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the island of conclusions

eight million stories out there and they're naked (White Collar/H50, gen)

the island of conclusions

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eight million stories out there and they're naked (White Collar/H50, gen)

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Kono
Re-posting the xover_exchange fic I've been whining about. I don't like it as much as the stabs I made at the same xover here and here. But, unlike those ficlets, it has a plot of sorts :)

Title: Eight million stories out there and they’re naked
Fandoms: Hawaii Five-O, White Collar
Characters: Kono, Chin-Ho Kelly, Danny, Steve, Peter, Neal, Diana, Jones.
Pairings: none
Rating: PG
Word count: ~8K
Spoilers: none (pre-S3 for White Collar, pre-S2 for Hawaii Five-O)
Warnings: none
Disclaimer: White Collar and Hawaii-Five O belong to their respective creators.
a/n: written for jedibuttercup for xover_exchange 2011.
a/n: title from Jay-Z, “Empire State of Mind”
a/n: many thanks to norbelulah for the beta and to the xover_exchange mods for their patience!

Summary: “We were supposed to go spear fishing this morning,” Chin said. “Steve never showed. Not answering his phone, either. Car’s in the driveway but there’s no one home.”



Kono was almost out the door Thursday morning when the call came. She glanced at the phone display: 5:50am. If she waited any longer she was going to miss the good waves.

“Howzit, cuz?” she said, not slowing her momentum toward her bike. He probably wanted to meet up at the beach before work—they sometime did that, had some coffee together before heading in.

“Hey, Kono,” Chin said, “Can you do something for me?”

The breath caught in her throat. Chin Ho Kelly had approximately eighty-seven varieties of calm and Kono knew them all. The particular level tone he was using right now indicated some kind of crisis. Not a 10 on the Richter Scale, but definitely a 5 or 6.

“Sure thing—whatever you need.”

“Meet me and Danny at Steve’s place—soon as you can.”

Kono schooled her tone to match his. “On my way. What’s going on?”

“We were supposed to go spear fishing this morning—Steve never showed. Not answering his phone, either. Car’s in the driveway but there’s no one home.”

+++

Danny and Chin were arguing when Kono arrived, and she realized right away that one reason Chin had called her was to help him deal with Danny’s distress level.

“No,” Danny was saying as she walked into the living room. “You are not putting an APB out on him with HPD. For all we know he has some legit reason to be gone, and having, say, all the police on the island breathing down his neck is going to wreck it.”

“And for all we know Steve is in some kind of trouble, and every minute we delay finding him is making things worse.”

They glared at each other across McGarrett’s coffee table. Chin was dressed for fishing, in a rashguard and board shorts; Danny was apparently dressed in whatever wrinkled clothes had been lying on his bedroom floor. He’d buttoned his shirt wrong, and the lopsidedness gave him a slightly crazed air.

They both jerked their chins at her, acknowledging her presence, if barely. Kono crossed her arms. She was going to have quell all the churning anxiety she was feeling and play the role of level-headed investigator, that was clear.

“Guys,” she said, “just asking, but how do you know Steve didn’t just get lucky last night? Decided he was having too good a time to break it up for spear fishing?”

Both heads swung towards her. “Without his phone?” Danny gestured sharply towards the table.

He had a point. As far as she knew, Steve didn’t go in for that kind of thing much, and even if he did, it was hard to imagine him cutting off communication.

“You guys call Cath?” she asked, reaching for the phone on the table.

“Still in the South China Sea,” Chin told her.

Kono turned the phone over in her hands, opened it, turned it over again and peered sharply at the bottom. “The data card is missing,” she said, surprised.

“Which is why I think something’s happened to him,” said Chin.

“Which is why I think he’s pursuing something he doesn’t want people to know about,” said Danny.

“Not even us?” Kono asked.

The bleak looks they both gave her just about broke her heart.

+++

Eventually, she got Danny out of the house so that Chin could search without Danny breathing down his neck. Truth be told, she was glad of the fresh air herself. The Marie-Celeste quality of Steve’s house—towel still damp in the master bath, washed cereal bowl neatly placed in the drying rack—was beginning to chisel away at her attempt at professional calm. She missed him already, even though on a regular morning it would have been an hour or so before they’d even seen each other.

“C’mon,” she said, “let’s check the beach.”

All the doors to the house had been locked up tight, they’d told her. The laptop was there, but disabled in the same way the phone was—though Chin though he might be able to get something off it in time. There might have been clothes or luggage missing, or there might not have been—it’s not like they had an inventory of McGarrett’s personal stuff to go by.

“So, if someone snatched him, it wasn’t by force,” she’d said to Chin.

He’d shrugged. “Force can take a lot of different forms, Kono.”

Behind the house, the sand was a little churned up at the water’s edge, but the sea was as calm as glass. If they knew what had happened to Steve, they were keeping their secret.

“Did he give you any clue something like this might happen?” she asked Danny. He was standing about two feet closer to the water than she was, but she could feel the tension coming off him like a blast furnace.

He shook his head. “Dunno. He seemed kind of cagey this week. Maybe.”

“How so?” Kono thought Steve seemed cagey fifty-one weeks out of fifty-two, but Danny was probably more attuned to variations from base-level caginess than she was.

