A Different Story
Summary: A different story makes for a different Five-0.
What if Steve never left the island and became a cop like his father. He'd get teamed up with a haole, get a case and meet a beautiful Lieutenant. Not a bad moment in his life, except... Well, read for yourself.
A/N: Had this idea when I read njborba's 'Back to Reality', and it reminded me how Steve once said that he may never have left the island if not for his mother's death. In 'Back to Reality' he says that he and Catherine would have never met, and it got me wondering if there was a way they might have met after all. AU 1x01, don't take this too seriously. I had a dream about this, and it wouldn't leave me alone.
Longest oneshot I have ever written.
Warning: not beta-ed, all mistakes are mine; (minor) character death
A Different Story
"Lieutenant Storm has the prisoner secure. Copy that,", Catherine repeated after the guard who'd called it in just as her phone rang. She frowned when she heard the sound. She kept her phone on for family emergencies, especially now, but she didn't really expect to receive any calls until after hours. Everyone she cared about knew not to call her while she was working. She took one glance at the screen, and cursed when she read Billy's name. Her frown deepened, but she sent him to voice mail with a flick of her index finger. He'd get the message; now was not the right time to be talking about their private issues. She returned her focus to the computer screen displaying satellite imagery in front of her. She was following the progression of the transport of Anton Hess. Mick had finally caught him during a deal in North Korea, had called for reinforcements once on South Korean soil, and was transporting the man to their base.
Catherine couldn't wait to see him safely returned to friendly territory again. He'd been her best friend for years, and though the transport was viewed internally as safe through their ally's territory, they were still close to the border. As far as she was concerned, anything could happen. She needed him to make it back safe. They'd already lost their friend Freddie during the mission, then there was her situation with billy and she didn't think she could make it through another loss right now. She didn't want Mick's wife and kids to lose him, nor did she want to say goodbye to another friend, and she knew she had leaned heavily on his support in these difficult times, perhaps more than she should have. Mick was a great friend though, and never pushed her away. Sometimes Catherine wondered what she'd done to deserve him. He'd stuck with her throughout her liaison with Billy, even though he'd been opposed to their relationship from the start.
"Ugh," she grunted, scowling.
Her phone had rung again, distracting her from her job and her thoughts. This time the tap of her index finger on her smart phone was a little more forcefully than necessary. Apparently, Billy hadn't gotten the message. Perhaps she should have expected that, after all, it was one of the many reasons they hadn't worked out. She wished the whole thing would just be over already, then she close that unfortunate chapter of her life and move on. There was so much still to deal with before that could happen, though, and the fact that she was stationed thousands of miles away, was not helping matters in the least. It meant that she could take care of things only through her lawyer and other henchmen, as she liked to call them.
When her phone rang a third time, Catherine was finally fed up and answered the call just to get it over with. She didn't let him get a word out, nor did she waste their time saying hello.
"Are you trying to get me court-martialed? I am working; I can't deal with-"
"I'm afraid it's about your work, Cathy," Billy said with a somber voice, and after a moment of silence, she heard another voice.
"That should suffice as proof of life, don't you agree, Lieutenant," a pleasant, male voice with a British lilt said. For a few long seconds, Catherine's brain went blank. Then her gaze wandered to the monitor, then to where she was holding the phone to her ear, and her mind connected the dots. She switched the phone to her left hand, and started scribbling something onto a piece of paper next to her work station. She always kept paper close; it helped her think. Now it might safe Billy's life if only she could get backup to his location fast enough.
"Victor Hess, I presume?", she asked to keep the conversation going.
"Brains and beauty; Commander Harrington made a good choice," the man commented. It took Catherine a second to figure out that he had probably seen photographs of them together. There were a few in their home. "Then I guess you know that this isn't a social call."
"We have your brother in custody," Catherine stated calmly. "If you want him released, you've got the wrong number. I can't make that happen."
She held her note up to one of her colleagues who'd been frowning at her when he noticed her conversation on the phone. The man obviously had to read the message a couple of times, seeing as he didn't react at first. Only when Catherine threw her pen at him, did the man hastily scramble to make the necessary calls. God, she wanted to strangle him. She may not be on the best of terms with Billy right now, but he could die, and she needed people to react much faster if she wanted to save him.
"On the contrary, Lieutenant. You see, I'm perfectly happy to do the releasing myself. I just need a little help from the right direction if you get what I mean."
The way he said the words 'right direction' made Catherine shudder.
"You want me to make them take a detour so you can ambush them."
"If you need some additional incentive..."
Then it was Billy's voice again.
"Listen, Cathy, I know we're not in a good place right now; I didn't always treat you right, but... I love you. I want you to know that, okay," he said and Catherine knew instinctively what would follow. "Now, whatever these people want... don't give it to them!"
Tears sprung involuntarily to her eyes. Billy would never ask her to betray her country or to endanger their comrades and their mission. It was one of the great things about him, one of the things she'd loved the most; he was so loyal and so brave. She knew he'd never forgive her if she helped Hess to save his life, and neither would she. He knew she couldn't do what Hess asked of her, not even for him, and he accepted that, wanted it that way. He was telling her that she wasn't responsible for what would happen next, and not to blame herself, which she already did, and that he forgave her. He trusted her to do the right thing by everyone, and damn it, if this was the last conversation they'd ever have, she would not let it turn into one of their fights. She agreed with him, and she would do right by him. She would make him proud.
"Well then, Lieutenant, it seems you've also chosen wisely. So brave, but make no mistake; I will spread your man's brain matter across your living room floor if you don't give me what I want. So, what's your answer?"
She swallowed thickly.
The last things she heard as she closed her eyes were the gunshot and the sirens in the background.
Too late, she thought. Too fucking late.
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The next twelve to twenty-four hours were a blur. She wasn't even sure how much time had passed when the plane finally touched down on Hawaiian soil. All she knew was that she was supposed to meet Governor Jameson at her residence. A car was already waiting for her, and by the time they had stopped at the front doors, the driver had to walk around the car and practically drag her out. She was not in the mood for any political games even if her mother and the governor went way back, and if Jameson only wanted to give her condolences, then Catherine really didn't appreciate being summoned like a lap dog. She had been traveling for god only new how many hours, she was mentally and physically exhausted, but sleep escaped her, and she really just wanted to be left damn well alone. Instead she was shown to the governor's office. Jameson got up as soon as she entered, and gave her a hug. Catherine didn't even drop her duffel bag. She didn't intend to stay long.
"Catherine, welcome home, why don't you have a seat," the older woman suggested. The Lieutenant thought that she must really look dead on her feet, so she sat down. The other woman took the chair next to her instead of sitting back down behind her desk. "I know you must be exhausted, darling. I won't keep you long."
"Thank you, ma'am," Catherine replied more politely than she'd thought herself capable of at the moment.
"I'm so sorry about what happened to Billy. I know you've been finalizing... but I'm sure it must hurt nonetheless."
"Yes." Suddenly, the fight left her and she couldn't even hold on to her annoyance. Her tone was subdued. It did hurt, badly. She felt responsible, despite knowing that there was nothing else she could have done, well nothing right. She'd sobbed helplessly over her work station when the gunshot had rung in her ears. Her room mate had to lead her away back to their room. The night of the murder, before the Navy had arranged for transport to Oahu, she'd cried herself to sleep, and when she'd woke up, she'd felt like bursting into tears again, but there had been no more tears to cry. It had been like that ever since. "There's so much still to do. I have to arrange the funeral, and then his things need to be shipped to his family in Maryland, and then... and then..."
"And then you want to find the son of a bitch who did that to him," governor Jameson finished the sentence for her. "That's why I called you here. Billy was a war hero. I want Hess to be brought to justice as I want any big syndicates and criminal organization brought to justice. I want them off my island."
"I don't understand."
"I'm creating a task force, and I want you to put it together," the governor explained calmly. "Your team would have my full backing, immunity and means and no red tape to go after the bastards who terrorize this island and sweep them off our streets."
"That's why you brought me here?", Catherine asked incredulously as she jumped to her feet. "To make me a job offer I neither need nor want. I have a job. I'm with Naval Intelligence, and I can't just quit from one day to the next. What happened to Billy doesn't change who I am or that I belong in the Nav- was this my mother's idea? I bet it was. She needs to stop trying to make me quit the Navy, though I must commend the two of you for picking a related work field. Not really less dangerous, heading your task force, is it? Or was that to be just a temporary solution?"
"Cathy," the governor tried, but the younger woman stopped her by holding up one hand.
"No, I don't want to hear it, ma'am. You called me here because you knew how I'd react. Let's not make this worse. I'm good where I am, so thanks for the offer, but no thanks."
Without another word Catherine left the building. The good thing was that she wasn't tired anymore. Her argument with the governor had driven any residue amounts of sleepiness from her. She walked down the long driveway, and called herself a cab. There was no way she'd find peace in a hotel room now. She just wanted to go home.
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For a moment after the cab dropped her off, Catherine simply stood in front of her home, and stared into nothingness as a strong flashback took hold of her. She saw the first day she and Billy returned to this very house as a newly wedded couple in her blue corvette. She had driven them, much to his chagrin. When they'd gotten out of the car, he'd jokingly asked her if she wanted to carry him over the threshold too. They'd laughed as she had jumped into his waiting arms. Thinking about it now made her heart clench painfully. They had had a good five years, and she still regretted how they had drifted apart. She wasn't sure whether they would manage to stay friends, but she'd never thought it would end this way. She couldn't believe that she'd never speak to him again.
With a decisive move she shoved the police tape out of her way, ducked under it, and entered her home for the first time in almost a year. She took stock of the utter chaos in her lounge, then more in her living room. Other women would be screeching at the demolished pieces of furniture strung across the floor. Catherine wasn't other women, though, and she took in the utter destruction of her house with a strong sense of pride. Billy had not gone down without a fight; he'd served Hess some of what he deserved. Catherine would serve up the rest. Her gaze fell to the floor, where she found a size eleven footprint in Billy's blood. Her stomach churned, but she got out her smart phone and took a picture. When she looked up again, she saw the tell-tale sign of a large blotch of blood that the police had already removed.
She looked up when she heard a car engine shut off and doors open. She quickly moved to the doorway between her lounge and living room. It had the form of an arch, which left a bit of wall protruding behind which she was hidden from sight. She heard the door open quietly. Her intruders obviously had no need to break it open, but she filed that piece of knowledge back for future reference. She heard them approach quietly; it sounded like two, maybe three people. The first thing she saw was a gun. She struck decisively with the side of her hand, forcing the guy to let go of his gun, then she twisted his hand and arm until he had his back to her. She pulled him back towards her until he had to arch his back into a very uncomfortable position while she hid behind the man's larger form.
"Let him go!", the other man said. He was not as tall, had his sand-colored hair was combed back toward his neck.
"Who are you?"
"Lady, you don't wanna do this," the man who had her gun pointed at him said.
"Lucky nobody's asked you. You're trespassing, I could shoot you on sight."
"You're the one who's trespassing. This is a crime scene," the smaller man said. "Let him go!"
Somehow that rang a bell with her, but it wasn't quite enough.
"This is my house. Now who the fuck are you?!"
Catherine shoved the man away from her, keeping her gun trained on him. He let himself fall and roll away, picking up his gun.
"Clever," she complimented. "You do realize I could have shot both of you in the time it took you to do that, right?"
"Yeah, maybe you should have done that," he quipped back. Now that he was facing her, she could see that he was actually quite handsome along with tall. He had an unruly mob of salt-and-pepper hair, piercing blue eyes and she could see ink protruding from underneath the sleeves of his shirt. "'Cause now it's two guns on you."
