A/N: I know, 2 weeks. A bit of writer's block. Also, had trouble uploading. Guess the site has been down a lot recently? Glad you all are still enjoying this little story. Two chapters left, plus maybe an epilogue.
"Did you do something to my car?"
"Good morning, Danny. How are you? I'm fine, thanks for asking." Steve closed the laptop and gestured his partner inside the office as Danny rolled his eyes. "What's up?"
"Did you do something to my car yesterday?" the detective repeated.
Ah crap. "What do you mean?" Steve hoped his expression reflected genuine confusion and not guilt.
"It smells funny."
Well duh. "Maybe that's because it's full of trash?" Steve offered helpfully.
Danny shook his head. "No. No, it's like a… a chemical kind of smell. Harsh, you know?"
Steve cast a glance at the waste basket to make sure the custodian had disposed of the empty roach spray cans last night. "Danny, there's all kinds of crap in that car. Maybe two old bottles spilled out on the floor, mixed together and produced toxic fumes. Maybe some piece of trash is getting smelly as it degrades. I mean," Steve gestured for good measure, "there could be chemical weapons in there and you wouldn't know it." The car was a chemical weapon, he added to himself.
"Yeah, maybe," Danny sounded doubtful.
"I'm sure it's nothing."
"Any leads on our shooter?" Steve asked to distract him.
"Believe it or not, yes." Whipping a finger toward the smart table, Danny began to update Steve on their latest findings. There was something about traffic cams and partial prints and a potential lead in Lanikai, but Steve had trouble following it all.
His mind was on other, more important matters.
Like when he could sneak back out to the car to find (and kill) a certain cockroach.
But there was no need to search for the cockroach; George made his own appearance later that afternoon, much to the disgust of Grace and Kono who happened to be there to witness it.
Neither of the girls was pleased with the men's failed efforts, and Kono immediately cornered Steve as soon as Danny wasn't around and made her disappointment abundantly clear. But the tongue-lashing he received from the rookie was nothing compared to the sad disappointment of one little Grace Williams.
"I thought you were going to get rid of it," Grace frowned sadly, eyeing the glovebox with distrust. Despite being seated behind Steve, who was serving as the first (and only) line of defense between her and the roach's command post inside the glove compartment, she was still wary of a sudden appearance of the large, brown insect. "You promised."
"Yes. Yes, I did promise, and I still intend to keep that promise," Steve nodded. He bent forward to look out the window and check Danny's progress inside the convenience store. Danny was buying burgers for the cookout that Steve hoped would make up for his broken promise to Gracie. "Things just got a bit… complicated."
"Uh huh." Grace eyed him skeptically with a look very reminiscent of her father. "Did you try?"
"Did I try? Of course I tried, sweetie. But roaches are very tough. They're some of the toughest creatures in the world. They can survive extreme temperatures and extreme pressure, go for weeks without food, and survive high doses of radiation."
"So they're like insect SEALs?"
"Something like that." In researching how to go about killing George after the previous evening's failure, Steve had learned far more than he ever wanted to know about the cockroach's ability to endure pretty much anything. His research hadn't given him any new ideas for dealing with the problem, but he now had a very healthy appreciation for George's proficiency at survival.
Grace was less impressed. She fidgeted in the backseat, peering anxiously around Steve's chair in case George emerged and somehow escaped the SEAL's grasp. She had clearly been not at all pleased when George had appeared earlier and she had realized that the mission to eliminate George had failed. Now she let her disappointment show with a slight hmm that was very reminiscent of her mother.
"It'll be okay, though," Steve told Grace as Danny exited the shop with several plastic bags in hand. "Kono's up next and she has a plan." Or at least, he hoped she did.
"Grace, when you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." Laying a hand on Grace's shoulder, Kono smiled and waved to the boys as they drove away. It was after dinner, the sun was dropping over the beach, and a cool breeze had taken up residence in the trees.
Guiltlessly using Grace's desire for ice cream to her advantage, Kono had convinced Steve and Danny to drive to the store in Steve's truck after supper, giving her a good fifteen minutes with the car and the soon-to-be-deceased George all to herself.
"Eliminate with extreme prejudice," were the last words Steve muttered in her ear before sliding behind the wheel of the truck and backing down the gravel drive.
Under the kitchen counter, Kono found a can of roach spray, a flashlight, and several fly swatters. Armed with these and a large trash bag, she stomped out to the car and threw open the door.
"Time to die, George."
"Don't think I don't know what you're up to."
Steve tried to look confused as he turned in his seat to frown at his partner. "What?" he asked innocently.
"I know exactly what you're doing."
"We're driving to the store to get ice cream for your daughter?" Steve tried. He felt his ears turning red and wished his hair were longer. He could lie convincingly under dangerous and difficult circumstances… why did his body have to betray him now? Maybe Danny wouldn't notice.
"Your ears are red."
Well dang. Steve winced. "Danny, would you stop being a detective for a few seconds and just enjoy life? Your daughter wants ice cream. We're going to the store to get it. That's it."
"Uh huh," Danny smirked.
