Title: Saving Grace
Author: Proclaim Thy Warrior Soul
Disclaimer: Nothing this awesome could ever belong to me. Sad, but true! I guess I'll have to keep dreaming…
Summary: It should have been a simple task, taking Grace to the mall to choose Danno's birthday present, right? Wrong. Nothing is ever simple in the life of Steve McGarrett. He just hopes Danny can one day forgive him for this one…because he's not sure he can ever forgive himself.
Author's Note: Possible spoilers for the whole of season 1 and what's aired of season 2 ;) Also, I'm British and I have no beta. All mistakes are mine. (Feel free to point out any glaring errors!)
The Navy SEAL reacted on instinct as the lithe figure came at him without warning. He crouched low and countered, grabbing the charging ball of wild energy as she launched herself at his unprotected midsection, effortlessly throwing her over one shoulder. Steve McGarrett couldn't help but chuckle as he honed in on his attacker's weak spot - the back of her knees - ignoring the squeals of protest and feigned outrage as deft fingers tickled his foe without mercy; his attempt to wring out as much noise from his pint-sized captive as possible.
"Uncle Steve, put...put me down!" eight-year-old Grace Williams eventually managed to gasp out through fits of unabashed laughter, wriggling and squirming like a fish out of water as she fought to extricate herself from his grasp. Steve was having none of it.
"Nuh-uh, not until you give in, Gracie," the head of Five-O teased with a wicked grin in Danny's direction, his partner appearing a few minutes behind his overly-excitable daughter, the blond man's limp noticeably more pronounced today. "Do I win?"
"Never! My Danno will save me," came the confident reply as Grace paused in her wriggling, waving comically at her father from her inverted position as he arrived by her side.
Danny ignored the SEAL's questioning eyebrow over his uncomfortable gait and instead frowned at his daughter's red face as she hung upside down over the taller man's shoulder. "For the love of all that is holy, Steven, put my monkey down before she covers you in partially digested pizza and ice-cream. It was painful enough forking over twenty bucks for it in the first place," the Jersey native complained, hands stressing his obvious distaste. "So I don't particularly want, nor do I, in fact, need, to deal with seeing that incredibly expensive dinner painted all over Gracie's favourite six-foot Super-SEAL, okay? Because that would be both a waste of time and money...and, quite frankly, disgusting. Although, now I come to think of it, it'd make a great picture..."
Steve rolled his eyes good-naturedly as he set Grace gently on the ground, patting her playfully on the head as she smoothed out her bangs and glanced longingly at the mall to their six. The SEAL debated on whether interrupting his partner's rant would be a waste of his time, quite quickly deciding that, yeah, actually, it would be. It would only set the detective off on an even longer tangent and he honestly didn't think he could stomach it right then, the afternoon sunshine already causing his head to pound.
"Hey, Gracie," he whispered suddenly, crouching down so he was eye-level with the eight-year-old as she turned to face him with a curious smile. "I'll distract Danno and you run for the entrance, okay? If we have to wait for him to finish his complaining we'll be here all day and then I'll be forced to shoot him." Grace giggled as her uncle Steve pulled a dramatic face, glancing at her Danno from the corner of his eye. "When I give you the signal, you run, alright? I'll be right behind you."
Steve watched as Grace assessed the distance to the mall entrance, glancing at Danny as if weighing up her options. She was more like her father than people gave her credit for, the SEAL thought with a proud smile. He got quickly to his feet and nodded with a sly wink, signalling for her to go ahead. Grace bobbed her head in acknowledgement and darted off with a happy laugh, skipping and singing as she headed towards the large brick building, already planning her shopping expedition with her favourite uncle.
Danny trailed off mid-rant, hands frozen in mid-sweep as he watched his little girl leave the safety of his side. "Whoa, Grace… Steve, where's she going?"
"I'm six-one, Danny," McGarrett helpfully informed his distracted partner, pointedly ignoring the man's question as he also turned to walk away, pausing to check the back pocket of his dark cargo pants for his wallet and cell phone. "Now, Gracie and I have some top secret business to attend to and you're in the way, so if you don't mind..."
Without waiting for a response Steve slapped his partner on the back and headed for the mall entrance at a slow jog, reaching Grace's side in a matter of seconds. They both waved cheerfully before disappearing from sight, the small girl's call of "I love you, Danno," reaching her father's ears a few seconds later.