"Yeah, but I'm a pretty good shot. In fact, I'm probably the best shot in the room," she answered confidently. "I'm definitely gonna get at least one of you, so the question is, does your friend there want to lose his partner."
Her gun was trained right at his face.
"Look," the blond man said, "you obviously have some connection to the victim, yes?" He was gesturing at her appearance. Catherine didn't bother looking down her body. She knew that both of them recognized her BDUs. "I'm Detective Danny Williams and this is my partner, Detective Steve McGarrett. We're with HPD, now please put down your gun, and we can talk about everything."
"Anybody can say they're cops. Even if it's true, this is still my house, and you're still trespassing. Now show me your badges."
"Oh, please, you first." Williams obviously had quite a mouth on him. Catherine smirked; she could work with that.
"My house, my rules."
"Anybody can say this is their house," McGarrett quipped back at her. "Where's the proof?"
She arched an eyebrow.
"Lieutenant Catherine Rollins, United States Navy. Billy is... was my husband."
"Rollins? Not Harrington?", McGarrett asked, surprised.
"So now I'm a trespasser and an imposter, because I didn't take Billy's name when we got married," she retorted scathingly. "And people say the military is sexist."
"No, no, I didn't mean-"
"Oh, you meant," she cut him off. Pretty boy, brawn, but she was still missing the brains. "Whatever! If you're real cops, and you've done your homework, you know that the entry in the land register is in my name."
Pretty boy McGarrett put his hands up in surrender which did nothing to make her remove her gun from where she had it aimed at his head. Both Catherine and Williams frowned at him when he holstered his gun. His partner even gave him a minute long lecture on what it was that he thought he was doing. McGarrett turned away from her to answer him teasingly, and soon both men were completely lost in their own little world. Catherine felt slightly neglected; she bit down on the flashback about her own taunting conversations with Billy.
"Hey," she snapped at them, halting their argument. "You two quite done?!"
They sprung apart guiltily.
"Ah, yes. As I was saying, I'm going to pull out my badge now," McGarrett informed her as he slowly moved his hand to his hip. He pulled up his shirt to show her his shield. Catherine rolled her eyes, and made a gesture with her free hand to make him throw it over at her. He did, and she caught it mid-air. She took a quick look at it, concluding it to be the real thing. Still, she was a cautious woman, and people in Hess' crew definitely had the means to make or reproduce a police badge perfectly.
"I'm pulling out my phone to call HPD, and check your badge number."
"You're very distrusting, you know that?", McGarrett jeered.
"I'm with Naval Intelligence, distrusting is part of my job description." She placed the call, her gun never wavering from his face, but McGarrett wasn't worried. When HPD confirmed his employment with them, she knew why. She thanked the officer on the other end of the line, and hung up. As the smug smirk on his face turned into an angel's smile, Catherine rolled her eyes. She had no doubt that it had served him well all over the island. He was like the good-looking guy from high school, who knew how cute he was, and would never take no for an answer.
"Now it's your turn, Lieutenant," Williams told her.
She slowly drew her ID carefully from her uniform pocket. She didn't bother to show it to either of them, just threw it over so McGarrett caught it in the air.
"Maybe we should check back with high command," Williams suggested.
"Good luck. My CO is in a different time zone, and not available to answer calls from HPD, so I'd aim a little closer to home, and call the Joint Naval Base Pearl-Hickam," Catherine explained calmly at the jibe.
"No need," McGarrett told them both. He turned to his partner, showing him the ID once more. "My dad was in the Navy as was Uncle Joe. I've been around Navy men my entire life. I know a real ID when I see one."
Catherine cocked her head to the side.
"Joe White?", she asked.
"Yeah, you know him?"
"He was Billy's training officer in the SEALs. Small world, huh?", she said with a small smile that didn't reach her eyes. Still, Steve couldn't look away. They shared a long moment in which all they did was stare at each other. She was prettier than on the pictures he had seen around the house, dark hair framing her pale face and matching the dark pools of her eyes. There was pain in them and guilt, but also a glint of awareness. Even now when they seemed trapped in the moment, she held part of herself back to carefully observe her surroundings.
"Listen, Lieutenant Rollins, I understand that this is a tough situation for you, but you can't be here right now. This is an active crime scene," Danny told her as he holstered his weapon – and just like that, the truce between them was over. Rollins put her gun away last, then moved away from them without further ado. The two police officers followed her, and saw her begin to ascend a flight of stairs which, no doubt, led to her bedroom. Danny called after her. "Did you hear what I said, you can't be here right now."
"Detective, I've been in this uniform since I went to work yesterday – or the day before, I don't actually know anymore. I have been traveling for over ten hours, I have barely eaten and slept even less, and I'm reeking. All I have is my duffel bag with more uniforms, which are not really an inconspicuous option for moving around Honolulu in. I need to shower and change, and all the action happened down here as they had no reason, nor the time to go upstairs, so I will not be destroying any evidence. That being said, I know I'm being a right bitch, but if you want to stop me, you'll have to shoot me. When I'm done, you'll take me to Billy."
She didn't pay them any more mind as she moved up the rest of the stairs and out of sight. Steve gave a low whistle. The Lieutenant Commander's widow was some woman. He liked strong women who knew what they wanted, and weren't afraid to just name it. Rollins struck him as the type, not to take any shit from anyone, and she was self-assured in a way he'd never seen with a woman in or out of uniform. He saw Danny make strangling gestures towards the stairs, and laughed as he sat down on the nearby couch. Danny came and joined him without a word. When Steve opened his mouth, his partner just held up a hand.
"Not one word, Steven."
Steve chortled. He wouldn't be himself if he didn't ignore the warning.
"She is quite something," Steve commented therefore as they heard the shower turn on.
"A force of nature, that one," Danny grunted, not entirely unimpressed.
Steve had figured they'd be waiting a while, a woman was a woman after all, but Catherine Rollins came back down in a new set of clothes with her duffel bag at her side less than five minutes later. Her hair was still wet, obviously, but the Hawaiian sun would take care of that soon enough. The day was warm, and they all blinked as they stepped out into the sun. Rollins had marched right passed them and out of her house, not once wondering if they were on the same page with her. She picked a set of keys up from its spot in a drawer on her way out, and made her way to her blue corvette.
"Your husband's car is evidence too," Danny protested. Steve had briefly thought the same, but had deliberately not made a comment in case of the answer Danny got now.
"Remember what I said about HPD being more sexist than the Navy?!"
"This is your car?", Steve asked with an appreciative nod towards the little blue beauty.
"Are you sure you're good to drive. Maybe I should-"
"Billy didn't even get to drive my baby. Go ahead, I'll follow you. Take me to my husband."
Steve sighed, but didn't blame her. If that were his car, he wouldn't let anyone else get behind the wheel either.
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It was worse than she had thought, seeing Billy lying there on the stretcher. Naked , only covered by a thin sheet, and pale, he looked like a statue at Madam Tussaud's. Billy wasn't made of wax though, and yet he'd never look different. He'd never smile at her again, never talk to her, heck, never argue with her ever again. He'd been cleaned up so that nothing but small entry and exit wounds remained of his injury. The coroner, Max, an erratic but kindly man, had obviously combed Billy's longer-than-regulation hair to cover up most of the damage. Catherine was grateful for it; she wasn't sure she could have withstood looking at her gruesomely mutilated husband. They were going through a divorce, but she certainly had never wanted this for him, and certainly not because someone wanted to get to her. She couldn't believe this had happened to him. Billy had been one of the bravest, kindest, most loyal men she'd ever met. She wanted to scream like a Banshee at how unfair this was. First they'd lost Freddie, now Billy was gone too. Neither of the man was supposed to go the way they had, a hero's death just after finding out that they were going to be a father, or shot in their own home because their wife refused to save them.
A dam broke, and the tears fell from her, and just like last time they just wouldn't stop. She hadn't had anything left to cry, or so she'd thought, but obviously her mind had just needed to catch up on some rest and a reminder of the events, and out the tears came again. She pressed her forehead against Billy's. Her hand went to his temple to caress him. He was cold to her touch, but she needed the contact to ground her at least a little. She felt like she was losing herself in her grief, and she didn't have time for that now. She had to find Hess; she had to bring him in. Her other hand gripped closely onto his, squeezing it as she made promises to a dead man.
"I'm so sorry, Billy. This is all my fault. I know what you said, but I should have found a way. I failed. I couldn't save you, but I will give you justice, Billy. I will find Hess, and make him pay for this. I swear. I swear."
She murmured to him through her tears.
As they waited outside, Steve kept glancing back through the window pane in the doors to take a look at the distraught Lieutenant. She didn't seem like the same woman who'd pointed a gun, cussed and yelled at him in her home. Gone was the self-confident way she'd carried herself while being held at gunpoint by two police officers. Instead, something in her had broken since sitting beside her husband's dead body, as if a dam inside her had finally burst. She was crying heavily, every once in a while tears dropped onto Harrington's prone form like rocks. Catherine Rollins was hunched over the cold, dead body of her husband, holding his hand and brushing hair away from his face in an affectionate gesture the man couldn't feel anymore. He barely knew her, and she had been a right bitch to Danny and him during the first half hour of their acquaintance, but somehow it still tore at his heart strings to see her like this, and he had to consciously fight the instinct to go in there, wrap her in his arms for comfort and promise her they'd find the bastard who did this to her over and over again.
Seeing as he kept sneaking glances at her anyway, Steve eventually surrendered to his impulses, and just kept watching her. It was only when Danny tapped him on the shoulder that he looked up at his partner. The mainland detective gave him a nod down the hall, and, turning, Steve saw Duke and the Chief of Police Ahuna walking towards them. Both detectives frowned. Harrington being a bit of a poster boy of the Navy, the Chief had relayed to them that the Navy took an interest in his murder being solved, but they had never seen Ahuna take any steps in any case personally. His was the position of a glorified desk jockey. The expression on his face didn't fill them with confidence either. Rollins had just calmed down, then broken down; this was not the best time to be looking for a confrontation with the pretty Lieutenant. Duke's apologetic smile told them that this was precisely what the Chief had in mind.
"Sir," Steve acknowledged him, moving between the Chief and the door in an attempt to avoid the inevitable. Ahuna raised a hand to shut him up. Steve could do nothing, but follow his directive.
"Save it, Detective," Ahuna told him, "I was informed that Harrington's wife is in the morgue, is that correct?"
"Yes, sir," Danny replied cautiously. "She's taking a moment."
"Well, the moment is over. You should have questioned her directly."
"Sir, we know that we need a statement, but Lieutenant Rollins wanted to see her husband. We didn't see any reason to deny her request."
Before the Chief could answer, the Navy officer in question exited the morgue to join them. Her eyes were still red and her face war tear-streaked but she'd dried her tears. Normally, Steve and Danny would have moved completely out of her way – out of the Chief's way – but something made Steve want to shield her, and Danny backed his partner up on every action, no matter his personal feelings or how much he complained about it. It was one of the reasons their recently established partnership worked so well. No one at HPD had wanted to burden themselves with a haole, except Steve who'd volunteered. He knew what it felt like not to belong anywhere. He may have been born on Oahu, but people here still mostly considered him a haole too, so they fit together and they stuck together.
"The wife, I presume," the Chief questioned.
Catherine raised an eyebrow. This day was going downhill, she could tell.
"Yes," she replied simply.
