Coming Home – 1/2 – desertpoet

Title: Coming Home
Author: desertpoet
Fandom: NCIS/Hawaii Five-0
Genre: Romance, Crime Drama, First Time
Relationship(s): Tony DiNozzo/Steve McGarrett
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Explicit Sex, Graphic Violence, Major Character Injury, Permanent Injury, Bad Parenting/Child Neglect, Discussion-Murder, Death-Minor Character, Drug use
Author Notes: The drug use is minimally discussed but not shown. It involves a seventeen year old and is in reference to a case.
Beta: Thanks to Love Me Last, Annie, and Shallan
Word Count: 60000
Summary: Steve comes home to take care of his injured father and finds a lot more than he bargained for.
Artist: Thanks to SpencnerTibbsLuvr




Chapter One

Honolulu, Hawaii September 20, 2010

Tony took pictures as his client’s wife kissed her lover goodbye and got into her car. He made a note of the time in his log book. After his subject and her lover had driven away, he carefully put his camera away and then leaned his head back against the car’s headrest and closed his eyes. He’d been up since the early morning. He was tired and ready to call it a day. He’d been sitting in this car for the last three hours, but it had been worth it. He had more than enough evidence to close out the case.

He’d been following the woman for the past two weeks. Her husband of twenty years suspected his wife of cheating with someone much younger and better looking than him, and he’d been correct. However, the husband might be shocked to learn the other man was actually the other woman. He wasn’t going to be happy. Tony’d write up his report tomorrow, and finally get paid.

These kinds of cases were bread and butter for private investigators, and Tony was grateful for the work, but these types of jobs bored him out of his mind. Not to mention they were depressing as hell. Still, Mr. Andrews was willing to pay him handsomely. Tony couldn’t afford to turn the work down. Life in Hawaii wasn’t cheap.

He was supposed to have a trust fund from his grandmother, but his father had drained it for one of his many illegal business deals. It had been some sort of Ponzi scheme. Tony would have sued to get it back, but the likelihood he’d get any money back was incredibly small, and he just didn’t have the money to spend on it. He’d gotten an excellent severance package from NCIS after the mess with Rivkin and Ziva, and that helped keep him afloat.

Tony sighed heavily and reluctantly sat up. The sooner he got home, the sooner he could get something to eat and get some rest. He was looking forward to taking a few days off. Being able to surf or hike whenever he wanted was one of the best things about living here.

Just as he was about to drive away his cell rang. Tony smiled as he saw John McGarrett’s name flash across the screen. Being near his old friend was definitely another perk of living in Hawaii. John and Tony had kept in touch over the years. When Tony left his job at NCIS, there really hadn’t been any question where he wanted to go.

“Hey, old man.”

John huffed but otherwise ignored his teasing. “Tony, are you still working?”

“Nope. I’m all done. I got all the evidence I needed. My meeting with the client isn’t until tomorrow, so I was just about to go home and crash.”

“Oh. Well, you should go home and rest. We can talk later. You work too hard.” Tony heard the sound of water running and stopping.

John sounded a little disappointed to Tony. “I’m fine. The job was an easy one. I just had to make sure I got what the client wanted. What’s up? Do you need something?” Then he heard the sound of a pot being set down on the stove top. John was cooking. Tony’s stomach rumbled, reminding him it had been a while since he’d eaten.

“I just wondered if you wanted to come over for lunch. Maybe catch a game on TV, but it can wait for another day.”

Tony was a little torn. Part of him wanted to go home, but maybe he should take John up on his offer. Tony knew John was lonely. He didn’t have any family living on the island. Tony valued his friendship a great deal. It didn’t hurt that John was also an excellent cook.

“Actually, I could use a beer right about now. I just can’t promise I won’t fall asleep on you.”

John chuckled. “That’s fine. You know you’re welcome to crash here if you want. The guest room is always ready for you.”

Tony smiled, suddenly feeling better than he had all night. He always had an emergency change of clothes in his trunk, so there was no need to stop at home. Maybe he would stay the night at John’s. The offer was a tempting one.

“Okay, I’m on my way, but I’m about an hour away. Less if the traffic isn’t too bad.” He hoped the lunchtime traffic cooperated, but he wasn’t holding his breath.

“Good. I’ll see you then.”

Saying goodbye Tony hung up. He was suddenly feeling much more alert. Maybe a relaxing afternoon, conversation, and a good meal were just what he needed.

The drive to John’s place took longer than Tony had expected. He wasn’t surprised. He knew better than to be optimistic about Honolulu traffic. It gave D.C. traffic a run for its money. Still, the gorgeous views and the beautiful weather were far superior.

Tony realized he hadn’t asked John if he could bring anything. He should at least offer. He called him again, but John didn’t answer. John almost always answered his phone when he was home. Maybe he’s outside Tony thought. His gut twinged, but Tony told himself he was overreacting. Still, he decided to go straight to the house. As he turned onto the quiet street where John lived, his concern didn’t lessen. He looked around, but nothing seemed out of place.

The neighborhood hadn’t changed much over the years. He pulled up to the house and parked behind a white van that was sitting in front of the house where Tony usually parked, forcing him to park a little further down the street. Tony got out of the car and started walking down the sidewalk toward the house carrying his go bag. His gun was resting in a holster at his hip. He didn’t want to leave it inside the car overnight.

As he reached the house, he caught movement in one of the windows. The person was too short to be John, and his friend hadn’t mentioned anyone else was coming over. He watched as the man drew down the shade over the windows and the conviction that something was wrong resurfaced. Something strange was going on here.

Tony kept walking past John’s house and turned up the walk two doors down. All the houses had private stretches of beach behind them and, while a person couldn’t just walk from one to the next, Tony knew he could easily jump the fences that separated the properties. He quickly made his way down to the beach and started walking back toward John’s house. He reached the edge of John’s property, quickly scaled the fence, and made his way carefully to the side of the house.

He knew the doors leading to the beach didn’t have any curtains or shades. He also knew that if he was careful, he could look inside without being seen by those inside the house. He looked around the side of the house and through the lanai doors. He could see John inside sitting in a chair, and there was a man he had never seen before holding a gun to John’s head. John was talking into a cell phone the man was holding to his ear. Another man was typing away on a computer, but Tony couldn’t see anyone else. There hadn’t been anyone watching the front either. Hopefully, it was just the two of them.

He eased back around the corner and took out his cell. He called 911 and informed the dispatcher of what was going on.

“Units are on their way, Mr. DiNozzo,” the dispatcher promised him.

Tony thanked her and hung up. Just then he heard John cry out, and it was only his years of training that kept Tony from rushing into the house. He listened, and he heard John shout Steve’s name and something about not giving them what they wanted. He knew he should wait for the police.

He eased around to take another look, and the man next to John was holding his gun against John’s temple with clear intent. His finger was on the trigger. Tony knew he had to act. He turned and aimed at the man threatening John. Just as he was about to fire, the man shifted. He was now standing too close to John, but his back was to the door.

He didn’t want to take the chance of hitting his friend. John was still talking into the phone. The man kept his gun on John but he turned to speak to the computer guy.

“Where are they?” he demanded.

“Locking in on them now,” the other man assured him. Tony silently eased the lanai door open so he would have a better shot. Tony took advantage of his distraction and got ready to take his shot, but the computer guy saw him and called out. Hesse turned quickly and he pointed his gun at Tony instead.

“Who are you,” he demanded.

Apparently, the man had momentarily forgotten about John and he took advantage and threw himself at the man knocking him off balance. They had made a big mistake not tying John to the chair. They struggled as Tony ran to the door and opened it. The guy at the computer fired wildly several times at both Tony and John. What was the idiot doing? Was he trying to kill them all? Tony turned and fired at the computer guy, hitting him dead center in the chest. He groaned, clutching his chest before he fell to the ground. Tony didn’t have to check him to know he was dead.

Tony turned his attention to John and his assailant. John was still struggling to get control of the gun. “Stop,” Tony demanded. “The police are on their way.”

Neither man seemed to hear him. He pointed the gun toward John and his assailant, but he couldn’t get a clear shot. The two men were too close together. Tony wouldn’t risk accidentally hitting John. The guy was younger, but John was still holding his own. John kicked out hitting the man in the gut, and he groaned.

Tony moved closer, but just then he heard a quiet pop and John groaned and stopped struggling. He fell back onto the floor with the other guy on top of him. The guy scrambled away and stood up. He’d dropped the gun though, and before he could pick it up, Tony pointed his gun at the man. “Don’t move.” The man froze.

He looked toward John with worry. A pool of blood was quickly forming across his lower back. Shit, John wasn’t moving.

“John, are you alright?” Tony called hoping he’d be able to answer.

John didn’t answer. Please still be alive.

“Hang on, John. Helps coming.”

The house phone began to ring as Tony put the perp’s hands behind his back.

“What’s your name? What do you want with John?” Tony demanded, but the man silently glowered at him.

The answering machine picked up, and Tony heard a frantic voice calling Dad. It was a male voice. It must be Steve, John’s son. Tony had never met Steve in person, but John had shown Tony some home videos. Tony hated to hear the frantic panic in Steve’s voice.

Tony was feeling pretty frantic himself. John needed his help. He knew he had to stem the bleeding.

He was tempted just to knock the guy out, but instead, he led the man to the chair and pulled out a pair of plastic cuffs out of his pocket. He always carried them though he rarely had reason to use them. He wished he had a set of regular cuffs. He decided he was going to get some real cuffs as soon as he could.

The landline started ringing again. Tony hit the speaker button and then rushed over to John’s side. Tony took of his shirt and knelt down next to John. Hr gently took his pulse while trying to stem the bleeding with his other hand.

“Steve?” he asked

“There was a pause. “Yes. Who the hell is this? If you hurt my father I promise you’ll pay.”

“I’m Tony. I’m a friend. Your dad’s been shot, but he’s still alive. Emergency services are on the way. I caught the guy who was threatening him. He’s in custody, and the police are on their way.”

Steve blew out a breath. “Thank you. I appreciate your help. Let my dad know I’ll come home as soon as I can get leave. I have some loose ends to tie up first.”

“Will do. I’ll take care of him, Steve.”

“Understood and thanks again.” Steve hung up without saying goodbye.

Steve hung up as HPD’s SWAT team came charging into the house. Tony dropped his gun and put his hands up.

“Kick the gun over here and get down on the floor!” the first officer through the door demanded.

“I’m trying to stop the bleeding,” he said. Tony put his gun on the floor and kicked it away as requested but he kept his hands on John’s wound until an officer came over to take his place. He didn’t hold the cops’ caution against them. Even as he was being handcuffed, he explained the situation.

“I’m the one who called this in. This is John McGarrett. He’s the owner of the house. He’s been hurt and needs immediate medical attention.” With his head, Tony indicated where John was lying on the floor, far too quiet for his liking.

An ambulance was called in for John, and it arrived quickly. Tony watched them, feeling a little breathless as they checked John over. “He’s alive,” one of the paramedics called out. “But we need to get him to a hospital immediately.” The paramedic’s face was grim.

After stabilizing him as best they could, two of the paramedics brought a stretcher in, and the three men carefully lifted John on to it. They immobilized him carefully. Even from where Tony was standing he could tell they were extremely careful to jostle John as little as possible. They carried him away, and Tony could only watch him go.

Tony watched as police officers fanned out over the house checking the upstairs and the kitchen. They secured John’s attacker, and finally, a detective came over to him. Tony wanted to get to the hospital as quickly as possible, but he knew the explanations were going to take a while.

September 24, 2010

Three days after Victor Hesse was captured, and his father was shot, Steve McGarrett finally strode briskly into the surgical intensive care unit.

Despite the interruption Victor’s people had managed to shoot down the helicopter Steve and Victor’s brother were traveling in. Anton has died trying to escape. It had been a mess and Steve had to debrief before he was given emergency leave.

Steve arrived on the island and come straight to the hospital to check on his father. He was stable, but that was all Steve knew. He was anxious to see his dad for himself and find out more about his condition.

Being back on the island felt strange, he hadn’t been back to Hawaii in years. Once his dad had retired, Steve had assumed he would be safe. He hadn’t imagined that his father would be shot once he wasn’t a cop anymore. Steve picked up the phone outside the ICU, and after he explained the situation, he was buzzed inside. The policy on visitors to the ICU was strict. Few people were allowed to visit the patients. Once inside the nurse behind the desk directed him to his father’s cubicle.

“Tony and another gentleman are with your father. We only allow two people at a time so one of them will have to leave.”

Steve noted the name of the man on the phone. The friend who had saved his dad. He remembered the relief of hearing that his father was alive. He knew he’d never forget that voice. He wondered why his dad had never mentioned him before. They didn’t talk very often true, but Steve made a point to call a few times a year. His dad had never mentioned a Tony. Maybe he was an old friend from the force. If so he was glad some of his dad’s old friends still cared.

“I’d like to talk to the doctor as soon as possible please,” Steve requested. “I’d like to get a better idea of my father’s prognosis.”

The nurse nodded. “I’ll have him paged for you, but he’s already talked to your father and told him what to expect. He’ll talk to you if your father agrees. Mr. McGarrett has been awake for brief intervals. Hopefully, you’ll get to talk to him soon. Doctor Matheson will join you as soon as he can.”

Steve took a deep breath as he walked to the doorway of his father’s cubicle preparing himself for what he was going to see.

He walked up to the curtain and pulled it back, getting his first good look at his father. It was only his training that kept him from gasping in shock. His father looked small and pale lying against the white sheets. Steve noted with some relief that he was breathing on his own which had to be a good sign, right?

Steve became aware that he was being watched. It wasn’t often he lost situational awareness, but he supposed, in this case, it was understandable. Two men were sitting in chairs on the far side of the bed. Steve immediately recognized Chin Ho Kelly, but the other man was unfamiliar. This must be Tony. He was younger than Steve had expected. The man looked up and smiled.

Steve’s breath caught at the sight of it. Despite the gravity of the situation, Steve’s first thought was that Tony was gorgeous. He also happened to be just Steve’s type. Not that it mattered, but Steve would have to have been dead not to notice.

Both men stood up.

Chin came around the bed first, and Tony followed more slowly. Chin held his hand out to Steve in greeting, and they shook hands. Chin also squeezed Steve’s shoulder in sympathy.

“It’s good to see you again after all these years, brah. I’m sorry it couldn’t be under better circumstances.”

Steve nodded. “It’s good to see you too, Chin. Thanks for being here for my dad. I’m sure he appreciates it.”

Chin nodded. “Of course. John means a lot to me.”

He turned to Tony and held out his hand. “I assume you’re Tony. Thank you so much for saving my dad’s life. You’ll never know how much it means to me.”

Tony smiled in return and shook Steve’s hand. “It was my pleasure. I’m as grateful as you that I was there in time to intervene. A few more minutes and it might have been too late.” Steve nodded. His stomach clenched whenever he thought of how close he’d come to losing his dad.

He walked over to the bed and looked down at John who was still sleeping. He looked even worse up close. He wanted to take his father’s hand, but he wasn’t sure if he should. Would his father welcome it?

“You can touch him,” Tony said. He’d come to stand next to Steve. “He’s going to be so happy to see you.”

Steve nodded a bit surprised Tony had guessed what he was thinking. He took his dad’s hand in his and squeezed. How well did this man know his father? he wondered.

“How is he doing?” Steve asked quietly.

Tony sighed. “He’s tough.” Tony hesitated. “He’s stable and breathing on his own. The good news is that no major organs were hit. The bad news is that a bullet hit his spine. He can’t feel or move anything below the waist right now. That’s all I know. The doctor will be able to give you more detailed information.”

Steve nodded. “Thank you.” He couldn’t help but ask, “Do they think he’ll have trouble walking?” Even to his own ears, his voice sounded flat and lifeless.

Tony’s eyes met his. “It’s possible, but it’s too early to tell anything. The Doctor will have more information for you. ”

Steve felt his heart clench but just nodded. “Thank you. Can you tell me how this happened? I’d like to hear it from you.”

Tony nodded. He gestured toward the chairs. “Let’s sit.”

Once they were seated, Steve listened in silence while Tony told him exactly what had happened. By the time Tony finished Steve’s jaw hurt from being clenched, and he forced himself to relax.

“Thank you for telling me. Again, I’m so grateful you were there and for capturing Hesse. I’ve been after him for five years now. It’s a relief to know it’s over.”

Steve got another glimpse of that gorgeous smile. “You’re welcome.” Tony cleared his throat. “There’s something else you should know. I called Mary, but she told me she can’t come out right now. She asked me to keep her posted.”

Steve stared at him. Tony knew Mary? How was that possible? It didn’t seem right that Mary knew this man when Steve had never heard of him before.

“You know Mary?” he asked

Tony shrugged. “I met her once when we were kids, but we didn’t keep in touch. I doubt she remembers me. I told her I was a friend of John’s.”

Steve felt better knowing that Mary didn’t know him either. “Did she say why?” Steve asked. He wasn’t surprised, but it was disappointing. Their father was hurt for heaven’s sake. If there was ever a time to come home, it was now.

Tony shook his head.

Steve startled slightly when Tony touched his arm. “Why don’t we give you some privacy?”

Chin smiled and nodded. “Come on, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” he said to Tony. “I need to get out of here anyway. I’m sure the nurses are about to kick one of us out.”

Tony grinned. “You can buy me lunch. I’m starved.”

“We’ll be back later, Steve,” Chin said.