Detective Danny Williams stood open-mouthed, eyeing the once-occupied spot for a moment longer than was strictly necessary, shaking his head in disbelief as he ran a hand through his windswept hair. "Well, 'aloha, Danny,' would have been nice," he grumbled half-heartedly before turning and heading back in the direction he'd originally came with a sigh.
As the limping man dodged the crowds of shoppers en route to his car he pulled his vibrating cell phone from his pocket, opening a text message from his crazy partner.
*I'll bring her back in a few hours, brah. Now, go home and relax - that's an order!*
As Danny was typing back his usual sarcastic response, muttering under his breath about bossy, know-it-all SEALs, the phone vibrated once more, McGarrett beating him to his next train of thought.
*Don't even ask, Danno. It's classified ;)*
The realisation that Steven J. McGarrett, badass Navy Super-SEAL, knew how to create cute little winking faces on his cell phone was enough to make Danny erase the message he'd been about to compose, deciding he'd dealt with enough stress for one morning. Gracie was obviously a terrible influence on his partner he thought with a fond smile as he climbed into his car and headed for home.
Grace skipped happily at Steve's side with a permanent grin on her angelic face, pigtails bouncing with her every step. One hand was firmly enclosed in his, the other holding onto the strap of her bag as she peered in the store windows and hummed noisily to herself.
"What are you so cheerful about, huh?" the SEAL questioned as they paused outside Radio Shack, attempting to gain their bearings amidst the busy crowds of shoppers.
Grace took her time before answering, chewing her lip as she gave the question some serious thought. "It's nearly Danno's birthday," she decided, pulling on one pigtail as she smiled up at him. "And we're going to surprise him, aren't we, Uncle Steve?"
Steve nodded, readjusting his grip on her small hand. "We certainly are. Now, lead the way, Gracie. Where should we start?"
Two hours later and they were none the closer to finding a gift for Danny. Not that Steve cared. He was enjoying the time with his partner's little girl; that and the total chaos and disorder of the mall. It helped him to think; to stay alert.
They'd visited each floor twice, ducked in and out of practically every store in the building and still the miniature Williams wasn't flagging. At this rate the SEAL thought he'd have to call time on their little escapade and admit defeat himself, but Danny would never let him live it down.
Grace's timid voice startled the SEAL from his thoughts as he immediately went on high alert, hazel eyes roaming the nearby crowds to seek out whatever had caused the young girl to lose her cheerful demeanour. Sensing nothing untoward, he scanned the crowd for a second time before deciding he was either overreacting or losing his touch.
A gentle tug on his arm brought the SEAL's undivided attention to the eight-year-old at his side. "What is it, Gracie?"
He watched as she shifted from foot to foot, her small hands tugging at the hem of her purple shirt. "I need to tell you something," she announced quietly.
Steve sank to his knees and took both of her hands in his own. "You can tell me anything, Grace, honey. You know that, right?" The worry was gnawing at his insides. He was half tempted to dial Danny's cell but he forced himself to wait. Grace gave a shy smile before leaning in and whispering in his ear.
Steve could have kicked himself, his face turning a brilliant shade of red as he ran a hand through his hair, rising quickly to his feet to hide his embarrassment; Danny's prior warnings of pizza and ice cream – and obviously a lot of soda - coming back to haunt him. Clearing his throat, the SEAL gave a small chuckle as he patted the small girl on the head, steering her in the direction of the nearby public restrooms, changing his mind at the last minute when he decided he couldn't establish her safety when he couldn't secure the room beforehand. Old habits die hard; wasn't that the saying?
Running through viable options, ignoring the small internal voice that was laughing at his paranoia, McGarrett decided on the McDonald's takeaway restaurant down on the floor below. From what he remembered, there was a single unisex restroom near the registers so he could take a few seconds to clear it and then grab a drink for Grace without too much hassle.
It only took a few extra minutes to reach the food store. After a quick sweep of the stall, which was thankfully clear, Steve headed for the counter and ordered a small soda for Grace and a bottle of water for himself, all the while keeping his attention on the restroom door. Grace appeared as he finished paying, gratefully accepting the drink and declining the offer of something to eat.
