New Author's Notes as of 5/20/2013: For anyone who has already started this story, I apologize for the long wait. I really wanted to finish reworking the existing chapters (1-7) before writing the final two.
When I started writing, I had only watched a handful of H50 episodes (and most of those were watched as background noise). Then I saw Hana I Wa'Ia and fell in love with the show (especially Danny and Steve). I started writing this fic pretty much right after seeing it, so this is my first foray into the H50 universe.
It was only after initially posting Chapters 1-7 that I was able to go back and watch all the episodes on DVD/VOD. Since then, I've tweaked a bunch, so I think they read better now, there's more backstory, and the characters are more IC. The macro story hasn't changed, so if you don't feel like re-reading, everything should still make sense. But there are several new vignettes sprinkled throughout that I'm pretty fond of that I hope you'll enjoy, too.
*** Not Good Enough (Danny Williams's Apartment) ***
Danny Williams's dreams were filled with visions of chasing a five-year-old version of his daughter, Grace, through casino gaming rooms where she playfully pulled the handle on slot machines and scooted behind cocktail waitresses and the loud, pinging machines as she darted through the gaming hall. With each pull, the background noise got louder, the lights and pings exploding in headache-inducing cacophony. "Catch me if you can," she giggled, as she had on frequent occasions as they had played hide-and-seek in their old home in Jersey. "Aw, Danno. You can do better than that!" she teased.
Grace disappeared behind a digital poker machine and re-materialized on the edge of the Bellagio fountain twirling at water's edge. Looking closer to her current age of 10, she stood on tippy-toe and held her arms out gracefully. "Danno, pick me up and swing me around like you used to!" Danny's mind flashed to a toddler-sized Grace in pink leotard, tutu, and bunny slippers. He swung her around the kitchen like a helicopter while his then-wife Rachel looked on, smiling as she made dinner. "Danno, watch me!" current-day Grace laughed, dancing in time to the music as she had at her pre-ballet recital. Step-step-plié; step-step-sauté — "Eek! Danno! Help!" she shrieked, losing her footing on the slippery surface and falling into the fountain. Cymbals crashed and colored streams of water erupted, creating a moving maze of barriers between them. Danny felt himself getting soaked as he weaved his way towards her. But just as he reached her and held out a hand, she faded into a cloud of blue and red spray.
When she reappeared, she looked older, with crimson red-stained lips – and she was marching around a swanky boutique, looking like she owned the place. "Danno, can I have one of these?" she asked, picking up a necklace, heavily laden with diamonds. "Or how about this," she asked, playfully modeling a fur coat. Danny wondered how many months' salary it would have cost, and how his pet-loving daughter could stand touching, much less wearing the pelts of cute, furry animals – dead, cute, furry animals. "Pretty please?" Grace curled her lips into a flirtatious pout. Danny felt his blood boil with fatherly protectiveness, wondering how often she'd practiced that pout…and what teenaged bucket of overactive hormones had been on the receiving end. Danny's hands reflexively curled up into fists. Grace walked over to the hat display and selected out an outrageously large hat, covered with fuchsia feathers. "Or, how about this?" she asked, placing it roguishly askance atop her head, her eyes gleaming.
Danny found himself fixated on the feathers as they seemed to grow in place from their already ridiculous eight-inch height to more than two feet. By the time he looked below them again, he found them attached to the head of a barely-clad showgirl he could only see from the back. "Oh, no," he thought. "Not this. Anything but this." "Anything but what, Danno?" asked a husky female voice. The head turned around and Danny's worst fears were confirmed. He covered his face with his hands, and through his fingers, he could just make out a shapely, illusion-covered figure, with strategically placed sparkly flowers covering only most intimate bits. "Would you believe I can almost triple my salary in my tips after the show if I just — "
A few hours earlier, Danny had fallen asleep on the sofa, preparing his statement for his upcoming Family Court hearing. But now he sat bolt upright, knocking Grace's pink zebra-print reading pillow off the edge. "No way!" he said out loud. Then, "No way, no way, no fucking way." He rested his elbows on his knees and held onto his aching head.
Danny had never been to Las Vegas, but he'd spent a good number of weekends in his pre-married-with-kids days hanging out in Atlantic City. It had been a great place to hang out with his buddies, drinking beer, smoking cigars, playing poker, and ogling girls. His brother, Matt had returned from a bachelor's party in Vegas, raving about the high-roller suites, and Danny was pretty sure he could put one to good use, given the chance.
