A/N- sorry for the long delay. This chapter wraps up the saga of the cockroach, but I have a one-shot, Danny-whump that I'll be posting later as an alternative ending. Then I'll likely be on hiatus again for a while.
Danny wasn't stupid: he knew how cockroaches worked. It was like rabbits, except with more legs and no fur. He wasn't sure what kinds of wild parties George had been hosting, but over the past few days, he'd seen four to five different roaches in the car, often at the same time. Why or how his friends didn't see them, he didn't know; perhaps they only saw what they wanted to see. Either way, the roaches had terrified Grace when two chased each other up her leg the other day, and Danny had had enough. The filth of the car had reached a point of no-return, a quagmire of critical mass, and Danny was ready to torch the thing and say it had been an accident. He wanted his Camaro back.
Tomorrow,he thought as he pulled into his neighborhood, trying not to hear the scurrying that had started to haunt him,tomorrow I'll get my car and drop this piece of junk back at the neighbor's.
He hadn't told Grace. Instead, he hoped to surprise her when he picked her up from school. The thought of her excitement made him smile briefly.
Then a new, rancid odor wafted up to his nostrils from the piles of trash below, and he wrinkled his nose in displeasure. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.
A creak and something that sounded metallic startled Danny from his slumber late that night. He rolled over and squinted vaguely at the dark figure in his doorway. "Grace?" He rubbed his eyes, his brain struggling to catch up. "What are you doing up, monkey?"
"I'm sorry, Danno," Grace whispered, hovering in the doorway. "I didn't mean to wake you. I was just hungry."
"Oh." Danny reached for the light on his nightstand, missed, and knocked his cell phone to the floor instead. "Need me to make you something?" he grunted as he fumbled on the floor for the phone.
"No… it's okay, Danno, I can take care of myself." Slipping into the bedroom, she scooped up his phone, replaced it on the nightstand, and planted a quick kiss on his forehead. "I'm going to close the door so I don't bother you. Go back to sleep."
"M'kay," Danny agreed tiredly and rolled over. It didn't occur to him until later that Grace was wearing jeans, not her PJs.
Grace backed away from her dad's bedroom, breathing heavily. It had been a close call- too close, she thought as she tiptoed down the hall to the kitchen. After her failed 'mission' with Aunt Kono, she'd spent some time reading about cockroaches and had decided that her father's friends were going about it all wrong. Cockroaches were most active at night; therefore, Grace reasoned, they should be hunted at night.
She fetched the flashlight from under the sink and the fly swatter and a few cans of bug spray. The keys were, like always, in a small dish on a table by the door.
Outside, the parking lot was bathed in an eerie, orange glow from the street lights as downtown Honolulu glittered in the distance. Long shadows lurked at the edges of the complex, hiding the stray cats and possibly other, more sinister things, and Grace waited a long time just outside the door before finally venturing into the parking lot in search of the beat-up blue car. She wished Danno were with her, but she wasn't sure he would approve of what she was about to do.
Grace found the car at the edge of the lot near the dumpster, and she almost smiled. She wouldn't have to worry quite as much about noise over here, far away from the main building where her father slept. Casting a furtive look behind her, she opened the passenger door and slipped inside, pulling the door shut behind her.
Squatting on the passenger seat, she looked around nervously. Only her seat and the driver's were lit, a dim, faded beam that fell through the window from a street light across the way. The rest of the interior was a dark swamp, the trash containers unidentifiable in the murky light, and Grace imagined countless cockroaches swimming through the filth around her.
Uncle Steve had failed in this mission. But, she reasoned, just because he failed didn't mean he was scared. Nothing could scare Uncle Steve. And if he wasn't scared, she wouldn't be, either. Taking a deep breath, she finally switched on the flashlight and shone it around the car.
The swamp disappeared. The car was just a car; the trash was just trash.
But there was no roach in sight.
"George?" she whispered. "Are you in here?"
Of course George didn't respond.
