "Want to talk to mom."
She heard Danny sigh. "No, sweetie. Uncle Chin is with me. We have just reached HQ."
"Are you coming to pick me up?" Grace asked hopefully.
"The roads are blocked, sweetheart," Danny said through pressed lips. "I'll have to wait until the morning. Can you put Steve on the phone?" Grace shook her head. "Monkey?" Danny prompted.
"He told me not to go outside," Grace said fiddling with the sleeve of her tee shirt.
"Smart. Good. Can you see him?"
Grace went over to the window. "Mmh."
"Can you wave at him to come in?" Danny suggested, cheerily.
"He can't see me."
"Why?" Danny asked, surprised.
Grace shrugged. "His eyes are closed."
"What?" Danny asked, incredulously. "I know he's a crazy fish and all, but why is he taking a nap in the rain?"
"The board hit him in the face," Grace bit her lip, trying to see through the rain pouring down. Silence, then voices rambled worriedly over the phone, but Grace couldn't make out what they were saying. "Danno?"
"Hi, Grace," she heard Chin's voice. "Can you tell me how long he hasn't moved?"
Grace scratched her head. "Forever. It's so dark in here."
A thunder crashed down and Grace jumped back from the window with a yelp.
"It's alright, sweetie," she heard Danno. "Thunder can't hurt you." She swallowed a sob. "Steve was hit and fell to the ground?" Danny asked carefully.
"Mmh. He's hurt, isn't he?" she asked aguishly. "He promised he'd be safe."
"Of course, only Mr. Invincible would said that," Danny burst out, but Chin cut him off. "What was he doing?"
"Boarding up the house."
"How long ago was that?" Chin asked urgently.
"Ages ago," Grace twisted a pigtail around her finger.
"Monkey, this is important," Danny said slowly. "Do you remember what you did when Steve was hit by the board?"
"Watching him through the window," she answered without hesitation.
"That's great," Danny encouraged. "What happened then?"
"You called." A lightening flashed and Gracie gasped. "He's bleeding, daddy! You have to help him."
"I wish I could, monkey." Danny whispered. "I wish I could."
"She has to go out." Chin stated calmly.
"She's NOT," Danny thundered. "And what's she supposed to do? Drag him in?"
"Get him to regain consciousness and drag himself in," Chin said calmly. "He has to get out of the rain and you know it."
"There is a storm out there, in case you have noticed!" Danny raged. "If the wind doesn't blow her away, the lightening could flambé her."
"Exactly why Steve has to be moved," Chin said quietly. There was a pause. Grace listened anxiously.
"No way! There is NO WAY MY LITTLE GIRL is going out THERE," Danny said finally.
"What about Uncle Steve?" Grace piped up. "He's still asleep."
"How far is he from the door, Grace?" Chin asked and Danny growled in the background.
Grace went to the door and counted the steps back to the window. "Five big steps."
"Too far." Danny said, determined.
"That's two adults steps, Danny." Chin pointed out. "Steve could drown out there, right in front of his home."
"He's a fish, he'll be fine." Danny said, but Grace could hear he was worried.
"I could shake him," Grace eyed the door.
"More like a good slap to his face," Chin offered despite Danny's protests.
"I can't hit Uncle Steve," Grace exclaimed horrified.
Chin chuckled. "Oh, he won't mind. You need to wake him up, sweetie and I think only a few very hard slaps in the face will do that. It's important. He needs to come in with you."
"Okay." Grace put her hand on the door handle.
"One moment. Nothing is okay," Danny shouted over Chin's attempts to hush him down. "My little girl is NOT going out there."
"I can do it, Danno." Grace offered, turning the handle.
"He could die, Danny." Chin said quietly.
"Okay, Monkey," Danny said finally. "But if he doesn't wake up, you ran back into the house."
"Grace, don't hang up." Danny called out. "Put the phone down beside the door and talk to me as soon as you back inside."
Grace dropped the phone and pulled the handle. The wind ripped the door out of her hands and smacked against the wall.
"Grace? Grace!" Danny screamed.
Grace held up her hands against the rain. "I go out now."
"This is insane! To send a child out…" Danny's yell got lost in the raging storm as Grace ran over to Steve. She hesitated. His face was so white against the blood streaming down the side. Finally, brushing the rain out of her eyes, she shook him, but he didn't react. She took a deep breath, flung her arm back, closed her eyes, and smacked him as hard as she could. She yelped as her hand connected with his cheekbone and bit her lip against the pain. Still not opening his eyes, she swung her hand back again and let it crash down, the pain shot hot through her arm and she whimpered, but lifted her hand and brought it down again. This time it was intercepted before it connected with his face.
"Gracie?" Steve mumbled, confused.
She opened her eyes. "Uncle Steve! You have to come in!" She shouted pulling his soaked shirt. "Get up! Quick! Danno says it's not safe!"
Steve shook his head to clear the cobwebs, but instantly regretted it as the world turned vertical. He closed his eyes.
"No!" Grace yelled panicked. "You can't go to sleep! We'll die!"
Steve's eyes flew open and he jumped scooping Grace up. She flung her arms around his neck and buried her face as a thunder rolled over them. Dizzy, he staggered to the door and kicked it close.
"Grace! Grace! Steve?" he could hear Danny's voice. "Say something!" He must be hallucinating.
"Danno! I did it!" Grace wiggled in his arms and he set her down as nausea washed over him and he slid down with his back to the door.