But Vegas as a place to live and raise a daughter? Danny already knew he'd hate it, just as he'd known he would hate Hawaii before he had upturned his life to move to the oversized lava pit. Yet even before the nightmares had started, he had been plagued by the unshakeable feeling that Vegas would be a thousand times worse. As if lounge lizards, dancing girls, and casino moguls actually made any material contribution to society.
It had been nearly eight months since the stack of legalese-filled papers had been hand-delivered to him, coldly informing him that Rachel was seeking a custody modification so she and Stan could move Grace to Las Vegas. And even still, Danny found himself wondering, almost daily, How the hell had it come to this?
Stupid Stanley Edwards and his stupid freakin' real estate empire, Danny muttered to himself. Goddamned Step Stan. Godamned Step Stan who gets to go home every night to his precious Kahala mansion, helps my daughter with her homework, wraps his arms around my Rachel, and tucks Charlie into bed. Charlie should have been mine. Hell, Stan's whole life should have been mine.
Danny had replayed the timeline over in his head again and again, wondering what he could have done to avoid this.
After Danny had stood up Rachel and Grace at the airport the previous spring – "For work, Daniel? Again? For Five-0?" Rachel had demanded accusingly, challenging him to deny it – she had sworn she would never trust her heart to him again. She had considered that flight to New Jersey to be their last chance at a second chance. After Stan pleaded with her to return to the Island, it had taken a good long while before Rachel was ready to return to the same time zone, much less to forgive Danny for getting Grace's – and her own – hopes up and then letting them down again.
But over the next few months, Rachel eventually learned the full story of why Danny had stayed behind and she began to understand his choice. And as she watched Danny devotedly doting on Grace, and the worshipful love their daughter reciprocated, she couldn't help but thaw… a little.
Upon her return, Rachel was determined to reconcile with Stan – "to make things work for the baby." But as weeks turned to months, Rachel found herself once again remembering things she'd once loved about Danny. His shy smile with the crinkles around the eyes. The unexpected giggle. The oddest mixed metaphors. His swagger. And that tush.
Both Danny and Rachel were careful to keep each other literally an arm's length away, chatting coolly about Grace, the weather, New Jersey news. But as summer's heat gave away to muggy days and humid nights, before she even realized what she was doing, Rachel had invited Danny into the house to escape one of the frequent downpours that came with the rainy season. A dry towel and iced tea had turned into wine and pizza night, and they had once again begun talking, joking, and confiding in each other as they had done so many times over the last dozen years.
Then came the day –almost a year ago now – when Rachel had unexpectedly gone into labor. Danny had been drafted into action, as Stan was inconveniently away on business. And Rachel thinks my job keeps me from being there for my family? I can't believe I sent the son of a bitch a picture from the baby ward. Christ, I oughta get a fuckin' medal for that, Danny thought to himself.
But then, Rachel's gratitude had quickly shifted back to panicked fear when Rick Peterson appeared on the scene just a few short weeks later. His spiteful quest for vengeance reminded Rachel in no uncertain terms of how much Danny risked for the job she knew he would never willingly give up. As she waited anxiously for news about Grace's whereabouts, she felt likeall her deepest fears had been validated –that Danny would one day put not only his only his own life at risk, but that of Grace, and as it turned out on this instance, Stan as well.
Somehow, she'd managed to conveniently forget that it was paper-pusher Stan's business that had gotten Grace and herself carjacked the previous year. "It wasn't his fault," she'd rationalized to herself and to Danny on more than one occasion. "He was naïve. How could he have known how dirty those other guys played? He won't make that mistake again."
"You, Daniel, on the other hand," she'd bitterly reminded him, "volunteer to go back for more every day." Of course, the fact that Danny had agreed to keep Stan's dealings quiet so Grace wouldn't think her stepfather was a goddamned rotten crook hadn't helped his case.
Rachel had let Danny back in, only to find herself once again deathly worried about losing him – and Grace – permanently. So, by the time the dust settled from the Peterson fiasco, and Stan's shoulder was on the mend, Rachel had already started circling her wagons – mentally and physically.
In the meantime, what Danny didn't know, was that Stan had already been finalizing the arrangements that would take his business to Las Vegas, even as he left his office to meet Danny at the beach at Peterson's insistence. Injured and victimized – all the better, by Danny's hand – Stan saw a perfect opportunity to solidify his future, knowing Rachel would never leave him in a time of need.