“Took a few calls he didn’t want to talk about, stuff like that. I should’ve have pressed him on it, should’ve known it didn’t mean anything good.”

“You couldn’t know, Danny—Steve does stuff like that all the time. It could’ve just been the guy charging him too much to fix the roof.”

“Mmm.” Danny stared at the ocean some more and then, slowly, almost reluctantly, said, “Kono?”

“Yeah?”

“You don’t think he’s out there, do you? Went for a swim and didn’t come back? Ran into a shark mean enough to take on a sonofabitch like him?”

Kono closed the distance between them, put a hand on Danny’s shoulder and squeezed. “No. No way. Not Steve. He’d take that shark out with one punch.”

Danny snorted and put his hand over hers.

“Guys,” Chin shouted from the patio, “I think I found something.”

+++

By lunchtime Thursday, Kono was blinking weary eyes at grainy surveillance footage on the big HQ screen.

The thing Chin had found was a set of faint indentations left on a blank piece of paper on Steve’s nightstand. The kind of indentations you’d make if you were pressing a pen hard into something above it. Kono whistled when she saw them, sure she’d never have caught them herself. Careful tracing had revealed four symbols: 4:5 ? It was a time, that much was clear, but the third numeral remained frustratingly indistinct.

Still, it was enough to go on. Their best guess was that it was a flight departure time. So Kono had started calling cab and limo companies to see if they’d picked up a fare from Steve’s house to the airport early that morning, while Danny called independent flight operators, and Chin reached out to his contacts at Honolulu International. Danny and Kono had struck out, but Chin had wheedled the security footage for all flights leaving between 4:45 and 5:00 am that morning, and Kono was now going through them.

Chin was down at the airport showing around a picture of Steve, but Danny had been helping her—that is until his insistence that they zoom in on and go back over any remotely tall or dark-haired man had finally gotten to be too much.

“Go on,” she’d said, “why don’t you check his office again—maybe we missed something.”

He drawn breath to protest and then let it out again. “Okay. Sorry for the kibbitzing.”

“The what?” She tried for a teasing tone, hoping to get a smile out of him.

It almost worked—one corner of his mouth quirked up a hairsbreadth. “The excessive advice-giving. For those uncultured enough not to know a Yiddish word if it smacked them upside the head.”

“Smacked them upside the head is right—sounds like being kissed by a dead crab.”

He flipped her off. But he laughed as he headed towards Steve’s office.

Something on the screen caught her eye, some facial line or body movement. She scanned the crowd in front of the check-in counter again. There were three men Steve’s height: one too burly; one African-American; and one in a dark suit and a long, well-tailored wool coat. The last one was wearing a tweed cap that hid his eyes. Slightly odd clothing for anyone but a businessman visiting from somewhere far colder than Hawaii. Kono rewound the footage and zoomed in.

“Danny,” she called. “Hey, Danny, come take a look at this.”

+++

By midnight, Kono was on the red-eye to New York.

Danny had given her the window seat, partly out of gallantry, partly, she was sure, so that he could roam the aisle at will. He wasn’t even trying to sleep; at the moment, he was staring at something on his laptop screen. The angle was wrong for her to be able to see what it was, but the glow seemed to get behind her eyelids and keep her awake. She didn’t have the heart to tell him to turn it off.

+++

She, Danny and Chin had agreed that the man checking into the flight to Salt Lake was Steve, despite his extremely un-Steve-like attire. Once they knew that, it had simply been a matter of finding out what name Steve had used to buy the ticket—Ross Goode—and his final destination: New York City.

That had been the easy part. Trying to figure out what to do about it had required slightly more discussion.

“Okay,” Chin had said, in calm tone number thirty-seven—the one that meant he was determined to professional about something that actually had him freaked out six ways to Sunday. “Steve has gone to New York and he doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Not even us. Reasons?”

Kono studied the floor.

“He’s being blackmailed. Or something like that. And he doesn’t want anyone else to have to get involved,” Danny volunteered.

“Or he’s chasing a lead too dangerous to tell us about,” Chin said.

“That he thinks is too dangerous to tell us about,” Danny corrected.

“Or he’s doing something too illegal to tell us about,” Chin offered.

Danny conceded the point.

“Or,” Kono said without lifting her head. “Or else he’s snapped.”

“What?” Danny said sharply.

Kono shrugged. But there had been a wild look in Steve’s eyes, visible even in the smudgy security footage, that she couldn’t get out of her head. “He’s had some kind of psychological break. He didn’t tell us because he’s too caught up in some compulsion to even remember who we are.”

The two men stared at her, then looked away.

“Well,” said Chin, “The question is, do we go after him, despite the fact that he took such pains to keep us in the dark?”

There hadn’t been too much debate about that.

+++

At least having that decision out of the way seemed to have returned Danny to being a functioning human being. New York he knew; New York gave him concrete ground on which to work. He’d spent the time before their plane left making call after call to old colleagues and contacts.

Still, “Go with him, Kono,” Chin had said, “Keep him from getting into too much trouble.”

She’d rolled her eyes—between Steve and Danny New York was never going to be the same, that much was clear—but she’d gotten herself a ticket and left Chin to guard the fort.

+++

As soon as the wheels touched ground Danny had his phone out, clicking through his messages, making calls, and paying no attention to Kono except to gesture at her vehemently to keep up. She thought he might be moving a little faster here than he did at home.

