Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to the TV series, Hawaii Five-0.
Note: I started writing this just after episode 4.02 aired so I apologize for any overlap, but I'm fairly certain the rest of this tale will not coincide much with what we see on the show. Please, enjoy!
You Owe Me
N. J. Borba
The gentle, soothing crash of waves greeted her upon waking.
Catherine slowly opened her eyes and focused in the dimly lit living room of the McGarrett family home where she found herself curled up on the sofa. The cozy beach house was a place she'd come to think of fondly as a home away from home. Not that there were many places she'd ever thought of as home other than base housing or a berth on a ship. A lifetime spent following her father's naval career around the world had rolled into her doing the very same thing. Catherine had never settled anywhere she could truly call home.
She yawned as her eyes greeted the smiling face of Kamekona's shrimp symbol. The face was slightly rumpled, parts of him disappearing in to the folds of jersey cotton. But she could still make out the words: Honolulu Shrimps, in red block lettering. Catherine smiled as her gaze shifted upward to the shirt's owner. Steve had his head resting against the back of the soft-brown leather sofa. He was seated mostly upright, though relaxed and clearly asleep by the gentle intake and exhale of breath she could hear through his slightly parted lips.
Tendrils of memory flooded back, covering the day's events. Grace had hit a grand slam to center field that had won the game for the Shrimps, which had equaled a loss for her Navy Brats. Catherine had been thrilled for the little girl, though, a young woman whom she'd come to think of lovingly as a niece. After the game there'd been a huge celebration at Kamekona's shrimp truck, later drinks with Steve, Chin and Danny. After which she and Steve had headed home and forgone showers or changing in favor of watching TV.
Their TV watching, however, had turned swiftly into a nap on the sofa. But the soft TV glow still flickered in the room, though the volume had been muted.
The warm weight of Steve's right hand pressed against her forehead caused Catherine to close her eyes again. His left hand rested softly against her thigh as she lay curled on her side against him, head upon his lap, legs outstretched across the remainder of the sofa. Even in sleep he was keeping a close hold on her. In the last week he'd kept her close every chance he got, clingier than usual, always falling asleep with his hands somewhere upon her flesh in an attempt to keep her nearby.
It didn't take a genius to figure out the reason behind his closeness. She knew it was because of her abduction last week, though they hadn't spoken about it. That seemed to be one of the unwritten rules of their relationship, not talking much about the serious stuff. Often it was due to hectic work schedules, but Catherine knew there were deeper reasons, their navy backgrounds being a huge one. They lived according to the mentality of, don't speak about it unless asked a direct question.
But his few words that day at Ka'ena Point had spoken volumes. I'm not gonna lose you.
"You okay?" Steve interrupted her thoughts. "I know you're not asleep."
Catherine's eyes reopened upon hearing the sleepy timbre of his concerned voice. She remembered those words as well. You okay? He'd asked her that question several times in a row that day at Ka'ena Point. She looked up into his gray-blue eyes and got lost in them for a moment. The thumb of his right hand lightly smoothed a ridge of slightly puckered skin high on her forehead, the tiny scar that remained from her ordeal after he'd found her at the park, hands tied and forehead bloodied.
She wore a confident smile for him. "Fine. Why? Do you want to gloat some more about today?" she tried to ease out of the past, infuse their dark memories with happier ones.
The corners of his eyes crinkled as a smile lit his face. It stared on one side and spread slowly, a sort of sly and teasing grin. "I can't help that the better team won," Steve replied.
"Is that right?" she felt sleep drifting further away as his smile shown down on her.
"Come on, Cath, you were happy for Grace, weren't you?" he probed.
She wasn't upset at him for using one of her favorite kids against her. "Yes, of course I was happy for Grace," Catherine agreed, voicing her earlier thoughts. "She did great. With no help from you or Danny," she laughed softly as she eyed him, noticing the mock look of hurt on his face. "You know, since I'm leaving active duty I won't be with the Navy Brats team next season. I was thinking maybe I could help Danny coach Grace's team," she shrugged, feeling his hand squeeze a little against her thigh. "That way I could actually root for her."
"I help Danny coach Grace's team," Steve pointed out in a mater-of-fact tone.
"Yeah…" Catherine pursed her lips, trying not to smile. "Not so much," she shook her head.
His grin remained despite her playful dig. "Not nice," Steve tickled the spot of bare leg behind her left knee and was happy to watch her squirm for a moment. He furthered the spirited moment, one hand edging toward her waist, his head dipping lower as he went in for a kiss. Steve stopped a mere breath away from her lips and suddenly paused, turned his head and glanced at the TV. "Cath, what are you watching?"