Steve nodded, saying goodbye. Both men quickly gathered up their things and left the room.

Once they were gone Steve reached out and took his father’s hand. “Hey, Dad,” he said, quietly. “It’s Steve. I’m here with you.”

Steve watched his father sleep. He looked old and worn. When Steve was a kid his dad had always seemed larger than life. He’d wanted to be just like his dad. Then his mother had died, and everything had changed. His father had become withdrawn, and after a couple of months, he’d sent both Steve and Mary away. At first, Steve had been hurt and furious; he hadn’t understood why his father didn’t want them anymore. After a while though, he’d grown to like his new life, and his father had become a voice over a telephone line.

“When I imagined coming home I didn’t think it would be like this,” he said, quietly. “I’m sorry you got hurt because of my work, Dad.” He wasn’t sure he’d be able to say it if his father was awake, but it didn’t make it any less true.

Steve took out his phone. He needed to call Mary and convince her to come home. Their father was probably going to be fine, but he still had a long road to recovery ahead of him.

Behind him, someone cleared their throat. Steve turned to look, and an older native Hawaiian woman was glaring at him. “I’m Pamela, John’s day nurse. I’m just going to check your dad’s vitals. We don’t allow cell phone calls in the ICU. Please go outside the unit.”

“Hi, Pamela. I’m Steve, John’s son.” Steve held out his hand.

Pamela held up her gloved hand. “Excuse me for not shaking your hand. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Steve put his hand down. “No problem. Thanks for taking care of my dad.”

Pamela smiled. “No need to thank me.” She looked over at his dad. “John is doing well all things considered. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you.”

Steve instantly felt better. “Thank you. I’m just going to make a phone call, and I’ll be back.”

Pamela waved him away. “Go on.” She turned back to her work.

Steve made a mental note to buy a gift for the nurses.

He left the ICU and walked over to a bank of windows. Thankfully, the area was mostly deserted. The area outside the ICU wasn’t the kind of place that inspired people to hang around. He took out his phone and scrolled through his contacts until he found his sister’s number.

The phone rang in Steve’s ear. He began to think he was going to have to leave a message when he heard his sister’s voice.

“I’m not coming home, Steve. Please don’t ask me to.”

Well, that was blunt. “It’s good to hear your voice too, Sis,” he said, annoyed.

“I’m sorry, Steve. It’s so lovely to hear from you for the first time in over a year. How are you doing?” Mary’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

Steve grimaced, instantly contrite. “I’m sorry. I know it’s been a while. I’ve been out on a mission. I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone.”

Mary sighed. “Yes, I get it. I’m not angry with you for serving our country or doing your job. I just don’t think you have a right to lecture me. Look, I know why you’re calling. I just can’t come home. I’m glad he’s okay, but I don’t want to see him.”

Steve was shocked. He took a deep breath and prayed he’d think of the right thing to say. “Mary. He’s hurt me, too. He sent us both away. I understand how hard this has been. He’s genuinely hurt though. He needs us.”

“Look, it’s not that I care that he’s injured. I do, but I just got this new job. I can’t afford to take a trip right now. Besides, he hasn’t wanted us around in years. What makes you think he wants me there anyway? Have you asked him? I mean Mom died, and then he threw us away. Like trash. I haven’t seen him in person in years.”

Steve pinched the bridge of his nose. He was starting to get a headache behind his eyes. “I know it feels like he did, but he’s our dad. He’s our dad, and he’s been shot. He might be paralyzed. I’m sure he wants you here.” He didn’t bother to mention he hadn’t spoken to John yet.

“I know, the guy who called told me. I’m sorry about Dad, I truly am. I just can’t.” She paused and took another deep breath.

Much to Steve’s dismay when she spoke again her voice shook with tears. “Look, the truth is I’ve worked hard to get over what he did. I’m in a good place right now, and I don’t want to reopen the wound. Can you understand that?”

Steve closed his eyes as his heart clenched. “Yes, I can.”

Mary’s voice was still a little faint. “Good. Maybe in a few months, I can come and visit. We’ll see, okay?”

“Okay,” Steve did understand. He was sorry he’d upset Mary. He wished there was some way he could fix their family, but maybe that was an impossible task.

“Good. Look, I have to go. I love you. Keep me posted on John’s progress, okay?”

She called him John, not Dad. A part of him understood why, but he hoped his dad never heard her. “Will do. Take care of yourself, Mary. I’ll be with Dad for the next few weeks at least. If you need anything call me.”

“I will,” Mary said and hung up.

“Bye,” Steve muttered. That had been a bit of a disaster. His father had been hurt because of him, and he’d made his sister cry. That had to be some sort of record. It had been such an awful day. The hell of it was he did understand where Mary was coming from, but he couldn’t ignore his familial responsibilities.

With a sigh Steve went back to watching his dad sleep.

Chapter Two

Steve returned to the ICU and sat with his dad for almost half an hour while he slept on. He didn’t let go of his dad’s hand.

Finally, his father stirred and opened his eyes. He stated at Steve blurrily for a long moment but then his eyes lit up, and he smiled. “Steve, son, what are you doing here?” He sounded surprised.

Steve took his hand. “You were shot, Dad. Of course, I’m here. I came as soon as I got permission to go on leave.”

His father nodded. “I’m glad you were able to come. I wasn’t sure you would be. It’s good to see you, son. It’s been too long.” He managed a small smile, and Steve returned it.

“Yeah, it has. Dad, I’m so sorry you got hurt because of me. I never thought Victor Hesse would come after my family like that.”

His dad smiled and squeezed his hand. “It’s not your fault, son. You were just doing your job. I would never have wanted you to give in to a terrorist to save me.”

“I know, Dad. I’m just glad that Tony DiNozzo was here to help you when I couldn’t.” Steve truly was grateful. Though he wished it hadn’t been necessary.

John nodded. “Tony is a good boy. He was a cop and then a federal agent. He worked with NCIS. He was damn good at it, too.” Steve could hear the pride in his voice. It made Steve’s stomach twist unpleasantly for some reason.

“Have you known him long?” Steve asked.

“Oh yes. Quite a long time, though he only moved to Hawaii about a year ago. It’s been great having him so close by.”

“So you guys are good friends then?” Why hadn’t his father ever mentioned him?

“Tony’s like family,” John said. ‘Like family.’ The words resonated in Steve’s mind unpleasantly. His father considered a man that Steve had never even heard of family. Steve didn’t know what to think about that.

“Have you heard from your sister?” John asked.

Steve shook his head. “Yeah I did. She can’t come out right now, but she’s glad you’re okay. I’m sure she’s just busy, Dad. Last I heard she’d gotten a new job.”

John frowned and suddenly looked older to Steve’s eyes. “It’s alright, son. I haven’t seen your sister in person since she was fourteen. I tried to call and write as much as I could, but it wasn’t enough. She hates me, and she has every right to. I don’t expect anything from her.”

Steve felt his old anger rise up again but, as he watched his father stare sadly out the window, it drained away. His father wasn’t perfect, and Steve might not understand why he sent them away, but he knew his father had done what he thought was best.

As if reading his mind his father suddenly spoke, “Sending you both away was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I was a mess after we lost your mother. I just couldn’t take care of you both properly. I did what I thought was best for all of us.”

Steve was surprised. His dad wasn’t usually so forthcoming. Maybe it was the painkillers loosening his tongue. Steve did appreciate the words. He felt a sudden rush of affection for his dad.

Steve had been angry for a long time, but then he’ told himself he didn’t care. He’d made a good life for himself. He’d been lying to himself though. He still cared, and his dad’s admission made him feel unexpectedly better.

“I know, Dad. I understand it wasn’t an easy decision for you. I’ve had a pretty great life, and I can’t imagine my life turning out any other way. If you need my forgiveness, then you have it.”

John’s eyes were wet with tears, but he only nodded. He asked Steve for some water, and he was just putting the cup down when a doctor walked into the room.

At that moment Steve realized that he hadn’t asked his father about his condition. The conversation had been unexpected, but Steve found he felt a little lighter as if a weight had been lifted.

The doctor was an older gentleman with white hair and striking green eyes. He looked to be about Steve’s dad’s age. He greeted John before turning to Steve.

He was holding a chart and looking down at it. He looked up at Steve and gave a friendly smile.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Matheson.” He held out his hand, and Steve shook it.

“It’s nice to meet you, Doctor. I’m Lieutenant Commander Steven McGarrett, John’s son. I asked to speak to you because I wanted to know exactly what my father’s injuries are and his prognosis and timeline for recovery.”

Dr. Matheson closed his father’s chart and held it against his chest. “As I’ve told your father, I’m afraid the bullet damaged his spinal cord at the L4 vertebrae. It’s what we call an incomplete spinal cord injury. That said, due to the nature of the injury, your father is experiencing complete paralysis from the waist down.”

Steve looked over at his father. John looked surprisingly unconcerned. “Is it permanent? Will he walk again?” Steve asked.

Doctor Matheson sighed. “It’s hard to say. The spinal cord isn’t completely severed. There is a chance John will regain sensation and movement. Advances are being made every day, but the spinal cord is complex. There is currently a lot of bruising and swelling around the injury site, and we’ll know more once it goes down. It’s hard to know exactly what will happen. We have to wait and see how he heals and how he responds to physical therapy.

“The good news is we were able to remove the bullet. There were several bone fragments, and it was decided it was safer to leave them in place for the moment. Once the swelling is down, we will go in and remove as many bone fragments as possible. After that I’ll be able to give you a better prognosis.”

Steve nodded feeling numb. He knew he should have more questions, but none came to mind. He truly hadn’t expected to hear his father was paralyzed. He wished he’d requested more information while en route, but he’d been focused on getting home as quickly as possible.

He turned to look at his father. His father gazed back at him seriously. “Dad, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I hate that you were hurt like this because of my job.” He knew he was repeating himself, but he couldn’t help it.

John shrugged. “This isn’t your fault, Steve, you didn’t tell that asshole to shoot me. I’m the one who decided to play hero and tried to fight Hesse off. Besides, I’m going to walk again. You’ll see.”

Steve could only nod. He didn’t want to get his dad’s hopes up, but he didn’t want to discourage him either.

Matheson turned to Steve’s father. “How are you doing, John?”

His dad shrugged again. “As well as can be expected, Doc.”

“I’m sure you’re glad to have both your sons home,” Matheson said. Sons? Steve thought. He was confused, but then he realized the doctor must mean Tony. Steve clenched his fist, but he forced himself to relax. The mistake was understandable.

His dad smiled finally. “Yeah, I am. Tony isn’t really mine, but I’ve adopted him for lack of a better term. It’s great having Steve home for a visit too.”

Steve was conflicted. He’d felt a rush of warmth at his father’s words, but he didn’t like the idea of people thinking of Tony as John’s son. Though, the idea wasn’t entirely surprising. Steve knew they were close. After all, according to the hospital staff, John had named Tony his next of kin. Tony seemed kind and had rushed into danger and saved his dad’s life. He had earned Steve’s eternal gratitude, and Steve felt inclined to trust him because his father did.

Still, Steve wanted to get to know him better. He was an important part of his dad’s life, so he was part of Steve’s life, too. Steve admitted to himself that he also found Tony attractive, and spending time with him wouldn’t be a hardship. John tried to sit up. Steve jumped forward “Here, Dad, let me help.” He hit the button to raise the back of the bed a little.

“As you can see, between Steve and Tony, I’m going to be mothered to death,” John added wryly.

Doctor Matheson laughed. Then he excused himself.

Once he was gone, John smiled softly. “Don’t worry, Steve. These doctors don’t know what they’re talking about. McGarretts don’t give up. I will walk again. You’ll see.”

Steve wasn’t sure what to say, so he just nodded. Steve hoped that was the case. Steve knew how important a positive outlook could be for his dad right now. His dad might be stuck in a wheelchair for life, but there was no sense in discouraging his dad. If the worst happened, they’d deal with it. They had a long road ahead of them.

After the doctor left, his dad fell asleep again. Steve sat next to him, his head spinning. He couldn’t stop hearing the doctor’s words. He looked at his dad. His dad looked so small lying in the hospital bed. He looked much older than Steve remembered. Steve felt fury rising within him. Victor Hesse was to blame for his father’s injury. Why was life so unfair? First, his mother had died and now this. What was he going to do?

Steve took a deep breath. Giving into anger didn’t do anyone any good. He needed to make plans. His father would need help. The house would have to be modified. Even if the paralysis was only temporary, his dad might never be able to climb the stairs. He’d make sure his dad had everything he needed. Steve sat back in his chair and watched over his father.

A little while later Tony came back into the room. “I brought you some coffee, Commander,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how you liked it, so it’s black. I brought some sugar, but they didn’t have cream. I hope that’s okay.”

“That’s fine thanks.” Steve had learned to drink it that way out of necessity, but he did actually prefer cream and sugar when he could get it. He added one sugar in and stirred before taking a sip.

“Good. Did you get to talk to your dad?” Tony asked.

“I did, thanks. The doctor told me that it’s impossible to know if he’ll walk again.”

Tony nodded. “Yeah, they mentioned that to John yesterday when I was here.”

Steve hesitated. He didn’t know who else to ask though. “Dad seemed to take it remarkably well,” he said quietly.

Tony nodded and sat down in the chair next to Steve. He sipped his coffee before he finally spoke. “He’s in denial about the severity of the injury. He’s convinced he’s going to walk again without any problem. I’m worried he won’t handle setbacks well, but I also didn’t want to discourage him. The doctor said it could be detrimental to his health to push the issue but not to hide the truth from him either.”

“Good to know. I feel the same way. You two are close, aren’t you?” Steve asked. He hoped he didn’t sound too bitter.

“We are. John has always been there for me. A lot of the time he was my only support. He’s a good friend.”

“I’m glad he’s had you for company.”

Tony leaned forward. “He’s missed you Steve. I’m not sure why he sent you guys away he never said, and I didn’t pry, but anyone who talks to him can see how proud he is of you. He talks about you all the time.”

Steve nodded unsure what to say. They lapsed into a comfortable silence.

After a few minutes, Tony stood up. “I have to get to work.”

Steve looked at his watch. It was getting late. “It’s a little late, isn’t it?” he asked.

“I’m a private investigator. I work at night a lot. People tend to think the darkness helps hide their sins. Tell John I was here. I’ll be by early tomorrow if you want to get some rest.”

Surprised, Steve nodded. “Thanks, I might take you up on that,” he said.

Tony grinned at Steve and, with a wave, he was gone.

September 28, 2010

A few days later the swelling around the wound and spinal cord had gone down. Doctor Matheson came in with a few medical students on his heels. His dad had given permission for the students to be present. The doctor explained what he was going to do. Then he began the neurological exam. Steve was watching carefully, and with each passing second, his dad’s expression became more and more blank. No sensation had returned. Dr. Matheson asked his father to try to move his big toe. John got an intense look of concentration on his face, but nothing happened.

Dr. Matheson gave him a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, John. I know you were hoping for a different outcome, but while the injury is incomplete, the damage was severe. Given the level of your injury, I would have been shocked if we’d had any other outcome today.”

His father nodded but didn’t speak.

Dr. Matheson continued, “That said, you still have a lot of healing to do. I am very pleased with your progress. The swelling has gone down considerably. There are a couple of small bone fragments left near your spine, but it is safer not to attempt removal at this time. There’s also no sign of infection. I’m confident that in another couple of weeks you’ll be ready for rehab.”

John nodded again. “Thanks, Doc.”

Steve walked over to his father’s side and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Dad. I know this is extremely disappointing.” He didn’t know what else to say. How could you comfort someone at a time like this? On impulse, he leaned down and gave his father a one-armed hug. “It’s going to be okay, Dad. There’s still a chance you will walk, but even if you don’t things are going to get better.”

His father accepted the embrace for a moment, putting his hand on Steve’s arm, but then he gently pushed Steve away. “I appreciate that, son, but I just want to be alone. I need time to think. Why don’t you and Tony go for a walk?”

“We can stay,” Tony said. “Maybe being alone isn’t such a good idea.”

In answer, his dad turned his face away from them and looked toward the window.

Steve and Tony shared a worried look. Tony tried to get John’s attention, but John simply asked to be left alone again in a quiet voice.

Steve and Tony agreed to give him some time, and they reluctantly left the room.

Pamela was walking toward them. “Dr. Matheson wanted me to give you the number to the psychologist that works at the rehab center. He talked to your father about it, but your father wasn’t receptive. If that changes, the center can help you. It might be too soon, but it’s something to keep in mind. This type of injury takes a huge physical and mental toll on the patient. John is going to be facing some big changes.”

Steve took the card. It read Alani Kahale, Psychologist, along with a phone number and email address. “Thank you. I’ll make sure he gets this.”

Pamela nodded and patted him on the shoulder before excusing herself.

“Let’s go for a walk, and get a coffee,” Tony suggested, and Steve agreed.

Once they were walking along the sidewalk outside the hospital, Tony was the first to speak. “I knew he was going to take it hard, but seeing him like this, it’s difficult. I want to fix it for him and I can’t.”

Steve nodded. “I know. My dad has always been larger than life to me, but right now he’s the one that needs me to take care of him. It’s kind of a mind fuck, you know? I haven’t seen him in years and in my head he was still the same age as when he sent me to the mainland. I know it sounds weird, but I hadn’t realized that he’s gotten older or that he’s not as strong as he used to be.”

“I know what you mean,” Tony agreed. “The first time I met John I was twelve. He helped me out of a jam.”