The Chief just turned away without another word, while Duke politely asked the Lieutenant to follow them. They'd like to take her statement, and would have some additional questions regarding what happened to her husband. Catherine merely nodded, but her jaw was set in a way that told any decent observer how stubborn she could be, and that she would keep her cards close. They made their way to the nearest interrogation office, where McGarrett and his partner were asked to stay outside. This didn't just have the two detectives frown. Catherine raised an eyebrow too, especially when she saw the Chief marching through the door. She'd never heard of a Chief of Police to personally take a witness' statement; she didn't like it. She watched the two detectives make their way to the observation room. Once she joined Sargent Lukela and Chief Ahuna inside, the kindly Sargent asked her to take a seat with a warm smile. Catherine decided that she liked him. He had a good attitude and even better manners, and he didn't give her the impression that she was being marched to the gallows even if she suspected that was pretty much what was happening. The Chief began to speak before she'd even fully sat down opposite of him and his man.
"Lieutenant Rollins," she corrected him instantly. This conversation was certainly off to a great start.
"As I told Detectives McGarrett and Williams, I kept my maiden name when I married Billy, so it's Rollins."
"Why?", the Chief asked a little aggressively.
"I wanted to. It was easier for work, and I'm a very independent and, shall we say... liberated woman. I wasn't going to be introduced as Mrs. Billy Harrington like I'm some kind of attacher of my husband's instead of my own person. Just ask the minister; I told him to skip the 'who-gives-this-woman-to-this-man line, because I'm not a piece of property to be passed around by the men in my life," she explained calmly. "Not that this has anything to do with why we're here."
"Ahem, yes, uh... the preliminary report states that you received a phone call from your husband during which you witnessed his murder, is that correct?", Ahuna went on flustered.
"That sounds about right. Well, actually I received three phone calls from Billy. I sent the first two straight to voice mail, because I was working. I finally answered on the third try, because, obviously, he wasn't going to give up, and I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. It was when he told me that this was about my work, followed by another voice telling me that this was proof of life that I knew something was very, very wrong."
"And that's when you called HPD?", Sargent Lukela asked her encouragingly, much to the obvious displeasure of the Chief. She liked him more and more.
"In a sense. I couldn't call myself, for obvious reasons, but I wrote a note down and held it up for my colleagues who in turn called HPD, yes."
"That was very clever of you in such a stressful situation," the Chief told her, and she didn't like the tone of his voice.
"I'm trained to remain cool under fire, Chief. I can handle a phone call, no matter how stressful," she replied coolly, then took a deep breath.
"What was the call about, Lieutenant?", Sargent Lukela intervened.
"Which is?" Now the Sargent began to frown too. Pity, she wanted him on her side.
"I'm with Naval Intelligence."
"What do you do for them?", the Chief wanted to know.
"What were you working on?"
"You are obstructing a murder investigation. This isn't a game, Lieutenant," the Chief warned her, and Catherine narrowed her eyes at him until he shrank back. He'd leaned forward to invade her personal space and intimidate her; unfortunately, she knew how interrogation worked and what lines could and could not be crossed. She wasn't about to take bull from the Chief. He sat back, unsettled, but soon a sly smile found its way onto the man's face. "Let the record show that Lieutenant Rollins-", and she really didn't like the way he pronounced her name, "-is refusing to cooperate with the HPD on the investigation into her husband's murder."
"Let the record show that the Chief of Police is attempting to get to classified information by bullying the witness, and that I will lodge a formal complaint against him if he doesn't desist from this immediately."
Steve couldn't help but smirk. Damn, that Lieutenant wasn't just a pretty face. He watched with a certain satisfaction how Chief Ahuna stiffened in his seat, then glared at her full force. The young woman didn't even twitch under his gaze. He could only see the Lieutenant's back, but he could imagine her raising an eyebrow at the pitiful attempt to get her to cower before the older man. In the last and only hour he'd known her, she'd gone from a hardass bitch to a distraught widow to a cool-under-fire Navy officer, and each aspect of the woman on the other side of the one-way mirror made him want to discover more of what was still hidden underneath the surface. She was like the Sherlock Holmes novels his father had read to him when he was a kid, a good puzzle that made him curious. He had always wanted to solve them before Sherlock Holmes revealed the identity of the culprit, and now he wanted to solve her. He was oddly proud about how she didn't rise to the Chief's baiting tactics, and of how she was handling herself in the interrogation.
"Damn, that's your perfect girl," Danny commented out of the blue, making Steve choke on his own breath. "Pity she's just been widowed."
Before Steve could find a scathing reply, their attention was drawn back to the trio in the other half of the interrogation unit. Chief Ahuna was obviously ready to try a new tactic, because he was sifting openly through a file. He was clearly trying to make Catherine Rollins curious and nervous about the content of the file, but the woman in question merely sat there, in wait for his next move. She tapped her finger rhythmically against the table, and Steve realized that this was a tactic used by specialists to throw off their interrogators. His dad had been in the Navy, and taught him a couple of tricks. For someone who sat behind a computer all day, Rollins was certainly well trained in lots of different areas. He didn't doubt that she'd meant it when she said she was the best shot out of him, Danny and herself.
"You and Commander Harrington were in the middle of a divorce, is that right?", the Chief asked, his voice harmless. Catherine got a very bad suspicion about where this new line of questioning was going, but even an asshole such as Chief Ahuna couldn't possibly think...
"I don't see how this has anything to do with his murder, but yes."
"Your divorce petition cited insurmountable differences. What were they?"
"Irrelevant to this case, Chief."
"I'll be the judge of that. So, what were they? Did he hit you, cheat on you, what?"
"Never. Billy wasn't the abusive type, and lack of cooperation will be the least of your problems if you insult him again,"
"Protective of your would-be ex-husband, Rollins?"
"Falling out of love happens, that doesn't mean I don't care," she explained to him like she was explaining it to a child. That got the Chief fuming again, but he controlled himself. Steve could tell, though, that Rollins was hitting a boiling point when she went on with barely suppressed anger coloring her voice. "And that's Lieutenant Rollins, Lieutenant or ma'am to you, Chief."
"Why did you ask for a divorce, Lieutenant." He sneered at her, spitting her rank out like an insult.
"The distance got too much, okay?", the woman asked exasperatedly. "We were deployed most of our lives to opposite ends of the world. I barely saw him, and though we had a great five years, it took its toll."
For a minute after her outburst, absolute silence enveloped the room. The Chief sat back with a grin worthy of a cat that had eaten the cream. He was getting at something with this, and Steve didn't like what he was concluding about that object. His fists clenched beside him as he wondered why it couldn't be enough that this woman had lost her husband and had to witness the murder. He didn't understand why the Chief would go after her. It was a proven fact that she'd been deployed God knew where when the murder happened. The Navy had confirmed this, even though they hadn't provided HPD with an actual location. Not states-side but on her way, had been all the information Steve and Danny had been able to get from the press corps.
"According to our information, you and Commander Harrington had agreed on separate estate in your marriage contract."
"If you were divorced, you'd get nothing. I don't have figures, but I'd assume that Navy SEALs are paid well for their services, probably including a substantial danger bonus?!"
Catherine Rollins' back stiffened to the point Steve thought she might sprain something.
"How dare you?", she asked quietly, lethally. "How dare you imply that I'm involved in Billy's murder, or even that I'm happy about it."
"Well, you have to admit that it makes for a lot of motives."
"I'm the daughter of a politician and a three-star Admiral. If there's one thing I've never lacked in my life, it's access to money. I'm deployed most of the year, stationed on air craft carriers or at a base where I'm provided with food, shelter, running water and electricity, and get no more than an evening's or 48-hours' leave at a time, so I hardly need a lot of money. I've served three tours in Kabul. As far as I'm concerned, the Navy pays me well too."
She took a steadying breath. When she spoke again, her voice sounded strained like she was holding back more tears. She stood up, and her voice grew louder with every word until she was yelling at the Chief of Police.
"I had my colleagues call your guys and send them to my house while I was still on the phone with the hostage-taker. I kept the conversation going, trying to stall for as much time as possible, and you still didn't manage to make it there in time to save Billy! So, if you're looking for someone to point your finger at for his death, start with squarely pointing it at yourself!"
"What did the hostage-taker want, Lieutenant?", Duke asked her kindly.
"Something I couldn't give him, not even to save Billy's life," she told him defeatedly. "Billy told me not to give in, and I couldn't have anyway. I couldn't betray my country. I know my part in Billy's death all too well, Sargent, but I didn't pull the trigger, nor hired anyone to do it. I want to find the bastard who did it, and bring him to justice."
Duke handed her his handkerchief. She still had her back to Danny and Steve, but now it was clear to them that she was indeed crying again. Rollins used the handkerchief to wipe the tears from her face, and faced the camera directly.
"Let it be on record that I want to make a formal complaint against Chief of Police Ahuna for harassment and slander. He crossed the line, and I expect him to be held accountable for it," she said steadily, then got up and walked around the table. She came to halt directly in front of Ahuna. "We're done here."
"We're done here when I say so, Rollins. You don't have the authority to- what are you doing?!", the Chief asked when Rollins pulled out her phone.
"Calling a higher authority. I'm through with you," she informed him as she put her phone on speaker. Catherine was so done with this.
"Governor Jameson," the voice on the other end of the line said.
"Yes, Governor, I've rethought your offer. I'll switch to the reserves and help you instigate your task force. You said full immunity and means, right?", she said self-confidently as the Chief paled. The Navy would give her hell for this; you didn't just switch to the reserves one day, but she'd deal with that later.
"Yes, I did," the governor replied.
"I get to pick out the team, right?"
"Whoever you want."
"Good, have Chief Ahuna sign Detectives McGarrett's and Williams' transfer papers today. I'd also like Sargent Lukela as a liaison officer in HPD, please," she asked with a glance toward the one-way mirror as if she could see them behind it. She made a nod toward the door, telling them to meet her outside the interrogation room. "And I want Billy's case."
"You have it. I need to swear you in, though."
"What, right now? Alright," Catherine said even before the governor could answer. She raised her right hand. "I, Catherine Rollins, do solemnly declare upon my honor and conscience that I will act at all times to the best of my ability and knowledge in a manner befitting an officer of the law. Thank you, Governor."
"Am I right to assume that Chief Ahuna has overheard all this? I am on speaker after all."
"Then you have your orders chief. My task force operates with my full backing, and, I expect, the HPD's backing."
"Yes, ma'am," was all the Chief managed to choke out.
The Chief's face was priceless. Steve and Danny had to fight the laughter down that threatened to overcome them each step of the way towards the door to the interrogation room. The man in question was just leaving with his head hung and a slumped back when Rollins and Duke exited the room in the midst of friendly banter. The Lieutenant had obviously made quite an impression on the Sargent too. He was just waving off her apology for putting him in the middle of it, because she didn't want to deal with Ahuna on a regular basis, when Steve and Danny joined the pair in the hallway.
"What if I don't wanna be part of your great, big, important task force thingy?", Danny immediately complained to her. Steve, for his part, was unsure as well, but thrilled at the prospect of something knew, and thrilled that she thought them worthy considering that they didn't have the best start today. He was smiling goofily at her, and she smiled back when she saw it. It was the first smile that actually meant something. It wasn't her smirk from when she pointed a gun at him, it was real and content.
"You'd rather work with that pig?", the Lieutenant asked back.
"I'd rather have a choice," Danny stated unperturbed. Rollins nodded in understanding.
"I need you on this, detective," she told him simply. "You've worked this case a day longer than me, you have the experience and you have the connections on the island. I haven't been here in a while. I don't know where to turn for information. I need your expertise, but I promise, as soon as this is over, if either or both of you want to go back to HPD, you can. I'll vet other law enforcement officers."
"If?! You're awfully confident that we'll want to stay," Steve commented.