The pair wandered out of the restaurant and over to a small seating area where a few other weary shoppers were taking a well-deserved break. Steve pulled out a chair for Gracie and settled her in before taking the adjacent seat, checking the time on his watch as he opened his bottle of water and took a small sip. "How are you holding up? You ready to head home yet, or are we ready for more shopping?"
Grace took a matching sip of her drink before answering. "Can we have a look in the book store before we leave, Uncle Steve? I think I know what I-"
The end of her sentence was cut off as a well-dressed, middle-aged man stumbled into their table, his briefcase knocking Grace's drink onto the floor with a wet splat, Steve's bottle of water giving an ominous wobble before managing to remain stubbornly in place. McGarrett was on his feet in an instant, moving around the table and inserting himself like a shield between the young girl and the overly apologetic man, forcing him to take a step away.
"Gracie, are you okay?" the head of Five-O called over his shoulder, ignoring the pathetic attempts at an apology from the rude businessman, concern colouring his voice as he put on his best 'don't-mess-with-me-or-I'll-knock-you-on-your-ass-before-you-can-even-blink ' look; the one Danny had affectionately named his aneurism face, glaring unflinchingly at the stranger before him. Grace's quiet affirmation that she was fine did little to ease the tension that curled through his body, his protective streak taking over.
The suited man offered a weak smile as he took a further step back, hands raised in a gesture of surrender as he half-heartedly offered to replace the spilled drink, a proposition to which the SEAL shook his head in the negative. He didn't trust himself to speak to the clumsy fool quite yet as he was liable to say something he'd regret. Maybe you've spent a little too much time with your irritable partner, his inside voice pointed out with a wry chuckle.
Without another word the man turned and walked away, muttering under his breath as he headed in the opposite direction to where he'd originally intended. Steve watched him go, forcing himself to take a few deep breaths to ease the adrenaline rush that had his pulse spiking, the headache from earlier returning full force. He grabbed a handful of paper napkins from another table and mopped up as much of the spilled drink as he could before turning back to a quiet Grace.
"Are you okay, Gracie?" Steve voiced his concerns with a frown, worried for a moment that he'd scared the little girl, her brown eyes wide and unblinking as they met his. She nodded slowly, her gaze falling to the mess on the floor. "I can get you another drink," he offered, the words sounding lame even to himself as he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. Grace shook her head and jumped to her feet, reaching out to take Steve's hand in her own.
"Let's go, Uncle Steve. We need to look in the book store, remember?"
The SEAL released the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding, accepting the small girl's hand in his own with a relieved smile. "Don't forget your drink, silly," she chastised as he grabbed his bottle of water with a smirk, downing most of it before throwing the rest in the trash as they walked away.
As Grace browsed the assortment of books on display in the glass-fronted store, Steve was fighting back a wave of dizziness. The vertigo had struck hard and fast a few minutes back but he'd put it down to the beginnings of a migraine. Now he wasn't so sure.
He swallowed thickly as he watched Grace thumbing through a selection of books she'd pulled from the shelf, glad she was too distracted to notice his discomfort. As he ran a hand through his sweat-drenched hair, the head of Five-O prayed he wasn't about to pass out in the middle of the busy mall. He'd scared Grace enough for one day already; he didn't plan on doing it again.
Steve lingered in the shop doorway, hoping the hint of a breeze he could feel from the mall exit nearby would be enough to clear his head. His skull felt like it was stuffed with cotton candy, his vision blurring around the edges. Whatever was wrong with him, he decided, it wasn't natural.
His thoughts floated back to the suited man and his accidental stumble into their table. Was it accidental, or was it some elaborate scheme to... To what? Steve shook his head, forcing his paranoia to the back burner, crossing his trembling arms and allowing his weary body to slump heavily against the wall. He was blocking the only entrance into the store, but he couldn't bring himself to care at that moment as his eyes slipped shut of their own accord.
A familiar tug on his arm startled the SEAL enough to jerk him back to awareness, the force of his heart pounding in his chest eliciting a weak groan against his will. He had to blink a few times to clear his vision and this time he couldn't fail to spot the concern painted on Grace's pretty face.
"We need to leave," he ordered suddenly, his voice hoarse as he groped blindly for the child's hand. Grace nodded solemnly and matched his unsteady pace as she stumbled from the store alongside him, struggling to keep up with his hurried strides as they exited the mall.