So, one afternoon, as Rachel fluffed his pillows and arranged his lunch on a tray, he announced his intent to move to Nevada. "It's a great deal, baby," he'd said beaming. "I promise you: you, Grace, and Charlie are gonna have everything you ever wanted," he added, pulling her into his arms.
"That's great, darling," she'd replied tonelessly, nuzzling her face against his shoulder so he wouldn't see the tears that were pooling in her eyes. It took only a few days before she realized that Stan was not likely to be dissuaded. There was no way she would let Charlie grow up without a dad, and she was certainly not going to leave without Grace. She only hoped that she might somehow make it easier both for herself to leave Danny behind, and for him to let them go.
Soon thereafter, Rachel stopped inviting Danny in for coffee and a cookie when he dropped off Grace at the end of his weekend visits. Instead, Danny found Rachel offering all measures of barely plausible reasons for him to quickly depart. Grace has a big project due tomorrow. I have a headache like you wouldn't believe. It's taken forever to get Charlie down and he's a really light sleeper. Stan has company coming….
Danny could feel their painstakingly-forged détente slipping away. Frustrated, he found himself turning more and more to his fledgling relationship with Dr. Gabriella Asano. Unlike Rachel, whom he'd loved with his entire heart and soul – and at one time hated with just as much passion – his newfound courtship with Gaby was still uncomplicated and carefree. Danny enjoyed her company, and she helped remind him was alive, and more than just a cop and a dad.
Whether by coincidence or causality, shortly after he finally got up the nerve to introduce Grace to Gabby, things with Rachel became even more tense. She and Stan "unexpectedly" had to go out of town, forcing him to inconveniently switch weekends at the last minute. Pick-up times were changed, and notes from school were inexplicably lost in transit. Rachel regularly berated him for being late, missing pick-ups, and introducing a fifth-wheel in their already complicated family relationship.
As much as Danny tried to stay on Rachel's "good side" (which made its appearance with decreasing frequency), the irritants continued to intensify. Though Grace couldn't miss the tension between her parents, Danny still continued to greet her with a big smile and hug, treasuring each hard-earned moment with her all the more. Even, still, he had begun to wonder how the mother of his daughter – the woman a part of him still wanted to spend his life with – had turned into this she-devil who seemed to have adopted making his life miserable as her life's mission.
Even after four months of passive-aggressive baiting, Rachel realized she couldn't delay any longer – the end of the school year was coming up, and if they were going to move with Grace, they needed to get going. Danny was showing no signs of relinquishing attention or loosening his bonds with her, so, unable to face him in person, she had her attorney draft up the custody change papers and had them delivered by a courier.
Danny had stared dumb-founded at the papers in his hand, his eyes crossing and uncrossing in hopes that the blur of letters would re-form themselves differently. But after the initial bout of shellshock, it had only taken Danny a few hours to realize that there was no way he was going to let Rachel and Stan waltz away with Grace without putting up a fight.
"When you and Rachel go to war, the only one who's gonna lose is Grace," Steve had warned him. But Stanley had refused to budge and Rachel had done her best to present a unified front with her husband.
And so the next eight months had taken a toll on all of them. Danny and Rachel barely exchanged words when they saw each other in person – aside from necessary logistical details. Danny saw the housekeeper and nanny more often than he saw Rachel most weeks. And Grace had learned to be careful not to talk about one parent in front of the other.
At first, all the adults had tried to hide the move from her, but when Grace overheard one of Stan's colleagues talking about getting together again "once you get your family settled in Las Vegas," she had nervously called Danny to ask, "Are mommy and Step Stan getting divorced?" And then upon hearing the reply, tearfully blurted out in one fell swoop, "I don't even know where Las Vegas is, Danno. Do I have to move there? Are you gonna move too? What about Uncle Steve? And Auntie Kono? And Aloha Girls Olé Oh-Lei! Ceremony?"
Working a murder scene – on the North Shore, no less – while his daughter barricaded herself in her bedroom at Rachel and Stan's house, Danny had rarely ever felt so helpless. All he wanted to do was get in the car, find her and reassure her that there was no way she would have to move to Las Vegas – and that in the unlikely circumstance that she actually moved, he would certainly follow. But the best he could manage was to lock himself in the semi-privacy of his car, and to pass along a semi-reassuring pep talk. Even then, he knew – since he had filed the papers to contest the modification – the final decision remained largely in the hands of the state family court system, and out of his control. And even though he'd tried to suppress the possibility, he had indeed started thinking about what a move to Las Vegas would entail and it had left him feeling all the more helpless.