The Lieutenant grinned, and there was a new spark in her eyes.
"We'll see if I'm right," was all she said on the topic, though.
"Who are we looking for?" Danny was the first to get back to business.
"His name is Victor Hess. He's an arms dealer, at least a dozen countries around the world have a warrant out for his arrest – including the US."
"Then he's on the no-fly list?", Steve asked.
"How'd he make it to Oahu? He must have been smuggled in; there's an extensive human trafficking ring on the islands. Not just for prostitution, but also to 'help' refugees to a better life in America."
"We'll need a CI," Steve concluded.
"You got one?", Rollins asked them, apparently eager to get to work.
"Not myself. There was one... but he reported to a friend of mine who... doesn't work for the police anymore."
The way he said it, made Catherine perk up.
"First things first, though," Danny called them back. "We requested a wire for a man named Duran. He's a suspected arms dealer. Duran is currently being investigated for an unrelated homicide. The weapon was never found. The bullet that killed your husband was fired from the same gun. Ballistics matched. Seems like this Hess guy got a gun from him when he landed on the island."
"Let's pay him a visit."
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Catherine left her Corvette at the HPD. It wasn't likely to get stolen there, and using two cars would have simply been a waste. She rode in the back of what she learned was Danny's Camaro, even though Steve apparently drove it all the time. She chuckled at how in character this was for the two men who'd started bickering in the middle of a stand off in her lounge. They were oddly quiet during the ride to Duran's place, until a horror movie melody startled them into a conversation. While Catherine was still wondering who could have deserved such a ring tone, Danny pressed the decline button.
"You'll have to talk to her sooner or later," Steve said.
"Says who?! Maybe I don't have to talk to her at all. Not if I don't want to."
"So, instead, you're gonna avoid your ex forever."
"Sounds like a plan," Danny said with a nod.
"I take it you marriage didn't end too well either," Catherine commented.
"No, it didn't," Danny said testily. He still didn't quite know what to make of the dark-haired woman riding with them. She'd snapped at them, threatened them, broken down on them in the morgue and now she'd commandeered them into some high and mighty task force that hadn't even existed until she'd been fed up with Chief Ahuna, and called the governor on her private phone. Despite his reservations, his mouthy nature got the better of him. "I mean, Rachel didn't die, and it might have if she hadn't remarried, and moved to this pineapple-infested hellhole with my eight-year old daughter."
"Danno doesn't like the beach. He doesn't swim either," Steve explained, catching her eyes in the rear view mirror.
"Will you not call me that in front of her?"
"Why not? It's cute."
"Because I don't need her to think anything about anything that's between my daughter and I," Danny retorted darkly. "And for the record, I swim. I swim for survival, not for fun."
"I was wondering why I was riding in the back with a bright pink stuffed animal the size of a dog, and as for 'Danno,', I think I already know."
"Oh, you do, do you? You know everything don't you? Enlighten me." Danny's sarcasm was coming through more strongly now.
"First attempt at saying your name, right?", Catherine asked, but it wasn't really a question. Steve caught her eyes again, curious how she had guessed that. "I have a younger brother. First time he tried to say my name, all that came out was Cay."
"Cay?", both men wondered.
"My parents call me Cathy, but he couldn't make the th-sound, so it was Ca, pause, y; Cay. Infants are cute that way."
"Yeah, Gracie is the greatest little girl in the world. She's is my little princess."
"Isn't that always the way," Catherine teased lightly as Steve slowed down. They had arrived. The barracks settlement had an almost clandestine feel to it; ribbed roofs wherever they looked. There was no obvious order of arrangement either. Groupings of shacks just seemed to have plopped out of the ground like mushrooms. Catherine's military training had her make a quick sweep of her surrounding, just in case they needed a quick escape route or cover. In almost the same motion, she and Steve had opened the doors and stepped out of the car. Steve turned back to his partner, as Danny seemed reluctant to follow them.
"We shouldn't be doing this without backup," the blond detective stated.
Steve looked at Catherine who had made the first few steps toward Duran's house.
"You are the backup," he said as he looked back at his partner and followed her.
"I hate you two so much right now," Danny replied, which only made Steve's grin grow wider. Catherine informed them that she'd cover the back of the building if they'd approach him from the front, and disappeared around the corner of the house. Steve and Danny automatically took out their guns as they approached Duran's home. A weapons dealer was undoubtedly armed and dangerous. Steve waited at the foot of the stairs as Danny drew closer to the front door. They could hear arguing coming from the inside, then a young blond woman stormed out. Danny caught her before she could make a sound, but she bit him to warn Duran. Not that it would have been necessary, as a shot came through the door less than a second later. Duran had obviously figured out something was wrong on his own. Steve wondered if Catherine had approached him, and if she was in there with him now. He called out for Danny, who'd been hit and thrown back off his feet by the shot, but his partner told him to go after Duran. Steve ran into the man's home in time to notice it was devoid of third parties as Duran made his escape through the back. The detective ran after him. He heard shots fired, and then the sound of breaking glass. An empty window came into view in front of him, just as he heard Catherine's voice.
"I got him!"
He stopped at the window instead of jumping out after Duran, and called the police. Catherine had somehow relieved Duran of his weapon, which was now on the ground several feet away from him, from where the man himself was lying on his stomach hands behind his back. The Lieutenant asked him for his handcuffs, and Steve threw them at her. He covered her while she cuffed Duran, then finally jumped down onto the grass himself. Catherine asked about Danny, because she'd heard shots fired, but he assured her that his partner was okay, and the paramedics already on their way. With that worry placated, Catherine wasted no time in bringing Duran to stand with his back to his own house, and question him.
"Sometime in the last week, a man named Victor Hess approached you for a weapon. He'd only just arrived on the island, and not through commercial travel as he's on the no-fly list. Now, even a low-life like you wouldn't sell a stranger a gun if he didn't have credentials. Who's recommendation did he bring with him? Who smuggled him onto the island?", she asked sternly.
"Bird, I ain't ask questions like t'at with so much kala involved."
Catherine pulled him toward her a little, only to slam him back forcefully against the wall of his own house.
"Like hell you don't. Hess behaves and dresses like a rich English bastard, and you're too low in the food chain to know what he looks like even if you've heard his name before, so who's recommendation did he bring with him," Catherine tried again, and this time she got up close and personal. "Let me let you in on a little secret. Hess used that gun to murder my husband while I was listening on the phone, so don't fuck with me!"
The words were a low, angry growl in his face. Steve wondered if maybe he should reign her in, but he had a feeling that it wouldn't work, and just plunge them both into trouble if Duran tried something despite the cuffs.
"Asians, some Asians!", Duran called out, frightened.
"What Asians?!", the angry officer demanded. "Yakuza, Tongs, North Koreans, who?"
"Don' know, bird. T'ey all look t'e same."
Steve knew right away that tactic wasn't gonna work, at the latest though, he found out when Catherine kneed their suspect in the groin. The detective resisted the urge to cover his own... extremities, but barely. The woman next to him was really pissed. Her husband's murder, then the Chief's questioning; Steve was surprised she hadn't resorted to pointing her gun at Duran yet, or shooting off a toe. He didn't think it would be long now, though.
"Didn't I tell you just now not to fuck with me. Give me a name." Her voice had gone from enraged to deathly calm, and both men knew that was never a good sign with a woman.
"Sang Min, okay. Couple of Sang Min's guys came wit him," Duran squeaked out while he bent down in pain.
"That wasn't so hard now, was it?", the Lieutenant asked jovially, placed a hand on Duran's shoulder, who flinched violently at the contact, and led him none too gently to the front of the house. Steve looked around for Danny, but couldn't see him anywhere, while Catherine handed Duran over to the first uniforms to arrive on the scene. When she turned around, Steve had found Danny coming to stand in Duran's doorway, looking down at them. He waved them over. A look past between Steve and Catherine; they could see he was bleeding into his shirt. Hopefully, the paramedics wouldn't take much longer now. When they joined him atop of the stairs, Danny turned to Catherine expectantly.
"Hey, Navy, you speak Chinese?"
"Nobody speaks Chinese, Danno, but I do speak Mandarin and some Cantonese," Catherine retorted with a smile.
"So do I," Steve said.
"Well, good, because there's the paramedics, and I don't understand a word she says anyway. Good luck to you both," he told them as he passed them by to reveal a young Chinese girl just behind him. She looked dirty and skinny, obviously suffering from malnutrition, and she was frightened. Steve immediately set to the task of calming her down, and find out what happened to her. Catherine merely watched him. His voice had taken on a smooth, quiet tone that reminded her of how her big brother spoke to her when she was frightened whenever their Dad had just left on another deployment. They left the girl with a police officer who would wait for child services to pick her up, and joined Danny.
"Her name is Chanchi; she was smuggled in four days ago from China with her whole family, and then got traded off to Duran. That's proof that he was telling the truth earlier. Sang Ming must have smuggled Hess in as he did Chanchi," Steve summarized their findings.
"This is usually when people apologize for getting their partners shot." He was looking pointedly between Steve and Catherine.
"It's a flesh wound. It won't even leave a scar, and didn't they inform you at the police academy that getting shot was part of the job hazards," Catherine wondered tiredly. Danny was decidedly too sensitive for her taste. She didn't quite understand why he'd chosen this line of work if he worried about scrapes. She was about to go back to the car, when Danny got up with a face that said he was both affronted and not staying quiet about it.
"Look, I'm really happy for you that you aren't afraid of anything, and have nothing to lose, but I have a daughter. You took a stupid risk and I'm not getting myself killed for your vendetta, or didn't they teach you risk assessment at Naval Academy, or maybe you've just forgotten, sitting behind your computer screen?!", he asked pointing a finger at her.
"First of all, I've served three tours in Kabul, and I don't care what the congress tells you civilians about not sending women to war, any woman stationed in a war zone is, de facto, at war. Secondly, Chanchi is someone's daughter too; what would you do to get her back and to safety if she were yours, Danny?", Catherine asked challengingly, and Danny had the decency to look ashamed. "Thirdly, I know my responsibility in Billy's death, do you know yours? The HPD had time to react, but you were too slow, and Billy paid the price. I'm willing to do what it takes to bring Hess to justice, not to exact revenge, kindly notice the difference. Lastly, take your finger out of my face, before I remove it for you."
"If you were a guy, I'd punch you right now."
"If you were smart, you wouldn't try. My being a woman shouldn't matter; no woman wishing you harm will give a shit about your manners, Danny... I told you that you can go back to normal police work when this is done, I won't stop you, but right now we're the only ones who can do this job. You don't have to like me."
"Well, I don't."
"Okay, you two, Time out. We've got a name, Sang Min, but we're gonna need help to find him. It's time to find that CI," Steve tried to calm the waters.
They moved back to the car, and, this time, Danny insisted on driving himself. Steve thought it wise not to protest, because he could see that Danny needed the activity to calm down again. He opened the door for Catherine, ever the gentleman, and waited till she had sat down before he closed it again, and moved to passenger's side. He saw Danny's fingers drum along on the wheel as he waited for him to buckle up, and Steve wisely kept his mouth shut. He gave his partner a couple of minutes to calm down, before asking how his arm was doing.
"Let's just not talk, alright?"
"What, right now, or ever again?", Steve replied, only half teasing.
"Just... both, okay."
"I think we're at the crux of your failed marriage, here," Catherine spoke up. "You're very sensitive."
"Sensitive?", Danny asked, turning around, and nearly giving Steve a heart attack, before he turned back towards the road. "When did I seem sensitive to you? When a bullet tore through my flesh, did I seem sensitive to you then?"