Slightly disappointed, she had to pivot and face the TV again in order to recall what was on. Catherine grinned as she spotted the program. "Hmm, I see dogs being paraded around some sort of auditorium…" she trailed off for a second, reaching for the remote to turn the volume back up. Catherine watched the end of a performance, a perfectly groomed poodle jumping through plastic hula hoops, backwards. "You know, I think it might be a dog show," she finally concluded.
"Very funny," he replied good-naturedly. "Can you not be a smart ass for two minutes and please tell me that you accidently stopped on this channel and are not really interested in watching this…" he paused again for a moment to see a man coach a Dalmatian to spin on its hind legs, "For fun?" Steve concluded with a scrunched nose.
"It's Saturday night, there's not a lot on," Catherine shrugged, interested in the show again. "Plus you fell asleep on me. And who doesn't like dogs? Remember when I told you about the dog I had when I was a kid?" she could see the contemplative look on his face, the one she read as him trying to recall if she had indeed told him about the dog, which then turned in to him worrying that she'd be upset if he'd forgotten. "I named him Cowboy," she tried to further jog his memory.
"That name doesn't ring any bells, but I know he was a…" Steve could tell she was certain he'd forgotten. "Yellow Lab," he remembered. "It was after midnight on Christmas Eve when six-year-old Catherine snuck downstairs to see what Santa had left her. But there were no Santa presents under the tree so she went into the garage and discovered a puppy in a large refrigerator cardboard box behind her dad's work bench. And her parents found her there Christmas morning, curled up with the puppy," Steve concluded. The awestruck look on her face was well worth holding on to that memory for. "So this Cowboys thing has been going on for a while," he teased, recalling her poor taste in football teams.
"We were stationed at Corpus Christie at the time, and I was only six," she defended. Steve absently stroked her hair with his right hand. His other hand returned to her thigh as she spoke. "Cowboy was the greatest dog," she recalled fondly, "So friendly and smart. I taught him how to greet my dad at the door with slippers in his mouth."
Steve couldn't help smile at that comment, touched by how much she adored her dad. The one time he'd met her father, Rear Admiral David Rollins had shown Steve pictures of her ice skating and also of her on a hunting trip with the admiral when she'd been ten years old. The warrior princess, her father had called her. Steve was almost certain he'd never met a father more proud of his daughter, or more protective, except for Danny. "Cowboy moved around with you then?"
"Of course," she nodded, sighing contentedly as his right hand moved to rest against her shoulder. "We moved around a lot so there were new schools and new cities. Cowboy was my constant friend. Kind of like a… sibling."
The TV was the only sound for a short while after that, but neither of the room's occupants were paying much attention as their eyes danced with one another.
Steve thought he caught a hint of sadness in her tone at the mention of her dog being like a sibling. He knew her to be an only child so it made perfect sense to him that she'd grown so attached to a pet. He finally leaned down again, one hand against the back of her head as he drew her close and stole the kiss he'd been fishing for earlier. Their lips met, quiet desire sweeping over them. Sometimes things between them were rushed, especially if their jobs dictated only a brief reunion, as had been the case many a time the last few years. But they both appreciated the allotment of moments in which they were able to take their time.
Even though they had time now, Steve cut their embrace short. He brushed a lock of hair behind her ear, gazed into her dark eyes and asked, "Can we talk?"
She silently shifted to a sitting position, turned off the TV and faced him. He rarely asked to talk. Either they spontaneously found themselves talking or they participated in non-talking activities. Given his penchant for infrequent talks her thoughts jumped to all sorts of conclusions. "What's wrong?" she asked cautiously. "Is it your mom? Have you heard from Doris recently? Did something happen with Kono? Are she and Adam still safe? Is Mary in some sort of trouble?"
He reached out and placed his broad hands on her shoulders. "Not about any of that," Steve said. "Us," he finally relayed.
Her stomach flip-flopped a little, and not in a good way. Catherine had a feeling she knew exactly what he was about to bring up. "You said we were good," she made a preemptive strike. "That's why you gave me permission to take the job with Harrington."
"No. See, this is why I wanted to talk," his head shook with regret. "I never meant for that to come out as me giving you permission for something. I don't want to be that guy. I just wanted you to know that we were good and if you wanted to take the job you should because you'd be great at it. You're great at everything you do, not to mention beautiful, sexy…"
Catherine couldn't help smile. "Easy there, sailor, no need to go overboard with the compliments," she chuckled softly but hoped to resume some sort of meaningful conversation. "Steve, I just want to be sure you're not going to freak out about me and Billy working together. What we had was never really… it wasn't like you and I. It was pretty much over before it was ever a thing."
"It's fine, Cath," he assured her. "I won't think less of you if you take the job now because you know I'm okay with it."