Steve focused on Tony more intently. “What kind of jam?” Had Tony been the victim of a crime as a child?

Tony waved the question away. “It wasn’t a big deal. I was here on vacation as a kid, and there was a miscommunication with the person who was supposed to be taking care of me. They left me alone. I ended up needing a place to stay, and your dad let me stay at your place. John made a big impression on me. He’s the reason I decided to become a cop.”

Miscommunication, what the hell did that mean? Tony had been just a kid. Apparently, he’d been young enough to need a guardian. Why hadn’t an adult been with him? If Tony had been alone, then Steve wasn’t surprised his dad had stepped in. He’d always said protecting the public was the most crucial part of the job, and that was particularly true when children were involved. It was apparent Tony didn’t want to talk about it, though, so he didn’t ask. “I don’t remember that. Was I there?” Steve asked instead.

“You weren’t there, you were away at— a summer camp I think.”

Steve thought back. “Oh, it must have been football camp. I went every summer for a few years. Even then my dad wanted me to play professionally.”

Tony nodded. “That’s right. Your dad told me about you. He thought we’d get along well, and he was sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet.”

He was sorry too. He liked Tony so far. He could see why his dad liked Tony too.

“I’m glad we’re getting a chance to get to know each other. Tony moved a little closer to him.

Steve raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I am, too.” He could feel the heat of Tony’s body now. Steve felt the sudden urge to reach out and touch him but he ignored it.

“Anyway, we kept in touch over the years. I’ve been lucky to have him in my life. Changing careers wasn’t easy, and your dad was a big help getting me started. I want you to know I’ll be here for both of you. I want to help out in any way I can.”

Steve wanted to ask why Tony had left his job and move to Hawaii, but he didn’t want to pry. He was curious, though. So far Tony was open and friendly with him. If he wanted to talk about it, he would.

“I’m glad and I’ll take any help I can get. This isn’t how I pictured our reunion, but I’m going to do whatever I can to help him. I’m used to making a plan and then sticking with it. He’s going to be in a wheelchair for some time. There are a lot of practical concerns I can deal with.”

“Of course, I’m here for you both. It’s going to be an adjustment. All you can do is be there for him and listen when he needs you to. We’re all going to be here for him.” Tony touched his arm. “I know you don’t know me well, but John is important to me. I promise you can trust me.”

Steve’s shoulder tingled where Tony was touching him. It was reassuring, and Steve was surprised how comfortable he already felt with Tony in his space. He was beginning to trust him already. Perhaps it was the intensity of the situation. Emergencies brought people together.

“Thanks, man. I appreciated the support, and I know my dad will be glad to have you around.”

Steve meant it, too. Steve made a spontaneous decision. He wanted to get to know Tony better, and spending some time with him was the best way to do that. He needed to know if he could trust him completely. His gut said yes, but Steve needed to be sure. “Do you swim? I haven’t been getting much exercise lately, and I need to stay in shape. We could go for a swim at the house tomorrow morning and then come back to the hospital together.”

Tony grinned. “I’d like that. I do have a case I’m working on, but I don’t need to get to work until the evening. That’s the good thing about being a P.I.; we can make our own hours.”

“Excellent. I’m looking forward to it. Do you like being a private investigator?” Steve asked curiously as they turned back toward the hospital.

Tony shrugged. “I do. I’ll admit it’s not quite what I expected, but I enjoy being my own boss, so I can’t complain. It’s a lot less stressful than my old job. I also have plenty of time to surf.”

“What’s your favorite case so far?” Steve wasn’t just making conversation. He was interested in the answer.

Tony looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, I don’t know about favorite, but my cutest was a six-year-old boy who wanted to pay me to find his lost turtle of all things. Hmm, I helped a single mom find her daughter a few months ago. She was a runaway. That was pretty awesome.”

“I’ll bet.” Steve was impressed. “Did you find the turtle?”

“Of course. I’m an excellent investigator, you know. Besides, he paid me in cupcakes. They were delicious.”

Steve chuckled. The mental image of Tony investigating a turtle’s disappearance was hilarious, but sweet, too. He was sure it had meant a lot to the little boy, and most people would have blown him off.

“Seriously though, getting to help people on my own terms is the most rewarding part of the job for sure. Do you enjoy being a SEAL?” Tony asked. Steve supposed turning the tables on him was fair. He hoped it meant Tony was curious about him too.

“I do. It’s my calling. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Tony grinned at him. “We didn’t interact much with SEALS at NCIS. Are SEALS really as crazy as people say?”

Steve chuckled. “Naw, the other branches are just jealous. SEALS do whatever it takes to get the job done. Sometimes that means thinking outside the box.”

“I believe it. Even working for NCIS, I’ve heard some stories.”

“NCIS, huh? Which office? I have a good friend out of the Los Angeles branch.”

“I worked Major Case in D.C. Who’s your friend? I know some people there.”

Steve noticed the change of subject, but he decided not to call Tony on it.

“Sam Hanna.” The other SEAL had been a good friend for a few years. They had even worked a couple of ops together.

“I know Sam, he’s good people. Solid as they come. We worked a case together once. If you talk to him, tell him I said hello.”

“I will,” Steve agreed with a nod.

He made a mental note. Sam might have some useful information to share about Tony. Steve was tempted to get a hold of Tony’s file. He’d have to call in a few favors, but it was doable. Steve acknowledged that he was probably going too far. Normally that wouldn’t stop him, but he didn’t want to piss his father or Tony off by snooping. He’d have to give it some thought.

As they got into the crowded elevator, he couldn’t resist a little teasing of his own. “What were you expecting being a P.I to be like, hot women and fast cars?”

Tony laughed brightly. The sound made Steve feel warm, and he knew he’d like to hear it again. “Pretty much, if I’m honest. I used to watch a lot of TV as a kid. Miami Vice and Perry Mason were two of my favorites.”

“Perry Mason was great.” Steve noticed that a few people in the elevator turned to look at the sound of Tony’s laughter.

“So I’ll meet you tomorrow at six for our swim?” Tony asked.

Steve would have preferred five, but he nodded. “Six it is. We can have breakfast after.” He wanted to spend more time in Tony’s company. He hoped Tony wanted to get to know him better too.

“It’s a date.” They finally reached their floor and got out.

Steve knew Tony didn’t mean it literally, but he found that the idea was pleasant. Steve could admit he wanted to get to know Tony for reasons beyond the other man’s friendship with his father. It had been a long time since he’d been this attracted to someone. Tony might be interested in something casual a little voice pointed out. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. Steve ignored it. Given Tony’s friendship with his dad, casual could get awkward fast, and Steve didn’t want to go there. Steve sighed in regret as he followed Tony back to John’s room.

Chapter Three

September 30, 2010

The swim with Tony was a lot of fun. Steve found he liked Tony’s company more and more. Tony looked great in a bathing suit, and Steve definitely appreciated the view. Getting to see him half-naked and dripping wet wasn’t something Steve was going to turn down. He only hoped Tony didn’t notice him staring. Tony was able to keep up with Steve for the most part, though by the end he’d been a little out of breath.

“I guess I need to exercise a little more,” Tony said with a shrug.

Steve waved that away. “No way. You kept up with me. I’m a SEAL, and very few people can do that, you know what I’m saying? I’m impressed.”

“I think that’s enough for today.”

They got out of the water and dried off. Steve had brought down some beach chairs, and they sat on the beach drinking coffee.

After they rested, they went back to the house. Tony pulled out an inhaler and took a couple of puffs.

“Are you okay?” Steve asked in concern. He put his hand on Tony’s shoulder.

“I’m fine. It’s a preventative measure. I need to do it before and after exercise. I just have a touch of asthma, that’s all. It usually isn’t a problem, but I overdid it a little. I should have taken it before the swim, but I forgot.” Tony coughed a little. Steve looked him over. He looked okay. He didn’t seem to be struggling to breathe.

“Sorry if I pushed too hard,” Steve said. “I enjoyed the race. It isn’t often a civilian can keep up with me.”

“Don’t apologize. I enjoyed it, too. I hope we can do it again.”

Afterward, they went out to breakfast at a nearby diner. Joe’s had been around forever, and the food was just as good as Steve had remembered. The place had looked pretty much the same since the sixties. The owner and the regular customers liked it that way. Only the kitchen and the bathrooms had been updated. Their parents would often bring Steve and Mary here on weekends. It was a favorite childhood memory.

Once they’d taken their seats and ordered, Steve looked up to find Tony watching him curiously.

“How does it feel to be home?” he asked.

Steve thought about it. “Odd if I’m honest. It’s been fifteen years, and I didn’t expect to be coming home any time soon. But it feels good, too. Familiar, even though a lot of things have changed.”

Tony took a sip of his coffee. “So I’ve been curious. Why has it taken you so long to come back for a visit?”

Steve raised an eyebrow. “Dad actually. I tried a few times while I was growing up, but he always said he was too busy. After a while, I stopped trying. Then I got older and joined the Navy. “Steve shrugged. “I got busy, and it never seemed like a good time.”

Tony looked thoughtful. “See, that is so weird to me. That doesn’t sound like the John I know at all. He’s always been there for me. He’s been more supportive than my own father. When you got your commission, I thought he was going to burst with happiness and pride.”

Steve’s stomach twisted uncomfortably, and he looked down at the table top. “It’s interesting to get someone else’s perspective on this. He always told me how proud he was of my accomplishments, but we don’t have what I would call a close relationship.” You’re way closer to him, Steve thought but didn’t say out loud. Steve tried to ignore the resentment the thought still caused.

Tony sighed. “I’d gathered as much. I’m sorry if I’m prying.”

Steve shook his head. “No. You’re not. I can’t blame you for being curious, and you’re close to my dad. Not to mention you’ve been a big help so far and if you’re going to stick around you deserve to know what you’re getting into with us.”

Tony smiled at him. Before he could say anything their breakfasts arrived and they were quiet for a few minutes as they ate.

“I’ll absolutely be around as much as you need me. When I’m not working that is,” Tony said quietly. “If it makes you feel better, I’m not close to my dad either. Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story of exactly how I met your dad.”

“I’d be interested in hearing it.” Tony didn’t feel comfortable talking about it yet. Not to mention he’d met John when he’d been on duty. That suggested a few things to Steve. Things he didn’t want to think about. He hoped he was wrong.

“So now that I’ve depressed us both let’s talk about the plans for John. He goes into rehab soon, and then in a few weeks, he’ll come home. The house isn’t handicapped friendly.”

Steve took a sip of his coffee before answering. “I know. Dad took early retirement and insurance was part of the package. They’ll pay for some of it, but definitely not enough. I have a lot of pay saved up, so I’m going to find a contractor and remodel the house for his use.”

“That’s a good idea,” Tony said. He took a big bite from his last piece of toast. The waitress came over and offered them both more coffee. She gave Tony a bright smile and lingered over their table a little too long. It was clear she was interested in Tony. Steve sat back and gave her a slight glare. For his part Tony was polite, but he didn’t flirt in return. Steve stifled a sigh. Clearly, he was already intrigued enough that ignoring his attraction might be more complicated than he realized. Maybe I should check to see if he’s interested?

Tony finished off his food and leaned back in his own seat with a sigh. “That was delicious. I can’t believe I didn’t know this place existed. Your dad and I will be having a talk about that.”

Steve grinned. “I think he’s been holding out on you.”

Tony’s phone chimed and, giving Steve an apologetic look, he pulled the phone off his belt. He read the text and grimaced.

Steve drained his coffee cup. “Bad news?” Steve asked.

Tony shook his head. “No, it’s just a client. An older woman convinced her much younger husband is cheating on her. I haven’t found any evidence of it. As far as I can tell he’s madly in love, but she doesn’t believe it. Wants me to keep looking. She pays well, but I’m starting to wonder if she’s worth the hassle.”

“Sometimes people are their own worst enemies. If you don’t mind my asking, can you afford to say no?” The waitress brought the check and Tony snapped it up before Steve had a chance to.

“No, I don’t mind. I can’t avoid these jobs all together. They’re too plentiful to ignore. I know most P.I’s live job to job, but I don’t have to. I have some money put away. I can pick and choose. I’m lucky like that. ”

“You mean you aren’t just excellent at your job,” Steve teased.

“Well, I didn’t say that. I think you’ll find I’m good at almost anything I put my mind to.” Tony gave him a flirty little smile, and Steve’s heart started hammering.

“Is that so?” Steve asked softly, and their eyes met. His pulse picked up in response.

Tony returned his gaze, his eyes warm and, then winked playfully. “It is. Play your cards right, and you might get to find out.”

Steve knew he had a big grin on his face. It seemed Tony was interested after all. “I’d like a chance to find out for myself,” Steve said.

“I’m glad to hear it.”

The waitress brought back the bill, and Tony put his card away. He signed the slip and then chuckled.

A napkin had been tucked in with the credit card. Tony held it out to Steve, and he took it. Stephanie and a phone number were written on it. Steve chuckled and handed it back.

Tony tucked it into his pocket. “I don’t want to hurt her feelings,” he said.

They stood and walked toward the door. Steve let their shoulders brush together as they walked. “So I take it you won’t be calling her?” Steve asked.

Tony shook his head. “Not interested.” He gave Steve a bright smile.

“Good.” The ride back to the hospital was made in companionable silence.

October 8, 2010

The next week was stressful. Steve was grateful not only for Tony’s presence but Chin’s, too. His dad got moved to a regular room, but he was not handling the reality of his situation well at all. The social worker and the physical therapist had both tried to talk to him, but he hadn’t had any interest in listening to them.

So far sensation had not returned, and he was still paralyzed. Steve could see his dad losing hope every day. He wished there was something he could do to help. He tried to be encouraging, but every day his dad sank further into depression.

Finally, it was time to move John to a rehab facility to continue his treatment. It was earlier than Dr. Matheson had predicted and it was a good sign. John would continue recovering at the rehab facility. But so far his dad wasn’t cooperating. Everyone was deeply concerned. His dad barely spoke to anyone and Steve was at a loss as to what to do next.

Steve felt torn. A big part of him was sympathetic, but another part of him wanted to shake some sense into his dad. His father had never been the kind of man who gave up without a fight. Steve knew he could still have a good life, but he had to fight for it.

He and Tony had both done their best to cheer him up, and they made a pretty good team. Steve appreciated his presence. Tony was always around and doing his best to make John laugh and offering his support. It felt good to have someone to share the long days in the hospital. Chin came by when he could, but it had been mostly Steve and Tony. Having Tony around had made the situation seem a little less terrible.

Steve looked up when a nurse entered the cubicle. “Commander McGarrett, there’s a phone call for you at the desk,” she told him with a bright smile.

Steve thanked her and walked over to the desk. He picked up the extension the nurse behind the desk indicated.

“McGarrett,” he said.

“Steve, this is Governor Jameson. I’m sorry to bother you at this terrible time. How’s your father doing?” The Governor was an old friend of the family, but still, Steve was surprised to hear from her.

“He’s doing well, Governor, thank you for asking. What can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry to pull you away from him, but I need your help.”

“Of course, Governor. How can I assist you?” He wondered what she needed. He was on leave, and Hesse was in custody. What happened next was out of Steve’s hands. At first, Steve had been angry enough to shoot Hesse on sight, but he had more pressing concerns at the moment.

Jameson cleared her throat. “As you know, we have Hesse in custody, but he refuses to speak to anyone but you. We’ve been interrogating him since he was captured, but we haven’t gotten anywhere. We believe he has some vital information for us about an urgent national security threat. He could be lying, but we have to be certain. I need you to come in and interrogate him personally as soon as possible.”

A part of Steve wanted to say no, but he knew his duty. He had spent so long hunting the Hesse brothers down. “Of course, ma’am. I know where he’s being held. I’ll leave right away and report within the hour.” He’d made sure to learn Hesse’s location before he’d even landed on the island.

“Good. Thank you. I look forward to your report. Please give your father my best,” she said briskly and hung up.

He went back into his father’s room. He was hoping to see his father’s awake but no luck. He was snoring softly. Steve left him a note on the whiteboard the nurses used and left.

Steve arrived at the federal holding center where Victor Hesse was currently being held. He had to present I.D. and then he was led past several secure areas and down into the sublevels where the interrogation rooms were located. Hesse was already waiting for him, sitting on the one side of a large metal table.

Hesse smirked when Steve walked in. “Commander McGarrett, I knew if I demanded to speak with you, you would come. Tell me, how is your father doing? ”

Steve didn’t roll his eyes, but it was a close thing. He knew Hesse was just trying to get a rise out of him. It was satisfying to see him behind bars at last. Hesse wasn’t ever going to hurt anyone again.

Steve crossed his arms over his chest. “Here I am. What is it you wanted to tell me? I don’t suppose you want to confess to all your crimes.”

“I just wanted to look into the eyes of the man who murdered my brother.” He looked at Steve intently.

His voice was cold, but Steve had no doubt he was looking for a reaction. Steve wasn’t surprised. Hesse always did have a dramatic streak.

Steve smirked. “I have news for you. I didn’t murder your brother, you did. If you hadn’t tried to rescue him, he’d still be alive.”

Hesse’s eyes blazed with fury. “That isn’t true. I was trying to rescue him. I don’t know how he died, but I know it’s your fault. You killed him. I know you did. Tell me how he died!”

Steve raised an eyebrow. “Why should I? It hardly matters now,” Steve said in a bored tone. Hesse sat forward in his chair and glared. Steve didn’t react. He knew if he goaded Hesse enough the man would talk.