After months of briefings and testimony, supervised visits with social workers, and affidavits, Danny felt like their court date would never arrive. He'd spent the better part of the last two months working and reworking his address to the court, wordsmithing, polishing and preparing. All the I's had been dotted and T's crossed weeks ago, and he'd spent an embarrassing number of hours practicing the damned thing in the car en route between crime scenes and suspect and witness interrogations.
Danny had started off trying to practice in his head, still trying to preserve his privacy and dignity. That is, until Steve badgered, cajoled, and just plain bullied him into reading it aloud. Then Steve had proceeded to tweak, make fun of, and constructively critique it until they were both sick of it, but certain that it was a stronger statement as a result.
But now that the long-awaited judgment day had finally arrived, Danny felt himself filled with dread. As the first rays of orange and pink-tinted light peeked through his windows, and his nightmare replayed in his mind, he re-read his notes and found himself shaking his head, with increasing intensity.
"No!" he shouted out loud, ceremonially launching the stack of notecards across the room; he stood up, pacing back and forth, hands perched on the back of his hips. "It's not good enough!" he concluded. "It has to be good enough. I am not going to lose my daughter. Who does Rachel she think she is dragging Gracie to Hawaii and then Las Vegas?"
Danny's arms freed themselves and took on a life of their own, raising up to question his invisible audience, then pointing to and dismissing his absent ex-wife. "Sin City? Really? Who moves their kid to Sin City? What the hell are you thinking, Rachel? You cannot move Grace to Las Vegas. You hear that, Rachel, I'm not gonna let you take her away from me and from everyone she loves!" he shouted, hoping he wouldn't overtax the sound insulation on his apartment. And I'm sure as hell not letting you uproot my life again. I left my family once for you and Grace. I'm not doing it again.
Danny paused as an idea crystalized in his mind.
He turned a quick 180 and scrambled across the room, rifling through his desk in search of paper and a writing implement. He brushed aside yesterday's mail, a tube of Hello Kitty lip gloss (what the hell does a ten-year-old need lip gloss for anyways?), the menu from last night's take-out, and a stack of neon pink heart-shaped Post-Its.
"Aw, come on," he muttered. "Where the hell is plain old ordinary blank paper when you need it?" He continued haphazardly opening and closing drawers. "Come on, come on…Where are you?"
He moved onto the side drawers, finally finding a few blank pages in a half-used legal pad. Thank you, he mouthed before sitting down at the kitchen table. He began to write furiously, alternating between frantic scribbling and infuriating moments of writer's block.
Forty-minutes later, he had what he thought was an acceptable draft. With the adrenalin from his rude awakening and the subsequent inspiration wearing off, he rested his head on the table. "It's gotta be better than acceptable. It's got to be perfect. It's got to be completely perfect," he muttered, slowly drifting back into a restless and uncomfortable sleep.
Danny awoke again at 6:30 a.m., when the alarm he'd set on his phone invaded his restless sleep. His back was stiff from sleeping slumped over in the hard-backed chair, and his face, sticky from his earlier panic, stuck to the sides of his notes.
He peeled the pages off his cheek and spread them out on the table in front of him. "Rachel", he read aloud to himself, "We may have had our differences, but we did one thing very right together. We made an angel…."
After reading it through a dozen or so times, tweaking here, rewording there, he finally dragged himself into the shower, letting the water run cold as he continued to rehearse his revised plea.
As he stepped out, he heard his phone ringing from the bedroom. He quickly wrapped a towel around his waist, the cool water still on his shoulders cooling even more so in the air conditioning. He shivered lightly as he answered, "Yeah."
"Hey," spoke the voice on the other end of the line. "It's me."
"Hey, I know you pride yourself on your Navy-SEAL stealth capabilities, but there's this technology called Caller ID, you know?" Danny said, sitting down on the edge of his bed. "Maybe you've heard of it? My phone has it, your phone…"
"Yeah, I'm familiar with it." Steve McGarrett could sense the tension in his partner's voice – Danny's biting sarcasm was always a little more aggressive when he was under pressure.
"Sorry," Danny said. "Just a little tense."
"I know, man. I can't imagine what you're going through," Steve said. "I wish I could do more to help."