Only when she was shivering in a cab heading into the city, her heaviest jacket completely inadequate for November in New York, did he click off his phone and look her in the eyes.

“Think I might have something.”

“Yeah?” Because, please God, she didn’t want to have suffered through that flight for nothing.

Danny nodded. “Buddy of mine in the Newark Fraud Division knows some of the Bureau guys in town.”

“You think Steve’s into something with the FBI?”

“Dunno. All he knows is that his poker buddy—guy he knows from the Navy—canceled on him tomorrow night because something big is going down with a smuggling case he’s working—some big honcho coming in to town.”

It wasn’t much, wasn’t much at all, but Kono played it out. “Smuggling, huh? That sounds more like ATF than FBI.”

“No—smuggling something else—something artsy—this guy works for the White Collar Division.”

Kono frowned. “That doesn’t sound like something Steve would get mixed up in. But I guess it wouldn’t hurt to give them a call.”

“Yeah, except they’ll never talk to us on the phone,” Danny said.

+++

In the foyer of a slick skyscraper, Danny went head to head with the receptionist in a flurry of badge-waving and bluster that seemed to be the accepted way of doing business in New York. Kono hung back, trying to look professional and imposing. A couple of times, she was pretty sure they were about to be thrown out, but finally the guy picked up the phone and a few minutes later a tall, dark-skinned woman emerged from an elevator.

“Special Agent Barrigan,” she said, holding out a hand to Danny, and then Kono. “I’ll take you up to see Agent Burke.”

Barrigan wore one of those dress slacks, fitted jacket and heels combinations that were one of the chief reasons Kono was glad she lived and worked in Hawaii. But she carried herself like those clothes wouldn’t slow her down in a fight. Kono followed her towards the elevators.

+++

Special Agent Peter Burke seemed profoundly unimpressed by them. He sat at the head of a conference table flanked by Barrigan and an agent named Jones. Behind him, a man Burke had introduced merely as Neal Caffrey, no prefatory “agent” in front of his name, lounged against the window. Caffrey wore a suit cut so close Kono hoped for his sake it had some spandex in the weave, and whenever she glanced at him he didn’t really smile at her as much as twinkle. She tried not to look at him—not because he was distractingly gorgeous, or not just because of that, but mostly because she was pretty sure dealing with him would involve a barrage of charm she wasn’t ready for after the long flight.

“Look,” Danny was saying. He leaned over the table as far as he could, like he was going to persuade Burke with his whole body. “We know that our colleague flew to New York yesterday for purposes unknown, and we know that you have a big meet going down in a case you’re working tonight with a person who flew in for purposes unknown. Who’s to say the two things aren’t connected? We can at least pool information.”

Burke stared him down. “Detective Williams, I can’t tell you how many thousands of people fly into this city every day. Very few of them are connected. And even fewer are connected to our case. We can’t pool information because, despite my deep respect for the police force of the state of Hawaii, you don’t have the clearance.”

“See, but that’s where you’re wrong. We may be cops, but the Governor has given all of us top clearance. Full immunity and means.”

Burke gave him a witheringly skeptical glance.

“Go ahead,” said Danny, “call her.”

Kono wondered whether Danny was bluffing or whether he really had managed to get the Governor to back their plan before they’d left.

Agent Burke turned out not to be the kind of man who succumbed to bluffs. “Get the Governor of Hawaii’s office on the phone,” he barked at Jones, who gave Kono a look as he left the room that implied he had about as much faith in their story as his boss did.

Once again, Kono was sure they were about to be thrown out. But before that could happen, Danny pulled up a photo of Steve on his phone and slid it across the table to Burke.

“Just take a look, okay?” he said “Let me at least know if you’ve seen this guy.”

Burke picked up the phone and peered at the picture. He shook his head, but Caffrey, who had unpeeled himself from the wall and come to stand behind his shoulder, leaned closer.

“Peter, that’s him,” he said.

“You sure?” Burke looked surprised, but not inclined to doubt his colleague.

“Yeah. I didn’t get a great look when Coronado was video-conferencing with him, and the guy he was talking to was a lot less muddy, but yeah. That’s him.

+++

By lunchtime Friday, Kono was in Diana Barrigan’s apartment trying to find a cocktail dress that fit.

At least she was pretty sure it was Friday—things were starting to blur.

After they’d determined that Steve and the mysterious client the Filipino art dealer expected to welcome that night were the same person, Danny had demanded that he and Kono be let in on the case.

But despite that fact that Governor’s office had decided to back them, Burke had shaken his head. “Look,” he’d said, more sympathetic than he’d been when they arrived, but still firm. “Neal has been working the case from the inside for months; we can’t introduce new players now—it’ll just draw suspicion. You hang tight; we’ll take of this and get your man back for you.”

Danny had glowered at him and Burke had sighed.

“Besides,” he’d added, “I don’t like to say this, but if your guy has changed sides, and we have to take some kind of action, I don’t want your personal loyalties interfering.”

At which point, Kono hadn’t been able to stand it any longer. “He’s not our man. He’s not our guy. He’s Commander Steve McGarrett, late of Navy Intelligence and the SEALS. He hasn’t changed sides. If he’s meeting with this fancy criminal of yours, I’m sure he has good reasons for doing it.”

