Return, You Wayward Son
He's missed all these things while on the hunt in Japan, chasing down a ghost, and he suspects what choosing to leave this time has cost him.
A/N: There certainly seems to be a few of these going around (that episode sure got the plot bunnies stirring!) but this is my take on a coda to Ua Hopu. Adam and Kono are cute but they're nothing on Steve and Kono, and my shipper heart needed a bit more resolution to that hug.
He's only been away a few weeks but Steve thinks it feels like much longer, as he stands in the muggy Hawaiian evening watching Danny wrench Wo Fat towards the back of a police cruiser, surrounded by a dozen members of the Yakuza being jerked similarly away by HPD.
It's been a hell of a long day and he's more than ready for it to end, but there's one thing that keeps nagging at him. There's something off about his team, some underlying tension he's quick to sense, because even though he's been away for a while it's still his ohana, and he can map them like the back of his hand. He glimpses it in the slight hunch of Danny's shoulders, the tightness in Chin's jaw, the barely concealed tremble in Kono's voice. Steve wonders about all the things he's missed while he was on the hunt in Japan, chasing down a ghost, and questions (not for the first time), just what repercussions his absence has brought.
He doesn't miss the silent looks Kono and Adam Noshimuri share as he's cuffed and led away; sure as hell didn't miss the desperation in Kono's voice as she pleaded with Adam to lower his weapon minutes ago, the emotion in the other man's eyes as he focused in on her. Steve swallows his lingering sense of disquiet, forces it down the back of his throat and watches as Kono turns away from Adam, meets his eyes and makes her way over to him.
"Come here," Steve tells her automatically, and wraps her in a tight hug.
"You don't write, you don't call," he hears Kono say, and he can't help but chuckle softly.
"We missed you," she says quietly, into his shoulder.
Kono is warm and solid against him and in that moment he comprehends just how fully he's missed them, too. "It's good to be home," he breathes into her ear.
When she pulls away, Steve holds her at arms length for a brief second and under the blue and white flickering of police lights he can still make out the paleness of her face, the hollows underneath her eyes, but Kono glances away as Chin approaches. Danny's behind him suddenly and then they're all there beside him – his team (his people) – and there's a subtle shift in the air as the tension slips furtively away; as the puzzle pieces finally ease back into place.
He gets to headquarters unusually early the next morning, dreading the number of emails bound to be flooding his inbox and the towering stack of paperwork that will undoubtedly be waiting for him on his desk. He settles into his chair with a mug of coffee and throws himself into making a dent in the pile. It's mid-morning by the time he rouses himself with a start and realizes the rest of the team has long since come in, working quietly in their respective offices.
He steps out of his own office, stretching out the crick in his neck, and sees Chin wave at him from behind his desk, phone clutched to his ear. Steve nods at him before he knocks on Kono's wall and sticks his head through her open door.
"Howzit, boss?" she asks him without missing a beat, and Steve smiles at the familiar greeting.
Kono looks exhausted, hair disheveled and eyes slightly puffy, but the grin she shoots him is genuine and there is warmth behind her brown eyes.
"Listen, last night–" Steve pauses against her doorway, unsure of the question he would like to ask. "Are you good?"
"Steve– I–" Kono opens her mouth, looks at him once and glances away quickly. "I'm good," she answers resolutely, mouth firming in a thin line. "You've been away for a while, Steve."
He scrutinizes her for a few seconds, trying to gauge her response and the corresponding tensing in his own chest, but Kono has flipped open her laptop and is focused intently on the screen in front of her.
"I know," Steve states simply, and turns to exit her office.
Steve swings back around briefly and raises a questioning eyebrow.
"It's good to have you back." Kono smiles at him softly, meeting his eyes, before returning her attention to her computer.
Steve heads for Danny's office and is unsurprised to see him pacing heatedly around his desk, glaring pointedly at his phone.
"Can you believe this guy?" Danny growls, jabbing angrily at the air. "Not twelve hours after Kono shoots his shark of a lawyer, he's got another one in, just as slimy and repulsive, raising hell at HPD and claiming we don't have anything on him. You think he'd have learned his lesson."
Steve crosses his arms in front of him and states levelly, "Adam."
"No, the goddamn lawyer. What do the Yakuza have, an assembly line of these guys?" Danny swipes a hand exasperatedly through his hair.
Steve grimaces. "You know how this is gonna play out, Danno. Yoshimuri'll pull one string or another and he'll be out by tomorrow. We don't have much and the charges probably won't stick."
Danny mutters something unintelligibly. "At least we have a cell-full of his thugs too. Damn lawyer can't get them all off."