Her eyes rolled. "Oh, jeez," she groaned with a frown. "I should've known something was up when you wanted to talk. You don't talk, you just gloat; first about the softball game and now this job with Billy. You're impossible," she tried to bat his arms away as they snaked around her waist.
"I'm the impossible one?" he scoffed.
"An impossible, overgrown, Neanderthal man," Catherine further protested his advances. "And just when I was about to tell you how glad I was to know you feel confident in me and Billy working together."
Steve held her close, though she was attempting to turn away from him. He felt rather bad when she shot him a withering look, genuinely upset over his comments. "Hey," he pulled away a little, allowing her some space. Steve was thankful when she didn't leap from the sofa. "The other day when you mentioned being happy, you just looked so… happy," he dared to reach out and caress her cheek, wishing he'd been able to better express himself. "That's all I want, Cath, for you to be happy," Steve relayed with sincerity. "I wanted to be sure this was serious for you; that it would be something to contribute to your happiness. I see now that it is. And I apologize for my Neanderthal comments."
She finally saw the truth behind his eyes as he spoke. "Apology accepted," Catherine easily forgave him. It took a lot of restraint for her to not say out loud that the one thing that truly made her happy was being with him. It seemed far too sappy a thing to declare. And if there was one thing Steve McGarrett was not, it was sappy.
"What's wrong?" Steve asked, noticing her far-off look.
Catherine wasn't sure why her thoughts suddenly spiraled back to her abduction, but she still felt foolish for having gotten caught that day. Her car trouble and the tow truck that just miraculously appeared at that exact time, it had all been far too coincidental. And if she'd been thinking clearly she would have smelled a trap. But her thoughts had been filled with worry for Steve that day. She realized they were always filled with worry for him, even though she knew better than anyone how capable he was of taking care of himself.
With as few words as possible, she attempted to relay her feelings. "Nothing's wrong, I…" her breath hitched with emotion. "I just don't know what I'd do without you," Catherine whispered. For a moment, as his eyes turned contemplative, she feared telling him that had been worse than the sappy thought she'd had earlier.
"You'll never have to find out," he assured her, tenderly cupping her face before pressing his lips against hers.
Closing her eyes and giving in to his touch, Catherine was fairly certain their exchange just now was the closest either of them had ever come to saying I love you to one another.
With Danny in his wake, Steve powered through the throng of shoppers.
The ubiquitous Hawaiian sun hung brightly above them as they maneuvered through the open air shopping market that was mostly a strip mall. Shops of all sorts stood in a line like staunch soldiers facing their daily tasks with an ease of familiarity. Their exteriors of neutral colors reflected the sandy beach that resided a few blocks away. A narrow, pale blue awning adorned one shop in particular. That was the one Steve had aimed himself toward, heart pounding as the task ahead of him was causing doubts to swirl in his mind.
"What is this, where are you going in such a hurry?" Danny asked as he marched behind his partner.
"I'm not in a hurry," Steve shook his head.
"Really?" Danny was not convinced, having been awoken early and then focused to pick up and drive his practically mute friend to a shopping center. "So this military quick-step, this is what you consider not being in a hurry? This is normal for you?" Danny inquired.
Steve shrugged but said nothing.
Danny did his best to remain unruffled as was usually the case when dealing with his irascible partner. "So what's the deal, we have a case here?" he asked, spotting the jewelry store sign above the blue awning just before Steve opened the door. "What went down here, some sort of a heist? How much did they get? Was anyone hurt in the robbery?" Danny's slew of questions continued unanswered. "This place looks pretty clean, very clean. We miss the crime scene already? Any information on the guys who did it?"
"Danny, we're not here on a case," Steve finally responded, looking around and feeling rather out of place in the brightly lit and highly polished surroundings of the jewelry store. "It's Sunday, we have the day off," he added, headed toward one of the shiny glass cases by the window.
"We do? News to me," Danny's brow creased as he eyed his partner, finally noticing Steve's uncomfortable stance as he peeked in one of the cases. "What are we doing here then?"
"I need a ring," Steve answered, doing his best to play it cool.
"A ring?" Danny questioned the odd statement. "Interesting. I never really pictured you as the ring type, but okay. I guess you could be nearing a mid-life crisis of some sort. Usually guys go for a car in that case. We can go look at cars if you want, get you a nice red sporty one with a convertible top. Maybe find you a girl half your age," he rambled. "Although then Catherine would probably kill me and I have a daughter to think about."
Steve turned to face the shorter man. "I just need a ring, Danny," he said before making his way to the main counter, a U-shaped embankment of glass cabinets. At the center of which stood a tall woman with jet black hair pulled back and tired at the base of her neck.
"Sure, whatever you say," Danny continued to glanced at some of the rings in a glass cabinet by the window. "None of these look very manly. No Super Bowl rings, no class rings…"
As Danny continued to ramble, the woman at the main counter smiled at Steve. "I'm Nina," she introduced herself and then looked over her shoulder at Danny. "Your partner seems a little uptight," she noticed.