“If you want me to tell you what I know, then you will tell me about my brother’s last moments.”

“How do I know anything you have to say is worth my time?”

Hesse sneered, “Trust me, it will be. I’ve done a lot of business with bad people. My dealings with the Yakuza are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Steve believed him. Hesse had a lot of business interests, and he’d been running guns for years. He was an invaluable source of information. He needed to find out what Hesse knew.

Steve shrugged. “My mission wasn’t to kill him, but he left me no choice. He had a gun. It was him or me. I couldn’t take the chance he’d hurt my men or me. So I shot him.”

Hesse banged his hand against the table. “God damn you, McGarrett! You better hope I never get the chance to kill you.” Then Hesse smiled coldly. “At least I have the satisfaction of knowing I took your father from you in return. You’re in as much pain as I am.”

Steve smiled genuinely in return. “More bad news I’m afraid. My father is just fine. He’s alive and well.” He saw no reason to share the fact that John was currently paralyzed. “You failed.”

Hesse roared and tried to launch himself at Steve, but the shackles prevented it.

“If you have nothing productive to say, then I’m going to go,” Steve said standing up.

“Wait,” Hesse called out. “There’s a lot more going on here than you realize. Believe it or not, I am not the one you should be worrying about.”

Steve turned back. ”What do you mean?”

Hesse waved his finger back and forth. “Not so fast. I want a deal, full immunity. Then I’ll talk.”

Steve snorted. “No way is that going to happen. You’re a terrorist and a murderer. There is no way you can just walk away. I might be able to get you life in prison rather than the death penalty, and I stress might.”

Hesse shrugged. “Then I guess we have nothing more to say. I have bigger things to worry about, too.”

Steve nodded. “Tell me about this imminent terrorist threat, and we might be able to work something out. I can make your stay in prison more comfortable.”

There was that smirk again. Steve wanted to punch it off Hesse’s face. “There is no threat that I know of. I just said that so they’d let me talk to you.”

Steve eyed Hesse carefully. He was pretty sure the other man was telling the truth. He knew it was time to walk away for now.

Just as he reached the door, Hesse called out. “Wait, I do have valuable information. Why don’t you ask your father how your mother really died? Then come back, and we’ll talk.”

Steve froze for a long moment, then he whirled around and glared at Hesse, his fists clenched tight to keep from hitting him. The fact that Hesse had brought up his mother made him angry, but he kept careful control of himself. “What the hell are you talking about? My mother died in a car accident. It was tragic, but there’s nothing mysterious about it,” he bit out. His jaw was clenched so hard it hurt.

Hesse leaned back in his chair. “Ah, that’s what your father told you, but that isn’t true. Would you like me to tell you what actually happened that day? I assure you there is much more to the situation than you know.”

Steve crossed his arms. “This is ridiculous. If you’re hoping that we can figure out some sort of deal you can forget it. I don’t have the power to give you any sort of deal in return for personal information.”

“Ah, but it’s your father’s help I want, not yours. I hear he’s tight with the Governor. I’m sure she can intercede on my behalf. I have a lot more to offer. I have information about the guns being trafficked in and out of Hawaii for starters. The Yakuza control all the crime on this island, as I’m sure you know. I know names, dates, and which shipping containers are going to be used. I’m willing to talk in return for protection and immunity. There is much more going on here than you know. Your mother’s murder is the least of it.”

Murder. The word echoed unpleasantly in Steve’s head. For several seconds, he couldn’t make sense of it. Hesse was saying someone had murdered his mother. The idea just didn’t compute for Steve.

“My mother was not murdered. There is no way my father would have kept it from us. There would have been an investigation.”

“It was made to look like an accident. I believe he thought he was protecting you. From what I heard, you and your sister were supposed to be next. A father will do anything to protect his children.” Hesse shrugged.

“He would not have kept that from me!” Steve shouted. He moved forward and put his hand against Hesse’s throat and pressed down.”

Hesse gasped for air, and after a moment Steve reluctantly let go. “How do you know this?”

Hesse rubbed at his throat. “I’m not telling you anything else until I get a deal. I want protection, and a reduced sentence or I won’t tell you anything.”

Steve smiled. “Why would I help you? If what you say is true then I just need to ask my dad for the details. I won’t need any information from you.”

Hesse leaned back in his chair. “Like I said, it’s your father I’m interested in. Tell your father Koji Noshimuri might have ordered his wife’s death, but that Noshimuri didn’t order me to kill him. Someone else did. I think he knows who I’m talking about, and if he wants to know where the bastard is then, he’ll get his friend, the Governor, to work out some sort of deal for me.”

“If killing my father wasn’t your idea then whose?”

Hesse shrugged. “I’m not saying another word.”

Steve gritted his teeth. “I can’t guarantee you anything. Both the Governor and the D.A. will be reluctant to make a deal with a terrorist. Besides, we both know the federal government is interested in you as well. NCIS will want you in custody.”

Hesse shrugged. “Tell them the information I have is worth it. I’m sure Jameson can make a case for keeping me here. I’m sure you can be persuasive enough to convince them.”

Steve sighed. It didn’t really work like that, but he decided to play along. “You might get offered a reduced sentence, but anything else is unlikely. You’ll be lucky to avoid the death penalty.”

“I think you can do better than that, Steve. If you want to hear more about why your mother was murdered or get evidence against the man who tried to have your father killed, you’ll help me.”

Steve shook his head. Hesse was crazy. Still, he needed to know if Hesse was telling the truth. “I’ll be back, and you’d better be prepared to tell me everything you know.”

With that Steve left the room, ignoring Hesse when he shouted his name.

Steve rubbed his face. His mind was reeling. He barely paid attention as he went out to his car. He didn’t know what to believe. Steve knew Doris McGarrett had died in a car accident and he had never questioned it, not for a second. However, if his father had sent them away to keep them safe because his mother had been murdered, then that changed things. Steve still thought his father had made the wrong decision when he sent them away, but it was possible that the decision had come from concern for their safety rather than indifference.

Hesse could be lying, of course, but what did he gain from it? He needed Steve’s help. Making him angry was counterproductive. Steve knew there was only so much Jameson could do, but maybe NCIS would be willing to cooperate to gain the information from Hesse.

On autopilot, he made his way back to the hospital. All he could think about was asking his dad if what Hesse said was true. Surely his father wouldn’t have kept something like that from Steve and Mary. Maybe when they were children, but they’d been grown up for a long time. Steve was a SEAL; his dad had to know he could handle the truth. When he got to the hospital he didn’t want to wait for the elevator; he ran up the stairs to the ICU floor.

When he reached his father’s room, he rushed in, only to stop short. Governor Jameson was sitting by his father’s bedside, and they were chatting quietly. Steve forced himself to take a deep breath and calm down. He looked at his dad. He was more animated right now than he’d been in days and he was actually smiling. Hesse had mentioned his father’s connection to the Governor. Steve certainly didn’t want to bring up what he’d learned in front of her. Not until he had a chance to talk to his father.

His dad looked up and saw him. “Steve!” he called out, and he was actually smiling. “Pat came by to see me, and we were just talking about you.”

“Oh?” Steve asked. “All good, I hope.”

“Absolutely,” Jameson said with a bright smile. She stood and came over to him. “Hello, Steve,” she said and then shook his hand briskly.

“Governor, it’s an honor to see you again. I’m glad you were able to make time to see my dad.”

“Me, too. John and I have been friends for a long time. I just wanted to check in on him.”

“I’m sure he appreciates it,” Steve said.

“I do,” his father agreed. “Pat even brought me some nice flowers.” He pointed to a new bouquet that was sitting by the window.

“That was kind of you,” Steve said. “We appreciate the thought.”

Jameson grinned. “I know your dad would have preferred some pizza, but I wasn’t sure he was allowed to have any.”

Steve chuckled. His dad had been grumbling about the hospital food a great deal. “You know him well.”

“I do. We’ve known each other for eons.” She looked over at his dad, and they traded a look. “Actually, I have an ulterior motive for being here. I wanted to get your dad’s opinion about something. He agrees it’s an excellent idea.”

Steve crossed his arms over his chest. “I admit I’m intrigued.”

Jameson smiled brightly at him. “Good. Before your dad got hurt, I had approached him about heading up a new task force. I want to create a task force focused on apprehending the worst criminals operating in Hawaii and get them the hell off my island. I want to make sure that what happened to your father never happens again.”

Steve looked at his dad in surprise. “I appreciate that, and that sounds like a great idea. Dad would be perfect for the job. Unfortunately, that’s out of the question now.”

“Which is why I’d like to offer it to you. Your father agrees that it’s an excellent idea.”

Steve didn’t know what to say. “I’m not sure I understand, Ma’am.”

“I’d like to offer you the position instead. You’d be the head of my task force with full immunity and means. You’d be free to go after any criminals you like and to hire any personnel you want. The job also has full benefits and a generous salary.”

Steve was honestly shocked. He shook his head. “Thank you for the generous offer, but I’m sorry I can’t accept. My place is in the Navy and with my team. I plan to stay for awhile and help my dad recover, but then I’m going to back to my team. It’s where I belong.”

Jameson frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that, but I respect your decision. I have a few other candidates in mind so don’t worry about that, but if you change your mind in the next week or so let me know.”

“I’ll be right back, Dad. I’m just going to see the Governor out.”

Steve followed Pat Jameson out the door and down the hall. “This way,” she said and led him to an empty family room.

She closed the door. “Did Hesse say anything of interest, Commander?” she asked in a much more formal tone than she’d used tonight.

“Yes, Ma’am. He told me he has information about drug trafficking on the island and that the trafficking ring is run by someone working for the Yakuza. He told me that if you cut him a deal, he can help you bring an end to the weapons trafficking coming in and out of Hawaii.”

Jameson expression was serious. “I see. Tell me. Do you believe him?”

Steve shrugged. “He seems desperate for protection. I think he does have some valuable information, Ma’am. He was hoping you’d be willing to work with him. I told him I didn’t have the power to work out a deal and that NCIS has jurisdiction.”

Steve saw no reason to mention his mother’s murder.

Jameson snorted. “The man has balls. I’ll give him that.”

Steve chuckled. “Yes. He does. I told him it wouldn’t be easy. I think you could work with NCIS to get the information he has. I was searching for Hesse on their behalf. ”

“Thank you, Commander. I need time to decide what we’re going to do next. I’ll see about getting in touch with the Hawaii office.  I need to know exactly what he knows before I can proceed. I’ll send in the D.A. to talk to Hesse again. I’m going to need a better idea of the information he has to offer. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

“It’s fine. He mostly wanted to gloat. He was disappointed to hear my father was still alive.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re sure he didn’t say anything else? Nothing about why he tried to murder your father?”

It was a fair question, but Steve couldn’t answer it until he got the truth. Steve shook his head. “No, Governor. He said only that he was sorry he hadn’t succeeded. Apparently, he wanted me to suffer. That wasn’t exactly new information. I tried to press, but he refused to say anything more without a deal in place.”

Jameson nodded. “I see. Thank you again, Commander I’m so glad to see your father is doing well. If you need anything, let me know.”

“I will, thank you,” Steve said.

Jameson said goodbye and left quickly.

As Steve reentered the room, he saw his father had lay back down and closed his eyes. He opened his eyes when Steve came into the room. Steve stared for a moment, unsure of what to do next. He desperately wanted to question his father, but he was worried John couldn’t handle it in his current state. This was the most animated his father had been in days, and it was purely for show. Steve’s stomach twisted with worry. If he brought up his mother now, it could make this far worse.

Steve decided to wait until his father was feeling better to bring up his mom. Steve would do some investigating on his own in the meantime. He and John had to talk about John’s burgeoning depression, and there was no time like the present.

“Dad, can we talk?” he asked calmly. “I’m sorry if you’re disappointed that I said no.”

John opened his eyes. “It’s okay, son. I’m a little disappointed, I like having you home, but I do understand. You have a duty. It’s probably just as well. I don’t want you here taking care of an old cripple like me instead of focusing on your career. Let’s just try to stay in touch more this time, okay?”

“I promise. I’m on leave for several more weeks, and I’ll try to come home more often in the future. Thank you for understanding, Dad, we need to talk about something else.”

“Not right now, Steve. I’m tired. I just want to go to sleep, okay?”

“Yes, right now, Dad,” Steve said a little sharper than he’d intended. He sat down on the edge of his father’s bed. “Look at me, Dad.”

His father reluctantly met his eyes. “First of all, you are not a cripple. Don’t talk about yourself that way. You’re not old either. You have plenty of life left in you.”

John snorted derisively, but Steve ignored him. They didn’t usually talk about their feelings, but Steve knew if he was going to get through to his dad, he couldn’t hold back.

“I know this has been hard for you, Dad, and this has been a big shock. But enough is enough. This isn’t you. You don’t quit, and you taught me never to quit either. I’m not going to let you give up now. Thanks to Tony you’re alive.

“You need to focus on your recovery. I know it’s easier said than done, but I almost lost you once. I’m not going to let that happen again. Even if you don’t walk again, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good life. You have a lot of years ahead of you. I know it won’t be easy, but you aren’t alone.”

John sighed. “I know I’ve been in a funk. I can’t seem to shake out of this. I don’t want to live like this. I feel as if my life is over.” His dad’s voice broke a little. Steve felt tears well up, but he didn’t let them fall.

“It isn’t,” Steve said fiercely. He squeezed his father’s hand. “I’m not saying you don’t have every right to be depressed. You do. It’s a lot to process, but I feel like you’re slipping away. Don’t give up. You’re strong. You can figure out how to live with your injury. Rehab is going to make you stronger.”

His dad’s eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know if I can, kid. I don’t think I can live the rest of my life in a wheelchair.”

“You can, I have faith in you. You still have a lot of healing ahead of you. You might walk again, but either way, you aren’t alone. I’m going to stay for as long as I can. Chin will be here and Tony, too. I’ve been getting to know Tony better, and he cares about you. We’re here for you, but you have to want to fight. I know it’s hard and it’s okay to be upset, just don’t give up. Please, for Mary and me.”

John closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Alright son, I’ll try. I’ll go to rehab and do my best. I don’t want to leave you either, and if your mother were here she’d kick my ass for even thinking of giving up.”

The mention of his mother hurt, but Steve smiled anyway. “I’m glad to hear that. The doctor gave me the name of a psychologist.” It was best to just rip off the Band-Aid.

John opened his mouth to protest, but Steve held up his hand. “Hold on. I’m not going to try to make you do something you don’t want to do. I’m only asking that you think about it. I can tell you from first-hand experience that having someone to talk to can help.”

John sighed and ran a hand over his face. “Okay, I’ll think about it, but no promises.”

“That’s all I ask.”

“Okay, I think I’m done talking about my feelings,” John said with a grin. They both chuckled.

“Well, it didn’t kill us.”

“What didn’t kill you?” Tony asked from the doorway.

“Nothing. We were just talking about dad going to rehab.”

“I brought food from Kamekona’s,” Tony said. Steve’s stomach rumbled reminding him he hadn’t eaten since the morning.

Tony laughed. “You both have the exact same expression on your faces. I guess you must be hungry. Don’t worry, I asked one of the nurses, and she said a little loco moco wouldn’t hurt John.”

“Excellent,” his dad said fervently. “Real food.”

Tony set out a container for each of them and water bottles. Then he put a football game on the TV.

“All we need is beer,” John said.

“Well, when you get home we can grill and watch a game,” Tony said.

“Sounds good. Steve and I agreed I’m going to go to rehab as soon as they’re ready for me, and I’m going to do my best to get strong.”

Tony smiled. “That’s great, John.” He looked over at Steve, and he smiled. His eyes were warm. The warmth seemed to rush over Steve.

“I’m glad you and Steve talked. We’ll both be there to support you, and you’ll be home before you know it.”

Chapter Four

October 9, 2010

Tony hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair. He had a problem. The director of the local youth homeless shelter had given him a call about a runaway kid he’d been looking for. Tony had checked out the information, and it was good, but the kid, Jackson, hadn’t been alone. Jackson’s mother Audrey had come to Tony for help after the police investigation stalled. The director had tipped him off to Jackson’s location. He’d also warned him that Jackson was hanging out with a rough crowd; he was likely getting high and maybe even dealing. Tony hoped not. If he were dealing and got caught there wouldn’t be much Tony could do for him.

Tony knew he shouldn’t do this on his own. It was times like this he missed having back up. Jackson’s new friends could be trouble. Tony had seen at least one gun. In the past, John would have come with him on jobs when he asked. Chin and Tony’s friend Danny Williams, a policeman recently arrived from New Jersey, had both helped him out a couple of times too, but both men were busy today.

Suddenly, Steve popped into Tony’s mind. Steve would be a good choice, but would he be willing to help? He and Steve had been getting to know one another, and they were getting along surprisingly well. The initial awkwardness between them had disappeared almost overnight. It made sense as they were united in their goal of taking care of John. Their common ground made it easier to start trusting each other.

It didn’t hurt that Tony found Steve attractive and genuinely liked him. Tony wanted to get to know Steve better. They had been casually flirting almost from the moment they had met. Tony knew Steve was attracted to him, too but things were progressing slowly. Tony didn’t really mind. They were both busy but hanging out together when they could was a lot of fun.

He wanted to see where it was going to go. He was almost certain he could trust Steve to have his back. It was only his past mistakes that made him doubt what his intuition was telling him. He’d trusted the wrong people in the past, and it had cost him. It made him reluctant to take a chance on people.