“I appreciate your loyalty, Officer Kalakaua.” Burke had grown steelier by the second. “But why the secrecy? Why meet with a known artifact smuggler in the first place?”

“I don’t know.” The long day and night, her increasing anxiety about Steve, even the florescent light and stale, overheated air had combined to tip Kono more easily into fury than usual. “But you don’t know him like we do, and we know—“

Next to her, she had sensed Danny readying himself to enter the fray. Things had seemed about to devolve into a shouting match.

But then Caffrey had touched Burke’s arm and said, “I’ll take her.”

“What?” Burke had sounded annoyed at having his plans thwarted.

Caffrey had shrugged. “Coronado is throwing that party for cover—it’d be only normal for me to show up with a beautiful woman on my arm.” He’d done his twinkling thing again at Kono, who’d smiled back this time, since it was getting her where she wanted to go.

“I’m coming too,” Danny had declared.

“Uh-uh. No offense, my friend, but arriving with you on my arm isn’t going to win me any points.” Caffrey seemed to be in his element now. “And besides, they’d make you as a former Jersey cop in thirty seconds.” Danny had sputtered at this, but Caffrey had held up a hand. “You do know Jones ran your names through the records when he went to call Hawaii, don’t you?”

Jones had grinned at them. “Very interesting reading it was, too.”

“So you’re in the van with Peter, and Officer Kalakaua is with me. Unless you don’t think she’s up to an operation like this?”

Danny had looked like he wanted to hit Neal. “No,” he’d said, “She’s the best.”

Now, Diana said, “I think you’re more Christie’s size than mine,” as she steered Kono towards one end of the long closet in their bedroom.

“She won’t mind?” Kono asked. Diana had told her about Christie on the drive over.

“Nah. What’s the point of being a lesbian if you can’t share clothes?”

Kono raised her eyebrows and smiled.

Diana laughed. “Okay, okay, there might be one or two other points to it.”

They found Kono a dress easily enough—yellow silk, with a draped neckline that forgave the difference between Christie’s bustline and her own—and even, in a stroke of luck, shoes that could be adjusted to fit.

“Why don’t you grab a shower while you can,” Diana said, pulling containers from her fridge. “I’ll heat up something for lunch.”

Divested of travel-grime, with a plate of delicious-looking leftover pasta in front of her, Kono felt vaguely human for the first time since she’d gotten that early-morning phone call from Chin.

“I bet those boys didn’t even think of stopping for food, did they?” said Diana, watching Kono tuck in hungrily.

“You know men,” Kono said, mouth half-full, “they tear around, and then twenty-four hours into it they wonder why the room is spinning.”

Diana smiled around a mouthful of her own, and they made a brief foray into the jaw-dropping things they’d witnessed in offices filled mostly with boys. Then they had a longer and more satisfying conversation about the merits of the new-model Berettas, Diana pulling out back issues of Guns and Ammo to prove her points.

Finally, holding a welcome cup of coffee, Kono asked, “So, who is this Caffrey guy anyway? Why’s he riding point on this operation if he’s not an agent?”

Diana put down her own cup. “That,” she said, “is a long story.”

+++

Diana told her enough of the story that Kono felt a shiver of unease when Caffrey handed her out of the cab in front of a brightly lit townhouse that evening. Of course, the shiver might have been primarily due to the weather. Diana had lent her a cashmere wrap, but it seemed to barely ward off the Atlantic chill.

Diana had also assured her that Caffrey—Neal—was an expert at this kind of thing (well, he would be, Kono had thought, now that she was clued in) and that he was a team player these days—most of the time anyway. But Kono still imagined she felt a whiff of danger coming off him, the unsettling feeling that the strict plan they’d formulated was always open to revision. Kono had been around enough unpredictable men in her life to know one when she saw one.

Still, Neal had been nothing but professional that afternoon as they’d gone over the operation. Neal’s goal was to obtain evidence of Coronado offering to obtain illegal artifacts. Towards this end, he was heavily wired, but because he’d been reeling Coronado in as a potential client for his own (imaginary) line of forgeries, he didn’t think he’d be searched. Kono’s goal was to help Neal as best she could, and to make contact with Steve and find out what the fuck he was playing at.

The last phrase had been Danny’s, who’d clearly been finding it harder and harder to observe proper decorum as the afternoon wore on. As much as she felt for him, Kono still kind of pitied Diana, Burke and Jones being stuck in the surveillance van with the twitching bundle of nerves Danny was rapidly becoming.

Now, Neal ushered her through a door opened by a man in a waiter’s tuxedo. “Nick Halden,” he said, as the man checked the guest list. “And Mia.”

Kono tried to smile in the way a girl in a yellow silk dress with no last name would smile.

She also tried to reassure herself that the party in front of her was no different than a similar party in Honolulu would be, but it didn’t really work. There was something about the way the people held themselves—not stiff, exactly, but taut, angled forward, as if waiting for the next opportunity or the next fight. No matter the color of their skin, they looked pale, as if the sun were only as distant memory. The women were columns of poise, smooth hair, and flawless make-up. Kono found herself adjusting the shoulder strap of her dress.

As if sensing her unease, Neal put one hand on the small of her back, snagged a glass of champagne off a passing tray with the other, and handed it to her.