"Yeah, that's kind of his thing," Steve smiled sweetly for the woman. "So… we're here for an engagement ring," he managed to get the words out without too much difficulty.
"We are?" it was Danny who seemed the most surprised. His eyes widened as he glanced over his shoulder at Steve. "That's news to me, too," he winked at the female clerk.
"I take it the ring is for your partner?" the jewelry clerk asked of Steve.
He thought it was a little odd that she'd refer to Catherine as his partner, though he'd gone that route before as well. It had taken him a while to finally admit she was more than just a friend and that what they had going was more than just a thing. It had taken the memory of his dear friend, Freddie, telling him not screw things up with Catherine. It had taken his mother asking Catherine to lie for her. It had taken a crazy man abducting Catherine to make him realize it.
"Yeah," he smiled, though he was more nervous than the last time he'd walked in to North Korea.
"Have the two of you been together long?" Nina asked.
"Uh, several years," Steve answered. "Off and on, it was kind of a long distance thing for a while."
Danny sauntered over. "Reason number one hundred and one why I don't like this island, have you seen the price of some of these rings? The mark-up here is ridiculous. I had a buddy back in Jersey, got me a great deal on Rachel's ring. Real deal, too."
The clerk eyed Danny with an oddly contemplative look for a moment. "You were married before? To a woman?"
"And let me tell you, that did not end well," Danny's head shook.
Nina nodded, a bit sympathetically. "Yes, I can imagine, since you're obviously…" she trailed off and pulled out a large tray of rings. "Are you looking for something specific; gold, white gold? Sterling is also quite popular again these days."
"Definitely gold," Steve and Danny replied at the same time.
The woman grinned and began to pull out some of the gold bands.
"This is kind of impulsive, don't you think?" Danny voiced his concern. The more he thought about it the odder and more out of character it seemed for Steve to suddenly be in a ring store and using the word engagement. "You don't do impulsive, unless it means jumping out of a window to tackle a guy in a pool," he remarked with unmasked skepticism. "How long have you had this plan under wraps?
"Decided this morning," Steve replied curtly. He looked to the sales clerk again. "Definitely gold, diamond, something simple and tasteful, delicate," he thought about the other jewelry he'd seen Catherine wear over the years and that description pretty much fit all of it.
She nodded her understanding. "And will the two of you want matching engagement rings, or just the one for now?"
"Just the one," Steve replied.
Danny noticed a strange, somewhat judgmental, look on the clerk's face just before she nodded and went about showing Steve more rings. "What's with this lady, she seem a bit slow to you?" Danny asked, keeping his voice low and waving a hand at the woman as he spoke right in front of her. "Have you not been in this business long?" he finally asked her outright. "Typically only women wear engagement rings."
With a slightly shocked look, the clerk recovered quickly and eyed Danny. "Typically, yes," Nina hesitantly agreed. "Though in your situation…" she paused a second before her eyes widened. "Oh, so you'll be the one wearing the engagement ring then?"
"Say what now?" Danny's face paled.
"I take it you're the more, how shall I say… feminine one in this partnership?" Nina ventured.
"This partnership?" Danny squeaked out the words. He and Steve shared a confused glance for a second and then immediately jumped apart.
"No, no, no," Steve was shaking his head. "This is my partner," he motioned to Danny, "As in, we work together. The ring is for my girlfriend, female girlfriend. A real, live, actually born-that-way female. Trust me on that."
Danny was almost offended but he grinned as he moved back to Steve's side. "So this means you're dumping me? Are you trying to say that what we had together wasn't real? I'm not woman enough for you?" he deadpanned.
Steve elbowed him in the side. "Would you knock it off?"
A bark of laughter escaped Danny's lips.
"So the two of you are not a couple?" the clerk sought clarification.
"Nope," Danny confirmed. "Definitely not a couple. He's too high maintenance for me," he chuckled again.
"Why are there so many?" Steve was too busy staring at the vast array of rings to be bothered further by Danny's jokes. "I just want something… I don't know, maybe a little different from the norm, meaningful," he sighed. Steve realized he really wasn't sure what he wanted, certainly not in an engagement ring, and also not from his relationship with Catherine.
"Sir, we can have any ring here in the store engraved, personalized to your liking," Nina suggested.
Steve shook his head. "Not what I meant."
"You'll have to forgive him," Danny stepped in. "You see, he's taken years to get to this point right here where we are now," Danny's right index finger was extended and made a spiral movement in the air above the ring case. "He still barely calls the woman his girlfriend. Just thought I should warn you, you know, because we could be here a while." Danny glanced at his friend again and watched him for a moment. "Just be sure," Danny said.