Tony decided to go with his gut. In his heart he knew he could trust Steve. He needed help, and it couldn’t hurt to ask. He picked up his phone and called Steve. Steve picked up on the first ring.

“Tony,” Steve’s voice sounded warm. “What’s up? I thought you were working today.”

Tony cleared his throat. “Yeah, I am. I know you’re with John right now, but I could use some help with a case.”

The answer came immediately making Tony grin. “Sure, what do you need?”

“I need some backup. I have a teenage runaway. His name is Jackson.He’s seventeen turns eighteen next month. He was in recovery for meth addiction before he disappeared. He’s been missing for a little over a month. I got a tip about where he hangs out. I heard he might be dealing as well as getting high and that he’s usually surrounded by a group of friends. Friends who deal and are members of a local gang.”

“I see. Is the boy a member too?”

“I’m not sure if the kid has actually joined, too. According to his mother, he used to buy from them, but she insists he was never a dealer himself.”

There was a thoughtful pause. “Maybe you should call the police?”

“I plan to if I see anything illegal and as soon as Jackson is safe, but I need him to trust me if I’m going to convince him to come home and get help. If I get the cops involved he’ll run.”

“Okay, where can I meet you?”

Tony gave him the address of a coffee shop a few blocks away from where Jackson and his crew hung out. Steve agreed to meet him there in an hour, and they hung up. Tony already felt better about all this.

Tony arrived at the coffee shop first and ordered a coffee and a pastry before sitting down to wait. Steve arrived exactly an hour later, and Tony couldn’t help but stare at him. He was wearing a tight black t-shirt and a pair of cargo pants that fit him extremely well. He looked up to see Steve was staring back at him.

Their eyes met, and Tony felt himself grow warm as Steve’s eyes raked over him in return, and Steve gave him that blindingly gorgeous smile. That smile should be illegal. Then he waved at him and inclined his head toward the counter. Steve got a coffee and joined Tony at the table.

Tony couldn’t see Steve’s gun, but he assumed he had an ankle holster. Military personnel were allowed to carry weapons off base. Tony had a license to carry concealed, but he tried to only use his gun as a last resort. He hoped it wouldn’t be necessary in this particular circumstance.

“Thanks for coming,” Tony said.

“I’m glad you called. I’m happy to be able to help.” Steve sat down across the small table.

Tony took a sip of his coffee. “I’m grateful for the backup. I don’t like walking into this kind of situation alone.”

“Tell me the specifics.” Steve took a drink of his own coffee.

“I’m hoping it won’t be a big deal. I’m going to approach Jackson and try to convince him to come home, and if that doesn’t work to at least go into rehab. If that doesn’t work, there’s nothing I can do. We call the police and let them know where he is so they can pick him up.”

Steve nodded. “What about the fact that he might be selling?”

Tony leaned forward and rested his arm on the table. “I don’t know that for sure. Like I said I’m pretty sure he’s fallen off the wagon, but his mother insists he’s not dealing. As long as I don’t see anything I’m not going to say anything. Before he disappeared, Jackson had been clean for six months.

“He got into drugs when he was thirteen, and it’s been a hard road for him, but he was doing well. According to his mother, he got into an argument with his stepfather and left the house. He never came home.”

Steve looked thoughtful, and he leaned forward toward Tony. Their legs brushed under the table. “It’s good of you to help this family out. So what do you need me to do?”

“Mostly I just need you to stand there and look intimidating. Hopefully, if we’re careful, we can keep anyone from messing with us. When I checked out the situation, Jackson was with two other kids. The taller one had a gun. I’m pretty sure he’s over eighteen, so we’ll call the police on him once this is done.”

“I can do that. When do we leave?”

“In a few minutes.” Tony cut off another piece of his croissant and offered the rest of it to Steve. “Want some?”

Steve took it, and their fingers brushed together as he did. “Thanks.” He took a bite, and his eyes widened. “This is delicious.” He finished off the last of it in one big bite. The enjoyment was plain on his face.

Tony smiled in response. It was a good look on him. “It’s good, right? Their Pain Au Chocolat is the best on the island. Want another one?”

Steve looked over at the counter clearly tempted, but he shook his head. “No, let’s go. I left Dad alone, so I want to get back within a couple of hours.”

“Sure. Either way, this shouldn’t take all that long. Jackson’s either going to come with us, or he’s not.”

As they got out of the car, Tony pointed toward Jackson who was leaning against a wire fence. There was only one guy standing next to him. They were talking quietly, and the other kid said something that made Jackson laugh.

Tony approached them first with Steve behind him. Both boys looked over at them as they walked up and tensed. One of the boys put his hand on his waist, and Tony saw a gun sticking out. Jackson stood up and glared at them.

“We just want to talk,” Tony assured them. “Jackson, your mom sent me here to talk to you. She wants you to come home.”

Jackson looked at his friend. “Let me talk to them alone, man.”

The guy frowned. “Are you sure? You know I got your back.” The kid touched his gun.

“I’m sure. Thanks, man.”

The guy gave Steve one last glare, but he walked off toward a set of swings. Tony watched him go with relief. He was still watching them intently, but at least he had given them space and privacy. Steve stepped away without having to be asked to give them privacy.

Jackson looked like a deer caught in the headlights for a long moment. Then his face twisted with anger. “You’re lying. My mom doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

What on earth had made him think that? Tony wondered. “That isn’t true. Your mom is worried about you. She’s been looking for you since you left the house. She’s even had the cops looking for you. When I called to let her know I found you, she wanted to come down here herself.”

Jackson instantly looked vulnerable and much more his real age. “Paul said I was an embarrassment. That she didn’t want me anymore and I should leave because she didn’t want a drug addict for a son.”

Tony felt a rush of anger. Paul was the stepfather. According to him, they’d had an argument because Jackson hadn’t cleaned the kitchen, and then Jackson had left the house in an angry huff.

“Jackson, your mom loves you. She’s been going crazy with worry. I’m sure she’d forgive you anything. That’s what moms do.”

Jackson looked so hopeful it was painful to see. “But my stepfather—” His voice trailed off.

“Ignore what your stepfather said. He’s clearly an asshole.”

Jackson gaped in surprise and then laughed. Then his face fell, and he looked down at his hands. “I started using again, though.”

Tony nodded. He reached out and gently patted Jackson’ arm. “So we’ll go see your mom and then get you back to rehab.”

Jackson shuddered slightly, but then he took a deep breath and nodded. “Okay, let’s go.”

Tony stifled the urge to sigh in relief. He called out to Steve who was still watching from a few feet away. “Let’s go.”

Steve started walking toward them when Tony heard someone shouting Jackson’s name.

Tony and Jackson both looked up to see a tall and heavy Asian man walking toward them. “Jackson, you little shit, where do you think you’re going? I gave you food and a place to stay, you still owe me.”

Tony looked at Jackson. His face had gone white, and he looked frightened. “Who is this guy?” Tony asked him quietly.

“That’s Louis, but everybody calls him Big Lou. He’s the guy who runs the meth operation. I told him I’d run errands for him if he’d give me a place to stay. He wants me to deal for him. I said no. I promised my mom I wouldn’t.”

“That’s good. Don’t worry, he isn’t going to hurt you. Is he part of a gang?” Tony asked.

Jackson shook his head, and then he hesitated. “I’m not supposed to know this, but he reports to the Yakuza. All the drugs flow through them, and they use the gang members to sell the drugs.”

Tony nodded. He heard a loud cry, and he looked up to find that Steve had pinned Big Lou to the ground. A gun was lying a few feet away. “He was reaching for his gun,” Steve explained. “I figured I should stop him. Pointing a gun at a kid isn’t a nice thing to do.” He looked up at Tony “Who is this asshole?” Steve reached into Big Lou’s pockets and found some baggies full of white powder. “Drugs and what I’m betting is an illegal gun. Looks like someone is in trouble.”

Tony grinned. “He’s low-level Yakuza, and he runs the drug ring. He doesn’t like the idea of Jackson leaving.” Tony took out a nylon zip tie out of his pocket and walked over to Steve who took them and secured Lou.

Tony took out his phone and called 911. Once he was done, he went back to Steve and Lou. He waved Jackson to come over as well. The boy was standing a few feet away looking uncertain. Jackson’s friend had run away, apparently, as he was nowhere to be seen.

“The police are on their way.”

Steve inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Well, I’d say you didn’t have a choice. Take the kid home. I’ll wait for the cops to come and get him.”

Tony didn’t want to leave Steve alone. “Are you sure? We can wait with you.”

Steve grinned. “Yeah, don’t worry I got this. We’ll go wait in the alley over there until the cops come. There’s a station nearby; it won’t take long.”

Tony took Jackson to the car, but he waited the three minutes for the cops to pull up before driving away. Calling Steve had been the right decision. He’d proven he’d had Tony’s back. Tony felt a rush of warmth. It felt good knowing he could trust Steve. He’d have to find a way to thank him for his help.

He took Jackson home, and as they pulled up to the house. The door opened and Audrey came running down the stairs.

“Jackson, baby you’re home!” she exclaimed.

“Mom,” Jackson called out, his voice choked. He ran down the front walk and let his mother pull him close in a tight hug.

Tony smiled as he watched the reunion. Reuniting families was one of the best things about his job. Watching Mother and son reunite, he thought Jackson would be okay. Tony knew his mother’s support made a big difference. It was moments like this that made his job worth it.

October 11, 2010

Steve walked into the Honolulu Rehab center preparing himself for the difficult conversation that was coming. He couldn’t wait anymore. His father seemed to be doing pretty well. The first few days had been physically and emotionally draining, but he was already getting stronger. He’d be here for at least another month. Steve had given his dad time to settle in, but he couldn’t wait anymore. It was time to ask his dad about what Hesse had told him. He needed to know if what Hesse said was true. He needed to know if his mother had been murdered by Hiro Noshimuri and why.

He had so many questions for his dad. Steve hoped his father would be open with him finally. They had grown closer over the last few weeks. Steve had been by to help his dad during his rehab, cheering him on when he needed support. They had talked every day, and they were well on their way to repairing their relationship.

He hoped that this conversation didn’t undo all that. He wasn’t sure how he would feel if his father refused to talk to him or lied to him again. He felt like he was waiting for an ax to fall, but he knew he had to let it. He needed to know the truth. He’d deal with the fallout.

Nurse Nalani Rogers was behind the desk on his father’s floor. She was a plump elderly woman in her early sixties. Nalani was what Steve thought grandmas should look like. She greeted Steve with a friendly smile.

“Steve, it’s so good to see you. Your dad is in his room. I hear he did extremely well in physical therapy today.”

“That’s great, Nalani. Is it okay if I head on back?”

“Of course, dear. I know he’ll be happy to see you.”

Steve entered his dad’s room to find him sitting in his chair at the small table that sat in one corner of the room. His dad already had the chess board set up and ready to go. John had taught Steve how to play chess while he’s been growing up. It had been something just for the two of them, and Steve had missed their games.

“Steve, you ready to play? I’m going to beat you for sure this time.”

“Dad, you still win more often than I do. It’s just more even than it used to be.” Steve walked over to the table and sat down. “How are you doing?”

His dad shrugged. “The physical therapy is going fine. Its torture, but my physical therapist seems happy with my progress so far.”

“That’s great. I’m glad to hear it. How’s the other therapy going?” Steve asked more cautiously. John had taken a liking to the psychologist and agreed to talk to her, much to Steve’s relief.

His dad smiled at him. “It’s going okay, son. I have to admit I was skeptical at first but talking is helping more than I thought it would and the new antidepressant is helping too. I’m working on it. I’m working on accepting that I’m probably not going to walk again. I appreciate your support, but I don’t want to talk any more about it, okay?”

Steve nodded. “That’s fine. I’m thrilled to know the therapy is helping. That’s all I’ll say about it.” That seemed as good an opening as any. “Actually, Dad, I need to talk to you about Victor Hesse.”

Dad sat back in his chair. “What about Hesse? Did he finally make a confession?”

Steve shook his head. “I’ve been to see him a few times since I came home, but he’s refused to speak to me since the first time. He just keeps insisting I get him a deal.”

John snorted. “That’s surprising. What does he think you can do?”

Steve sighed. “He expects my help. He told me some stuff about you, and he says he can tell me more.”

John looked shocked “Me? I had never seen that man before he forced his way into my home.”

Steve took a deep breath. “He told me that mom was murdered. He told me that her car crash wasn’t an accident at all, and that you knew. Is that true?”

John had turned ashen. He turned his face away toward the window. “Steve, I have no idea what that man is talking about.”

Steve’s heart sank. “I don’t believe you,” he said simply. Don’t lie to me; he begged his father silently. Don’t shut me out.

His father’s face flushed. “Why would I lie?” he demanded hotly. Steve’s eyes met his father’s head on.

“I was hoping it wasn’t true, but I saw your face when I mentioned mom’s death, and I saw the truth. Dad, please, just tell me what’s going on here. I can’t protect you if I don’t know the truth.”

“Protect me!” His father said loudly. “You’ve got that backward. It’s my job to protect you.”

Steve paused. He kept his voice low. “Is that what you think you’re doing? Protecting me?”

“You’re damn right I am.” His dad tried to turn his wheelchair around, and Steve reached out and put his hand over John’s.

“Dad, I know you want to protect me, but I’m not a kid anymore. Please, I need to know.”

John sighed and ran his hand over his face. “It’s true though it’s still officially classified as an accident. I never wanted you or Mary to know. I had started out investigating a man named Koji Noshimuri. He is the head of the Yakuza operations in Hawaii. He’s been in power for almost thirty years. He is the one who ordered your mother’s death. A few days after death, I got a message threatening you kids, saying you’d be next if I didn’t walk away. So I put the investigation aside to protect you and your sister. I sent you away to the mainland where you’d be safe. I hoped that if I dropped the investigation, Noshimuri would leave you and Mary alone, and he did.”

That made sense. What his father had done still hurt and Steve was still angry, but he understood his father’s need to protect them.

“A couple of years ago, a friend came to me. His name was Hishiro Mokoto. He suspected there was corruption in the HPD and the local government. He’s a former Japanese fighter pilot. He bombed Pearl Harbor, and he’s always felt guilt over it. He wanted to make atonement to the people of Hawaii.

“He became a businessman and made a lot of money. Then he moved here and devoted himself to cleaning up the islands and protecting Hawaii’s natural resources. He wanted to buy some land and turn it into a park, but at the last minute, the land was sold off to a developer instead. Mokoto suspected the developer was in bed with the Yakuza and that the local government had made sure they had the highest bid on the land.”

“So he asked you to investigate?” Steve guessed.

John nodded. “The very idea that members of HPD were in bed with Noshimuri and the Yakuza made me sick. During my current investigation, I noticed Noshimuri had several meeting with a man. I couldn’t identify him at first, but I noticed he seemed to be the one calling the shots. Eventually, I learned his name is Wo Fat. In time I came to suspect that Fat was actually the one in charge of the Yakuza. I started investigating him. He’s former Chinese intelligence and a wealthy businessman. On paper he’s clean.”

Steve nodded. He leaned forward. “What made you think he’s the one in charge?”

“At first, instinct mostly. There was something about him that made my gut clench. Noshimuri treated him with deference as well. Eventually, though I managed to turn one of Noshimuri’s lieutenants, he confirmed it for me. So, I turned my investigation to Wo Fat. I did it as quietly as I could.

“Thanks to a friend I managed to get a CIA file on him, and he has a checkered past to put it mildly. He is very dangerous, but Wo Fat is careful to make sure there are no direct links to him. He is suspected of a lot of crimes including human trafficking, but nothing that can be proven. Like I said, on paper, he looks totally above board.”

His father sounded bitter. Steve would bet that friend was Joe White, but he didn’t ask. “So you have no proof,” Steve said.

John shook his head. “I have some evidence gathered in a toolbox at home, but it’s all circumstantial at best. Nothing concrete. I didn’t dare write any of my suspicions about Wo Fat down. Not after what Noshimuri did to your mom.

“The thing is as I investigated Wo Fat and the corruption in the HPD I realized that someone was giving him orders. I realized I needed to find the person Wo Fat was answering to. One day I followed him, and I saw him meeting with Pat Jameson.”

Steve gasped, “The Governor is in bed with the Yakuza?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. They met in the Governor’s mansion. I got suspicious, so I started keeping track of her. She’s met quite often with both Noshimuri and Wo Fat. She even meets with Noshimuri in public on occasion.”

“I can’t believe it. You must have been shocked. I’m sorry, Dad. I know she’s a friend.”

John nodded grimly. “I didn’t want to believe it, at first. I hoped maybe she was being blackmailed, so I started digging into Pat. I found a record of campaign contributions that looked shady to me. I discovered several of the contributions came from shell companies, but I couldn’t trace them any further. I can’t prove the link to the Yakuza or Wo Fat yet, but I am sure it’s only a matter of time.”

Steve realized his fist was clenched and forced himself to relax his fingers. He fought to keep his voice even.

“Why did she want you to run the task force? Do you think she suspects and this is her way of keeping you under control?”

“Maybe. I’m honestly not sure, but I suspected it might be something like that. The timing was odd for sure.”

“Okay, we’ll get the evidence we need. Hesse pretty much admitted to knowing Wo Fat. Hesse is willing to testify against him in return for protection. “

“Anyone who tries to oppose Fat has a way of disappearing.” John grimaced.