The moment they hit fresh air, Steve slowed. One, two, three deep breaths and he felt a little clarity returning, but with his improved state of mind came the realisation that they were being followed. Three men, if he was seeing things clearly, which ironically enough he wasn't. They were keeping their distance for the time being but were most likely armed; certainly dangerous. Who had he pissed off this time? In reality, the list could be endless...
The SEAL had to fight furiously against the unnatural wave of panic that assaulted him at the thought that even after all of his precautions he'd still managed to put Grace in harm's way. It was becoming a habit lately; no one stayed safe for long when he got too close to them.
Concentrate, McGarrett, his internal voice commanded. It was right; he could beat himself up over this later. First he had to get little Gracie to safety.
Eyes darting erratically, struggling to focus his thoughts, the head of Five-O tightened his grip on Grace's hand as he tried to remember where he was going. He'd been drugged, that much was obvious. But with what and how long the effects would last, he had no idea. He prayed it would pass through his system quickly.
"The car, the car..." Steve hadn't realised he was muttering out loud until Grace helpfully pointed them in the right direction. Picking up speed, his destination finally in sight, McGarrett all but fell into the side of his Chevy Silverado, panting as if he'd just finished a marathon. It took several painfully long seconds to find the key in his back pocket but eventually he had the car unlocked and the passenger door open. Spinning clumsily to the terrified eight-year-old at his side, Steve grit his teeth against the urge to throw up and dropped to his knees, taking Grace's small hands into his own.
"Gracie, I need you to listen. I'm going to ask you to do something important for me, okay?" The little girl nodded, tears welling in her eyes as she took in her uncle's disheveled state. She wasn't stupid; she knew something was seriously wrong. "I need you to get in the car and lock the doors. Whatever happens, you can't come out. Do you understand me? You can't come out." At her hurried nod she was all but pushed through the door, falling unceremoniously onto the passenger seat as Steve threw the keys and wallet in alongside her, the door slamming with a loud bang.
"Lock it, Gracie. Now!" he shouted through the window. "Don't open the door until I tell you it's safe to come out." Steve hated that he had to raise his voice but he was quickly running out of time and he needed her to act fast; the comforting sound of the Chevy's locks hitting home suddenly meaning one less obstacle to worry over.
Stumbling away from the car in relief the head of Five-O scrubbed a hand over his sweaty face, blinking harshly against the blinding glare of the sunlight as he chose a direction at random and started walking, hoping his three pursuers would oblige in following him. The SEAL's immediate plan of action had already flown out of the window with his growing nausea and dizziness; not to mention the fact that he was beginning to struggle to keep any semblance of order to his thoughts. He couldn't have driven Gracie to safety right now had her life depended upon it, even with his extensive training in combat and defensive driving. He was liable to crash and kill them both, the dark spots clouding his vision growing larger and more ominous with each passing heartbeat.
His predicament and state of being left him with a limited number of feasible options, but for now McGarrett's only plan of action was to draw the men as far away from Grace as possible. The further she was from harm, the easier he could concentrate. The more he could concentrate, the higher his chances were of eliminating the three SOB's on his tail. It was times like these that Steve was glad he'd sent Mary away; that he didn't have his own wife and kids to worry about. Pulling the iPhone from his pocket he spared a lingering thought for his clueless partner, knowing Danny was going to be pissed as hell when he discovered that his little Gracie had been put in harm's way. He honestly didn't know how the Jersey Detective continued to show up for work each day knowing that one unexpected run-in with some piece of scum with a gun or a knife could mean he'd never see his little girl again. Squinting at the small screen in front of him, the SEAL tried to scroll down to his partner's phone number through his increasingly blurred vision.
Steve lost his footing as his concentration scattered, catching himself against the hood of a beat up old truck with a solid thud and barely managing to keep his grip on the small device in his shaking hand. Taking a deep breath, belligerently ignoring the latest wave of dizziness that threatened to send him spiralling into unconsciousness, he used the moment's respite to scope out his surroundings, clenching his fists against the harsh trembling that overtook his body as his adrenaline started to crash. With a distraught groan the Navy SEAL cursed his own stupidity, punching one fist into the truck as he caught sight of his own Chevy barely twenty feet away; his dazed and aimless stumbling having caused him to walk in a complete circle. He didn't have time to be angry with himself, a sudden attack of nausea bending him double as he violently threw up what little food he'd eaten for breakfast that morning alongside his earlier bottle of water.