With a softly crinkled brow, Steve shrugged. "Sure?"
"Yeah," Danny pressed his hands against the glass case and lightly drummed his fingers. "Sure that you're doing this for the right reason."
"What wrong reason would there be to marry a woman?" Steve asked.
"Uh, you want a list? Cause I could certainly get you a list," his partner looked at him like he was a complete idiot. "People get married all the time for the wrong reason, for money, for the kid's sake, for sex, for… jeez, are you kidding me with this?"
Steve shrugged again. "I was actually thinking more of a wrong reason for Catherine and me to get married. Which seemed to be implied in whatever you were trying to say," he waved a hand at Danny, clearly searching for more of an explanation.
"Okay, okay…" Danny sucked up his courage as Nina gave them some space in favor of helping a new customer who had entered the store. "You're right, can't fool you. I did have a specific wrong reason in mind. His name is Green-Eyed monster, Steven."
With wide, uncomprehending eyes, Steve stared at his friend and partner. "Danny, have you lost it? I mean for good this time?"
"Billy Harrington," was all Danny said in response.
Despite thinking of his and Catherine's relationship as secure, that name stung. He didn't want to be that sort of person, petty and jealous. Harrington was a good guy, a Navy guy. Steve honestly didn't think he was the sort to steal another man's girlfriend. "You think I'm doing this because I'm jealous of Harrington working with Catherine?"
"No," Danny countered. "I do not want to think that, but… I have to wonder. Mr. Super SEAL suddenly ready to settle down and be married?" he left the question hanging for a moment. "Tell me I'm wrong," Danny finally offered, his arms outstretched. "Tell me I'm completely bat-shit off base with this one and I'll gladly back down," he concluded.
Steve didn't bother to think it over any further before he replied, looking his friend in the eye. "You are completely bat-shit off base, Danny," he maintained.
Danny nodded and took his defeat gracefully, though he still had his doubts. "Then I'm very happy for you, man. Now… let's pick out a ring."
Soft rays of light filtered through the white curtains behind Steve's brass bed.
Catherine's arms stretched outward beneath the pillow under her cheek as she woke. She vaguely recalled Steve carrying her upstairs to bed the night before. After their brief talk, which had actually yielded a slightly more solid foundation for their future, they'd made love before falling asleep. With those happy memories in place Catherine lifted her head from the pillow, belly still in contact with the mattress, and scanned his side of the bed only to find it empty.
She reluctantly crawled out of bed, pleasantly achy from last night's activity. After throwing on one of Steve's t-shirts she wandered downstairs and found coffee and goji berry energy bars laid out in the kitchen. A small piece of white paper was propped against the coffee pot. Seeing her name written in Steve's handwriting she flipped it over and read, "Sorry I left so early. Plan on dinner tonight, I have somewhere special to take you, I promise this time," she ran a finger over the scrawled letter 'S' at the bottom of the note.
"I'll believe that when it happens," she smiled to herself.
The buzzing of her cell could be heard coming from the next room. Catherine moved into the living room and grabbed it off the coffee table. She sighed when she spotted the caller, not the person she'd been hoping to hear from. "Hey, Billy. I'm still on the Navy's payroll, remember?" she tried to keep her tone light, still not entirely convinced that working with the man was a good idea. But the job prospect was more than she could've hoped for straight out of her Navy retirement.
"I know, and I also realize it's a Sunday. But I really wanted to show you something," his reply came. "Can you meet me at ten this morning? I'll text you the address."
With a somewhat reluctant nod, she answered, "Sure, I'll be there."
"Thanks, Catherine. You're the best," he ended the call.
Not needing to be back at Pearl-Hickam until Monday morning, Catherine had been hoping for a leisurely day of surfing. Of course that plan had included Steve, who seemed to be missing in action. So, an hour later, she found herself at the address Billy had texted her. Catherine glanced around the entrance, unsure if she'd gotten the correct information from her new boss. She admired the old building for a moment. It's distinctly arched windows and terra cotta ornamentation were beautiful, but she'd driven by the landmark building on Merchant Street several times before and never noticed any business offices available in the structure other than the architectural firm that had been housed there for several years.
"I didn't realize this place had room for other offices," she spoke her thoughts to Billy as he approached her on the main floor lobby.
"Neither did I," he replied, ushering her toward the elevator, "Until my old friend, Martin Chase, told me about it. He works for the architecture firm here. We were having a couple of beers last week and Marty mentioned the top floor being vacant. Two days ago I managed to negotiate a rental deal," Billy smiled, clearly proud of himself.