“We can keep him safe long enough to testify. If we need more, there’s the Governor’s task force – I can take the job. That’ll give us the power and influence we need plus it has the benefit of keeping Jameson close. We need to investigate her further and see what else we can find. I’m sure we can find enough proof to take both her and Wo Fat down.”

“No, I don’t want you to do that,” John said quickly. His voice was rising. He looked genuinely alarmed. “I don’t want you to get close to this.”

“What? Why?” Steve asked bewildered. “This can’t about protecting me? Dad, I think I understand why you sent us away now, but I am a trained SEAL. I can take care of myself and watch out for you, too. I think Mary should be safe enough if she stays on the mainland. This investigation isn’t the same one that got mom killed. ”

John ran a hand over his face. “I don’t doubt you can take care of yourself, though I hate the idea of you getting involved in this, that’s not what I’m talking about. There’s something that you need to know, son.” His dad hesitated, and Steve’s stomach clenched.

“What?” What else could there be to say? Steve didn’t know if he could handle more revelations right now. He was already almost vibrating with fury.

“I’m almost certain that it was Pat who gave the order to have me killed. Wo Fat does her bidding. I think he’s using her, but I have no doubt she thinks she’s in control. A couple of other people who opposed her have had accidents in the last few years. A city inspector died in a fire. He had declared an area Jameson wanted to develop was unsafe for development. He died, and a week later she had the permits. There’s nothing that would raise any flags unless you’re looking for it, but there’s a definite pattern.”

Steve gasped. “Jameson is responsible for your attempted murder?”

John nodded. “I had a witness who saw Wo Fat kill a low-level Yakuza enforcer. I turned him. He was willing to testify. The only person I told was Pat, and a week later he was dead. Car accident. I’m sure she told Wo Fat, but I have no concrete evidence. Nothing she can’t talk her way out of. There’s the paper trail of questionable campaign contributions. The only real evidence I have is a video from a hidden camera in her office. I walked in on a meeting between her and Wo Fat.

“Unfortunately, they didn’t talk about anything illegal. Pat introduced him as a business associate. He asked me if I wanted to invest in a development opportunity. I politely declined. I must have done something that made them suspicious. Something must have spooked her, but I’m not sure what.”

The idea that Jameson might have been involved in the attempt on his father’s life made him sick with fury.

“That’s a good start. We need to get ears on her. Is the camera still there? Hopefully, we can get a recording of her incriminating herself.”

If necessary Steve would march into her office and confront her but that was only a last resort. He could imagine his father’s reaction to that, so he kept it to himself.

“It’s still there. Can you do this without getting HPD involved? We can’t trust them. Wo Fat has at least one mole in the department, maybe more. I thought about going to HPD, but I was worried the Lt. Governor might be dirty, too.”

Steve nodded. “I know a few people. We’ll clone her cell phone. We’ll get more surveillance in the mansion. We’ll do whatever it takes. The Governor said I’d have full immunity and means. I plan to use that to investigate her. I can’t think of a better use for my new directive.”

John sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Damn it. Your mother always said you were as hard-headed as me. How would you do it by yourself?”

Steve thought for a moment. Then something occurred to him. “Tony used to be a federal agent. I’m sure he’d be willing to help. He doesn’t want you in danger any more than I do.”

John shook his head. “Steve, no. I don’t want both of you getting involved. Wo Fat is far too dangerous. I want you to promise me you won’t do anything rash.”

John looked so upset that Steve gave in without a fight. He agreed to wait just to make his dad feel better, though he knew he wouldn’t change his mind. His thoughts were in turmoil, but he managed to find a smile for John.

John sighed. “The USB drive is in a toolbox in my garage. I haven’t been able to go back and secure it. All the evidence I have on the Governor and Wo Fat is on that USB drive with the paper trail I found. There are some other things in there that have to do with another of my old cases, and some things that relate to my initial investigation into your mother’s death. I investigated the Noshimuri family in Japan, too. Now that you know the truth I want you to get it and hide the evidence in a more secure place.”

“I will, I promise. Why didn’t you hide it somewhere safer like a safety deposit box?”

John sighed. “I thought about it, but I didn’t want to leave it somewhere traceable. I suspect Pat is keeping an eye on me or maybe Wo Fat. I did open a safety deposit box at Honolulu Bank, but there’s nothing in there but my important papers. I thought if I did anything too odd it would be like shining a big neon sign that said ‘look here’.” John relaxed visibly. “Good. I know you’ll take care of it. Now let’s play some chess. Reset the board, we’ll start over.”

Steve did as asked and focused on visiting with his dad. He was going to need some time to process everything he’d learned today. He was furious that his mother had been murdered, but he didn’t blame his father for keeping them safe. He’d walked in expecting to be angry with his father; after all, what could he say to make the situation better?

Much to Steve’s surprise, the conversation had brought them closer instead. Steve understood why his father had kept the information to himself. He was still upset, but the knowledge that John trusted him helped a lot. He believed his dad when he said he wouldn’t lie to Steve again. Some more of the old pain eased away. He was grateful for the chance to get to know his father again.

Chapter Five

When Steve left the rehab center his mind was racing with plans. He had a lot of work to do. Luckily Steve was good at adapting to changing circumstances. He headed straight for his dad’s house and found the evidence right where his father had told him it was.

There were several things in there his father hadn’t mentioned including pictures of his mother’s murder scene. Steve assumed the rest of it had something to do with the other case he’d mentioned. A lot of it made no sense to him including some postcards with a picture of Japan and an old key. He’d have to ask his dad about them later. If his dad had hung on to them, this other case must have been important to him, too.

He hid all the items he found, including the USB, under the floorboards in the back of Mary’s old closet. Once the floorboard was back in place, it looked seamless. It was a hiding spot that no one but he and Mary knew about, and better yet only they knew how to get it open. He and Mary had used it as kids. Mostly to hide the little trinkets kids thought were special. Mary had used it later to hide her diary until Steve had found it, of course.

Once she found him with it, she’d stopped using it to hide things. Now it would be useful again. It was a risk leaving it here when Steve was staying on base, it should be safe there, but Steve couldn’t be sure how far Wo Fat’s influence extended. but he’d been reluctant to put the USB somewhere obvious, like a safety deposit box. It wouldn’t be that hard for someone with Wo Fat’s connections to get their hands on it that way.

That done he wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He didn’t want to head back to the base or out for a hike. He could go out and have a stiff drink. Clearing his mind would be helpful, but if Steve was honest, he didn’t want to be alone right now. The problem was he didn’t have any friends in town unless you counted Tony and Chin.

Steve knew he and Tony were becoming friends, but given how much they flirted he hoped they were heading for more. If the flirting was any indication, Tony returned his interest, but Steve was reluctant to make a move. He didn’t want to ruin what they had going. Not to mention Tony’s friendship with John made things more complicated.

Steve truly liked Tony. He was smart, funny and gorgeous. When Steve was around him, he felt relaxed and comfortable. Steve had never felt that way around a potential lover before, at least not so quickly.

Things had seemed so complicated with his dad and Hesse that his attraction to Tony had understandably taken a back seat. Suddenly though, Steve wanted to see him and talk to him. Tony had a way of making Steve feel better about the shitty things that were going on in his life.

Steve gave in and called.

Tony picked up on the third ring. “Steve.” Tony sounded happy to hear from him, and Steve’s heart sped up.

“Hey, Tony. Are you busy?”

“No, I’m not. I finished up an easy case today, and I got paid, so I was actually just thinking about going out to a movie or something.”

Steve suddenly felt awkward. ”Oh, if you already have plans then I’ll let you go.”

“No, no,” Tony said quickly. “I don’t have any definite plans. Did you need something?”

Steve hesitated again. What was the matter with him? He was a grown man, not some inexperienced teenager.

“I just saw my dad.”

“How is he?”

“He’s better. The physical therapy and the counseling are both helping him.”

“That’s great. I’m so glad. I knew he’d be okay if he gave it a chance.”

“Yeah, I’m relieved, too. Anyway, I was heading back to the base, but I don’t feel like being alone tonight. So, I wondered if you wanted to do something.”

“I’d love to. I’m still at home right now. Can I pick you up?”

“No, I have my car. I’ll meet you at your place, and we can decide what to do.”

“Actually I have an idea what I want to do. Dress up a little okay?

“Dress up? How much? I don’t have a suit.” Surely whatever it was wouldn’t require his dress uniform, not that he had that either.

“It’s not a formal occasion. Just something nicer than a t-shirt and a pair of jeans will do fine.”

“If you tell me where we’re going then I can choose appropriate clothing.”

“No, I want it to be a surprise. I’m sure whatever you pick will be fine.”

Steve hesitated. This sounded more serious than just two friends hanging out. He and Tony flirted a lot, and they spent a lot of time together. Maybe he should just bite the bullet and ask him out? It would probably be uncomfortable for him to ask now, but Steve resolved if tonight went well he would ask Tony out on a real date.

“Steve,” Tony asked, “You still there?”

“Yeah, I’m here. I’m going to need a few minutes to get ready.”

“That’s fine. I’ll see you soon.”

They said goodbye.

Steve hung up the phone and wasn’t at all surprised to find he was smiling. He probably should be more concerned about what they were going to do, but he wasn’t. The prospect of spending time with Tony had him feeling much lighter, and he didn’t even care what they were going to do.

Tony waited outside the door of his office rather than inside his apartment. He was glad to be going out with Steve. He had been quieter lately and Tony thought something was bothering, but he didn’t want to pry. Steve drove up in his rental and got out of the car. The sight that greeted him took Tony’s breath away. Steve walked toward him in a black button-down shirt that brought out the blue in his eyes, a tight pair of jeans, and a pair of combat boots. He looked good enough to eat.

Steve walked up to him. He held his arms wide open and grinned impishly. “How do I look?”

“You look great,” Tony said. He noted Steve looked more relaxed than h had as if a weight had been lifted.

Steve’s eyes raked over him in response. His eyes were warm. “You look great, too.” Attraction sparked between them, and Tony felt the now familiar rush of desire. Neither one had called this a date, but it felt like one to him.

Tony put his hand against Steve’s chest right over where his heart was and stepped closer. Steve covered Tony’s hand with his own. “I think we should go to dinner, but after that, I want to blow off some steam. Want to go dancing with me?”

Steve stared at him for a long moment. “That’s the last thing I expected you to ask me,” he admitted.

“If you don’t want to go, we can go to a movie instead.”

“No, I’d love to go dancing. It’s been a long time, but I enjoy it. I can’t promise I won’t step on your foot.” The corner of Steve’s eyes crinkled as he smiled. He sounded amused.

From what he’d seen of Steve, Tony would bet he had good rhythm, but he nodded. “I promise not to get upset if you do.”

“Good. It sounds like fun, let’s go.” They turned toward Tony’s car and as they walked Steve put his hand on the small of Tony’s back. Tony almost jumped in surprise, but then he relaxed.

“Okay?” Steve asked quietly, and Tony nodded.

Tony held out his keys. “You can drive if you want.”

Steve’s eyes lit up. “Oh, yeah?” He looked thrilled. It was adorable.

“Sure,” Tony said. “I trust you to be careful with her.”

Steve didn’t have to be told twice. He practically jumped into the front seat. Once he was in, he reached over and opened Tony’s door so he could get in. That was a classy move and definitely date behavior. Suddenly Tony decided they acting silly.

As Steve gunned the engine and then backed out. Tony looked toward him. “Steve, can I ask you something?”

Steve nodded and snuck a quick glance at him.

Tony waited until they had rolled up to a stop light. “I want to know if this a date because it feels like one to me.”

Steve started and turned to stare at him. Then he chuckled. “I’ve been wondering the same thing.” Steve pulled over to the side of the road. “I want to be able to pay attention to this.”

Tony laughed, too. “We’ve been circling each other for sure. I wanted to take things slow so we could get to know each other, but I don’t see why we can’t do that and date at the same time.”

Tony reached out and put his hand on Steve’s knee. “I’m very interested in seeing more of you.”

Steve took Tony’s hand in his. “I want that, too.”

Tony knew his smile was huge, but he couldn’t help himself. “Good. Let’s go out and have some fun then and see where this goes.”

Steve released Tony’s hand and, as he pulled the car back into traffic, Tony put his hand back on Steve’s knee and left it there. Excitement and heat rushed through Steve. All thoughts of what he and his father had discussed this afternoon were temporarily forgotten. He was looking forward to the rest of the evening. “Change of plans.” He gave Steve directions to a new restaurant.

The place Tony chose was a little fancier than the everyday places they went, but not too formal. It was a Mexican restaurant. Tony had been there before, so he knew the food was good.

The restaurant was fairly dark, and there were candles at each table. One wall was also filled with candles. It was as romantic as hell. It wasn’t the restaurant Tony had initially been thinking of, but after their conversation in the car he’d given Steve this address. Tony watched Steve’s face and the slow pleased smile that crossed his face let Tony know he’d made the right choice.

They sat down, and Steve grinned at him. “This is a nice place. I like the atmosphere.”

“Well, it is our first date. This place has only been open a few months, but the food is delicious and very authentic.”

“Sounds good,” Steve said. He opened his menu, and Tony did the same.

The waitress came over to take their drink orders, and they both asked for margaritas. Once they’d ordered Steve smiled at him, his eyes warm.

“Thanks for agreeing to see me on such short notice.”

“I’m glad you called. I was just going to go out to dinner alone. Maybe see a movie. The Maltese Falcon is playing at a theater in Pearl City. It’s one of my favorites, too. I’m a big movie buff. In fact, I have a minor in Film Studies.”

The drinks arrived, and Steve took a sip.

“Is that where you want to take me? I would have enjoyed that. I like movies, and I like Bogart. My favorite is In a Lonely Place.”

Tony felt a rush of excitement. He started rattling off facts before he had time to think better of it.

In a Lonely Place is a classic film noir. Released in nineteen fifty and directed by Nicholas Ray, it starred Gloria Grahame and Frank Lovejoy. I think that’s his best and not many people know of it. Well, besides movie nerds and critics anyway. It’s gotten a lot more critical acclaim in recent years. It was criminally underrated for a long time.”

Tony stopped abruptly. He wasn’t embarrassed precisely by his outburst, but a lot of people in his life had found his love of movies, and more specifically his knowledge of movie trivia, annoying. His ex-fiancé had only tolerated it. Apparently, he could go on and on. He gave Steve a careful look. Steve didn’t seem annoyed. “Sorry, I have a tendency to get carried away.”

Steve smiled, and Tony noticed the way his eyes went bright with amusement. “It’s okay. It was a lot, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested. There’s no need to be embarrassed. You’re cute when you’re excited. Besides, I’m interested in whatever you have to say to me.”

Tony took a sip of his margarita. Steve’s words pleased him. “Be careful what you say. I’ll take you at your word and talk your ear off.”

Steve leaned forward, and his eyes crinkled with amusement. “I’ll look forward to it. I’m actually a pretty big movie buff myself, and I like learning new things.”

Tony reached out and gave Steve’s hand a quick squeeze. “That’s good to know. What made you get into movies?” Tony asked.

“I’ve always enjoyed them, but I developed a whole new appreciation the first time I was deployed. There’s not much else to do during downtime when you’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean. What about you?”

Tony took a sip of his drink before answering. He didn’t talk about this often, but he found he wanted to tell Steve. “It was my mom, actually. She and I used to watch movies together. After she died, I was alone. My dad didn’t have much time for me, so I spent a lot of time watching movies.”

“I’m sorry, Tony. I can imagine you as a kid, and I’m sorry you were alone so much. I kind of know how that feels. I felt lonely too after my dad sent us to the mainland.”

Their eyes met, and understanding passed between them. “I think we have more in common than I thought,”

Just then their food came, and they lapsed into silence as the server set hot plates in front of them. Steve had ordered the tacos and Tony had ordered the enchiladas. Tony thanked the waitress, and she left. Tony took a bite, and he couldn’t keep back the little noise of pleasure he made.

“This is just as good as I remembered,” he told Steve. Steve didn’t answer so Tony looked up at him to find Steve watching him intently. His face was slightly flushed.

As Tony watched, he took a long drink of his water. Tony looked back down at his food to hide his smile. It seemed Steve had liked the noise he’d made though it had been unintentional on Tony’s part. Tony nudged Steve’s foot with his own making him start slightly. Then Steve leaned forward so that their legs were touching.

“Aren’t you going to try your food?” Tony prompted, teasingly.

Steve looked down and picked up a taco and took a bite. His eye widened with surprise. “Wow, this is so good.”

“I told you. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.”

“I spent some time stationed in New Mexico. I’ve always thought you couldn’t get decent Mexican food in most of the U.S., Hawaii included. Believe me, I’m thrilled to be proved wrong.”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“So how about I’ll tell you something personal about me in return?”

“Sure,” Tony said, intrigued.

“I’m a big chemistry nerd. As a kid, Mr. Wizard was my favorite show. I loved how he was able to save the day using science. I even have a Master’s degree in chemistry. The Navy paid for me to go to college.”

“I liked Mr. Wizard, too. In your line of work, it helps to know how to blow things up properly.”

Steve laughed. “Yeah, it does.”

They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. It was comfortable, and neither of them felt the need to fill it. So far there hadn’t been any of the usual first date awkwardness. Tony thought it should surprise him, but it didn’t. He and Steve just seemed to fit. After the waiter took their plates away, and they ordered coffee and dessert, Tony realized Steve was watching him with a pensive look on his face.

