Word Count: 36,974
Characters/Pairings: Steve, Danny, Kono, Chin, Rachel, Grace, OCs; Steve/Danny
Summary: A string of mysterious deaths lead Steve and Danny to the remote forests of the Big Island; the case becomes a fight for survival when they encounter dangers they never expected.
Warnings: Mild action violence, mild supernatural horror, gay man love, what the movies like to call 'adult situations', adult language, character whumpage, the author being boundlessly self-indulgent, UST, and shameless tropes are shameless.
Disclaimer: Steve, Danny, Kono, Chin, Rachel, Grace, Mamo, and Hawaii Five-0 are © CBS Broadcasting Inc. Steve and Danny's depthless love belongs to EVERYONE. All content is fictional and for entertainment purposes only, not for profit.
[Part 1 | Part 3]
~ ~ ~
Nine o'clock found Steve and Danny slumped near the window, peering boredly into the darkness, their dinner dishes scattered around them. Olokui was still home, had never left; they could see him moving briskly through his house, retrieving various items and carrying them to a room near the back.
“Gun,” Steve said urgently when he saw Olokui carrying a rifle.
Danny scrubbed his hands down his face. “It's registered, he has a license,” Danny said. “Already checked.”
Steve frowned. “Does it look to you like he's packing for something? Hunting trip, maybe?”
Danny ignored him. “So what are we doing here, exactly?” he bitched. “He's not done anything suspicious all day, and we can't search the house, because he won't leave the house!”
“He might,” Maka said from the doorway. “He goes out late a lot of the time.”
“Hey, movement,” said Steve. He and Danny crowded closer to the window; Maka came into the room to peer over their heads. Olokui had left the house through his back door carrying his rifle and a large backpack slung over one shoulder; he crossed his backyard to a small shed half-hidden in the trees and went in, flicking the lights on before closing the door firmly behind him. In the light pouring out of a single small window his shadow shifted, shifted again. “What is he doing?” Steve murmured.
Ten minutes passed. Twenty. Half an hour. Olokui didn't leave the shed. “Something's wrong,” Steve said. “There's no movement.” He shifted restlessly in his seat, then pushed himself up and headed for the door. “I'm going to go check it out. Danny?”
Danny nodded. He glanced at Maka, hesitated, then decided he was reasonably sure the old man was trustworthy and handed him a headset. “Do us a favor, okay? Keep an eye out,” he said, tapping his earpiece and following after Steve.
Steve slipped through the shadows like he was one of them, silent, alert. Danny trailed behind him, kneeling in the cover of some shrubs on the edge of Olokui's property and drawing his gun. He watched Steve steal over to the shed and sidle up to the window, carefully peeking inside. He saw Steve hesitate, give the inside of the shed a more thorough look, and move around to the front of the shed. Steve drew his sidearm, glanced at Danny, and pulled the door open. He lowered the weapon. “There's no one here!”
“What?!” Danny exclaimed, breaking cover and joining Steve at the shed. Steve went in and spun around, looking baffled and furious.
Danny raked his eyes over the interior of the shed, searching; they caught on a disturbance in the pattern of dust, an out-of-place seam in the floorboards. There was a panel in the floor. A trapdoor. “Steve.” Danny pointed at the panel, crouched next to it with his fingertips in the seam. Steve took up covering position; he nodded to Danny. Danny nodded back and wrenched the trapdoor open. Steve quickly covered all angles; nothing. No sign of Olokui.
Maka appeared in the doorway as Steve pulled out a flashlight and shone it into the dark pit, revealing a rocky tunnel. “A lava tube,” Maka said, stunned.
“Dammit!” Steve spat, leaping into the hole and disappearing down the tunnel.
“Steve!” shouted Danny, and, “Oh, God dammit!” and he was scrambling down after him, hot on his heels. After about a hundred yards the lava tube dead-ended with a rockfall and a skylight, and Danny climbed up to find himself surrounded by dense rainforest.
Steve was a few meters away, frantically scanning the underbrush with his flashlight for signs of Olokui's passing. “He's going to get away!”