"Lucky," she commented as they rode to the sixth level and entered directly into an open floor plan. There were no walls, just a few evenly spaced columns connecting to the ornate ceiling. All of the moldings and windows looked original and well preserved. "This place has got to be expensive," Catherine said as she further explored the space. "Hasn't it been on the historical register for years? I doubt we'll be able to get permits for office walls."
Billy Harrington nodded and flashed his school boy charming smile. "Don't worry about the money or permitting," he insisted. "I've got all the up-front costs covered and I have some contacts that will help. Before long you'll be helping this place draw in enough cash to keep us very comfortably retired someday. Now, look at this," he pressed one hand against her shoulder and guided her toward the north wall. "We'll put in a nice big private room back here where it's darker, for all the fancy equipment I plan to buy you."
Shrugging off his hand as best she could without pointing out how inappropriate it was, she did her best not to run all the way home to Steve and tell him he was right to be leery of her working with Harrington. "You mean us," Catherine tried to correct him. "This is a business and we'll be working together," she noted. "It's not like you're buying me gifts."
"Right," he nodded. "No, of course I didn't mean it like that. I just want you to have the best." Billy grinned again. "Catherine, I know to most people this probably seems absurd. The two of us working together when we once dated," he sighed. "But I've put that behind us. I believe we'll work great together," he eyed her for a moment, hoping she'd be in agreement. "Listen, if you're not comfortable with any of this please tell me the truth now and we can end this deal before it even begins," Billy offered.
Those words helped her remember the Billy Harrington she'd first met, polite, honest and caring. Catherine had only ever known him to be a good person and great at his job. "No, Billy. I think we can both make this work," she nodded.
"Yeah, you sure?" he cracked another smile as he watched her nod. "That's great," Billy stated as he wrapped his arms around her in a huge bear hug.
Steve stood on the sidewalk and nodded as he listened to the man on the other end of his cell phone.
"Yep, I got it. Thanks, Chin," Steve ended the call and watched as Danny moved toward him with one meat and vegie kabob in each hand. "Nice, glad you got portable food because we just snagged a case," Steve informed his partner as he took one of the sticks, bit off a grilled tomato and nodded toward the new black Camaro that they'd parked earlier. "You drive," he instructed before sliding into the passenger seat.
Still a bit dumbfounded by his partner's declaration, Danny got into the driver's seat and held his lunch in his teeth before starting the vehicle. "Did something happen in the ten minutes it took me to get lunch?" Danny asked. "You fell and bumped your head or something. Why is it that I'm allowed to drive my own car twice today?"
Holding his half eaten kabob, Steve shrugged. "I'm eating. We've got a body washed up on the north shore. Let's roll."
Danny was torn for a moment, his stomach growling as he revved the engine. A case usually took precedence over anything, but when he was hungry he was hungry. He looked forlornly at the kabob in his hand then reluctantly passed it off to Steve before pulling the Camaro out into the flow of traffic. Before he could retrieve his lunch, Danny watched Steve take a bite of the second kabob. "Not safe to eat and drive," Steve mumbled around his mouthful.
"You're an animal, Steven," Danny lamented as he made a left turn and headed on to the highway, "A real animal."
Steve passed the rest of the kabob back to his friend and settled into his seat. He did his best not to backseat drive from the passenger seat as Danny aimed them toward the north shore. They were only ten minutes into the long drive, and finished with lunch, when every so often he caught his partner glancing over at him. "What?" Steve finally asked.
"What, what?" Danny shrugged.
"What's the look on your face?" Steve tried to clarify.
"There's no look," Danny was quick to respond. "This is just the way I look. This is my face."
"No, that right there is a look I know well," McGarrett retorted. "It's the look that tells me you want to say something that you think will piss me off. But that normally doesn't stop you from saying it," Steve observed.
Danny's mind shifted to the last three years of his life in Oahu with Steve as his partner. He hadn't started to think of Steve as a friend until he'd finally seen a small glimpse of humanity in the man. That humanity had first truly arrived in the form of a goofy I-got-some-last-night smile. Over the years, Danny had seen Steve's goofy smile mature; from silly to smitten, and eventually into a full blown I'm-in-love smile. All due to one person, a woman named Catherine. "Really, none of them were right?" he finally asked his friend.
Steve sighed, knowing exactly what his partner was referring to. "I looked at all of those rings at least three times, Danny. None of them jumped out at me and yelled Catherine."
"Oh, you want something to jump out at you," Danny mocked. "I see, very interesting. You want to know what I think?"
"Not so much," Steve's answer was swift.
"Funny. Well, I think that maybe none of those rings were right because you're not really ready," Danny voiced his opinion. "You think you're ready but you're not. You, my friend, are scared of the next step. Not that I can blame you because marriage is… well, not for the faint of heart, that's for sure."
Steve sat a little straight in his seat and responded with tight lips, "I'm not scared of anything."