“What?” Tony asked “Something on my face?”

Steve favored him with a small smile. “No, you’re good. I’m just so pleased we decided to do this.”

“Go out on a spontaneous date you mean?”

Steve shook his head. “Well, yes. I am glad about that, extremely so, but that isn’t what I meant. I’m glad I called you and that you agreed to see me tonight. This is exactly what I needed.”

Tony shot Steve a sympathetic look. “I know you saw John today. Was it difficult? Was he having a bad day?” Tony took Steve’s hand where it was resting on the table top.

Steve squeezed his fingers. “We talked about my mom. It turns out her car accident wasn’t an accident at all. My father was investigating Hiro Noshimuri, and he had her killed as a warning to my father. That’s why he sent us away.”

“Steve, I’m so sorry, that’s terrible. I had no idea. Your dad never said anything.” Tony didn’t know what to think. He’d always idolized John as a parent. Not that John had asked to be put on a pedestal.

Steve sighed. “He didn’t tell anyone. He dropped the investigation and sent Mary and me away to keep us safe. I spent so much time being hurt and angry with him. I thought he didn’t want us, but the truth is he wanted to protect us. He said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done.”

Tony didn’t know what to say. It was a shocking revelation. Tony sympathized with Steve and John both. John had a valid reason for his actions, but that hadn’t made the consequences easier to bear. It was a horrible situation for anyone to be in.

Their desserts and coffee arrived, and Tony waited until the waitress left to speak.

“That must have been hard to hear. My mom died in an accident. I’m not sure how I’d handle learning she was murdered, and that my father had kept it from me.”

Steve took a bite of his churro before answering. “I think that’s why I wanted to talk to you. I knew you’d understand how I feel better than most. It was hard to hear. I think I was hoping Dad would tell me Hesse was crazy and that I would believe it. I even put off talking to him for several days.”

Steve looked at him, and Tony nodded encouragingly.

“He told me the truth. I spent all these years thinking Dad didn’t want to deal with us, and it turns out he was doing his best to protect us. I’m not sure how I feel. I’m not angry, and I also understand why he did it. The thing is while he may have sent us away for a good reason, he could have kept in touch more. Aside from a few phone calls, he pretty much disappeared from our lives.”

“That’s understandable. You feel how you feel. I know what it’s like to feel abandoned. The truth is John made mistakes. He hurt you and Mary. Just because his intentions were good, doesn’t change what he did.” Tony took a bite of his forgotten tres leches. It was one of his favorite desserts, but Tony barely tasted it. “How did you leave things with John?”

Steve smiled. He picked up another churro and took a bite. “Weirdly, I think we’re okay. Clearing the air was helpful. I feel like we’re on even ground, and there are no more secrets between us. We’ve gotten closer since I’ve been home. I like it. He did apologize for hurting us.”

Tony smiled. “Maybe now you guys can move forward.” Tony was happy for them. Both Steve and John deserved a better father-son relationship

Steve nodded. “I think so.” He took another churro and offered it to Tony. “You have to try this.” Tony smiled and leaned forward took a bite. It was delicious. The cinnamon sugar melted on his tongue and the fried dough was crunchy.

“Wow. That’s good. Here try mine.”

Tony took some tres leches on his spoon and held it out to him. Steve smiled and slowly took the bite of cake from Tony’s spoon. His lips closed around it, and Tony couldn’t help but stare at his lips. Steve made a pleased sound that went straight to Tony’s cock. Behave, he told it. We’re taking this slow.

Tony knew he needed to distract himself. He decided it was a good time to ask a question he’d been worried about.

“Are you worried about DADT? I know we have to be careful. At least more careful than we’ve been tonight so far.” If Steve was outed, then he could be discharged.

Steve sighed. “A little. I do need to be circumspect, though I’m not particularly worried about tonight. Honestly, not to sound arrogant, I’m valuable enough that my superiors would probably overlook anything they heard as long as I didn’t make out in front of them or something.”

Tony chuckled. “No danger of that. I don’t mind being discreet. At least for now, I know after the investigation is over you’re going to go back to your team.”

Steve nodded. “That’s the plan. I don’t want to completely hide either. We’ll be careful in public if that’s okay.”

Tony nodded, feeling relieved. “I can live with that. I’d never want to hurt your career. “

Steve smiled, and their eyes met. “I know you wouldn’t. I trust you, Tony.”

Tony flushed a little. “I’m glad. There’s only one more thing to work out. What about John? Are we going to tell him about us?” Tony knew what he’d prefer at least for the time being, but he wanted to hear what Steve wanted.

Steve hesitated. “Please don’t take offense but I think we should wait until we’re sure where this is going. One of the reasons I tried so hard to ignore my attraction to you is your friendship with my dad. I don’t want to do anything to upset him.”

Tony grinned and took Steve’s hand again. “I was worried about the same thing. I think it’s a good idea to wait.”

Steve smiled brightly “Good. I’m glad we agree.”

They finished their desserts, and after a brief argument over the check, which Tony won, they left the restaurant.

As they got to the car, Tony raised an eyebrow. “Ready to go dancing?”

Steve had agreed to go to the club, but once they arrived, he wasn’t sure they’d made the right decision. The music was ear-splittingly loud, and the beat thrummed in Steve’s chest. Clubs weren’t typically his scene. Tony was excited though, and he pulled Steve onto the dance floor.

Steve had to admit dancing with Tony more than made up for the noise and huge crowd. Tony was an excellent dancer and watching him move was a pleasure. Tony pressed close to him, and Steve relaxed and enjoyed himself. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d let loose and just had some fun.

Eventually, a slow song came on, and Tony pulled Steve close.

Spending time with Tony on their date had helped. Clubbing wasn’t his favorite activity, but as long as he got to be close to Tony, he wouldn’t complain. Everywhere they touched was tingling and Steve felt a slow simmering desire coiling throughout his body.

Tony had his arms wrapped around his neck, and their cheeks were pressed together. “I’m enjoying this,” Tony murmured. “I like having you in my arms.”

“I like being here.”

Tony chuckled warmly in response. He pulled back. Their eyes met, and Steve saw the desire in Tony’s eyes. He knew it matched his own. Tony cupped Steve’s cheek and leaned forward. He brushed his lips against Steve’s gently at first, but Steve wanted more.

He put his hand on the back of Tony’s neck and pulled him forward gently and kissed him more firmly. Steve let out a little involuntary moan and parted his lips; Tony took advantage and slipped his tongue into Steve’s mouth to tangle with his possessively. They kissed for what felt like a long time, trading slow deep kisses.

Finally, someone bumped into them breaking the spell. Steve stepped back with a gasp and took a deep breath. Tony buried his face in Steve’s neck. Steve became aware that the music had changed again. The beat of the music thrummed around them.

“That was great,” Tony said softly in Steve’s ear. “But I don’t want to get carried away tonight. I want to take things slow. Is that okay?”

Steve was a little disappointed, but he had to agree it was sensible. They had time. “It’s okay. Let’s get some water and cool off.”

Tony beamed at him and then took his hand to lead him off the floor. Tony’s hand in his felt right. Steve could get used to this. He hoped this was only the beginning.

Chapter Six

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Steve stepped back from the new counters he was sanding and looked at the new open plan kitchen with satisfaction. The kitchen looked great. There had been no way a wheelchair would have fit through the old door, so they’d knocked that wall down, and now the kitchen opened onto the living room. It gave both rooms a much more open feel. The cabinets and counters had also been lowered to make them easier for John to reach.

Steve had gotten Chin’s cousin, who happened to be a contractor, to start working on the renovations as soon as they’d been sure the paralysis would be long-term and so far, he’d done a great job. They were already a lot farther along than he thought they’d be. Fei Hung Chin had given him a good deal, but it was still lucky Steve had a lot of hazard pay saved up. All this wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it to make his dad’s life easier.

In addition to the kitchen remodel, a new handicap accessible bathroom was being added to the first floor. It wouldn’t be ready for several more days yet. Fei had turned the water off for a few days to refit the pipes.

The rest of the bathroom wasn’t finished yet as it was the part of the remodel that required the most work. Luckily, it was relatively easy to expand it. It was the biggest alteration that had been made to the house. Hopefully, it would be done by the time his dad was ready to come home.

Steve had offered to help, and Fei had taken him up on it. It felt good to be doing something useful. He enjoyed working with his hands. It helped him think. He’d tried to find out information on Wo Fat, but it was proving more difficult than he’d imagined. He was indeed squeaky clean as far as Steve could tell. With a sigh, Steve turned his mind to more pleasant thoughts.

After their first date, he and Tony had met up for another morning swim a few days later, and it had been just as much fun as the first time. Otherwise, they hadn’t seen much of each other this week. Tony was working a case, and it was taking up all his time. Steve was disappointed, but he understood duty. Tony took his cases seriously.

Fei came into the room breaking into Steve’s thoughts. He examined the counter with a critical eye. “Good job, Steve.”

“Thanks, man. What else can I do?”

Fei grinned. “I think Tony needs some help painting in the den. I told him I was sure you’d be happy to volunteer.”

Steve grinned. “Tony’s here?” He heard the excitement in his own voice.

Fei grinned back. “He is. He got off of work early and offered to come by and help. I told him he could bring that fine ass over here anytime.”

“As long as you look but don’t touch,” Steve said with a chuckle.

Fei held up both his hands. “Scout’s honor. Go see if he needs help.”

Steve nodded. “I think I will.”

Steve stopped at the cooler that was sitting on the lanai and grabbed them both bottles of water before making his way back to the den.

He walked into the den and found Tony painting the ceiling. He was standing on a low ladder with his back to the door. He was singing along quietly to whatever song was playing on his phone. Tony didn’t hear him come in and he had an excellent view of Tony’s ass in a pair of jeans. It was a work of art. Fei had been right about that. Steve forced himself to stop staring, and he walked over to Tony.

“Hey, Tony,” he said, and Tony started in surprise. He turned to look behind him and lost his balance. He tried to keep his balance but he tipped backward slightly, and Steve reached out to grab him around the waist, so he didn’t fall.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Steve said.

“No problem. Thanks for catching me. It’s not far to fall, but it probably would have hurt.”

“I brought you some water.” Steve held out one of the bottles.

“Thanks.” Tony looked toward the door, and then he leaned forward and gave Steve a quick hard kiss. “Hey, you.”

Steve grinned. “I’ve missed you. It’s been a long week.”

“Me, too. Phone conversations just aren’t enough.” Tony took the water and opened it taking a long swallow. Steve’s eyes were drawn to the line of his throat.

Steve realized he was staring again. Tony caught him, and he grinned. Steve looked away. He looked up at the ceiling and then around the rest of the room. “The ceiling looks good, but it looks like you could use some help with the rest of the room.”

Tony shrugged. “Yeah, I was supposed to have some help, but it never materialized. I don’t mind.”

“Well, Fei sent me to help you. He figured I’d be happy to help. He also mentioned he likes your ass.” Steve grabbed Tony’s ass and squeezed gently as he spoke.

Tony wiggled it a little and then pressed closer to Steve. “I’m not surprised,” Tony said with a grin. “I do have a great ass.”

“You definitely do.”

“You’re sweet.” Tony leaned forward and gave him another hard kiss. “Good, then grab a roller and start on that wall over there. We have a lot of work to do, Mister.” Tony pointed to the far wall.

“Yes, sir,” Steve said teasingly. He picked up the second roller and rolled it around in the paint. They were painting the wall white. Tony had wanted yellow or green, but John had insisted he wanted the room as plain as possible so white it was.

As if reading his mind Tony spoke. “I still hate this color. I wish your dad let me pick something else. At least it isn’t the bright white of a hospital or orange. Orange is painful, let me tell you.”

Steve had heard about the orange walls at NCIS Headquarters from Sam Hanna. “Did you get used to being surrounded by it eventually?”

Tony shrugged. “Mostly, but when I was low on sleep it bothered me more. Have you been to the Navy yard?”

“No, Sam mentioned it once. I worked with a couple of agents afloat, but until I met you, that was my only real experience with NCIS.”

Tony nodded. “I’m glad it wasn’t ever necessary. Though I’m sorry we didn’t meet sooner.”

“Me, too.” They shared a long look and Steve reached for him, but Tony stepped back. “Work now. Kiss later,” he said.

Steve laughed in response.

They worked in companionable silence for over an hour. Steve looked at his phone and realized it was almost time for lunch. He’d never met anyone he could just spend time with like this. Sure, he had this connection with his teammates, but it had developed over time. His connection to Tony had been strong almost from the start.

“I’m getting hungry,” he said to Tony. “How about you?”

“Yeah, I could eat. Want to see if anyone else is interested? We could order pizzas for everyone. My treat.”

“No, I got it. Make sure you get at least a couple of Hawaiians.”

Tony made a face. “I hate to tell you this, but if you like pineapple on pizza, I may have to rethink our entire relationship up to this point.”

Steve smiled. Relationship, the word had a lovely ring to it. “Oh come on. Ham and pineapple are the perfect toppings on a pizza; you just haven’t given it a chance.”

Tony scowled at him. “Heathen. I’m genuinely horrified right now. You’re lucky you’re cute.”

“Cute?” Steve scoffed. “Please. I’m gorgeous.”

Tony raised an eyebrow and gave him an amused smile “Oh really? You have a healthy ego, that’s for sure.” He shook the roller at Steve and paint splattered on Steve’s face and his t-shirt. “Not so gorgeous now,” he said with a laugh.

Steve grabbed Tony around the waist pulling him close. “First of all, you find me gorgeous all the time.”

Tony snorted and rolled his eyes.

Steve fought to keep a straight face. “Second of all, I am going to make you regret that.”

Tony laughed again. “I’d like to see you try.” He tried to push Tony away, but he wasn’t very effectual.

Steve took a swipe at Tony with his roller. Tony jumped back out of his way. “Oh no. Don’t you dare. These clothes are old, but I don’t want them ruined.” He held up his own roller. “If you’re going to get me then I’ll just return the favor.” He backed up again, and Steve took another swipe. This time he caught the end of Tony’s shirt. “Hey,” Tony said indignantly, but the corner of his mouth twitched. Steve knew he was amused.

Tony looked toward the door. “Hey Chin,” he said. When Steve looked, there was no one there. Tony made a triumphant noise and the next thing Steve knew there was paint on his cheek.

He mock glared at Tony. “Okay, that’s it.” He moved quickly toward Tony, who backed up, and then made a split second move for the door. Steve reached out and grabbed his shirt pulling him back toward him. Tony tried to fight him off, but he was laughing too hard to be effective. Steve pulled him close until Tony’s back was against his chest. Tony pushed his ass back against Steve’s half hard cock and Steve gasped.

He ran the roller over Tony’s hair, and Tony made a sort of squawking noise. “Hey, not the hair,” he said loudly. He pulled away, and Steve let him go. He was laughing too hard to hold on. Tony turned around to face him, and they grinned at each other. Steve pulled him close accidentally tangling their feet together. They tripped and fell to the floor.

“I love how you make me laugh,” Steve said. “I’ve never laughed so much as I have since I met you.”

“Hey, be careful,” Tony admonished him.

Steve took advantage of their positions rolling over so that Tony was on top of him.

“I’ve got you right where I want you,” Tony told him.

“What makes you think I’m not exactly where I want to be?”

“Is that so?” Tony asked softly. “I think I’m the one in control right now.”

Steve smiled. He had no problem letting Tony take charge if that’s what he wanted. He liked assertiveness in his lovers. Desire rushed over Steve. Having Tony pressed against him made Steve’s cock take serious notice. Steve could feel Tony’s erection pressing against his thigh. It was good to know he wasn’t the only one affected. He wiggled slightly, and Tony moaned.

“Not fair. Hold still.” Tony cupped Steve’s cheek with one hand, and they looked at each other for a long moment, their faces inches apart. “I love your lips,” Tony said before Steve pulled him closer and kissed him. The world faded away, and all Steve was aware of was the feel of Tony’s lips against his own.

Steve parted his lips slightly, and Tony took advantage slipping his tongue inside. His tongue moved against Steve’s, and pleasure moved up Steve’s spine. His body was definitely getting interested, and then he heard a voice call his name. It broke the moment. Tony pulled back with a groan.

“Oh man, sorry,” Fei said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just wanted to let you know we’re breaking for lunch. Also, you might want to find someplace more private if you want to continue. As hot as you both are my guys don’t need a free show.”

Steve took a deep breath, and then he remembered. “Pizza and drinks are on me. Charge me whatever it costs.”

Fei grinned. “Thanks, man.” He looked them both up and down. He opened his mouth, but then he seemed to change his mind. “See you later,” he called out.

Steve put an arm Tony’s waist. “I’m sorry we got interrupted. I guess we should get back to work.”

Tony reached out and rubbed his thumb over Steve’s cheek. “Let’s go back to my place, and I’ll make us some lunch. I promise it’ll be better than pizza and Fei won’t mind if we duck out. We can finish this later this afternoon. I think we should both shower and change though. We’re covered in paint from head to toe. We can take my car instead of your rental.”

“I’m not going to turn down a home-cooked meal. Maybe later we can pick up where we left off.”

“That’s the plan,” Tony assured him. “I know we haven’t known each other very long, but I’m tired of waiting.”

Steve groaned softly. His erection had started to go down, but he was still aroused. He took a deep breath, willing his body to calm down.

“Good. We’re on the same page.” Steve took Tony’s hand and twined their fingers together as they walked to the car.