Danny hurried over to him and grabbed his arm before he could go charging off into the bushes like an angry moose. “Steve! Hey, Steve, what are you thinking, huh? We can't go after him right now, guy's got half an hour on us, and it's the middle of the night! Not even you can track him in pitch darkness! And we can't just go charging off into the woods unprepared, did you see how the guy was packed? He could be days in the woods!”
Maka climbed up out of the skylight. “Elika's been hunting on the Big Island his whole life. He knows these forests like the back of his hand. He could go anywhere on the island and never have to use a trail or go into a town.”
Steve growled his frustration, slamming his hand against a blameless ‘ohi‘a tree.
“Do not worry,” Maka said. “He will not go far before the morning. He will make camp. He will not travel in the forest at night. And neither should you,” Maka warned.
“Even if we caught him tonight, what then?” Danny reasoned. “We don't have any evidence yet.”
“Evidence,” Steve said, raising his head, and then he was scrambling down into the lava tube again. Danny gave Maka a helpless look and then they were following him.
Steve made a beeline for Olokui's house. A brief search turned up several ounces of crystal meth and small amounts of other drugs; he hadn't even put much effort into hiding them.
Danny rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. “That ought to be enough to put him away for, what, at least ten years?”
“We have to catch him first,” Steve said. He frowned into space for a few moments, then turned sharp eyes on Danny. “I'm going after him,” he said. “First thing tomorrow morning, as soon as I can get supplies.”
“Uh-huh,” Danny said. “I hope you know I'm coming with you.”
“We're gonna have to move pretty fast over rough terrain. How's your knee?”
Danny considered the question seriously; he didn't want to let Steve go in without backup, but he didn't want to slow him down, either. “My knee's been good lately. I can handle it.” He caught and held Steve's gaze with a stern look. “I'm not letting you go alone.”
Steve's lips twitched a little, almost a smile. “All right then.” He pulled out his phone and dialed, setting it to speaker.
Chin's voice answered. “Hey, Steve, what's up?”
“We've got Olokui on drug possession, at least, but he ran, escaped into the woods; Danny and I are going after him tomorrow. I need to know where his family's located, see if I can get an idea of where he might be running to.”
“Right,” Chin said. “Kono?”
“On it,” came Kono's voice faintly, in the background.
“Should be just a few seconds,” Chin said. “We put together a pretty decent file on this guy.”
“Are you still at the office?!” Danny asked incredulously.
“Hey, man, there was a lot of paperwork left to do after that last case. You guys are going to owe us big time.”
“Hey, tell me that again after we get back from crawling through the jungle,” Danny shot back.
“Cry me a river, Danny. Did I mention I got shot?”
“Okay, got the info,” Kono said, coming in a little louder over the mic. “Our boy's got a big family, and they're kinda scattered all over the island: Hawi, Kailua, Miloli‘i, Kalapana. I'll email you the names and addresses.”
“Great,” Steve said, “thanks. I'll get Hawai‘i County PD to keep an eye on those locations. See if you can figure out any other close associates he might have on the island; I'll check with the guys in Kapa‘au, see if they have any ideas. I don't think I need to tell you to watch the airports?”
“No worries, boss,” Kono said, “we got it.”
“I know you do. All right, I'll check in with you in the morning,” Steve said, and hung up. He turned to Maka. “How early are the stores open?”
“Out here? Seven-thirty. I may also have some supplies you could use lying around the house,” Maka said.
Steve's eyebrows went up. “If you're sure. Thank you, that's... you don't have to do that. You'll be reimbursed, of course.”
“It's no problem,” Maka said.
“Right, then... I'm going to go to the station in Kapa‘au and see what I can requisition that we can use. Danny, you stay with Maka, see what he's got for us, get it organized.”
Danny nodded. “Got it.”
~ ~ ~
Midnight found Steve and Danny in Maka's living room putting the finishing touches on their packs, short of a few supplies they'd have to pick up in the morning. Maka sat nearby, cradling a mug of some kind of herbal tea with a strange smell; 'māmaki,' he'd called it.