"Oh for the love of G-," Catherine interrupted herself. "It's a flesh wound, Danny. I told you about my tours in Kabul, right? Well, I got shot, and that wasn't just a graze. The bullet literally tore through my flesh, and more went through my comrades, and we knew one young Petty Officer wasn't gonna make it even as we called for backup. All I could do, was talk to him as he lay dying, and my comrades and I responded to enemy fire. So, excuse me if I don't seem very compassionate." (1)
Both men remained quiet for a moment. The way she spoke of it, it haunted her, and they could understand why.
"It's not about the- I never implied that it was a serious wound, but if you get your partner shot, you apologize. It's the unspoken rule that separates us from jackals and hyenas-"
"Jackals and hyenas?", Steve piped up. "I'm sorry."
"We're sorry," Catherine corrected.
"Yeah, we're sorry."
"Animal planet – whatever! The point is, you still haven't apologized. In these cases, you don't wait for special occasions like Birthdays or Christmases."
"We're really sorry. Hey man, we're sorry. That's what we've been trying to tell you, last year, when this conversation first started."
"Your apology is noted, acceptance is pending," he told them.
"You let us know," Steve asked of him.
After a moment of silence, Catherine's brain caught up with something Danny had said.
"You called me your partner," she spoke up brightly.
"I misspoke." Danny was smiling, though.
"Twice," she reminded him.
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Steve led them to themselves tourist café of the Missouri museum ship. He made a bee line for the cashier, and asked her something. His charming smile got him a prompt answer, albeit a slightly distracted one. He waved Danny and Catherine over to him. Then they followed him into the back, and through an office door that said 'guards', only to find themselves confronted by a very unexpected scene. This one threw the even the experienced detective and the Intelligence officer for a loop. There before them was a grown man, who'd turned the only light in the darkened room directly into a young boy's face. The scene was hilarious, but not in a funny way. The three newcomers could almost smell the longing rolling off the guard in waves. This was definitely a former cop who missed his job terribly.
"Ah, Chin, you have a moment?", Steve asked, quietly wondering if the boy was tearing up, or if it was just his impression. Chin told the kid to leave awkwardly, before turning around to give Steve a manly hug. "These are my partners, Danny Williams and Lieutenant Catherine Rollins. We need your help."
Chin led them out into the café again, and they sat down at one of the free tables. It was mid-afternoon, and the latest group of tourist had only just boarded the museum ship, so the shop was pretty much empty. Chin looked at Catherine a little curiously, clearly wondering since when the HPD teamed up with the Navy. He didn't bat an eyelash, though, when she told him that the governor had asked her to put together a task force to combat serious crime on the islands, and briefly outlined what they were working on. The only comment she got, was an appreciative 'about damn time', before Steve showed him a picture of Chanchi.
"Her name is Chanchi. We found her locked in a house, and turned into a prostitute, we need to talk to your CI," he told his friend succinctly.
"You need a name," Chin guessed.
"No, we've got a name. Sang Min – we need your guy to arrange a meeting. This guy smuggled Hess onto the island, so he'll probably smuggle him off, too. We have to know how he plans on doing that."
"We need you to take us to your CI," Catherine added.
"I'm busy," Chin replied a little too quickly, and Danny and Catherine concluded that his separation from the HPD had not been entirely voluntarily.
"Busy? What, you expect a crime wave in the gift shop this afternoon?", Danny piped up, dubiously, baiting Steve's friend. Steve send him a withering glare, but the blond man waved him off. He'd basically applauded Catherine's callous reaction to Danny's wound, so the island boy could do him the favor of not being such a hypocrite. Chin, meanwhile, turned to Steve for assistance. His face was closed, yet vulnerable.
"Steve, please, you know why I can't-"
"I don't," Catherine interrupted. "Tell me."
Chin shook his head, but Steve took this chance. His friend deserved a second chance, and he believed that Catherine would be willing to give it. It hadn't been Chin's fault, yet everyone in the HPD had turned on him until he decided to leave. Steve and his father were pretty much the only ones who still talked to him, and Steve knew that Chin had a kid cousin in the Academy, so, at the very least, he owed it to her to clear his name. As a task force, with no red tape to get in the way, they might finally manage to clear that case up, so he turned to Catherine.
"Drug money was stolen from an HPD locker, and they accused Chin."
"So if they see me anywhere near this investigation, your whole case is gonna fall apart."
Catherine thought this over, just as Chin was about to get up. She stood, too, and pulled him back down.
"Did you take it?", she asked bluntly.
"Excuse me?" He sounded insulted.
"It's a simple question, it only requires a simple answer, and we never talk about this again."
"You'd just take my word," Chin questioned, and Catherine had a feeling he was questioning her sanity too, for how incredulous he sounded. She also picked up on the spark of hope; he obviously hadn't met anyone willing to just trust him in a while. "You don't even know me."
Catherine nodded to Steve.
"He trusts you."
"You've barely known him either," Danny chimed in. "You trust very easily."
"I'm a good judge of character, and, if you've forgotten, I pointed a gun in Steve's face not five hours ago. I'm not trusting or naive; I choose my friends very carefully, and I trust them implicitly, and yes, Danno, I trust you too."
"No, I didn't take the money," Chin finally told her. She held his gaze for a few seconds, then extended a hand. She waited till he took it, before she spoke.
"Welcome back in the game."
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(Kamekona Shave Ice)
The little group of four approached the shave ice parlor. Both Danny and Catherine seemed skeptical that they'd find out anything of value here. They didn't understand why Chin would be meeting his informant here. It was public and loud, and therefore it would be difficult to overhear their conversation, but a shave ice parlor on the beach was hardly an inconspicuous place to meet with a CI. Steve didn't seem worried; he told them he'd been here before, but the CI responded better to old friends like Chin, especially when there were two new faces in the game. Danny and Catherine looked at each other, and shrugged. As long as it got them the information, they were willing to try anything once.
"Hey, Kamekona, what's up, brah?", Chin asked the big, friendly giant behind the sales counter. Kamekona gave a nod of acknowledgement.
"What can I do for you?", he asked with some trepidation.
"We need you to arrange a meeting with a guy named Sang Min," Steve told him, and they could se the big guy visible flinch back.
"That's a bad crowd, brah, I ain't getting involved with none of them."
"Come on, Kamekona. Sang Min will go to jail, and you'll be fine."
"Nah, brah, I rat on people," he whispered harshly, looking left and right to see if someone was watching them, "and that's dangerous enough."
"Kamekona," Catherine drew his attention. She felt all four men's eyes on her as she approached the frightened man. She showed him Chanchi's picture. She hated manipulating people's good soul, but they needed a positive answer soon. "Sang Min smuggled this girl onto the island, and sold her as a slave, and she's just one of many. Every day, people get traded by this swine like cattle. Little girls like Chanchi here. He also brought a very dangerous man here. We need to find him, before Sang Ming let's him disappear again."
"Once we are inside, we can take his organization apart," Chin confirmed when he saw Kaemkona's certainty wane.
"My friend's kid is only a little older...okay, I'll do it, but it'll cost you."
Catherine grinned broadly at him. "I'll take a cherry."
"How much kala, bule?", Steve asked with a smile.
"You speak bird."
"Hawaiian, born and raised." There was a certain pride in his voice.
"Yeah? Well, you still look like a haole to me, bratha." He raised his voice. "Three scoops, three T-Shirts to go. Now there's just one more thing that I need you two fine white gentlemen and the pretty lady to do."
As Chin helped Kamekona in arranging everything to their satisfaction, the three others found themselves around the corner of the ice cream parlor wearing T-Shirts the size of tents and each with their own scoop of shave ice in hand. Catherine had taken out the belt from her belt loops, and tied it around her waist, so that the shirt now resembled a dress as closely as it ever would, as the men in her company looked on in envy. She shrugged at their grumpy faces, and went back to her cherry-flavored dessert with a certain flourish. She hadn't realized how hungry she was until she had taken her first bite – if you could even call it that. It didn't bear thinking about, but this was the first thing she had eating since she'd boarded the Air Force transport that took her to Oahu. She hadn't felt her stomach since then, yet now the empty depths piped up loudly. She had ravaged her own shave ice, and half of Danny's, which he'd kindly offered to her once he'd caught onto her lack of nourishment, when the men's faces cleared as they watched her. Steve's face even managed a mischievous smile.
"What?", she asked between one spoonful and the next.
"It's good to see you eat," Danny said.
Steve shrugged. That was apparently not what he had in mind.
"I was right, you look great in anything." He only just managed to close his mouth around the 'or nothing at all' that threatened to escape. He needn't have worried; Danny helped it out into the open anyway.
"Or nothing at all," he said pointing at Steve, "trust me, he's thinking it."
Catherine laughed lightly.
"I'd be insulted if he didn't," she replied teasingly.
"Of course you'd say that," Danny deadpanned.
"See," Steve interjected. "Catherine speaks my language."
Danny raised hands in surrender. "God, you two were made for each other."
Before either of them could come up with a reply, a laughing Chin led them away. They stopped at Rainbow's to grab Catherine something decent to eat, then made their way directly to their new headquarters in the Aliiolani Hale. Danny thought it was a bit pretentious, and the others couldn't help but agree. Still, it was the governor's task force, so she could base it wherever the hell she pleased. It was full of boxes and other equipment that still required unpacking, so they gathered a few chairs and a table from around the office space, and grouped together. Chin showed them a picture of an Asian man with long, dark hair, the shadow of a beard and one visible tattoo. He looked like trouble.
"Sang Min, he's a snake-head. Local Chinese gangs smuggle people out of Asia and into Hawaii with the promise of a better life. Once here, they force them to work for them, sometimes commited criminal acts, to pay off their debts. Kamekona has arranged a meeting for tomorrow."
"Great," Catherine breathed. "So we send somebody in, get him to give a confession, and then book him and ask him about Hess."
"Wish it were that easy," Chin said. "That may work great on the mainland, or in the Navy, but this is a small island with less than a million inhabitants. The bad guys know the good guys."
"I'll go in, then. They don't know me."
"Not alone. You should have backup," Chin protested, and Catherine wanted to roll her eyes.
"I can handle myself, Chin. Don't worry about me."
"Yeah, she can handle herself," Steve and Danny confirmed in a heartbeat.
"Still," Steve amended. "It can't be a bad idea to bring backup. I take it you have the perfect guy in mind, Chin." It seemed, she'd found another bunch of big brothers. Catherine wasn't sure what it was about her person that made men seem to think she was fragile and in need of protection, but she found it equally endearing and frustrating. Though she'd admit that they had a point in this case. She didn't know her enemy this time. Having backup wouldn't hurt, even if Chin's answer made her raise an eyebrow.
It consisted of a mischievous smile.
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Chin pointed out his cousin as they made their way across the beach. Catherine nearly had a laughing fit when she watched Steve and Danny's tense up. They'd expected some large, muscular guy in his twenties, not the fit but petite young woman that was riding waves taller than both of them together. Chin was rather amused himself. She could admit that she, too, had expected a man when Chin had told them he wanted her to have backup, but this was even more perfect if the woman was on board with them. She noticed how young the other woman was, and worried a little over whether or not it was a good idea to involve her.
"That's your cousin?", Danny asked, incredulous.
"Choose your next words carefully – both of you men."
"She looks talented," Steve commented.
"Oh, she's off the charts. She spend three years with the pros, before she blew her knee out. Kid was devastated, had to reinvent herself, and decided to wear a badge. Unfortunately, she's family, which means HPD will never take her seriously," Chin finished with a sigh.
"We will," Danny promised.