"Uh, huh… not buying it," Danny instantly shot him down. "See, you seem to forget that I know you. Remember about three years ago, you and I in your father's garage? You recruited me and I thought you were completely insane. A theory, by the way, which three years later has only solidified in my head. But that's really beside the point because I know you love Catherine, even though that Super SEAL, Rambo brain of yours tends to lock it down as much as possible. And then there's the whole my mother died when I was fifteen and I never really got over that, still haven't even though she's alive again."
"What are you, my shrink?" Steve sneered.
Danny visible shuttered. "Uh, no. God forbid anyone ever actually takes that job title under consideration," his head shook. "I'm just trying to point out that you, my friend, have some issues with the people you love slipping away. And I get that, I do. Your father, your mother, heck even Mary is in and out of your life all the time. And you're afraid that if you try to have something good and constant, for example, Catherine as your fiancé or wife," he paused a moment. "Then that will somehow get blown up as well."
Steve's jaw twitched as he focused his gaze on the road for a moment. "So, what if… what if I am? Scared."
Danny was nearly startled speechless at that response. "There's nothing wrong with that, Steven. Nothing at all. Completely valid fear."
Still feeling rather uncomfortable, and shocked by his own response, Steve dared to talk it out a little more. "Were you… you know, scared to ask Rachel to marry you?"
"Scared? Uh, no. Petrified actually," Danny admitted.
It seemed a little easier to get his feelings out as he spoke with his best friend, but Steve was still feeling a bit raw about the subject. "How'd you get over that?"
"That's an easy one," Danny shifted in his seat a little, both hands still on the wheel. "You see, I just had to stop and think about my life as it had been before I'd met Rachael. Then I thought about what life was like with her, and also about what the future could be like. I liked the present and future I saw a lot better than my past without her. Decision made."
The man in the passenger seat mulled over that seemingly simple explanation for a moment. "But you and Rachel's future fizzled," Steve needlessly pointed out.
Danny shrugged. "So it did. Still, would not trade what we had."
"Because of Grace," Steve said. It was not a question.
"Because of Grace," Danny promptly agreed. "But even without Grace I would've made the same decision. Some things you just know."
Steve mulled that over for a moment. "But it didn't work out."
"Okay, no. This has been established. Can you stop harping," Danny implored. He glanced over at his friend and realized Steve was still searching for answers. "Look, Rachael and me… well, we're not you and Catherine. Rachael couldn't handle the job, the distance, the being away at all times and not knowing what was going to happen to me. Catherine has already proven that's not an issue for her. You two had half the world between you more than once and you went on with your lives and then you ended up together again. Besides all that, the woman loves you. I know you two never say it because you've both got some weird thing going on, something like a completion maybe? I don't really know. But actions speak louder than words, my friend. She loves you. Despite your faults, of which there are plenty, I might add. She sticks by you, for whatever reason I haven't figured out," Danny smiled a little as he eyed his partner. "Anyhow, to break it down for you, yes. Second scariest thing you'll ever do is ask a woman to marry you."
"And the first?" Steve was curious.
Danny didn't have to think about the answer before he replied, "That's easy, becoming a father."
The body was laid out on the beach a few yards off, police surrounding the scene.
As Steve walked along the sandy shore, heavily crowded with surfers, he couldn't help think of Kono. The surf crashing upon the shore, coupled with Catherine's worry the other night that one of the things he'd wanted to talk about being Kono, caused him to think of the absent female on his team. They hadn't heard from her in over a week and although it worried him, he had faith in her ability to stay safe, to keep herself and Adam out of too much trouble until they came up with a feasible plan to deal with the Yakuza once and for all.
"Chin, Max," he greeted the medical examiner and his team member. "What have we got?" Steve asked as he crouched beside the victim, clearly female, Caucasian, dark haired. She was wearing swim attire, black board shorts and a fuchsia short-sleeved rash guard, both of which were soaked through. But Steve tried not to jump to conclusions as Danny was oft to do. "Drowning or some other COD?" he relayed the question to Max.
"My preliminary finding," Max began, speaking in his usual distinct and concise tone, "Reveal no outward sign of contusions, also no stab or gunshot wounds. Therefore I am leaning toward drowning as cause of death."
Danny nodded as he shifted his stance, hovering over the others. "But no confirmation until you run a full autopsy," he guessed.
"That is correct," Max agreed as he stood and directed his medical team to bag the body for transport.
"Thanks, Max," Steve said. "Take her in and let me know what you find as soon as possible, even if it's late tonight," he instructed, realizing he would most likely have to disappoint Catherine again by calling off their date. Not that his plans had gone well in that regard anyhow, given the lack of an engagement ring he was currently experiencing. "We got anything else?" Steve asked of Chin as they stood and scanned the shoreline.