“You hanging in there, Officer Kalakaua?” he asked, leaning in enough that his voice tickled her ear.

“Sure thing.” With the heels, they were almost of a height. Neal’s eyes were a somewhat startling shade of blue at this distance.

“Good. I’m going to tag along with Coronado. You see what else is going on.”

She nodded. It was the plan they had formulated at the FBI offices, and she’d gone over blueprints of the townhouse, knew its layout.

Then Neal tilted his head, pulled her in with a hand on her hip and kissed her. It was a decorous kiss, appropriate to their surroundings, just his cool, expert lips closing over hers, but there it was again—the scent of danger.

“What was that for?” she hissed, when he let her go.

He shrugged, did that twinkling thing again. “Saving you unwanted attention. Making sure everyone knows you’re going home with the guy who brought you.”

“Thanks,” Kono said drily, “But I’ve been a grown-up girl for years now. Go do your job. Holler if you need anything.” She tapped the gold cuff on her wrist; it was also a transmitter.

When she turned away from him to reconnoiter on her own, however, she found that Neal might have been right. Male, and some female, gazes slid over her, then away. She sipped her drink and looked around. In any similar situation in Honolulu she would have known at least one or two people personally and another dozen by face and reputation. Here, she knew no one. Still anonymity had its advantages.

She wandered, taking in the crowd, though the lean, tanned face she was looking for did not materialize.

“Is there anything else I should know about Commander McGarrett?” Neal had asked in the cab coming over. “Things you didn’t want to share in front of everyone?”

Yes, Kono had wanted to scream. You should know he trusted me from day one, even though I hadn’t even graduated from the Academy yet. You should know he made me believe I could be a cop instead of a washed-up surfer girl. You should know he’ll do anything for a buddy in trouble. You should know about the wicked little grin he gets when he teases Danny or Chin. You should know he can sew.

But that wasn’t what Neal had meant, of course. He’d been asking whether Steve had any off-books entanglements—women, men, drugs or cards—that could have gotten him into trouble. And so she’d just shaken her head and said, “No—I think we’ve covered everything.”

A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention. At first she thought she’d conjured it up by thinking about him, but she blinked, and she was still looking t the back of a tall, dark-haired man about ten feet away from her, talking to a shorter, older man she recognized from the pictures of Coronado’s assistants. The tall man wore a dark suit more elegantly tailored than anything he would have worn in Hawaii, but the way he stood, the breadth of his shoulders—she would have recognized those anywhere.

She edged herself around so she could see his profile. Then she raised her bracelet to her lips. “Danny,” she said, “I’ve got eyes on the boss.”

“What’s he doing?” Danny’s tense, barely controlled voice buzzed in her ear. “How does he look?”

She knew what he was asking. “He’s okay. He looks okay. Talking to one of Coronado’s lieutenants.”

“Okay, Kono, stay where you are, I’m coming in,” Danny said.

There was a pause; then the sounds of a fierce, muted argument filtered over the receiver. Finally, Danny’s voice was replaced by Burke’s.

“Officer Kalakaua,” Burke said tersely. “Do not make contact. Repeat: do not make contact. Wait until Neal has gotten what he needs to from Coronado—then do what you need to do.”

“Copy that,” Kono replied, though it pretty much killed her to say it. She walked away, tried to position herself so that she could keep at least one eye on Steve. After a few minutes, though, he shook hands with the man he’d been talking to and slipped out of the main reception room. When she tried to follow, he’d disappeared.

Kono leaned against a wall. She was shaking a little, she realized, some toxic mixture of adrenaline and anxiety. The time might have come for the strategic reapplication of lipstick.

The ladies’ room was just as sumptuously appointed as the rest of the townhouse. She used the spotless toilet, splashed water on her face, and touched up her makeup. Having restored her internal equilibrium, she opened the door to the restroom—

--And found herself pushed so hard against the hallway wall that her head smacked painfully against the paneling.

“Come on, Kono, we have some talking to do,” Steve said.

Any words she might have said in return were choked by the forearm he held across her throat. And by the fact that he was looking at her as if he didn’t know her, for all that he’d used her name. His eyes were so cold and flat she thought she might have been right in speculating that he’d snapped, had crossed over some invisible line from recklessness to irrationality.

She briefly considered resisting, but thought better of it. She could take down most men twice her weight, even in heels and a dress, but her best moves wouldn’t work on Steve. Besides, crazy or not, she badly wanted to know what he was going to say.

So she let him steer her down the hallway, one arm twisted painfully behind her back, and into a room that seemed to be part pantry, part linen closet. He locked the door behind them.

“Steve,” she started as he forced her down into a sitting position, “we’ve been—“

But he clapped a hand over her mouth, undid his tie with the other, and used it to gag her tightly and expertly. Then he pushed his hands under her hair, found the tiny earbud receiver and pulled it out so roughly she winced.

“Okay. Where’s the transmitter? Don’t make me search you for it, Kono.”

She held out her arm—she wanted him to talk to Danny after all—and he removed the bracelet more carefully than he had the earbud. He fiddled with it with one hand while rummaging through the shelves for—for something to tie her up with, it turned out—with the other. Twisting plastic bags into ropes, he bound her wrists and ankles tight enough to hurt, then crouched in front of her, bracelet to his lips. This close, she could see how deep the shadows were around his eyes, how deeply the fine lines around them were etched.