Danny tightened the straps on the rolled-up rainfly they'd be using for shelter in bad weather; finished, he sighed and glanced up. Maka was gazing at something over by the kitchen, his eyes tracking as if watching something move across the room. Danny turned to look; there was nothing there. “What are you looking at?” he asked.
Maka snapped his gaze to Danny; he frowned. Seeming to ignore the question, he set his tea down and stood, coming over to where Danny sat and kneeling. “May I see?” he asked.
“Your eyes,” Maka replied.
Feeling extremely weirded out, Danny tried not to fidget as Maka leaned in and peered deep into his eyes. Maka reached up and gently cradled Danny's cheekbones with his fingertips, moving Danny's face slightly so he could see Danny's eyes from different angles. After a few moments he released Danny and turned away. “Steve?” Maka asked.
“All right,” Steve replied, sounding bemused, and submitted himself to the same treatment.
When Maka was done, he sat back on his heels and frowned. “Hmmmmm,” he said.
“What is it?” asked Steve.
“Your eyes are shut,” Maka replied. “As you are, you will not be able to find Elika Olokui. He will be walking a path that you cannot see. He will step into another world, and you will not be able to follow.” He hesitated. “I can help. It would put you in greater danger, but I can help. I can open your eyes.”
Danny huffed a short, sharp breath of disbelief. “No, really, I think we're fine.”
Maka turned his eyes on Steve. “Believe me,” he said, utterly serious, “you will not be able to find him without my help.”
Steve considered this. “...What do you need to do, some sort of ritual? What would it involve?”
“Just saltwater,” he assured him. “Clean rainwater and ocean salt.”
Steve thought for a moment, then nodded. “Okay.”
Danny felt his eyebrows climb to his hairline. “What, seriously?!”
“It can't hurt, can it?” Steve replied reasonably. When Maka excused himself and went into the kitchen, he added, “It's best just to humor him, Danno. He'll feel better about it.”
Maka returned with a small, shallow wooden bowl, narrower at the top than at the base and filled with water, and a ti leaf, a plant Danny had seen in people’s yards in Honolulu. Kneeling, he set the bowl down on the floor and started shredding the broad, paddle-shaped leaf down to the rib, so that it was fronded like a palm leaf. “You will need to be lying down,” he told Steve. “I think you will be most comfortable on the couch, yeah?” Steve lay obediently on the couch, and Maka scooted closer to him. “This is a prayer to cleanse the spirit,” he explained, “to clear out blockages in the piko.”
“Wait, wait, I know this one,” said Danny. “Grace learned it in school. Piko means bellybutton, right?”
“The piko are the places on your body where mana collects, where mana flows into and out of your body,” Maka clarified. “The navel is a piko; there are several others. The mouth, the nostrils, the eyes, the top of the head, the genitalia, the soles of the feet: these are also piko. Your piko are blocked; this is why you cannot see. I will remove the blocks, clear the channels so that mana can flow.”
“I can see just fine,” Danny grumbled, and Steve gave him an amused look that clearly said shush.
“Close your eyes,” Maka instructed, and Steve did. Maka started chanting then, his voice going resonant and melodic as Hawaiian words poured from his lips; he gestured occasionally. Danny saw Kalei slip into the room and sit quietly, watching.
After a while, still chanting, Maka reached for the ti leaf and the bowl of saltwater. He dipped the leaf into the water and flicked it at Steve, dipped and flicked, dipped and flicked it again, sprinkling Steve's body with a fine spray of water droplets. Setting the bowl and leaf aside, he held his hands a few inches over Steve's clothes, moving them over every part of Steve's body, pausing for long moments over the parts he'd named, chanting all the while. Finally, he dipped his thumbs in the bowl of water, brushed them gently over Steve's eyelids, and brought the chant to an end with a long, resonant, wailing note. “You may open your eyes,” he said.
“Mahalo,” Steve said, and Maka smiled and helped him up.
“Danny?” Maka prompted, and Danny huffed a sigh, lay down, and closed his eyes. He found himself drifting almost immediately, the strange, melodic words of the chant unraveling his thoughts and worries. Half unconscious, he imagined he could feel tingling in his body, the sensation starting from distinct points and spreading out to other parts of his body.