Grace bent down and picked up his cell. "I woke up Uncle Steve! We are inside now!"
"Grace – thank God!" Danny blurred over the speaker.
"Steve? Are you okay, bro?" Chin's voice cut through Danny's rambles.
"Wouldn't be without Grace," Steve looked at her and she beamed back at him. "You got one brave daughter, partner."
"Of course! What do you think?" Danny blurted. "She is MY daughter!" he added smugly and Steve rubbed his eyes.
"Any double vision or dizziness?" Danny asked more seriously.
"Nothing a few Advil can't cure," Steve dismissed his concern.
"You've been out for a while," Chin added dryly.
"No need to play superman," Danny agreed. "Get yourself dry and lay down."
"Dinner on the couch? Yeah!" Grace piped up, jumping up and down.
Danny laughed. "Don't let your mom know. Steve, you feel up to it?"
"Of course," Steve got to his feet and swayed.
"Uncle Steve!" Alarmed, Grace stepped to his side.
Steve leant against the wall. "All's well, sweetie. Just got up to fast."
"What's going on?" Danny and Chin's voices chimed in.
"There's still so much blood," Gracie exclaimed, touching his arm gently.
Steve touched his temple and winced when he felt the bump. His hand sank down and he examined the blood. "Just washed down from the rain. Don't worry, Sweetie."
"You sure?" Gracie didn't look convinced.
"There you go, that's my daughter!" Danny said, proudly. "Don't let him fool you with his ninja talk. Even though, he does believe it, but he is not a superhero."
Steve rolled his eyes and Grace giggled.
"All right, first order dry clothes and second I get cleaned up," Steve pushed off the wall.
"And third- dinner on the couch," yelled Grace excitedly.
Steve nodded. "Sounds like a battle plan to me."
"You better execute it, bro." Chin said with a chuckle. "We'll raid your fridge here and see what it has to offer to calm this father's nerves."
"Understood," Steve cut the connection and looked at Grace. "Looks like you get a second pick at my wardrobe."
Grace took his hand. "Do you have another Seal one?" Steve raised his eyes. "I'm one too now," Gracie pulled him to the stairs. "We both are wet like seals." Steve laughed instantly regretting it as his free hand flew to support his head. "You okay?" Gracie asked worried. "You look a bit green."
"Like a fish?" Steve tried to joke, but had to lean against the wall.
"You sit down," Gracie ordered and pointed at the stairs. "And I'll get the clothes."
Steve tried to protest, but had to bite down bile threatening to rise. He closed his eyes and before he knew it Grace tapped his shoulder. Already changed into a new shirt, one from the bottom of his stack he notice vaguely and judging by her guilty look, he deduced his shirts were not in order any longer.
"These okay?" she asked softly. "I dumped the others on your bed." She said with an apologetic smile.
"No worries, Sweetie." He pulled himself up and staggered down the stairs. "You go into the kitchen and see if there is anything you like in the fridge."
She grinned wide and hopped off.
Steve went into the guest bathroom and slipped out of the wet clothes. He grimaced at his mangled face and searched for some peroxide to clean the wound. Dabbing a towel with it, he pressed it against his head. He pulled out the first aid kit and applied a dressing.
Grace knocked on the door. "You okay?"
He dropped the towel and pulled on his pants quickly. Slipping a tee shirt over his head, he opened the door. "Just slapped a big bandage on my forehead."
"Woah," breathed Grace, examined his face solemnly. "Can we have ice cream and pineapple?"
Steve grinned. "Of course."
Next morning, Danny tried to smooth his ruffled hair as he closed the front door balancing a grocery bag in the other. He found them lying on the couch, snuggled up under a big patchwork blanket. His heart skipped a few beats, relieved to see them both safe. Steve stirred and Danny put a finger on his mouth.
"You okay, man?" Danny eyed the dressing.
Steve waved his hand dismissively. "Just a scratch."
"We should take you to the hospital," Danny started, but Steve cut him off. "I got smacked around worse."
"Suit yourself," Danny said sternly, but then a smile flashed over his face, "Thank you, man. For looking after Grace." Danny rubbed his neck embarrassed.
"No worries," Steve held his gaze. "Without her I'd be fish food now." Grace nuzzled her head against his shoulder and blinked sleepily.
"Danno!" She jumped up and flew into Danny's arms.
He engulfed her as she flung her arms around his neck. "Oh, monkey."
She pulled back. "Look I am a seal now!"
He groaned. "You have not enlisted my baby!" He wiggled a finger at Steve who grinned and swung his long legs off the couch.
He sat Grace down and she hopped on one leg into the kitchen singing. "I'm a seal. I'm a seal now."
"At least let me cook you breakfast, Babe." Danny picked up the grocery bag and dangled it from his fingers. Steve raised his eyebrows. "You look like you need it, if you don't mind me saying," Danny marched towards the kitchen.
Steve grinned. "And you're just fresh out of hair products?"
A cushion sailed his way and Steve ducked instinctively with a chuckle.
"Can we have more pineapple?" Gracie called from the kitchen and Danny turned around.
"You have not—," he let the sentence dangle dangerously.
"Wouldn't dare," Steve lifted his hands in surrender. "She picked dinner herself."
"Can't leave her for a second with you," Danny groaned.
"Pineapples taste great, daddy," Grace piped up and winked at Steve.