This is the last story I have all complete. Not I have to decide whether to start posting a multichapter work in progress next week or wait until I finish it. Decisions, decisions.
Yes, Sym64, I know you disagree. But, look, so does Danny.
Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams saw the elevator door closing just as they came into the Five-0 headquarters building.
"Race you up the stairs," Steve said mischievously.
"What are you, 12?" the detective complained. His partner was half a foot taller and a Navy SEAL who kept in training. It would hardly be a fair contest.
"I'll give you a head start," Steve offered. "Since you don't run much," he clarified. He never made a point of his partner's height, never even thought about it much.
"I?" Danny said, pointing at himself. "I don't run much? I run all the time. Every time we say, 'Stop, police!' I end up running. Every time you pull out your gun or a random grenade, I end up running. I don't run much? I run too much!"
"Then you want to race up the stairs?" Steve said patiently.
Danny opened the door to the stairwell and gestured. "These stairs?"
"Those stairs," Steve agreed.
"OK." Danny vanished into the stairwell, yanking the door shut behind him. He knew full well that his legs were shorter than Steve's.
"Hey!" Steve barreled after him. "No fair! You must have learned that from Lori."
"Taught her," Danny corrected as he turned the first landing. The detective was taking the steps two at a time, but Steve stretched his long legs and bounded up three at a time. He passed Danny on the last turn and burst through the doors into Five-0 two feet ahead of his partner. Inside on the conference table, he saw a white paper pastry bag with Danny's name written on it. Steve swooped on it, claiming the prize for his victory. Inside was a coco puff, Danny's favorite pastry from Liliha Bakery (though Danny had a love affair with practically any pastry). Steve lifted it up in triumph and took a big bite, then he made a face. "Ugh, too sweet." and tossed the remainder in the trash.
Coco puffs were so tasty that Danny would have fished it out, if the wastebasket had been full of paper, but a faulty toner cartridge had left it full of black powder, which rendered the pastry inedible.
Danny looked at the ruined treat mournfully, then turned back to the door.
"Now I'm hungry," he said and walked out again.
A hand extended in front of Steve's smirk. His eyes followed the arm back to Kono's unamused face. "One dollar and forty-nine cents," she said.
"The coco puff cost $1.49. I bought it for Danny and you threw it away." She kept her hand out, waiting.
Steve fished in his pocket and found exact change.
"Thank you," Kono said coldly, and went back to her own coco puff.
Steve gave her an odd look, but decided he didn't want to piss her off any more than she was already. He went to his office without another word.
Kono worked for several minutes, jaw clenched, until the excessive pressure of her pen punched a hole in the report she was filling out. She cursed and combed back her hair in frustration.
"That's a lot of anger over a pastry, cuz." Chin Ho Kelly spoke warily, sensing steam rising from his cousin's boiling anger.
"It's not the coco puff. It's Danny," Kono answered. "Steve's been so disrespectful of Danny lately. I don't like it."
"But what brought this on … oh, that message from the governor," Chin realized.
"I was the smallest, skinniest kid in class. I remember what it's like to be bullied," Kono said.
"I remember, too." Chin's mouth curved in a gentle smile of recollection. "You wanted me to teach you martial arts."
"You found me a teacher." Kono grinned in remembered triumph. "And they stopped picking on me. Stopped picking on anybody when I was around."
"I remember, little avenger. But I don't think Danny needs your protection."
Kono hissed a warning, seeing Danny returning with a Liliha Bakery bag in his hand.
"Hey, guys," he greeted them, not realizing they'd been talking about him.
He handed each of the cousins a coco puff with a couple of napkins, because the chocolate filling oozes.
"Gotta get my chocolate fix," Danny said, gesturing with the bag that contained his own pastry. He rolled his eyes at Steve's office where they could see the boss going through his email. "None for the health freak, he's had his annual ration," he added with cheerful scorn.
When he went to his own office to check his email, Chin said, "See, Danny's OK."
"I'm not saying he's not," Kono answered. "I'm saying I don't like it."