“Danny,” he growled into the disguised mic, “I know you’re out there. I don’t know what kind of cockeyed rescue thing you’re playing at, but you can call it off now. I’m fine. I’ll be back as soon as I can—this is just a personal thing I need to take care of—“

But it wasn’t Danny on the other end of the com wire.

Steve’s expression shifted abruptly from long-suffering to furious. “Sir,” he said, voice as thin and jagged as a knife, “With all due respect, jeopardizing your operation is the least of my concerns. There are bigger things at stake here than a few stolen vases, believe me.”

Burke then clearly started to read Steve the riot act, because he stood, turned away from Kono, and paced to the far end of the tiny room, one hand rubbing at the back of his head in frustration.

Kono could only hear snatches of Steve’s end of the conversation: “She’s fine, of course she’s fine—you don’t think I’d…I can’t divulge that at this time…I cannot divulge that either.” And then with a note of something she would’ve called pleading in any other man; “Fifteen minutes, that’s all I’m asking, fifteen minutes with Coronado and I’m gone—“

The doorknob on the locked door started to turn. Sure she was imagining it, Kono squeezed her eyes shut. When she opened them again, the door had already edged open. Of course. Burke had told her if she got in trouble to just open the frequency on the bracelet—it would automatically trigger a GPS tracker. And now he’d kept Steve talking long enough for it to kick in.

Let it be Danny, she prayed—let Burke have the done smart thing and sent in the only person who could talk Steve down from something like this.

It was Neal. Steve saw him at just about the same moment Kono did—those SEAL-trained senses of his—and everything that followed was a foregone conclusion.

Kono didn’t blame Burke—Neal had been closer, after all. And Burke had never witnessed Steve’s hand-to-hand expertise. And Neal—well, his skill set might include picking locks and forging paintings, but it apparently didn’t include Krav Maga. Kono watched helplessly while Steve took Neal down and tied him up in less than two minutes—a situation for which charm held no remedy.

Not that Neal didn’t try.

“Commander McGarrett,” he said, sounding so reasonable and collected you’d never know he’d been stripped to his underwear, divested of wires and trussed up with garbage bags, “we’re on the same side here, aren’t we? Fill us in—maybe we can help.”

Steve gagged him with his own tie.

He waved a finger at them as he eased himself out the door. “Do not move,” he said. “Do not try to escape. Do not call for help.” He brandished the phones he’d taken away from them. “Our friends at the Bureau have given me fifteen minutes before they come in here guns a’blazin’, and I don’t want you messing things up.”

And then he was gone.

+++

Kono and Neal sat perfectly still for a few moments after the door clicked shut and the lock slid home. He had tied them back-to-back in some complicated configuration that meant every movement one of them made pulled the bindings tighter on the other. But soon enough Neal began to shift against her, clearly testing the limits of their situation. He was cautious about it, stopping his movements as soon as they met resistance. It occurred to Kono that he might be making a mistake, that the best thing might be for them to sit tight and give Steve the fifteen minutes he’d asked for. But then she remembered the haunted look in Steve’s eyes and realized with a sick feeling that she didn’t trust him to act rationally right now. She added her efforts to Neal’s.

She could feel his bare shoulder blades making subtle movements against her back and his wrists twisting in complicated patterns next to hers, but she couldn’t tell exactly what he was trying to do—his knowledge of Houdini-esque escape strategies was probably as in-depth and arcane as Steve’s understanding of hand-to-hand, she supposed.

Without warning, his hands seemed to curl entirely into themselves and slip away. Before she could really register what had happened, something very sharp and efficient slit the plastic around her wrists and the tie binding her mouth. She whirled around, and there was Neal, kneeling and grinning, a two-inch length of what looked like razor blade in his hand. She had no idea where it had come from, since he was still clad only in boxer briefs, but it didn’t seem the time to inquire.

“Thanks,” she breathed.

“Don’t mention it,” he answered, with a more genuine smile than he’d given her yet tonight. He moved so he could cut the ties on her ankles. “Peter told me to go after your guy, see if I could prevent more damage. You can come along or not, your choice.”

But Kono had already made her choice

+++

They exited the storage room/linen closet to find themselves staring into the forbidding eyes of an iron-haired matron in a black sequined dress. She pursed her lips, but Kono giggled and slotted herself firmly against Neal’s side. He smirked manfully and goosed her. Kono squeaked, and the woman turned away with a disapproving look.

At the end of the hall, Kono could hear the party still going on. She’d almost forgotten about it. But Steve wouldn’t have headed in that direction. She gestured Neal towards the stairs that led towards the upper reaches of the house.

The top floors of the house were dark and silent: a collection of locked rooms on either side of plushly carpeted halls; only the bathrooms lit and open. Kono wasn’t sure what they would do if they found Steve. They couldn’t very well apprehend him, unarmed as they were. Steve had taken the slim .38 she’d stowed in her evening bag, and Neal, as he’d informed her in the cab over, didn’t like guns and never carried one. But perhaps they could at least locate him, talk to him, before Burke’s crew arrived.

When the uppermost floor proved as empty as the rest, Kono almost gave up. Who was to say Steve was still in the building after all—he might just as easily have left. But Neal pointed at a smaller door in the middle of the hall.