Steve nods in the direction of Kono's office. "So what's the story there? How did you miss that?"
Danny throws up his hands. "Don't look at me, super SEAL. Nobody's talking here. This came out of left field. You know Kono - she keeps things pretty tight to the vest."
Steve glances back at Kono, studies the curve of her profile, the tilt of her head across her desk, and feels that strange tightening across his chest, in the muscles of his shoulders.
Danny lays a hand against his back. "Hey, she's our girl. She'll be okay."
"Yeah." Steve looks back at Danny and makes a move to leave.
"Wait–" Danny holds a hand up, his entire demeanor abruptly changing. "You're not off the hook, Steven. You picked up and went all lone wolf on us, and you think we're just gonna hug it out and let you off that easy?"
Steve blinks at his partner.
"6:30 tonight. Hilton Hawaiian Village. Team dinner and drinks – on you. I'll save my yelling for then." Danny beams at him, wide and bright, and ushers him out the door before adding, "Better not forget your wallet this time."
Steve grins inwardly to himself as he slips back into his own office. The rest of the day passes uneventfully, allowing him time to get readjusted and settle back in, and at this point Steve is grateful for small miracles. He knows his decision to pick up and leave was reckless and selfish, but it was something he had needed to do. He hadn't been able to lead his team the way they deserved, a part of him constantly wanting to be somewhere else, searching for answers, and he hopes they understand that. He may not have found what he was searching for, but within the past few days he had tracked down and taken the man behind his father's murder into custody, the man that had eluded him for over a year, and dealt the Yakuza a heavy blow in the process. His team had held down the fort in his absence and was, for the most part, doing well. On the whole, Steve reflects, it had been a good week.
They get their usual table next to the beach, and Steve orders the first round of beers. Danny is talking fast and animatedly, filling Steve in on the events of the past weeks.
"Let's see, what did you miss? How about the fact that Max is adopted and his biological mother was murdered by a serial killer, who Max in turn stabbed in the heart with a nasty shard of glass – let me tell you, totally did not think he had it in him – and in the process cleared the name of the wrongfully convicted killer," Danny lists off his fingers.
"Then the entire island, not to mention the planet, was threatened with biological warfare of epidemic proportions and your SEAL pal from NCIS LA came to town with his partner and we got caught in the middle of a gypsy blood feud. Then Chin and I flew to LA where my hair got insulted, a dwarf of a woman frightened the living daylights out of me, we stopped a psychotic, mass-murdering doctor, and oh yeah, did I mention – saved the world, yet again."
Steve stares at his partner, then gazes around at Chin and Kono, both of who break into peals of laughter. Something in Steve loosens as he takes in the sight of Kono, head thrown back and eyes crinkled, the lines of her face smoother and more relaxed than he's seen yet.
"Yep, that about sums it up," Chin affirms, raising his beer bottle to Danny's.
"Uh, I may need a quick briefing on some of those cases," Steve begins. "But wait a minute – Sam Hanna was in town? And you met Hetty Lange?"
"Of all the things I just said that's what you pick up on? A missed connection with your insane SEAL buddy?" Danny rolls his eyes. "What is it with you Navy SEALs? He says you owe him a steak dinner."
"Probably owe him two now, at this rate," Steve grins. "Good thing I was out of town then."
"For fuck's sake, he named my car Winifred," Danny mutters, but Chin pushes another beer at him and he falls silent.
"Did you find Shelburne?" Kono asks suddenly, changing the subject, her eyes questioning and serious.
Steve rubs a hand across his face. "No. Turns out Wo Fat and I were both in Osaka looking for the same thing. I'm still no closer to figuring out anything."
He's surprised when Kono reaches over from her seat beside him, feels her fingers encircle his arm in a brief squeeze.
"So you went away for nothing. You're such an irresponsible jerk," Danny grumbles, and Steve smirks at him.
"So you did miss me after all." He laughs and dodges the handful of macadamia nuts Danny chucks at him.
The beams of the setting sun play across the faces of his teammates, casting them in a mellow, rosy glow, and as Steve glances around at them a hushed contentment steals through him, filling his lungs, filtering through his pores. He was still hunting for his answers, but somehow in the last two years this – these people – had become the reason to stay, the reason to fight, the reason he came back, every time.
The evening wears on and the moon climbs high into the sky, a vibrant and lonely sentinel above the flickering blanket of lights covering the city. Eventually Chin pushes up from his chair and claps Steve on the back.
"Gotta get going. Malia's going to be wondering where I am. It's been fun, brah. See you tomorrow."
