A/N Well, I can safely say that I have never attempted anything like this before. It's been on my mind for a while, and I finally decided to go ahead and put it in writing - come what may. The story is based loosely on the classic "Beauty and the Beast" fairy-tale, and the action sort of goes back and forth between reality and fantasy. I believe things will begin making more sense, as the plot develops (at least I hope so). The story is fairly short, but has plenty of whumpage and angst for those of you, who like that stuff :-)
I hope you read and review, let me know what you think.
"I'm not even sure I should be letting you drive my car," Danny grumbled, as his partner settled gleefully in the driver seat, promptly throwing the car in drive. "Every time you get behind the wheel, something happens. Usually bad. Usually to me."
Steve's head whipped toward him at the accusation, a frown of mock hurt twisting his features. "It wasn't my fault, Danny," he defended sourly. "I wasn't even driving it at the time. The car was parked."
"True," the blond conceded, albeit reluctantly, his finger rising in silent warning to forestall any further argument from his partner, "but you were the one who parked it."
"How am I responsible if some idiot is incapable of pulling out of a parking lot without hitting a car next to him?" Steve huffed indignantly, slashing his hands through the air in perfect imitation of his friend's energetic gesticulation.
"HANDS! Hands on the wheel, Steven. My car does not need any more dents, thank you very much."
Steve grabbed the wheel obediently, his face morphing into an injured scowl, making his partner sigh in exasperation.
"Would you stop it with the wounded puppy look?" he grumbled good-naturedly, poking the former SEAL lightly in the ribs. "I'm telling you were lucky that guy happened to be a mechanic and offered to fix the car right away. Otherwise you'd be footing the bill for a rental."
Beside him Steve snorted a rather loud, skeptical "huh", which immediately put all of Danny's warning senses on high alert.
"What's with the attitude, Super SEAL?" he asked carefully, wondering if his partner hadn't taken his jabbing just a bit too seriously.
McGarrett appeared to hesitate a moment before quietly muttering, "Just seems too convenient, is all."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"I don't believe in convenient coincidences, Danny," he explained with a shrug.
"Uh-huh," the blond rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. "That's 'cause the only thing you do believe in is paranoia, my friend."
Steve opened his mouth to respond, when a small voice from the backseat inquired, "What is paranoia, Danno?"
The two adults exchanged brief glances; Steve barely suppressing a smirk, despite the murderous glare that Danny was sending his way.
"I'll...uh... I'll explain it to you later, Monkey," the flustered dad managed finally, turning halfway in his seat to face his daughter.
"Okay," the nine-year-old nodded trustingly, her attention quickly diverted back to the thick colorfully illustrated book that was resting on her knees. Suddenly another idea occurred to her, and she looked up once again, a worried frown pulling at her eyebrows. "Uncle Steve, how much longer is it to Diamond Head?"
"About another 15 minutes," the former SEAL responded, briefly catching her gaze in the rearview mirror. "Are you in a hurry to get there?"
The girl blushed slightly, shaking her head. "I just... I wanted to know if I'll have time to finish this story."
"She's really into fairytales now," Danny supplied by way of explanation. "Been reading them non-stop for the past week. For some reason, she wasn't satisfied with Disney's versions."
"Oh yeah?" Steve glanced in the mirror again, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Which story are you reading now, Gracie?"
"Beauty and the Beast."
"I see." He threw another glance at his partner, noting facetiously, "I wonder if the dancing teapot is in that version as well."
"Shut up and drive, Steven."
H50- H50- H50- H50- H50
"Do you think you could slow down a bit?" Danny hissed, grabbing the door handle, as the car swerved sharply on yet another high-speed turn. "We're going to a tourist attraction, not chasing a getaway car, for crying out loud."
His partner's strained, gritted out "I'm trying, Danny!" had him whipping his head in Steve's direction, and he frowned, noting his white-knuckled grip on the wheel and the impossibly tense muscles.
"What's wrong? Steve?"
The former SEAL spared him a quick glance, his face - a mask of rigid concentration. "We got no brakes, Danny," he bit out, his attention once again riveted to the road ahead.
"What?!" Danny all but jumped in his seat, only belatedly remembering that his daughter was still in the back and was now watching the two of them curiously. "What the hell are you saying?" he repeated, dropping his voice down to barely a whisper.
"The brakes are gone," Steve answered in a matching whisper. "The emergency brake's dead, too."
"Can't you...," Danny swallowed harshly, his eyes widening at the implication, "...can't you, I don't know, downshift orsomething?"
"I've already downshifted, Danny," he snapped, his jaw tightening in frustration. "But that incline we passed a couple minutes ago shot all of that to hell." He flicked another gaze at his now overly-agitated partner, a brief shadow of something akin to regret flickering in the dark-blue depths. "I can't slow it down," he whispered, wincing apologetically. "Not on this stretch of the road. Not until we run out of fuel or..."
"Or we run into something," Danny finished for him, shuddering at the implication. "Grace. Dear God, Grace!"
As if sensing his turmoil, the little girl put her book aside, frowning worriedly at her father. "Danno? Why are we driving so fast?"
Danny forced his lips into a smile, giving her what he hoped was a look of confidence and reassurance. "Everything's alright, Monkey," he responded with false cheerfulness. "Uncle Steve's just having a bit of car trouble, but he's about to fix that. Isn't that right, Uncle Steve?"
Steve didn't respond, concentrating instead on maneuvering the car around yet another turn; his fingers digging even harder into the black leather, as he swung the car to the side to avoid crashing into a slowly cruising sedan.
"There's a bit of a climb up ahead, just before the tunnel," McGarrett said after a moment, his voice tense and low. "If we make it there, we should be able to lose more speed. Then I'll be able to slow us down in the field behind it."
Danny closed his eyes briefly, allowing himself this tiny moment of relief, albeit premature. "Good, that's good," he breathed out, once again turning in his seat to wink at his daughter. "See? Uncle Steve has everything under control, Sweetie. Nothing to worry about."
But there was. A stalled tourist bus blocking the road about a thousand feet up the very incline Steve was counting on.
Danny's screeched out warning was ignored, as Steve's gaze swept frantically across the road before him, frantically searching for a way out of their predicament. A fraction of a second later he saw it – a solution so simple, it almost made him laugh out loud: a dark, desperate laugh. Slamming head on into a bus at the speed with which they were going didn't bode well for his passengers or the people on the bus, and Steve wasn't willing to have so many lives on his conscience. This, however, would almost ensure that there'd be only one casualty – himself. And that was something Steve didn't have to think twice about.
His decision made, he twisted the wheel sharply to the left at the last moment with a hastily barked out "Hang on!", missing the bus and its fearfully cowering passengers by a breadth of a hair. A moment later the Camaro came to an abrupt stop, its driver side slamming viciously into a roadside tree, carried there by a well-angled trajectory.
The car's windshield exploded, showering the front seat with shards of sun-splattered glass. Miraculously hanging on to the feeble threads of consciousness, Steve blinked sluggishly up at the blazing heavenly body, whose rays streamed unhindered through the gaping hole in the front of their car. He shivered slightly, wondering numbly why he didn't feel any of the warmth that those rays must have surely provided. There was something sharp and heavy digging savagely into his abdomen, cutting off his breath. Maybe that was the reason he felt so cold?
He shivered again, gasping desperately for air. But it was all for naught. The air was suddenly no more. The image of the sun flickered in a deep crimson haze that descended out of nowhere. Once. Twice. And then the image splintered, disappearing altogether.
Khm, well, that's the set-up... Hope you liked it.