“Roof,” he mouthed and raised his eyebrows.

Kono nodded.

+++

They were only four flights up, on a block of similarly sized buildings, but around their little enclave, dark- windowed towers reached towards the sky. No stars were visible, but it hardly mattered, if floodlights hadn’t illuminated the tasteful rooftop garden, ambient light from the surrounding buildings would have.

And so they were able to see the tableau in front of them quite clearly as they pushed past the metal door of the stairwell, the cold air hitting them like a blow: Steve standing over a kneeling Filipino man—fingers dragging his head back and a blunt-nosed gun to his temple. Coronado: Kono recognized him from the briefing that seemed half a lifetime ago now.

“Tell me, motherfucker.” Steve was almost shouting. “The deal is off, you hear me? So you better fucking tell me now: where is she?”

The two men were seemed to be locked in their own little world. But then something—a stray pebble or maybe a bottle cap—pinged out from Neal or Kono’s foot—she couldn’t tell whose—and both heads swung towards them.

“Kono—“ Steve said, pained and outraged and something else—maybe afraid—and the momentary lapse of concentration gave Coronado the opening he’d been waiting for. Faster than she would’ve expected from a middle-aged antiquities dealer, he’d knocked the gun out of Steve’s hand and gotten him in some kind of chokehold.

“Stay back,” Coronado yelled, waving Steve’s gun at them and backing towards the edge of the roof.

Kono and Neal both held their arms up appeasingly. Even if they’d had guns they couldn’t have used them; Coronado held Steve in front of him like a shield.

“Let him go,” Neal said, still with that uncanny calm. “We can work out a deal for you with the Bureau—I promise that. But you need to let him go—“

Coronado had reached the edge of the roof now. Kono had no idea what he planned to do—but it was his building, after all, perhaps he had some kind of escape route mapped out. In the end, though, the question was moot. Steve chose that moment to wrench himself out of the hold and a brief, desperate struggle ensued, the two of them teetering so precariously Kono didn’t dare approach.

The gun went over the side first, a black spot falling into darkness. Then Coronado tore himself free of Steve’s grip and launched himself off the edge. He hung in space for a moment like an unlikely, dapper bird, then landed with a thud on the roof of the next building over. He was on his feet instantly, disappearing through a door that must have led to the stairwell.

With a bellow of frustration, Steve attempted to follow him. But something went wrong. Maybe one of Coronado’s blows had landed true; maybe he was simply off-balance. Instead of sailing across the gap, he went down, disappearing into the canyon between the buildings.

Too stunned even to cry out, Kono raced to the edge. She looked frantically for a moment, but then saw that Steve had, amazingly, grabbed the edge of the low brick wall on his way over, was clinging with his fingertips while his legs flailed through empty space.

“I’ve got you,” she called. “It’s okay.” She grabbed his wrist, and then Neal was next to her, leaning over and grabbing Steve’s other hand out of the air.

“No, no,” Steve gasped as he lifted his face to them. “Go after Coronado. Forget about me. Don’t let him get away.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, boss,” Kono said, “but shut up.”

On a count of three, she and Neal hauled him back onto the roof.

+++

The first thing Steve did when he got his feet back under him was slam his fist into the metal door of the stairwell. Then he did it again. And a third time.

Then he stared bemusedly at the blood on his knuckles and refused to talk to them.

When Neal left to tell Burke and the others in the van what had happened, Kono almost wondered whether she should ask him to alert a psych eval team as well.

But she figured she should try the old-fashioned way first. She put a careful hand on Steve’s shoulder, and didn’t back off even when he flinched away.

“I’m sorry,” he said, sounding strangled. “I’m sorry I tied you up like that.”

“Hey,” she said, hoping her tone was neutral, “We can talk about that later. Right now might be a good time to tell me why you led us on this wild goose chase in the first place.”

“No one asked you to chase me, Kono. In fact, I think I made extensive arrangements so that you wouldn’t know where I was going.”

“Yeah,” she said gently, “like that was ever gonna work.”

Steve snorted, the most human sound she’d heard from him all evening. “You’re like pit bulls, the three of you.”

“We were trained by the best.”

Steve smiled faintly. Then sighed. “Okay. Yeah. I guess you deserve to know.” But the capitulation seemed to release whatever tension and exhaustion he’d been holding at bay and he swayed a little on his feet.

Kono put a hand under his elbow and steered him to the wall of a raised flower bed. Steve stiffly lowered himself to sitting and let out a shaky breath.

“Coronado. He contacted me last week. He told me my mother was alive.”

“What?” Whatever Kono had been expecting, it hadn’t been this.

Steve nodded wearily. “Told me she hadn’t died in the explosion. That she’d been living in Manila all these years because it was too dangerous to come home. That my dad knew. And then he told me he’d take me to her if I came to New York and—“

He stopped abruptly. Kono felt something cold stab through her. Had Burke been right? Had Steve switched sides, offered illegal information in exchange for this most precious thing? Surely not. But then if he had, Kono wasn’t sure she would blame him.

“Steve,” she asked, “did you trade—?”

“No.” He looked at her, and she knew in her heart he was telling the truth. “That wasn’t what he wanted at all.”

And then she knew.