They watched as some haole collided with her, and they both fell off their boards. The man was rather callous, not even checking if she was alright after he'd rammed her, but the young woman made it out of the water fine. She set down her board in the sand, and, just as Steve was beginning to voice concerns that Catherine held too, she punched the guy in the face. As he lay in the sand with a bleeding nose, and she warned him not to drop onto someone else's wave again, her eye caught their band of four, and a big smile broke out on her face.
"Hey, cousin!", she called over to Chin.
"She certainly has the right spirit," Catherine commented.
"Hey, Kono. How's it going, water woman?"
"Ah, a waste. First good pipe of the season."
"Well, what can you do. Tourists," Chin replied. "Kono, these are Detectives Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams, and Lieutenant Catherine Rollins."
"Hi there," Kono greeted them as she shook hands with everyone. Danny had to be reminded that she needed her hand back, but otherwise it went fine. When it was Catherine's turn, Kono shook her hand, and then hesitated. The two women eyed each other curiously. The Lieutenant's gaze felt heavy on her, and had Kono cock her head to the side. "I feel like you're vetting me for something, sister."
"Chin told us you graduate from the Police Academy next week," Catherine mentioned casually. "How do feel about earning a little extra credit?"
"What do I have to do?", Kono questioned. The woman had her curious. She'd seen lots of sailors growing up in Hawaii, but there was something dark in this Lieutenant's eyes, something dark and sad and determined. She'd heard rumors about a Navy officer having a bit of a power struggle with the Chief and coming out of it victorious, though the hows and whys were shrouded in mystery. Kono wondered if this was that woman, and why Chin had brought her to here. She was intrigued by the idea of 'extra credit', whatever that meant.
"There's a man, Sang Min; he smuggles people from Asia to Oahu. He also smuggled Victor Hess, an international arms dealer. We've arranged a meeting with Min tomorrow, and Chin thought you'd make the perfect backup," the older woman explained. "Now, I want to be very clear. This is incredibly dangerous, and you don't have to do this; in fact, it would probably be smarter if you turned us down. If not, you gotta be sure that you're ready."
"Backup for whom?"
"For me. I'm going in to get a confession from Sang Min."
"You think I can't do this?", she questioned Catherine.
"How's your shooting?"
"Excellent. She's got the best marks in her class of snipers," Chin chimed in.
"Snipers? Cuz, I can hardly take a rifle in there," Kono laughed, before Catherine could point out just that. "But my shooting is great. I've got a steady hand, and, you're right, I don't have experience – that is what you're thinking, right – but I want to help, and I can handle whatever they throw at me, so count me in."
"If you're sure..."
"We can go to the shooting range right now if you like," Kono suggested challengingly.
Catherine smirked. "A girl after my own heart."
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Three rounds later they'd established that Kono was every bit as good a shot as Catherine, and about twice as good as the men, who looked a little shamed at the result. They'd teamed up, and played against each other, and the girls had still beaten their combined scores. The women couldn't help but crack a joke at the guys' performance under stress. They gave each other a high five, both with shit-eating grins on their faces.
"What's this guy done to you?"
Catherine looked at their newest member.
"Victor Hess is one of the most dangerous international arms dealers in the world. He'll supply anyone who can pay the price. I've tracked him for the Navy for years," she explained matter-of-factly. "More recently, though, he killed Lieutenant Commander Billy Harrington, my husband, and I intend to see him go to jail for that."
"What do you want me to do?", Kono asked seriously.
"Dress like an employee of a high class international crime lord, look badass and follow my lead. You'll act as my body guard."
"You got it, sister." They shared a smile.
"Don't tell me you plan to go in there as one of Hess' employees?", Steve questioned harshly.
"Don't be silly. Sang Min could decide to ask Hess about me, and our cover would be blown, but there are other crime lords Sang Min won't have access to. There's a man called Wo Fat, who's pretty much built a crime empire. He hasn't been seen or heard from in years. One of his people split off, build his own enterprise. Not as big, but equally as profitable, because he makes it a point to hire ex-military that make his operations run like clockwork."
"Wow, that's a risky plan."
"Well, she doesn't exactly look like someone who has relatives in China," Danny pointed out. "It's our only in, unless we want to send the rookie in alone."
"Let's call it a day," Catherine finally said.
"More like two days for you, huh?", Steve asked as the little group disbanded.
"Or three, I don't really know anymore." She smiled ruefully. "Hey, do you have a hotel recommendation. I can't stay at my place till this is over, obviously, and I've never had to worry about accommodation before, so I don't really know where to go..."
Steve smiled as a thought came to him.
"I know just the place."
The ride was silent. It was probably because she was completely exhausted, but she let Steve drive her little, blue eye catcher. He'd admired it briefly when Danny and he had moved toward the front door of her house. Catherine didn't say anything, and she barely moved. Her face was turned towards the window, and he wasn't sure if her eyes were even open until she remarked that the area they were passing didn't look like tourist hell. Steve laughed a little at that. Her tone wasn't accusatory, just mildly curious. She knew he had some kind of a plan, had probably figured out where he was taking her, and he couldn't help but admire her power of deduction despite her tired state. He pulled up at a house directly on the shore . They both got out off the car, and Steve grabbed Catherine's duffel bag before she could fight him over it. The Lieutenant rolled her eyes, but allowed him to be a gentleman and carry it for her.
"This is not a good idea," she commented as she looked at his home as if it was going to come and bite her.
"It's a brilliant idea. My parents are visiting friends on Maui, and my sister's room is free. Besides, the faster we can all get together, the faster we can get to work, and getting you out of 'tourist hell', as you put it, will just be a waste of time." It wasn't the most solid argument, but she smiled, and that was well worth it.
"You live with your parents?"
He flushed a little.
"Yeah, my sister left as soon as she turned eighteen for a bigger world, but I always loved it right here. I never wanted to leave, and this is my home. I know it must seem a bit..."
"On the other hand, you might seem like a real momma's boy," she teased lightly. His flush grew brighter, but he knew that she didn't mean anything by it. "A multi-generational home, family dinners... I rarely had that growing up what with my parents' jobs. I don't judge you, Steve. I envy you, actually."
They went inside, and he showed her Mary's room so she could unpack. Catherine just put down her duffel bag, and had him lead her to the kitchen. It was getting late, and she figured the least she could do, was make them both dinner. He stood back at the threshold to the kitchen as he watched her move around his family home. She checked the refrigerator to see what dish was a viable option for them, and raised an eyebrow at him. Steve just shrugged. He'd been a bit busy to go grocery shopping lately. Catherine shook her head, wrote a few things down, handed him two fifty dollar bills – to which he protested emphatically, yet in vane – and told him to get her something to work with. He saluted her mockingly, making her throw the kitchen towel in his general direction as she yelled at him, not to forget the beer.
"There's always beer in a cop's house," Steve informed her laughingly.
"You obviously don't know any sailors, do you?"
"I do, but they're all men."
"Well, trust me, the women are twice as bad."
Despite Catherine's warning, they found themselves sitting on his sunloungers, each only on their second beer and with a bowl of her grandmother's ragu in their hands. The sun was slowly setting over the ocean, and Catherine felt her heart swell. This was one of the reasons she had chosen Oahu as her home of choice. When her father had first been stationed at Pearl-Hickam, she'd been a teenager, and quickly became enamored with the laid-back island ways and the beautiful sunsets. Life on Oahu was a stark contrast to life in the Navy, where every minute had its activity in her personal itinerary. She remembered thinking that, if she ever settled down anywhere, this would be the place to make her life. She sighed contentedly as she watched the sun disappear below the waves.
"I don't know about the food," Steve spoke up suddenly, "but the view here is amazing, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it is. I can't believe I haven't see a Hawaiian sunset in almost a year. It doesn't seem that long when I'm on deployment."
"Can't have been far," Steve murmured, more to himself than to her. "You were here in less than thirty hours, so you had to have been stationed close by. They wouldn't tell us where."
Catherine shook her head.
"No, and they never will. I was working on something that was classified, including its location, and since I was nearby, revealing my location would have been tantamount to telling you where they were operating."
"I wouldn't have known that."
"But they would," Catherine tried to explain. Classified wasn't just a word to her.
"Must have been hard with a SEAL for a husband. Never knowing where he was or what he did, and you couldn't talk to him when you were together either. How did you manage," Steve asked, then finally took a bite despite his skepticism. He didn't spit it right back out again; Catherine took that as a good sign. "I know you told the Chief it was the distance, but I can't imagine that it was easy, living with all those secrets between you."
"I added a fair share myself, Steve. I'd say that about... hm, eighty per cent of my life in the Navy is classified, and Billy couldn't know all of it either. He knew that, and understood it, and so did I. The reason we split... you're right, it wasn't the distance, not really. Billy and I..." She sighed, unsure of what to say. She didn't know how to explain, because she didn't quite know what happened herself. They just didn't feel right anymore to her, and Billy had felt it too, or he would have fought tooth and nail for her, but they had drifted away from each other without even noticing, and they'd decided to part amicably. "We were just going in different directions, I guess, but I never thought it would end like this. Hurt feelings, sure. An awkward friendship, definitely, but this..."
One of her hands moved to cover her mouth, because she felt her eyes fill with tears, and didn't trust her voice anymore. Steve turned himself fully toward her, and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. When she looked up at him, he was smiling sadly at her. There was compassion, guilt and a little shame in his gaze, but he didn't look away, even as she grasped his hand in hers, and held onto it tightly. Their joined hands moved from her shoulder to just float in the air between them. She could feel him squeeze softly in an attempt to reassure her.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't be..." Flirting with you, ran through his mind as he remembered the day. "...asking you this."
"It's okay," she told him, "I'm hardly discouraging you. The truth is that Billy and I were married, but we haven't been a couple for a while."
Her gaze was open and intense, and his reaction scared Steve a little. He wanted to lean over, and pull her into a hug, tuck her head underneath his chin and just revel in her warmth. He cleared his throat; the sound made him start. He looked away, down to his bowl, and went back to finishing his meal.
"What will you do if we don't get Hess?", he asked seriously. "You told the governor you'd switch to the reserves, but what if he escapes."
"To be honest, I haven't thought that far, but I don't go back on my word. I guess the Navy will keep tracking him, and though I've never asked my father for any favors, I think he would tell me when they're close. I could ask the governor for leave, then. I don't know."
"You'll stick around then?"
"I gave my word. Mind you, I heard myself speaking then, but I didn't realize what I was doing. I'm not quite sure how to adapt to civilian life. The Navy has been my life for as long as I can- oh, quick, when's the next election year?!"
"Election... oh, you mean because your mother is a politician?"
"Being in the Navy had the advantage that I was deployed somewhere most of the year, every year, so I couldn't get roped into anything by my mother or tracked down by the carnivorous vultures that make up the ranks of the press. Oh God, what have I gotten myself into!"
And she looked so pitiful that Steve couldn't help but laugh.
"This is not funny."
"It's a little funny. You pointed a gun at me and Danny, faced Chief Ahuna, and kneed a guy because he was fucking with you, but you're afraid of a few reporters. Here I thought you're not afraid of anything."
"You can only say that, because you haven't been persecuted by them."
She glared him into submission.
"This is actually pretty good," Steve said lightly when he took another bite, and he sounded just a little too surprised for her taste. She caught onto the meaning immediately, and their strange moment was broken.
"I don't live off of military rations all the time, Detective."
"No, but, I figured, you'd rarely get a chance to cook. I mean, doesn't the Navy cook for you."
"Yeah, and contrary to popular belief, it is edible," she laughed with him. "This is my grandmother's recipe; her family is from the old continent, and she was looking for someone to pass everything down to. Mom was never really interested, so she skipped her, and reared me to love all things that have family history. It's a pretty neat dish, so I'm not complaining."