"Just slightly more than nothing," Chin reluctantly informed his fellow Five-0 team members as they remained huddled close to Max and the victim. "Witnesses say they spotted her floating on the surface of the water shortly after daybreak. An early morning surfer pulled her in on his board. No one saw any boats, airplanes or helicopters in the area. And there was no identification on the body," Chin sighed. "Without knowing who she is I can't check nearby vehicles. Like I said, basically nothing."
"Due to the advanced bloating of the body, I'd she was out at sea for quite a while," Max put in another observance that he thought might help as he zipped up the black bag.
"How long?" Steve inquired.
"Best estimate without further testing…" the medical examiner mulled his answer, "Roughly twelve hours."
"Twelve hours?" Danny was surprised. "So, middle of the night. Maybe she was on a boat further from shore than what anyone on the beach might have seen."
"Maybe," Steve replied, not sure what to make of the case yet. "We need to ID her."
Chin nodded. "I took a picture with my cell," he relayed. "The face is terribly swollen, but it should still be enough to run facial recognition."
"Good, make that happen," Steve knew Chin would do his best. "Danny and I will stay to search the area," he relayed, "We'll meet you back at HQ later."
"Chin, tell me you've got something on our Vic," Steve said as he and Danny entered Five-0 headquarters nearly four hours after they'd all spoken over the victim's body.
He and Danny's shoreline search had gotten them nowhere. Not a single surveillance camera in the area had yielded any information about their victim. All of which led them to further believe she'd been out at sea somewhere via boat. But even their two dozen calls to local marinas over the course of a forty-five minute drive back to Honolulu had been a bust. There'd been no missing boats reported, no blood stains on returned boats, and not even any shady characters renting boats.
"You know I do," Chin pulled up the picture he'd taken of their female victim and displayed it for them on screen. "But I doubt you're going to like it," he warned. "Facial recognition got a hit on her DMV photo. Name is Cathleen Dugan; 34 years old, she worked as an engineering consultant and drafter at an architectural firm on Merchant Street in the central business district. Fairly low profile life. Credit card history shows run of the mil transactions, take-out, wind surfing equipment and a penchant for porcelain figurines called Hummel's," Chin shrugged in regard to the last mention and could see neither of them seemed to know what that meant either.
Steve crossed his arms as he regarded the DMV photo, noticing she was much prettier without blue, bloated skin. "Why'd you think I wasn't going to like this? Is there something I'm missing?" he wondered aloud.
With a reluctant sigh, Chin swiped his hand across the large touch screen and pulled up a document. He proceeded to swipe it onto one of the upright screens. "Hospital records show our Vic had been to the ER about three times in the last six months. Mostly minor stuff, but stiches were required twice. Still, could be wind surfing related. However, when I pulled up insurance records I found that she's covered under Naval Mutual. I then discovered an honorable discharged two years ago from service. Following that line, I found this," he tapped several icons on the screen as he spoke the next delicate words, "Apparently one of her recent romantic relationships was with Lieutenant William Harrington."
"Wait a minute," Steve felt a chill raise the hairs on his arms. "Harrington? As in the same Billy Harrington who is about to go into business with Catherine?"
A photo popped on screen showing Harrington and Dugan in formal dress at some sort of military gala.
"Yes, that Billy Harrington," Chin confirmed.
The HQ double doors opened at that moment and a police officer from HPD entered. "Commander McGarrett, this was just delivered for you at the main desk," the man spoke as he handed over a 5x7 white envelope. "I didn't realize you were working on a Sunday but then I spotted Detective Williams' car so I brought this straight up."
"Thanks, Higgins," Steve said, knowing the man from past encounters. He considered tossing the envelope aside, figuring it had nothing to do with their current case, but a feeling in his gut told him to open it. When he did, the feeling turned into dread. Steve pulled out the 4x6 amateur photographs and spread them across the tech table. "What the hell is this?"
"Uh," Danny stared at the images and his mouth went dry. "That would be Harrington and Catherine," he noted. "Hugging."
Steve's glare turned on Danny. "Yeah, I got that," he snapped. "This building looks familiar, doesn't it?" his next words were directed to Chin as he stabbed a finger at one picture with a good deal of the building's exterior visible.
"Yes, I know that building," Chin nodded as he tapped several keys on the touch screen display. "Here," he pulled up a larger exterior view that matched the smaller snapshot. "It houses a…" Chin paused. "Actually it houses an architectural firm, which happens to be the same one our Vic worked for," he concluded.
Steve scooped up the pictures and shoved them back into the envelope. He was headed toward the door without a word.
"Wait up!" Danny jogged after him. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to question my number one suspect," Steve replied with a dangerous tone as he roughly pushed the door open.
To be continued…