The sound of approaching footsteps had McGarrett relying on senses other than sight as he fought to remain upright. Part of him hoped it was a kindly passer-by checking to see whether he was okay, or at worst the owner of the truck coming to tear his head off over the mess he'd made. Luck, however, wasn't on his side. He could hear three distinct sets of footsteps as he wiped his mouth on the short sleeve of his shirt, ascertaining quickly that it was highly unlikely to be anyone other than the men that had been following him since he'd left the mall. Glancing once more at his parked Chevy, vaguely relieved that he couldn't see Grace and praying to every god known to man, woman and animal that it was because she'd done as she was told and was hiding in the relative safety of the locked car, Steve braced himself both physically and mentally before turning in the direction of the footsteps and launching himself blindly at them.
The head of Five-O collided hard with two of his three shadows, using his substantial bodyweight to take them to the floor in an uncoordinated tangle of arms and legs. Their muffled curses were music to his ears, shaking loose some of the cobwebs that had taken hold of his brain and Steve felt his second wind of energy take hold, the adrenaline once again coursing through his veins at the anticipation of the fight.
Ignoring the throb of pain in his right wrist the SEAL struck out with the closed fist that still clutched his iPhone, landing a solid blow to the first man's temple who was struggling to regain his ability to fight back. Steve gave a satisfied grunt as he watched the man's head ricochet off the solid ground, the stranger swiftly losing his battle with consciousness. Turning his attention to the next man, relieved the odds were unexpectedly leaning in his favour, McGarrett blocked a sloppy punch but was hit from behind as the third man quickly made his entrance into the fray.
Falling heavily on the ground beside the unconscious man, wincing at the bite of gravel to his forearms as his cell went skittering across the floor, Steve rolled onto his back and kicked out at a further attack from his new assailant but his move was weak, off-target and easily blocked. The swift kick that followed to his ribs had the SEAL groaning in pain; another catching him in the stomach; one to the side of his jaw; a fourth in the lower part of his back as he curled in on himself to protect his weakening body. They were fighting dirty, the ruthless blows from the two men suddenly raining down on him in a manic frenzy, and they were winning. He couldn't defend himself.
Blood ran freely, the beating ending as suddenly as it had started. McGarrett gave a strangled cough to clear his airway, jarring his protesting ribs in the process as he rolled onto his front, spitting out a mouthful of blood, his breath leaving him in harsh, broken gasps. He lost a few seconds, the pain as he was yanked brusquely to his feet causing him to momentarily black out, but the sound of smashing glass accompanied by the haunting sound of a terrified scream had him clawing his way back to awareness with a cry of his own.
"No…nonono…Gracie!" Steve couldn't force enough air into his lungs, fear for the young girl's safety tightening his chest to the point of hyperventilation. He fought with everything he had, the overriding, burning need to protect his partner's little girl eating at him like a cancer. Through his blurred vision he could just about make out the sight of a man at the door to his car, the window to the passenger's side shattered. Four men. There were four of them…
The sun reflected off of the glass staining the floor, blinding in its brightness. Grace was pulled screaming from the car as the SEAL made his bid for freedom, a small voice at the back of his head wondering where the crowds of weekend shoppers were now that he needed them. Not to help, but to bear witness to the crime that was being committed. With the drugs scrambling his brain Steve was as reliable a witness as a blind man. If they got away with Grace as their – their what? Their hostage? Their bargaining chip? He didn't know; couldn't quite piece the puzzle together in any semblance of order right then. He just knew that he couldn't let her be taken.
Steve didn't know how he managed it, but suddenly he was free.
Tripping over his own unresponsive feet, hitting the floor with an unhealthy crunch, he scrambled towards his Chevy; towards a now mute Grace as her attacker held a silencing hand over her mouth; fingers clawing at the ground as he inched himself closer. He didn't get far, something cold - harsh - wrapping itself around his throat, cutting off air that he was struggling to draw into his screaming body in the first place. And then he was choking, fingers scrabbling uselessly at the ligature around his neck, his already impaired vision shrinking to mere pinpricks.
"Grace…" It was the last thought that he managed before he stopped moving completely.
Author's Note: All that is left for me to say is, erm... Thoughts?