Grace nudged the nearest pile of trash with her foot. "George?" she whispered again, uncertainly. This wasn't quite how she had imagined it when she planned her little excursion earlier. In her mind, George would appear at her call, she would slap it with a fly swatter, and then she would run back to bed. Easy, peasy.
Grace dug into the trash with her foot, wrinkling her nose at a container of stale fries. "Eww…" she hissed, shaking the fries off her foot. "Gross, gross, gross."
"George, if you're in here, please come out!" A slight scurrying caught her attention and she spun the light toward the rear of the car. "Come out, please! I just want to…" but she stopped short. I just want tokill youseemed an improper thing to say somehow.
"Just come out, you stupid little roach," she added fiercely, now angry. "I don't like you in here."
With a soft scurry, George appeared on a take-out bag at the back of the car.
Grace raised the fly swatter and brought it down with all her might. Trash scattered everywhere and, caught off balance, Grace toppled over. When she popped up again, brushing crumbs off her clothes, George had disappeared. She shone the flashlight at her fly swatter, but there were no cockroach guts or gore on the swatter.
"Dang," Grace muttered. So maybe this was harder than it looked? Climbing back onto the chair, she crouched and waited again. This time, she promised herself, she wouldn't miss.
Some time later, there was a soft creak as the front door opened, followed by quiet, careful steps across the floor to the kitchen. The garbage bag beneath the sink rustled as something was dropped inside. Then more quiet footsteps tiptoed to the laundry, and then to the bathroom. A few minutes later, the bed creaked slightly. After that, all was silent.
When Danny went into Grace's room the next morning, the little girl was still soundly asleep in bed. Danny, a hot cup of coffee in hand, vaguely recalled being woken at some point in the night and shook his head. Poor thing. Probably couldn't sleep well. He couldn't recall what conversation they'd had, if any. He decided to let her sleep in a bit. Missing her first class wouldn't kill her.
"You know… I haven't seen George all day." Steve surveyed the interior of the car curiously, nudging a few take-out containers in the floor with his foot. "Is he still here?"
"I dunno." Truth be told, Danny hadn't really noticed. He'd been too busy with the rest of their case to pay attention, especially when a high-speed car chase and hostage situation were involved. He hadn't exactly been looking for the nasty insect while dodging bullets on the H3.
"He's not in the glovebox," Steve commented, snapping the door shut with a click. "Maybe he decided to move to more sanitary grounds."
"I doubt it. But if he did, more power to him."
"When do you get your car back?"
"This afternoon." Danny was more excited about being behind the wheel of the Camaro than he let on. It would be nice to smell leather and not soured sushi every time he opened the door.
Steve cast a sideways glance in his direction. "You going to miss him?"
"Not as much as I'm going to miss getting to drive."
"You likebeing chauffeured," Steve put in.
"No, no I do not-"
"You just don't want to admit it," the ex-SEAL finished with a smirk.
Danny sighed. "I'm not sure why I even bother to argue with you. It's pointless."
"Because I'm right."
"No, notbecause you're right! You're wrong; you just don't listen, and you don't learn."
"There's nothing to learn because I'm right."
Danny rolled his eyes. "I have a child at home, Steven. I don't need one at work, too."
"So you're calling me a child now?"
"Drop it, Steve."
"Uh-huh." Steve flashed a grin. "Whatever you say, Danno."
Danny opened the door and stood still as thick heat spilled from the car. He inhaled deeply. Leather, plastic, metal… all the smells a carshouldhave. Sliding in, he fastened his belt and took a moment to appreciate the beauty and power of the Camaro. After a week of bouncing around in busted shocks, he was looking forward to a smooth, quiet, fully-air-conditioned ride home. He started the engine.
As he backed out of the parking space, he missed the small, brown shadow that slipped out from under the floor mat and scurried up the dash toward the glovebox…
A/N: this was the original planned ending to the saga, but I have an alternative, Danny-whump ending that can stand on its own. I'm debating whether to post it here, or post it separately for those that haven't followed the Saga of George the Cockroach.