"Thank you, for what you did for Chin," Steve said. The non-sequitur startled Catherine into looking at him again.
"I didn't do anything; you and he did all the work. Great work, at that."
"No, seriously, it means the world to him to have his badge back. He's a good cop, who got in trouble with Internal Affairs, and they were like bloodhounds. They wouldn't stop badgering him and everybody he worked with, until the whole force turned on him. He handed in his badge, because he knew that he couldn't do his job without his colleagues' support. To have that again; for Chin it's... thank you. I really think this task force can do some good on the islands, but it needs good people. He's the right choice. Thank you for trusting me."
"Sounds like you want to stay on the task force," Catherine commented. Steve thought he detected a hint of vulnerability in her voice. He only just managed to keep his chest from puffing out. He was glad that she obviously wanted him to stay on, because he would very much like that. Due to Chin, he and his old man didn't see eye-to-eye with many of their colleagues. John McGarrett had built an untouchable reputation through years of faithful service, but most of them were starting to look at Steve as they looked at Chin when the investigation went on, and having a complete haole for a partner didn't help matters at all. Steve wouldn't trade Danny for anything, though. He didn't have the patience to deal with these guys. "What if Danny doesn't agree?"
"Nah, don't worry about that; he likes you," Steve replied, completely convinced. Catherine cocked her head to the side, but didn't protest. "He's just a bit worried about you, and has trouble communicating that."
"I'm worried, too."
"I'm not naive, Steve, I know I'm off my game. I know I've been a real bitch to you guys some, if not most, of today. Billy's murder, the reason for it, the way I witnessed it; it threw me. I'm usually cool under fire, but today I let a couple of things get to me in a way that I wouldn't normally allow. Your Chief of Police was an asshole, but I've dealt with those before, and I shouldn't have let a simple rant get to me the way it did-"
"Oh, trust me, there's nothing simple about Danny's rants, and you handled them quite well," Steve cut her off to cheer her up. He wondered if he should tell her that he knew all of that better than anyone. Danny and he had responded to the call as well, because they'd been close. When they'd finally made it to the house, it had been too late for Billy Harrington, but the phone had been on the floor next to the victim and still working. He'd heard her when he'd picked it up, heard her cries and sobs and imagined her face in tears. He'd opened his mouth to say something, but nothing had come out; there had been nothing he could say, and then someone suddenly disconnected the call. He remembered Danny's face clear as day; it must have the mirror image of his own.
"Thank you," she smiled at him.
"For what?" He startled.
"Lying through your teeth, and yet partially meaning it too. You remind me of a friend of mine. You two are not actually similar, but you're both easy to talk to in difficult times. How did you put it earlier – you and Mick, you speak my language."
Steve raised his beer.
"To good friends."
She clanked her bottle against his.
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(The following day)
The meeting took place in an old warehouse. Catherine picked Kono up at her house, and drove them there, knowing that the others were already waiting in a nearby truck with the surveillance equipment they had borrowed from HPD. Sargent Lukela had jumped right into his job, and secured them the best audio surveillance instrumentation available. Both women had dressed smartly for this, in dark pant suits and white shirts. Both were visibly wearing guns; it was to be expected of their covers. If they didn't show up armed, Sang Min would easily realize that they weren't part of any criminal organization. They'd have enough trouble, being two women, but trying to find a third, male party would have been nearly impossible; even Danny was too well known to the bad guys already.
"You ready for this, Kono?", Catherine asked one more time as they approached the entrance.
"Honestly, Catherine, if you ask me that one more time, I'll have to shoot you," the younger woman ground out.
"That nervous, huh?"
"...A little," Kono admitted.
"That's normal. I was a wreck."
Before Kono could ask her about her experience, the women were approached by three large, burly men with machine guns. Once they'd confirmed that they were the expected guests, two of the men took their sweet time with searching them for wires. They weren't going to find any, obviously, but they sure were thorough. Eventually, the death glares of both women made them desist from further inspection of their legs. A second set of glares detained them from attempting to take their guns. Instead, they were ushered inside to find the man they recognized as Sang Min sit casually behind a desk, his feet on the table. As soon as the two women entered, he sat up a little straighter, letting out a low whistle. Kono rolled her eyes, and Catherine only just managed to follow suit. Slick, womanizing and completely convinced of his own irresistibility, that was Sang Min.
"What can I do for two lovely ladies such as yourselves?", he questioned them in a sweet tone, and with a leer in his eyes.
"We heard you specialize in... offering safe passages from Asia." Kono standing close by her, and knowing that the guys were waiting in that truck, gave Catherine a sense of security that she really shouldn't have, faced with someone who dealt in slaves and human sex toys. She felt every bit as certain about her backup as she did in the Navy. During a quick glance at Kono, she saw the woman nod almost imperceptibly. They were in this together, and they would make it out of this warehouse together – or not at all. Catherine preferred the first option by far.
Sang Min stroked his chin thoughtfully.
"You don't look like you have relatives there," he commented.
Catherine glared at him for emphasis.
"My boss isn't interested in being stuck in a container with two dozen dirty, stinking peasants for a week, snake-head," she bit out, lacing her tone with disgust. "He's not some poor beggar you pick up of the streets; he just has a little problem with the authorities. We were told you could help."
"Told by whom?"
"Look, Sang Min, let's cut the crap," Catherine barked at him, "you know I work for Kruger, and I know that you recently smuggled an internationally wanted arms dealer onto the island from North Korea. Now, my boss needs an exit strategy, and that accomplishment qualifies you. Name your price, and let's be done with this."
There was a moment of terse silence, when the Lieutenant thought she might have blown it by overplaying her hand. She could feel the tension rolling off of Kono in waves, suggesting that the younger woman thought the same. Sang Min's idiot gorillas had moved their fingers on the triggers of their weapons, and Catherine was sure they'd shoot off their own feet if someone made a sudden movement. She was almost tempted to test out her theory when Sang Min went over to his desk while he spoke.
"Getting people out of Asia is easy. I can have your man here in a week, fist class, obviously. Paying for, that's the hard part."
"Money is not an issue, as long as you don't try to overprice."
He gave her his most charming grin.
"Hess paid up front."
"Or try to screw me over. I'm not just a pretty face, Min," the Navy officer replied sweetly, but lethally, even as she jumped in exaltation inside her. They had him.
"You can't blame a guy for trying, love; I bet you'd be a nice screw."
"Don't even go there, Min. You know what Kruger does to people who mess around with him or his associates?"," Catherine questioned, noting with a certain satisfaction how the Asian's leering smile fell instantly. Clearly, he had heard a great deal about the former black ops agent. Everybody in the criminal world had heard of him, and if only half the stories of what that man did to his enemies were true, he'd learned a great many things between his service with the SAS and his association with Wo Fat. "This is strictly business."
"Okay," Sang Min replied, hands raised. "Okay, I can take a hint... Has anyone checked them for wires?"
"We were checked when we came in," Catherine jumped in irritably, before any of Min's men could say anything.
"Extensively," Kono muttered next to her.
Looking thoughtful again for a moment, Sang Min grabbed his phone off the desk top, and made a picture of Catherine. He informed her threateningly that he'd sent the picture to a friend of his, and if he recognized her as police, she and her friend were dead. He took pause for a moment, as if pondering the worth of checking them both, then made a picture of Kono as well. Catherine nodded once, placing her left hand on her hip, her ring finger and pinkie tucked away against her side. She held the position so as not to arouse suspicion, certainly long enough for Kono and the guys to get the message. The three detectives had insisted on a safe word, or, in this case, a safe sign. This gesture was the signal for everyone to ready themselves for a fight. The snake-head's phone beeped once. He looked at the message, then her, then the message again.
"You're clean," he said, startled and pleased, but then his phone beeped again, and when he looked at it, his face darkened. "Your friend isn't."
One of Sang Min's burly friends was standing to either side of Catherine and Kono, the third had sat down on a nearby couch. Before the seated could react, Kono had already rammed her elbow into the balls of the dude next to her, and kicked the seated guy directly in the face. Meanwhile, Catherine had executed a quick strike against the third man's neck with the side of her hand, subsequently slamming her elbow across his head. The seated man threw Kono off, and she stumbled into Catherine's direction. Seeing as the guy was picking up his machine gun, the Lieutenant couldn't divert attention to helping her partner. She blocked the sideways ascend of the barrel, and brought her fist against the man's temple forcefully. He wasn't going down easily, though, and pulled at her hair. Catherine let out a screech from between clenched teeth, as she raised her knee to make contact with his delicate junk. It had the intended effect of getting him to let go of her hair, but it was only when the truck came through the wall, and Kono shot the guy in the shoulder that Catherine could get her bearings again, and knock out the man who had by then recovered from the hit to his crown jewels. She noticed Sang Min trying to make it past them, and didn't answer Steve's question if she was alright immediately. Instead, she ran over to cut Sang Min off. The fact that she could physically feel Steve following her, worried her a little. When the smuggler tried to raise his gun at her, they pointed theirs directly at his face, and instead of completing the motion, Min threw his gun to the side. He raised his hands.
"Come on, then, birdie," he taunted her. "Book me."
Catherine rolled her eyes.
"Nah," she called, jutting his head toward Kono as the younger woman came up to her. "She will."
The younger woman grinned proudly as she put the cuffs, Steve extended to her, on their man.
"You guys were early," she told them as she led her captive past them, and made the men smile. They didn't bother taking him to their new headquarters; they didn't have the time for that, so they dragged his chair from behind his desk, and cuffed him to it. Danny and Kono made their way outside to wait for the uniforms that were no doubt arriving, and assure them that everything was well in hand. Chin played Sang Min their recording, informing him with glee that good cops didn't need to wear a wire anymore to get a confession out of his lousy ass. Sang Min remained decidedly calm.
"I'm gonna sue you for entrapment," he told them, "and when I'm done collecting, I'm gonna find you and your friend again, birdie, and this time I won't be such a gentleman."
Chin slammed the ashtray he found on the desk against the man's temple.
"Sorry, boss" he apologized.
Catherine didn't respond, though. She just took the ashtray from him, and slammed it against the desk so hard it broke. She examined the site of fracture on the piece she was still holding with a careful, tender finger. Once she found it was to her satisfaction, she moved past both Chin and Steve to encroach on Sang Min's personal space. Under different circumstances he might have made a quip, but the face she wore must have told him that she meant business. The Lieutenant placed the sharp breakage against his pants, just between his legs, and watched the tough smuggler shiver and whimper at her. Catherine wanted to laugh; the way to breaking a man was always the same.
"If you try any of that shit, Sang Min, you wouldn't be a man at all when I'm done with you. Rather, your son will have two mommies."
"Remind me never to piss her off", she could hear Chin asking of Steve.
"Speaking of your family; do you know what they're doing right now?", Catherine questioned jovially as she put the broken ashtray away, and turned to Steve. "'Cause we do."
"Your wife is having her nails done downtown, and your son is at his private school," Steve informed them dutifully. "I wonder what he'll think if he finds out that his dad takes kids his age, and sells them as slaves?! He'll grow up without a dad. To me you've made him your victim too, but the law doesn't see it that way."
"And your wife," Chin added, "she's from Rwanda. If you go to jail, she'll most likely be deported back to her homeland."
Sang Min's eyes began to shine with unshed tears when he realized where this was going.
"Along with your son," Catherine finished. "Maybe they're lucky, and they'll make it to a refugee camp, but if not, seven is old enough to hold a gun for the resident militia."