Danny follows soon after, and Steve finds himself sitting next to Kono, watching the wind gently tug at strands of her hair, glimmering faintly in the moonlight.
"Yeah," Kono murmurs, but she makes no move to leave.
"Another one?" Steve sees her nod, and signals the waitress. They fall into a comfortable silence while they wait for their drinks, and then Steve clears his throat hesitantly, uncertain how to broach the subject.
"So, uh, you and Adam?" He motions between them with a finger and feels like an idiot.
Kono stares down at the bottle between her hands, scraping idly at the label. "Yeah."
There's a weird clenching in his gut, a coil of something cold and rigid that he refuses to identify right now, and he is so completely not the type of guy to pry but the words leave his mouth unbidden. "How long has this been going on?"
Kono's answer is subdued. "A couple weeks." She raises her head, meets his eyes fully. "It may not have been the best idea, but – " she shrugs, and gives him a small, rueful smile.
Steve nods, swallows hard, and understands in a visceral place that it is neither his position nor right to say anything more. He reflects on the year they've had, on everything Kono's gone through in the past months, and questions, yet again, how much he might have changed or prevented had he only made different choices. He suspects what choosing to leave, this time, has cost him.
Steve has always been a man who's made his choices unhesitatingly; picked a turn and barreled forward, consequences be damned. But lately the consequences have been high; the price steep. He's not quite sure just when he became this person weighed down with doubts and second-guesses. It's not a good look for him, he thinks.
They sit in silence for several minutes, and Steve listens to the slow crash of the waves while he tries to figure out where they go from here.
"Steve," Kono says quietly, placing a hand back on his arm. "I did mean to tell you guys about him. When you got back. He told me that he was trying to change, trying to clean up his father's business, and I believed him."
Steve looks at her and sees the absolute betrayal laid bare on her face, the hurt she doesn't pretend to hide, and instinctively he inches his seat closer to her, drapes his arm against the back of her chair.
"What happened?" he inquires softly.
Kono snorts. "He pointed a gun at me, gagged me, tied me up, and left me. Then tried to kill you and Wo Fat. I'm not sure where we go from there." She shrugs again, the slope of her shoulders, the jut of her chin at once defiant and heartbroken. Steve feels like jamming his fist through Adam's windpipe and ripping it out.
"I'm sorry," Kono continues after a beat. "I never meant for this to happen, to put you in this position. I know what the name Noshimuri means to you. I know what Hiro did to your family. But it all just happened so fast, and I was so deep before I knew it. I–I'm sorry."
Kono's voice cracks slightly and Steve wraps his hand around her shoulder and tightens, a part of him marveling at her uncharacteristic lack of defenses tonight, at the unreserved way she was leading him through, behind her walls.
"There's nothing you need to be sorry about," he tells her. "A man doesn't have to be like his father."
Steve remembers his own father, the secrets he kept and the words that would forever pass unsaid between them. He wonders if he ever really knew the man his father was; if John McGarrett would approve of the man his son had grown into, if he had turned into a version of his father, and his father before that, the line of McGarretts stretching all the way into the dusty books of history. For all of his life he had been on parallel tracks with his dad, never intersecting, doing his damnedest to run as fast and as far away as possible. It was the crack of a gunshot over the phone, the flurry of rifle shots at his father's funeral, that ended up bringing him back here, full-circle, left with only a beat-up toolbox and an acrid mouthful of questions and regrets.
Steve thinks about Adam and Hiro Noshimuri, about the remorse and disappointments that must have trickled down between father and son, and he recognizes with startling clarity that in the end it always came down to the same thing: a son avenging his father, carrying on the family lineage. Maybe he and Adam were two sides of the same coin, except he had a badge and a taskforce, and Adam had a clan. But in the end, how much difference did that really make?
Steve wonders about the role Kono plays in the Noshimuri story, how her part became interwoven amongst this patriarchal narrative. But mostly, he finds himself wondering about the role Kono plays in his own story; about how much of her path would ever intersect with his. There are things he wants to ask her: about Adam, about regret and uncertainty and opportunity and hope, but he thinks better of it; intuits there is a time, and a place, for these things.
He wonders if he's missed it.
Kono stirs and lets out a sigh, muted and drained. She presses back, firmly, into his arm.
Steve shifts and repositions himself more comfortably around her. "You good?" he asks lightly.
"Good," she replies, and they sit there together watching the buzz and chatter of the tourists nearby, illuminated beneath the stars, drifting into an easy stillness.
Kono leans over and rests her head against him, hair tickling his cheek. She smells like coconut and ocean, like island and home. Steve turns his face against the crown of her head and breathes deeply, in and out.