“He wanted you, didn’t he? He wanted to be able to trade you to Wo Fat or someone for something he wanted.” Steve looked at her so bleakly she was sure she was right. “What did he offer you? Her continued safety if you were willing to sacrifice yourself? Is that it?”

Steve didn’t say anything.

“He was lying. You know that don’t you? She’s not alive—she can’t be. He was playing you. Why would you believe something like that?”

Steve wouldn’t meet her gaze.

“Did he show you pictures? Give you things of hers? Because you of all people should know that that stuff can be faked—“ Kono found to her surprise that she was fighting tears. There was something so awful about Steve’s vulnerability to Coronado’s game, a heartbreaking glimpse of the grief-stricken boy he must be somewhere deep inside.

Steve still didn’t look at her. “It wasn’t like that, Kono. He knew things, okay? Things I don’t think anyone else could’ve known. I—I couldn’t ignore what he told me—“

Then their anguished conversation was cut short by the sound of a well-known voice.

“Where is that sonofabitch?” Danny boomed, and Kono was absolutely sure he was louder here than he was in Hawaii. “I’m going to kill him.”

And then Danny was next to them, looking down at Steve and jabbing a finger at him so vehemently Kono thought he might take out an eye. “I just have one question for you: What. The. Fuck. Were. You. Thinking? Mr. Incognito. Mr. Destroy-the-Peace-of-my-Comrades-in-Arms. Mr. Rooftop-MMA-Champion. Anyone who makes me take the goddamn red-eye has better have one hell of a good explanation, that’s all I can say--”

Steve looked up at Danny as if he were the best thing he’d ever seen, furrowed his brow and said, “Why’re you so angry at me?”

Kono backed away.

A few paces off, Neal had finished explaining to Burke and the other agents what had happened, and Burke was on the radio issuing various orders for Coronado’s capture and arrest. Neal touched her arm.

“He tell you what happened?”

Kono shivered and wrapped her arms tightly around her body. “Enough so I know he had his reasons.”

Neal shook his head. “The things we’ll forgive for the people we love.” He shrugged out of his suit jacket and settled it over her shoulders.

Kono covered her mouth with her hand to block the sob that threatened to escape.

“I’m sorry we messed up your operation,” she choked out after a moment.

Neal shrugged. “We’ll find Coronado. If anyone can do it, Peter can.”

“I think we’d better,” Kono said, Steve’s words still whirling in her mind.

“Hey.” Diana came up next to them. “Peter doesn’t think there’s much else we can do tonight. He’s letting us go. Whaddaya say we show Kono New York City has more to offer on a Friday night than chasing bad guys?”

“I’m in,” said Neal.

“Thanks,” Kono said, with only a tiny sniffle. “That sounds nice.”

“You wanna bring them along?” Diana gestured at Danny and Steve, who were still engaged in some kind of muted shouting match. Steve was standing now, and was clearly trying to explain something, waving his hands around and making faces. Danny was staring him down, chin jutted out, hands on his hips.

It made Kono smile. It made her think that everything might be alright. “Nah,” she said. “They’ll be at it for a while now.”

end
prompt: “competing jurisdictions”; “it’s not what it looks like.”
  • Oh, this is awesome! I love the whole situation you set up, and seeing it all--especially Neal--through Kono's eyes was definitely the perfect choice.
    • Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I thought about making it Dannys POV, but I got into the idea of seeing NYC and the WC team through Kono's eyes.

      thanks for reading!
  • Wow! This is just awesome! Loved that it was written from Kono's POV and would love to know what would happen next and whether if it's true that Stevens mother is really alive!
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Glad Kono's POV worked--it was fun to think of what NYC and the WC bunch would look like through her eyes. I think I'll see what happens in the next part of the H50 season before thinking about continuing it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Awesome!! I love how you weaved the two universe's together. I just wanna give Steve a big hug and never let go.
    • Thank you--I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was interesting to bring the two universes together--and Steve deserves all the hugs in the world :)

      thanks for reading and commenting!
  • No lie, my little femmeslash shipper's heart was SQUEEING SO HARD over Kono and Diana in the same room together. This is all kinds of win just for that. <3
    • That's a whole lot of awesome in one room, isn't it? Think of the adventures they could have together!

      Thanks for reading!
  • I know the bare bones about WC, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one - putting Steve through emotional turmoil (and thereby his whole Team) is very effective. (And based on recent episodes, I wouldn't be surprised if something like this doesn't eventually happen in canon.) Excellent fic! :)
    • Thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed it--especially without knowing that much about one of the shows! I was interested in finding something that would send Steve off his rocker (or more than usually off his rocker), but yeah, the way things have been going I wouldn't be surprised by something along these lines either.

      thanks for reading and commenting!
  • This was all manner of groovy. And you left plenty of room for expansion. :D ::looks hopeful::
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I'm going to wait and see what happens in canon on both shows before thinking about whether to continue it....

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • What a lot of fun that was. :) It's lovely having Kono's pov - I didn't expect that, and it worked very well.

    Nice job with crazy!Steve, too. Hee!

    Not to mention Neal.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I thought about doing Danny's POV, but then got into the idea of Kono's outsider POV of NYC (plus, she's kind of my favorite character right now). Poor old crazy!Steve--my only regret is I didn't get more of Neal being Neal in there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • I love how you write Kono! That was great. :D
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