When the last note of the chant died away, Danny blinked his eyes open to find Maka frowning down at him. “What?” he grumbled muzzily.
“Did you lose something recently? Something that belongs to you?” Maka asked.
Danny frowned. “I don't think so. Why?”
“There is a black mark on your spirit,” Maka said. He hesitated. “I do not think you should go on this journey.”
“Excuse me?!” Danny spluttered, pushing himself up. “I just spent the last two hours packing, my partner is going, I am not leaving him without backup, I don't care what your superstitious mumbo-jumbo has to say to you, I am going on the God-damn journey!”
Maka pressed his lips together. He took a breath as if about to speak, held it, let it out again. “...I cannot stop you,” he said, finally. “You make your own choices. I know you do not believe; but please know that I am trying to save your life.” He sighed. “For your sake I hope you catch him quickly. I will do what I can to help you from here.”
Danny’s fists clutched the empty air in irritation, his face going slightly red from the effort of keeping in the words that wanted to force their way through his teeth. He let out a gust of frustrated air, rolling to his feet. “I cannot talk about this anymore. If I have to keep talking about this, I'm going to beat my head against the wall. Just so we're clear,” he proclaimed, and strode swiftly to the far corner of the room, leaning against a wall and crossing his arms, frowning.
Steve was sitting very still, face carefully neutral. “I'm sorry,” he said to Maka after a moment. “No disrespect to your beliefs, but please respect that Danny doesn't share them.”
Maka nodded, looking tense but somewhat resigned. “You do not believe either, yeah?”
“No,” Steve said. “I'm sorry, but I don't.”
“But you grew up here. You know the stories.”
Maka let out a slow breath. “I know you will not believe what I say, but will you humor an old man and listen?”
Steve nodded. “Okay.”
Danny snorted derisively from his corner. Maka ignored him. “All concerns about Danny aside... I mentioned before that I was putting you in danger, yeah? When you leave here tomorrow, you will be leaving the Wao Kanaka, the Place of Man, and entering the Wao Akua. You know what that means, yeah?”
“The Place of Spirits,” Steve replied dutifully, face still neutral.
Maka nodded. “Generally speaking, you no can see them, they no can see you, yeah? But now you can see; this is the danger. Some akua are harmless, even helpful or friendly. But others are dangerous and cruel, yeah? They will kill you if they can. Do not travel at night, and build a fire at your camp. Keep a night watch. Remember the stories. I will send help if I can,” he told Steve, frowning seriously. He thought for a moment, frowning a little more. “...What day is it?” he wondered, eyes turned inward.
Danny spoke up from his corner. “It's Sunday morning, now.”
Maka shook his head and started to count on his fingers, mumbling to himself.
Danny wasn't impressed. “December eighteenth?” Maka mumbled some more. “I'm sorry, what?”
“He's speaking Hawaiian, Danny,” Steve said.
Danny rolled his eyes. “Okay, well, what's he saying then.”
Steve gave him a Look. “I don't speak Hawaiian, Danny.”
Maka stopped his counting, looking very concerned. “It is as I thought. Tomorrow night is the night of Huaka‘i Pō.” He gave Steve a piercing look. “You know what this is?”
Steve sighed. “I know what it means, yes.”
Kalei shifted, speaking up from where she had been sitting and watching, still and silent. “I know you do not believe, but this is not a joke. Their paths are well known to us. I... I have seen them.”
“What are we talking about now?” Danny wondered from his corner. “...Wait, no, never mind, I don't want to know.”
Steve scrubbed a hand down his face, then fixed his gaze on Maka. “Thank you for sharing your mo‘olelo with us. We'll make sure to be careful. But for now, I think, we should get some rest... I want to get started as early as possible tomorrow.”
Maka nodded, somewhat reluctantly. “...Of course. Kalei will show you to your rooms.”