Steve's voice betrayed a rare bout of helplessness which Danny mistook for guilt. "You're not gonna back out on me today, are you? I barely know anyone else on this godforsaken island. And much as I love Kono and Chin, there are still people at the courthouse who have their doubts about them, and I can't afford doubts. Not today. Those rumors die hard —"
"Hey," Steve interrupted. "Don't worry. I'll be there. There's no chance I won't be there. Rachel would have to hire a herd of water buffalo to keep me away. Not even…" Steve searched for something that would be impressive enough to convince Danny how certain he was. "…Not even Wo Fat could keep me away."
Danny was grateful for the sentiment, yet he was also struck with an intense sense of dread at the mention of his partner's nemesis. He knew the depths of Steve's loyalty to his friends. He'd seen it when Steve had personally steamrolled his way into the HPD evidence locker to save Chin's life. He'd personally been the beneficiary of Steve's unwavering – and arguably insanely suicidal – loyalty as he stubbornly kept Danny company in the hot zone after Danny accidentally turned himself into a human bomb detonator after unwittingly stepping into the path of a live proximity sensor.
But even trusting Steve daily with his very life, Danny wasn't sure who would come out on top in a virtual tug-of-war between an opportunity to get Wo Fat and his loyalty to his best friend. Danny silently prayed – politely, in case God might actually hear and consider the request – that Wo Fat respectfully stay out of their lives until his custody case got resolved.
"Thanks," Danny replied, mostly confidently. "I know you've got my back." Steve nodded, even knowing that Danny couldn't see the gesture through the phones, and silently promised himself to put aside his unwavering pursuit of Wo Fat. How could I be such a bonehead? Danny's mind should be on preparing for the custody case, not worrying that I'm going to bail to chase after Wo Fat. Shit. Why'd I mention him?
Hearing no response, Danny said, "Listen, uh, if you don't have else for me, then, I'm gonna finish getting ready, okay?"
"Yeah, right, of course," Steve said.
Still sensing a distinct lack of conversation from Steve's end of the line, Danny moved to hang up before one more niggling worry verbalized itself. "Hey. You, uh, gonna wear something sensible?"
"Yes, Danny, I'm going to wear something sensible."
"What do you mean what? I just told you I'd wear something sensible."
"Not what. What are you wearing?" Danny clarified.
"I was thinking I'd find some khakis, an Oxford, maybe a cardigan, pair of wing-tips."
Danny knew for a fact that Steve would never let a pair of wing-tips near his closet – he'd snuck a look into Steve's closet when he housesat for him and had found nothing of the sort.
"What're you going for the Mr. Rogers look? Besides, you don't even own any wing-tips."
"And you know that because…?" Steve asked, knowing the answer.
"'Cause I'm a detective – a damned good one. And I know you."
"You mean you're a nosy son-of-a-bitch and you poked through all my closets when you were staying at my house."
"Yeah, that, too. Sue me."
"Look, Danny, everything's gonna be fine," Steve said. "Don't worry."
"Why is it that whenever you say that, half of Hawaii's Most Wanted list usually starts shooting at us?" Danny asked.
Steve began to hang up. "See you at 8:30?"
"Session starts at 8:30. Be there at eight," Danny said, adding, "Please?"
"Okay," Steve agreed. "I'll be there. Don't worry."
Truth be told, after finishing his morning swim and his three-minute Navy shower, Steve had intuitively reached for the next clean T-shirt and pair of cargos before remembering the importance of the day. That recognition was what prompted him to call to check in on Danny in the first place. Then, after they'd hung up, he had sat in front of his closet for the next 15 minutes evaluating what Danny might consider acceptable on this all-important day of days.
Nothing casual, obviously. Preferably something with a tie. Well, that narrowed the options substantially. His tux – which no longer fit nearly as well as it used to after the latest tweaks to his workout began to manifest themselves in his re-sculpted physique – would have been ludicrous in any case. He had a suit that he kept on hand for weddings and funerals, but wearing it always made him feel like a cross between David Byrne and Herman Munster.
A blazer, button-up, and khakis would have been more than acceptable for any other court appearance he'd made in his two-plus years as commander of Five-0, but not today. Knowing that was Danny's everyday wear made it feel too ordinary. Steve wasn't even sure he would be able to even locate a presentable tie – unless he counted the one with bright blue wave crests and red surfboards emblazoned on it, and he was sure Danny would not consider that sensible. Shit.
As he sat staring at the closet, a spot of white caught his eye from the far back corner of the top shelf. Steve stood up to get a better look. Maybe, just maybe…