It was a gorgeous Mustang in a classic red. “By the way, I forgot to ask the other night, isn’t this the same car as KITT from Knight Rider?” Steve teased.

Tony laughed. “No, it isn’t. That was a Pontiac Trans Am, and this is a Mustang as you well know. I always thought KITT was a little creepy, to be honest. ”

“Yeah, but David Hasselhoff was hot,” Steve said. “That’s all I cared about.”

“Yes, he was. I realized some important things about myself while watching that show.”

“Didn’t we all?” Steve chuckled.

When they reached the car, Steve gave in to his desire and pushed Tony gently against the car door and kissed him again. Steve felt his desire rising. He leaned forward so that he and Tony were pressed together. Tony shuddered and responded eagerly and their tongues tangled together playfully. Tony was an excellent kisser. Tony moaned softly and pulled away.

“We can’t get carried away. I don’t want to give John’s neighbors a free show.”

Steve nodded and pulled away. “Let’s continue this at your place,” Steve suggested. He couldn’t wait to get Tony alone. They hadn’t known each other that long, but Steve was sure about what he wanted, and he knew Tony felt the same way. He saw no reason to wait any longer.

Just then Steve’s stomach gave a loud rumble, and they both laughed.

“I’d like that but let’s clean up and eat first. You’re going to need your energy.” Tony ran his hand down Steve’s chest and leaned in for one last quick kiss.

Remembering that he was wearing dirty clothes, Steve asked Tony to wait while he got a bag of clean clothes out of his car. When he came back, Tony was still leaning on the driver side door.

“Can I drive again?” Steve asked as Tony unlocked the car.

Tony shook his head. “Nope. Sorry.”

Steve couldn’t help but pout. “I prefer to drive.”

“Cute, but the answer is still no,” Tony said, shaking a finger at him in an exaggerated manner.

They got into the car, and Tony started to drive. Steve put his hand on Tony’s leg and turned on the radio to the classic rock station.

“Rude,” Tony said. “Do you always just make yourself at home in other people’s spaces?”

Steve thought about it and shrugged. “When you travel as much as I do you learn to get comfortable wherever you are pretty quickly; besides you got to drive, so I get to control the radio. It’s only fair.”

Tony threw him a quick glare. “It’s my car,” he pointed out. “Were you on your best behavior the other night?” He watched Steve with narrowed eyes, but Steve saw the smile he was fighting.

It was Steve’s turn to laugh, as he rubbed Tony’s thigh soothingly.

Tony turned back to the road but much to Steve’s satisfaction he made no move to change the station.

Forty-five minutes later they’d both cleaned up. Steve was glad he always kept extra clothes in his car. The showers had been separate, and nothing else had happened between them. They had silently agreed to keep a safe distance until they were alone. While Tony finished getting dressed Steve took the time to look around Tony’s apartment. It was not what he would have expected. It was a small place located in Chinatown. It was a one bedroom with a large living area, and a small kitchen and bathroom. The space was surprisingly light and airy, though.

The other end of the living room was dominated by a piano. The only other things in the room were a comfortable leather sofa, and a large screen TV mounted on the far wall. There was a large rack of DVDs next to the TV. Steve walked over and started looking at the titles. The collection was eclectic.

Tony came out of the bathroom wearing a white button down shirt and another pair of jeans. His feet were bare. Steve let his eyes rake over them, and Tony smiled as he walked over.

“Like what you see?” he asked playfully.

“Always,” Steve said honestly.

Tony’s smile turned soft. “Same here,” he said

“I have to admit. This isn’t what I expected. I expected you to live in an apartment building. One of those modern high rises.”

Tony shook his head. “That’s not my style. This was only supposed to be temporary. Your dad helped me get it. He offered to let me live with him, but it didn’t seem right. My landlady lives next door. She’s an elderly woman who lives alone. I help her out when she needs me to. She makes me food in return.”

That was so sweet. “Sounds like a good arrangement,” Steve said

“I think it’s more than fair particularly since the rent is reasonable.”

Steve grinned. He wanted to know more. “You play the piano, too?” he asked.

Tony ran his hand through his hair. “I do. My mom insisted, and I kept up with it after she died. I find it relaxing; this is her piano.”

Steve nodded. “You must miss her.”

“Yeah, I do. She drank a lot, but there were times she was a good mom. Your mom was great. I had a great time hanging out with your family the night I stayed with them.”

Steve felt a stab of sadness. He looked away from Tony taking a moment to compose himself. “I’m happy you got to meet her. I’m sure she liked you.”

Tony cleared his throat. “Let’s have some lunch. The kitchen is tiny, but I can pull together some pasta and salad.”

Steve tried to avoid too many carbs, but he wasn’t about to turn down a home-cooked meal. “Sounds great. What can I do to help?”

“You can put together the salad for me. Everything is in the fridge,” Tony said. “I’m going to have to use store bought sauce. Normally, I’d use my own, but I’ve run out I need to make more.”

Steve pulled the lettuce and various other fixings for the salad out of the fridge. He washed the vegetables. Then he set about tossing the salad together. “Bottled is fine by me. I’m thrilled to be having a home cooked meal.”

Tony opened the bottle of sauce and tossed it into a pan. “I’m glad. Do you cook?” he asked.

Steve shrugged. “I can make a few things. I cook a mean salmon.”

“Salmon is one of my favorites I’m looking forward to trying it sometime.”

“Next time I’ll cook for you then. I noticed you have a lemon. If you have honey, I can make a dressing for the salad.”

Tony inclined his head toward a small cabinet next to the stove. “It’s in that cabinet.”

To get to it Steve had to brush past Tony, and he placed his hand on the middle of Tony’s back as he did so. He didn’t think he imagined Tony leaning back into his touch.

Tony took the pasta out of the fridge. “It’s tortellini. I made it myself.”

Once the salad and dressing where ready, Steve set the table, and then sat down at the counter and watched Tony cook their dinner. It smelled amazing and made Steve’s mouth water with anticipation. Finally, everything was ready.

Steve slowly took his first bite and hummed with pleasure. “This is delicious. Where did you learn to cook like this?”

“I learned from my paternal grandmother. She was an amazing cook. She came to take care of us for a while after my mom died. I used to sit in the kitchen and watch her make pasta. I wanted to help her, so she taught me everything she knew. It’s one of the best memories of my childhood.”

Knowing what he did about Anthony DiNozzo, Steve was glad that he’d had a grandmother who cared about him. It must have been nice to have a grandparent, Steve mused. When his mother had died, all they’d had was their dad and their Aunt Helen. All of Steve’s friends growing up had large families, and Steve had wished that he did too.

“Well, she did an excellent job. I’m sure she’s proud of you.”

Tony smiled. “She died when I was ten, unfortunately, but I’m sure she’s watching over me from wherever she is.”

Steve winced. “I’m sorry, Tony.”

Tony waved his apology away. “It was a long time ago. Don’t worry about it. So why did you decide to become a SEAL?”

“When my dad sent me to military school on the mainland I realized I liked it. He had a friend check in on me from time to time. His name was Joe White, and he was a SEAL. We got close, and it seemed natural to follow in his footsteps. In fact, when I joined BUD/S, he was one of my instructors.”

“Wow. I’m glad you had someone you could lean on. I know your dad did what he thought was best but sending you away always did seem a little harsh to me.”

Steve took a drink before answering. “It did bother me, what my dad did,” Steve admitted finally. “I didn’t understand it. I felt like he was abandoning us like I’d lost both of them instead of just my mom.”

Tony nodded. He reached out and took Steve’s hand in his own. “I get that, I do. My dad was never the same after my mother’s death. He became a totally different person. Obsessed with his work. Did you ask your dad exactly how we met?”

Steve shook his head. “No, I figured you’d tell me if you wanted too. I am curious, though, not gonna lie.”

“I came with my dad on a business trip to Honolulu when I was twelve. He promised after his work was done we’d go swimming with dolphins and hiking. I was excited. I woke up on the third morning to find he’d left me in the middle of the night. He’d gotten a call from a business associate and forgotten I was there.

“I was so scared I didn’t know what to do. I ordered room service and stayed in the room. Finally, my dad noticed what he thought were fraudulent charges on his credit card. When the hotel manager came in to clean out the room, they found him and called the police. Your dad was the first one on the scene. The rest you know.”

“Jesus, Tony. That’s awful. Steve felt a wave of helpless anger on Tony’s behalf. Tony was already important to him, and he hated the fact that his own father hadn’t cared for him properly.

They were still holding hands, and Steve squeezed Tony’s fingers tightly, trying to offer comfort. What kind of parent forgot their child? What’s worse, Tony’s father hadn’t even remembered when he’d seen his credit card charges.

“It’s okay now. My dad is a selfish prick, and that isn’t ever going to change. I’ll always be glad I met your dad, though. He was great. He listened to me and made sure I knew everything was going to be alright. No one had done that for me since my grandmother died. I spent the night at your place, and we all played Monopoly, and I remember wishing that your family could be my family.”

Steve smiled at that. He could imagine Tony as a kid, alone and scared. He was fiercely glad his father had been there to help him. Steve had the sudden urge to find Tony’s dad and punch him in the face for hurting him.

“Did your dad suffer any consequences for abandoning you? I’m sure my dad tried to have him arrested for neglect at the very least.”

Tony chuckled. “Oh, he did, but my dad’s fancy lawyers made it all go away, and two days later I was on my way home.”

“My dad must have been livid,” Steve said. His father hated it when guilty people weren’t held accountable.

Tony grinned. “Understatement. Your mom was pretty upset, too, but there wasn’t anything they could do. Your dad insisted I stay in touch, though, and he made sure I had his phone numbers and address, and we kept in touch over the years. I thought he was the best dad ever. That’s why I was shocked when I heard he sent you away. I always thought of him as the dad I always wanted to have. Not that he asked to be on that pedestal.”

Steve sighed and sat back letting go of Tony’s hand. He missed the contact immediately. Steve thought a change of topic was a good idea.

“Some weird thing happened. The Governor offered me a job.”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “That’s unexpected. Doing what?”

Steve explained about the Governor and her new task force.

Tony’s expression went neutral. “That’s an interesting idea. I assume you said no,” Tony said.

Steve could understand why Tony might not like the Governor’s idea. He figured he’d hear more about that eventually. “I did, but I’m considering taking the job.”

“That surprises me. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy having you around here permanently, but why would you take it? You love being a SEAL.”

Steve paused. Should he tell Tony about his plan to take down Pat and Wo Fat now? Steve knew that Tony would find out eventually, but he couldn’t stop thinking about asking Tony for help. It was a good idea. He hated the idea of putting Tony in danger, but Steve also knew he and his dad shouldn’t do everything by themselves. They were going to need back up.

Before he decided, the harsh ringing of the phone interrupted them. Steve pulled back reluctantly. “Sorry, I have to take this.” He looked down at the phone, it was Jameson. Steve clenched his fist. He forced himself to stay calm. Just imagine you’re talking to a CO who’s an asshole, he thought. ‘Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am’ would serve him very well at this moment.

Steve turned away from Tony and answered the phone. He figured there was no point in looking for privacy at this point.

“Good afternoon, Governor. How can I help you?” Steve kept his voice as pleasant as possible.

“Steve, we have a big problem. Victor Hesse has escaped from prison.”

“What? How the hell did that happen?” Steve demanded. He jumped up from the table and started pacing.

Jameson sighed. “He was being transferred to court for an arraignment and the van he was in had an accident.”

“Did anyone else escape with him?” Steve asked

“Luckily he was being transferred alone. The thing is I don’t think it was an accident. We found his cuffs on the floor of the van. Somehow he had a key, and he was able to overpower his guard.”

“Are we sure the guard wasn’t in on it?”

“We aren’t sure. He swears he wasn’t. I’d like you to retrieve him. All the resources of my new task force will be at your disposal. You’ll be in charge of the task force until Hesse is caught. I’m confident you’re the right man for the job You have plenty of relevant experience in the Navy, and there is no one better qualified.”

Steve thought quickly. He needed to get Hesse back as soon as possible. So far, he was their only witness in the case against Wo Fat. He couldn’t let the bastard get away. His father had asked him not to take the job for his own safety, but Steve knew he didn’t have a choice. He had to find Hesse as quickly as possible, and he still thought keeping the Governor close was the best strategy to get the proof he needed to bring her down.

“Yes, I’ll take the job as head of your task force, Governor.”

Jameson sighed. “This is such a relief. You have made me very happy, Commander. You’ll have anything you need. All you have to do is ask. I already have an office set up for you in Iolani Palace, and you can use that as your command center.”

“I see. Thank you. You must have been sure I’d change my mind.”

Jameson chuckled. “I’ve always gotten what I want, Steve. You should remember that. “

“I will, Governor.” Steve believed that it was true. He wondered what game she was playing here. If she was in league with Wo Fat then wouldn’t Hesse’s escape be to her advantage? She had to maintain appearances. No doubt she thought she could control Steve easily enough. Steve was sure she didn’t want the FBI. They should have gotten the case after all. Perhaps she was even counting on Steve failing to find Hesse.

“Since Hesse ran I assume you weren’t able to reach an agreement with him.”

“No, we weren’t, but not for lack of trying. I’ll have all the details sent to you a.s.a.p.”

“Good. I’d like to bring in Tony DiNozzo and Chin Ho Kelly on to the task force.”

“You can hire anyone you like. I’m already well aware of Mr. DiNozzo, and I think he’s an excellent choice. He’s trained as a federal agent. I think you’ll make an excellent team. He’s being wasted in his current occupation. Kelly will be a little more difficult. He is persona non grata with the HPD.”

“I promise you, Governor, Chin is a good man and an excellent cop. My father trained him, and he’s stuck by him. My father would never be friends with a corrupt cop.”

Jameson blew out a breath. “Fair enough, I’ll smooth it over. Don’t worry.”

“Thank you, Governor.”

“You’re welcome, Steve. Good luck, I’m sure you’ll resolve the problem quickly and with a minimum of fuss.” Steve swore he could hear the or else she implied at the end.

Steve looked over at Tony who was watching him. “Hesse escaped from custody?”

“Yeah, he did. It looks like he had inside help. The Governor wants us to retrieve him as quickly as possible. She’s already agreed to your joining the team. What do you think? I know you have the skills. We’ll have full immunity and means to recapture him.”

Tony sat up with a frown. “Us as in you and me? She’s offering me a job?”

“Yes. At least until Hesse is caught. She wants us to work together to find him.”

Tony’s eyes widened. “Surely she can’t mean that. NCIS has jurisdiction over the search for Hesse not the State. She shouldn’t be sticking her nose into it. Besides, I know as a SEAL you get a lot of leeway on your ops, but for federal agents or policemen it’s different. There are rules and procedures that have to be followed if we want the case to be admissible in court. No matter what he’s done he has rights.”

Steve frowned back. “I realize NCIS has jurisdiction and that I was working for them, but I need the Governor to trust me, so I’m not going to argue with her, even if that means stepping on NCIS toes. I’m a trained SEAL; I can be polite when I need to be. I promise to follow the rules.” Unless it didn’t get results, he added silently. Tony didn’t need to know that though.

Tony pursed his lips, and he was quiet for a few seconds. Steve let him think.

“This is a terrible idea. You can’t do this alone. I’m giving serious consideration to calling NCIS over your head.

Steve should his head. “Please don’t. I promise I have good reasons for doing this. I could use your help. I’m open to any suggestions you have, but before we get started, there’s something you need to know. I was going to ask for your help anyway. I might as well tell you everything now. I’m not asking just for myself, but for Dad, too.”

Tony looked concerned. “That’s quite the lead-up. My gut I telling me that there’s more going on here. I know you want Hesse, but I also know you wouldn’t want to put his future trial at risk by ignoring the rules.” Tony met his gaze and held it. “You can trust me. You know I’ll help you guys any way I can. What’s going on, Steve? I need to know.”

“It’s a long story.” He paused uncertainly. He was suddenly unsure exactly how to explain everything. A lot of people wouldn’t understand why Steve and his dad felt that they needed to do this.

Steve thought Tony would understand though. Tony deserved to know the truth. John trusted him. Steve hadn’t asked, but he was sure the only reason John hadn’t asked for Tony’s help was that he didn’t want to put Tony in danger. Steve knew in his heart that both Tony and Chin could be trusted. Having them both in their corner could only help Steve and John with their investigation.

“I’ll listen for as long as it takes. You know I’m here for both of you.”

Steve leaned in and gave Tony a quick kiss. “I know. I’ll tell you everything soon, but let’s go see Chin Ho first. I’d rather only have to tell this story once.”

Tony nodded. “Alright.” He reached out and cupped Steve’s cheek. “We haven’t known each other very long, but I care about you, Steve. I like this thing between us. I like where this might be going. Whatever happens, I’ve got your back.”

Steve felt a rush of affection. “I know you do, and I’ve got yours, too.”


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I discovered fanfic way back in 2007, but I only started writing it five years ago. I mostly write romance and slash, but I enjoy reading all kinds of stories. Coming Home is my first novel-length story. You can find my work on ao3 and Wild Hare under the same name.


  1. Tony is right, pineapple on pizza should be a crime! I’m liking this!

  2. Hmm… There some interesting ripples here. I’m definitely curious to see how this is all going to play out. I love that Tony saved John!

  3. Oh I am loving this so far. I love the Tony you have here and the life that you built for him! Loving the slow build between him and Steve. I look forward to the next half!

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