Steve felt the blush spread to his cheeks as guilt flushed his face. "Why does everything have to be so… so…" Steve searched for a word besides guilty. "… not innocent with you? Why does everyone have to have ulterior motives?"
"Um, because I know people, babe, and I know how they work. It's what makes me a good detective. I know that people don't just do things randomly. I know that Navy SEALs who plan even cookouts with meticulous detail don't forget the ice cream. I also know that the store is that way," and Danny pointed at the turn that Steve had just missed, "and you just passed the turn. Why are you feeling so guilty over ice cream?"
"But you are." They made a U-turn and headed in the right direction. "It's okay, though- I already know."
"You- you do?" How the heck could he know?
"Yup." Danny settled back in his seat smugly.
"I can explain-"
"Oh, you don't have to explain, Steven," Danny waved dismissively, missing Steve's slight, nervous gulp. "You know what I think?"
That I'm dead meat? Steve pulled into the store parking lot. "What?"
"I think you feel guilty because your CO said something to you about your weight at the last Navy reserves training weekend."
"You can't deny that you've been putting on some pounds," and Danny whacked Steve lightly across the stomach.
"I- I'm not… this isn't… what?"
Danny wagged his finger lightly in front of Steve's nose. "You want ice cream, but you feel guilty because you're not supposed to have any- you're probably on some special Navy diet regimen- so you convinced my daughter to get some for you."
"This is about ice cream?" Steve almost laughed in relief. "You think I feel guilty about a little ice cream?"
"I don't think it, babe- I know it." Danny jumped lightly out of the truck and locked the door. "What flavor do you want, anyway?"
"Uh, vanilla. Just plain vanilla."
Killing a roach was easier said than done. If Kono had several hours, she would've opened the door and simply waited for George to appear. Efficient, though not very quick.
But Kono didn't have several hours. She barely had fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes to turn over every heap of trash in the car, find the roach, and squash it.
Cautiously, she opened the door and slid into the passenger seat. Grace, who had followed her out to the car, peeked in over her shoulder, then backed away.
Kono winked at her. "Don't worry- I'll get George before he gets you."
"That's what Uncle Steve said," Grace replied solemnly. She took another step back.
"I don't think Uncle Steve knew what he was doing," Kono replied.
Grace only shook her head.
Gripping the fly swatter tightly, Kono eased the glovebox door open. She flashed her light inside. George wasn't visible between the layers of paper and tag renewal notices, so Kono pulled a stack out, dumped them in the driver's seat, and dug in further. Grace crept closer, keeping a wary eye for any sign of movement.
"Is he in there?" she ventured after several minutes.
"I don't think so." Kono pawed at the back of the glovebox, wishing she'd worn gloves. "Maybe he took a walk."
"Maybe," Grace remained unconvinced.
Giving up, Kono reached for the bug spray. "Maybe we can keep him from coming back?" she winked. Uncapping the bottle, she aimed for the dark recess under the dash.
George chose that moment to appear.
Slipping out of a crack between the glovebox and the dash, George darted across the radio and headed for the steering wheel. Kono smacked the dash with the bottle and the fly swatter as George zig-zagged across the plastic, throwing trash left and right as she pursued him into the floor. Making a U-turn somewhere under the seat, George then popped up on top of the trash and bolted for the door where Grace stood frozen, a horrified expression on her face.
Kono threw herself on top of the trash, scattering take-out containers and sending the roach scuttering under the nearest cover.
Grace let out a shriek and darted across the yard to hide behind a tree.
Nearly swimming in the pile of trash, Kono plunged the bottle of roach spray into the mess and let loose, hoping it would at least slow George enough that she could capture and kill it.
"Kill it!" Grace yelled from the distant safety of the yard. She brandished a large stick defensively at the car. "Squish it! Stomp on it! Crush it!"
"I'm trying!" Kono yelled back.
Two blocks away, Danny suddenly grabbed Steve's arm. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Steve frowned.
Danny leaned his head out the open window. "I heard… I thought I heard… maybe…" He cocked his head, listening closely. "You know what? Never mind." He pulled his head back in. "Keep driving."
Steve shook his head.
The bottle of bug spray was empty. The car sported a new crack in the dash, a long scratch down the stained upholstery, and a thin scar across the center console. George had completely disappeared.
"Hurry!" Grace pleaded as the blue truck swung around the corner at the end of the street.
Kono plunged out of the car, slammed the door shut, and locked it. She leaned against the side, panting, as Grace emerged cautiously from the safety of the tree.
The little girl cocked her head. "You have a French fry in your hair."
Kono combed her fingers through her hair. The French fry fell to the ground and she kicked it under a bush.
Grace peered around her at the car. "Did you get him?"
Kono shook her head.
Grace frowned in disappointment and sighed.
A/N: Two chapters left (and an epilogue). Then I'm taking a hiatus. I've got pieces for other stories written, including a humorous short called "Community Service", a Steve whump titled "The Lighthouse," a Danny whump titled "The Swimmer," and a more serious sequel to "The Bunker." But, it's spring, swim season will start as soon as the river warms up, and life is a bit crazy, so I'm putting those and others on hold. Hoping to come back in the fall since this is what gets me through the long winter months (or sooner if I get bored.)