"You're going to jail, that's non-negotiable, but they don't have to pay for your actions. We can protect them from all that," Steve offered, knowing they had him. "But we don't help people, who don't help us."
Their captive jerked his head one side, then the other, as if hoping the movement would make their words go away. His voice was stricken when he spoke.
"What kind of cops are you?"
"The new kind," Steve said. "Now stop wasting our time, and tell us where Hess is."
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Danny regretted tagging along the moment he asked his two crazy partners how they wanted to handle the imminent arrest. He heard the cocking of a gun from the back seat, and saw Steve check that his own weapon was loaded, and the words 'of course' fell from his lips. Seconds earlier he'd heard Catherine argue heatedly with the governor. Danny had thought the woman couldn't get any sassier, but naturally she had set out to prove him wrong. They both held on tight as Steve drove onto the Chinese freighter at full speed in the police car they'd borrowed from the precinct. They lost a wing mirror in the process. Hess' crew opened fire on them immediately, and Danny and Catherine jumped out of the car immediately. Danny took what cover being pressed to the side of the car could provide to shoot the first two gunman. When he looked up, he didn't see Catherine anywhere, and Steve was several feet from him responding to the fire.
Catherine, meanwhile, had advanced further between the containers on the freighter. When she turned a corner, a hand slapped the gun out of her grip, then slammed her into a nearby container. She responded to the attack by swiping their hands over the man's face. He reeled back, and she used that opportunity to add an elbow strike to the man's head. He recovered quickly enough to block her fist trying to crack his ribs. Hess' fist connected with her face, making her fall to the ground. Hess turned to run away. She could heard the clanking of his boots on the metal staircase that led to the top of the nearest container. Catherine picked up her weapon, before she went to follow him. She called for him, her gun at the ready. He spared her only a glance, before jumping across a gap between two containers. She fired two shots, but didn't catch him, and went after him to get him. He moved towards where one of his men lay dead, no doubt having been shot by either Danny or Steve earlier, and she followed him without hesitation.
When she approached, he fired a shot that caught her vest and threw her back. When he attempted to fire again, nothing happened. Catherine breathed a sigh of relief; there was no more ammunition. She got up; he kicked the gun out of her hand, and was on her before she could fully recover. She barely managed to block his first blow. He caught her with his back hand across the face. Catherine spit out blood as she went over to the attack. The palm of her hand made contact with his nose faster just as he tried to hit her again. He tumbled back, but blocked the side of her hand as she made for his throat. They traded blows, but hit nothing. Catherine ducked under a large swipe, and Hess took that opportunity to go for his own gun. The Lieutenant stopped him from pulling it up to her face. It went off once, making Hess jump a little as the bullet clinked against the metal of the contained close to them, and Catherine stomped onto his foot. When his grip on the gun subsequently loosened, she swiped it from his hand. Before she could use it to threaten him into submission, he gripped her hair and pulled forcefully. She gave a screech of pain. Her eyes caught movement through the strands of her hair; it was Steve. He must have followed her.
"I'll hand it to the Commander," Hess stated. "You are a wife worth having."
"I'm a widow now. One of many you've made, no doubt," she grunted back maliciously.
Catherine was still struggling with Hess for the gun. By the fear in his voice she figured that it was currently pointed more towards her than Hess. She attempted to squash his foot again, but he avoided her this time. Her heart was hammering in her throat, when she decided to take a desperate action. She rammed her elbow into his temple, and allowed herself to fall to her side. She hoped that Hess was too preoccupied with her to worry about Steve. He was. As soon as he caught himself, Hess swiveled his gun around so the barrel was facing her.
"Guess you want to follow your husband, huh?", he taunted her.
"Cath!",she heard Steve's voice close by, a little panicked, and smirked up at Hess.
"Billy was alone; I have partners."
He didn't turn in time. Two shots could be heard. His body was thrown sideways, he stumbled backward toward the edge, then fell down into thew water. Catherine crawled over to the edge of the container, picking up her lost gun on the way. She glanced over the edge, half expecting to find Hess swimming and cursing at them. Instead, all she could see were the ripples the impact of his body had started. Her heart returned to a beat at a normal rate slowly as she kept staring at the water until the ripples subsided completely. Distantly, she heard the heavy footsteps that announced Steve's arrival at her position, but she didn't get up or give any other indication that she had noticed him. As she stared at the calming waters, she was overwhelmed with grief, frustration and relief. She bit down on the the angry scream in her throats, chocked on her tears and focused her breathing to avoid sighing. She didn't know which way to turn her head emotionally. She'd imagined finding justice for Billy from the moment she had given Hess her answer, and what more could she ask for than a biblical a-life-for-a-life solution, but this scenario still left her dissatisfied. Frowning she wondered if any other scenario would have had a different effect, and came to the conclusion that there was no way to satisfy her, other than undoing all of it, which was unfortunately impossible. She finally acknowledged Steve when he tenderly grasped her left elbow. She let him pull her up, and put his arm around her, his face buried in her hair. His breaths was still rapid, accelerated by his worry for her.
"Catherine, you okay?" She noticed that he used her fully name again, and somehow it added a little sadness to her inner turmoil, but she couldn't concentrate on that now.
"Yes, I'm... I will be," she finished lamely as she looked at him. He nodded carefully at her. "Thank you for saving my life."
After a small pause, it simply broke out of her.
"I didn't want it to end like this. I wanted to send him to jail, not to a watery grave."
"I'm sorry. It was the only way-"
"I know, Steve. I'm not mad at you:. I'm just... disappointed, I guess, but I don't think that would have been different if we'd taken him to Halawa. Just... tell the coast guard to fish his body out of the water."
Steve nodded again, then turned to Danny, who called for their attention. He was sitting on a cuffed suspect who kept squirming to get away.
"What do you want me to do with this one, boss lady?", he asked.
"Don't know; what do you normally do?", she called back amusedly, then looked at a smirking Steve.
"Book him, Danno," he told his partner.
"Haven't I told you to stop saying that!"
"Oh, that's actually quite good. I can see that becoming a thing," Catherine laughed at Danny's irate face.
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Steve came down in the process of buttoning the nubs on his sleeves. His dark suit jacket was in his hand, the matching tie hanging loosely around his neck. He was rather hoping that Catherine could help him with that. He had never liked wearing suits, but today was Billy Harrington's funeral, and he intended to pay his respects. They all owed much to the man, who'd risked his life numerous times to keep them save. As far as Steve was concerned he was a fellow officer, and would be given the respect he deserved. Also, he wanted to gauge her mood. The detective found the door to Mary's room open, yet he still briefly knocked on it, half turned away in case Catherine was still getting dressed. He heard her hum, and took it as a sign to come in. He stopped short when he saw Catherine in front of the full length mirror his sister had kept in her room since she first discovered her interest in boys and dating. He had expected her to look solemn in her black dress, her hair open and appropriately little make-up on her face. Her expression, however, was a little downcast and frustrated as she buttoned her black service uniform applying her neck tab. She was obviously not happy with the choice, and Steve, too, found himself raising an eyebrow.
"Are you supposed to be wearing that?"
"To any officer's funeral, absolutely. To Billy's, well, I'd be allowed, even culturally expected to wear civilian clothes," she muttered, unhappy.
"What's stopping you?"
"I don't exactly carry a black dress around in my duffel bag."
She came over to Steve to bind his tie without him having asked her to do so. She was close, perhaps too close under the circumstances, especially considering how keenly aware he was of her vicinity. He wondered what it was about this woman that made him completely lose his moral compass. He shouldn't be this attr- intrigued by her. He'd been flirting with her while they were investigating her husband's murder, for god's sake. That's why he nibbled on his lower lip for a few seconds before making the offer.
"You and mom are about the same size; if you want... I know she wouldn't mind."
She smiled shyly at him, but shook her head.
"Thanks, but I wouldn't feel comfortable in your mother's clothes. I'd feel like someone else. I'll go as myself." She waved his confused gaze away. "Billy would understand."
"Okay," was all he answered.
She drove them both to the graveyard, and, once they had gotten out of the car, they homed in on the mass of uniforms against the horizon. Catherine paused briefly on their way over to the group to take a deep breath. She wasn't sure if she was ready for this. When she'd last spoken to Billy, he was killed. When she last saw him, she'd been wrecked with guilt and grief and the desire for justice. What would happen when she saw him now, saw him be interred? She could feel butterflies in her stomach, but not the nice, lively ones. She felt sick to the stomach. Steve's strong, warm hand on the small of her back steadied her, so they could join the other mourners. She felt everyone's eyes on her when Steve walked her to her seat, but none were heavier than those of Billy's mother Jill. Her lips were pressed together in a disapproving frown when Catherine finally sat down next to her, and Steve took his place with Danny, Chin and Kono. Catherine almost didn't believe her eyes when she saw them there; tears threatened to spill over. Lots of sailors, mostly strangers from Pearl-Hickam, had come to the funeral, as well as Jill, who Catherine hadn't been on the best terms with since she and Billy had filed for divorce. Of all those people here to honor Billy, the presence of her team, who didn't even know him, mattered the most. They may not feel Billy's loss as keenly as the rest of the mourners, but they shared in her grief and they were here to support her. Catherine barely heard the minister' sermon; she stood up to place a single rose onto the casket, and didn't take her eyes off it for the rest of the ceremony. A group of sailors had taken the American flag off the casket, and were folding it into a neat triangle. When they were finished, one of them walked over to her. He extended the flag to her, and saluted her when she had taken it, as he assured her that Billy would be remembered for the great services he'd rendered his country. Catherine thanked him, before extending the flag to Jill. The older woman looked hugely surprised, and Catherine thought she saw tears in her eyes. Jill opened her mouth to say something, but no sound came out.
"I've made so many good memories with Billy, and have so much to remember him by. This should be yours," Catherine told her quietly. To have the flag at home would be like a weight on her heart, but with Jill it would receive the honor and care it should.
"Thank you," Jill replied, equally soft-spoken.
They sat in silence as the casket was lowered into the ground. Afterwards the mourners dispersed, and even Jill left after giving her a small squeeze to her shoulder. Eventually only Catherine and her team were left, who moved to sit down beside her. They remained quiet for a long time, until Danny, Chin and Kono expressed their condolences and got up to leave. When Steve made to follow them, she grasped his hand to hold him back. He sat back down, and stared at the freshly closed grave with her. Catherine turned her head to study him, and Steve neither flinched nor shifted under her scrutiny. Now he knew how Kono had felt when she had first met Catherine; he too felt like he was being vetted for something.
"How do you feel about leading the task force?", she asked out of the blue.
"...What? No, I... The governor wanted you to head it."
"No, she wanted me to put it together."
"I think it was implied. It's your task force."
She chuckled lightly.
"Steve, I'm a glorified analyst," she told him self-critically. "You, on the other hand, are a natural leader, and you have the police experience necessary for this job."
He took her hand, and squeezed it.
"I think you did great on this case. Besides, experience comes with time. You should at least give yourself a little while, and see how it goes. Then we can decide," he suggested, then extended his hand. "And until then, we could team up. Who knows, it might be a learning curve for you."
His grin was teasing, but she smiled right back as she took his hand.
A/N: Wow, that was... lengthy. Still, I enjoyed writing it. Whether you loved it, hated it or remained indifferent to it, feel free to leave a comment.
(1) I loved the first episode with Danny's and Steve's interactions but, considering everything Steve must have seen and the fact that he'd just lost hist father, I found his reaction just a little too tame seeing as Danny had barely a graze. This just seemed more likely for someone traumatized by the loss of a loved one, who is also used to battle. Also, I didn't like Danny much at first, he rambled too much for my taste but he grew on me quickly.