"The Return of the Avenger," Chin murmured, as Steve left his office carrying a printout of the governor's memo.
The governor wants me to talk to some schools about bullying," Steve said. As head of Five-0 he got a lot of requests for public speaking. It wasn't his favorite part of the job and this was for elementary age kids, which made him feel uncertain.
"I wonder why he asked me."
"Maybe he figured it takes one to know one," Kono muttered.
Chin hastily retreated to his office, out of the line of fire. Steve couldn't believe he'd heard correctly.
Kono raised her eyebrows at him. "When big kids pick on smaller kids, that's bullying, isn't it? And when bosses pick on employees, they call it harassment, but that's just another word for bullying. And when a rich guy makes a point of rubbing it in that he has more money than someone else, I call that bullying, too," Kono said mercilessly. "So I think you should stop bullying Danny."
She and Steve were so focused on each other that, despite the glass walls around them, neither saw Chin take out his phone or Danny answer a call a moment later. As Chin spoke, Danny's eyes snapped up, homing in on his friends in the central room.
Kono's words hit Steve hard, because Danny was his friend, maybe the best friend he'd ever had.
"You think I'm a bully?" he said weakly.
Kono relented a little. "I think it could look that way to outsiders," she said. "The way you upped his bid at the auction, what was that all about? We all know Danny's been scraping along financially ever since Rachel took everything in the divorce, while you have incomes from two jobs and a house that's already paid for. So you can outbid Danny in an auction, what does that prove?"
"But I would have shared the tickets — I have shared the tickets — and Danny didn't have to spend a dime," Steve protested.
"But you made it a competition in front of everyone. There was no competition there, until you decided to make it one, and make it a one-sided competition, too. One that Danny couldn't win because you already had the advantage.
"Like that race up the stairs just now. We all know you have longer legs. What would winning prove?"
Humor sparked for a moment in Steve's worried eyes. "He almost beat me. He'd have bragged all day if he had. I only wanted to make him smile. He's been so down lately." Steve scuffed the floor. "I guess I went too far with the coco puff, though."
"You think I need to apologize to Danny?"
"I think it wouldn't hurt," Kono said firmly.
Steve nodded and rose. As he turned toward Danny's office, Chin and Danny simultaneously hung up their phones. Danny watched his friend's sheepish approach.
"Can I talk to you a minute?" Kono heard Steve ask, before Danny gestured him inside.
The woman watched as Steve spoke. Danny just listened. Finally he stood up. Kono saw Danny point at Steve. She had to laugh. She'd seen him use that same gesture with his dog and Steve sat, just like the dog.
Danny left Steve in his office and approached Kono. "Did I ask you to stand up for me?"
"No, but he threw away a good coco puff!"
"A capital offense," Danny agreed. "But shouldn't it be up to Judge Williams to try and convict him? Do you think I need someone to fight my battles for me? Do you think I've never had to deal with bullies?"
"No, brah. He just made me mad. I think he's been too mean to you lately, Danny, and in a really public way. 'Losing' the handcuff key, bidding against you in the charity auction. That's no way to treat a friend."
"No, but it is how you treat a brother," Danny said. "It's the kind of stuff Matty and I pulled on each other all the time," he said a little sadly, thinking of his younger brother now a federal fugitive. "And brothers don't run tattling to mom and dad. They get their own revenge." He gave her a sly grin. "Like letting their dog sleep in their brother's bed."
Kono giggled. "OK, Danny, I'm sorry I interfered. I know you can take care of yourself, but Steve should know that his actions might make him look bad when he does it in public," she said earnestly.
"You're saying we have to save Steve from himself?"
Danny considered it, and then smiled. "That is what 'back up's' all about."
The detective smiled in the direction of his office, reassuring Steve who had been watching anxiously. Danny started for his desk, and then looked back at Kono. "Thanks for looking out for me — for us."
Kono gave his shoulder a friendly shove. "That's what sisters do."
Chuckling, Danny returned to his office to extort a steak dinner and a week's supply of coco puffs out of Steve while he still felt guilty.
Because that's what brothers do.