~ ~ ~
It had been a long, long day, but as tired as Danny felt, sleep evaded him. He caught himself yearning for the relaxation he'd felt during Maka's ritual and snorted. He shifted uncomfortably, rolled over, tossed off the covers in frustration. He was too hot to sleep, his sweaty skin sticking to the covers. God-damned tropics. And the night was too loud; outside, in the trees surrounding the house, hundreds of... night birds, or whatever, chirped their strange, fluting calls. Danny could almost ignore this, let it fade into soothing background noise, but every time he started to drift off, a damn gecko chirped loudly from the rafters above his head and he jerked awake again.
It was torture.
Danny would bet money that Steve was sleeping like a baby, the bastard. Probably dreaming happy dreams about field-stripping assault rifles, his smile and the creases of his eyes and his whole damn stupid face gone all soft and adorable like it did sometimes when he thought no one was looking, thrown into contrast with acres and acres of rock-hard muscle and tattooed skin, yeah, it's a sure bet he sleeps with his shirt off, Danny wouldn't be surprised if he slept completely nude, either, he seems like the type—
Danny groaned and rolled onto his back, flinging an arm over his eyes. This was not helping.
Falling asleep: yes, yes please. Thinking about Steve: no, bad idea. Solution: counting sheep, why the fuck not. One cute little fluffy sheep, two cute little fluffy sheep, three I am going to horribly murder that gecko, swear to God, four....
~ ~ ~
Danny woke abruptly from a deep, dreamless sleep and there was a weight on his chest, a body, pressing down on his limbs and pinning him and squeezing the breath from his lungs and he couldn't move and he couldn't hardly breathe, and Danny's eyes were open and it was dark in the room but there was just enough ambient light to see by, but where Danny's attacker was pressing down on his arms and legs and ribcage there was nothing, nothing, there was no one there. Danny tried to thrash and struggle, tried to shout but he couldn't pull the air into his lungs, and then he felt invisible hands creeping up past his collarbone and settling on his neck, wrapping around his throat and pressing, squeezing. His arm was pinned, he couldn't reach his gun; he tried to call out, “Steve,” but it came out not quite a cough, barely even a whisper. Danny's vision started to swim with swirling lights and black spots, and how did that work, how could he see black spots against the darkness, and oh shit, Danny thought, I'm really going to die—
–And the weight lifted off abruptly, gone.
Danny sucked air into his lungs with a wheezing gasp, coughed it out again, curled up from the bed to pull in heaving breaths from over his knees, dove from the bed to grab at his gun, nearly face-planting on the floor before pushing his back into a corner and huddling there, gasping, pistol out and ready.
There was no one in the room.
Danny trembled to his feet, fumbled for the switch of a lamp, and the guest room was flooded with warming, yellow light. The room was utterly empty, no sign that the door or windows had been opened, nothing disturbed, no one hiding in the closet or under the bed (Danny checked). He lowered his gun and just stood in the center of the room, breathing shakily.
What. The. Fuck.
Danny raked a hand through his hair, trying to sort out what had just happened to him. Some kind of nightmare? But it had felt so real, he could've sworn his eyes were open, and he could still feel the ache and burn of his lungs– but no, no, a nightmare, it had to be. It had to be.
Regardless, he was wide awake now, and there was no way he was getting to sleep again any time soon. Danny glanced at the glaring red face of the digital clock on his nightstand– 3:09. He groaned. “...Well–” he said, and headed toward the kitchen, turning on lights as he went.
He brought his gun with him, set it on the kitchen counter, not quite convinced enough that his experience had been imagined not to keep a weapon close. Taking Maka at his word that he should make himself at home he filled a kettle, lit the stove, started rummaging through the cupboards until he found boxes and tins of tea in messy stacks, pulled the box of chamomile out of the Jenga pile. Further searching produced a mug and a teddy bear bottle of honey, and Danny slid onto a barstool to wait for the water to boil.
His thoughts turned, perhaps inevitably, to his ex-wife; he could picture the amused look on Rachel's face, one elegant eyebrow arched sardonically. Yes, well, tea, okay, he still thought that the sheer volume and frequency of her consumption was ridiculous, but his Nana used to make him cups of chamomile sometimes to help him relax, just like this with a little honey in it, it was a comfort thing, okay?
Wrapped in the warm light of the kitchen and the soft, soothing hiss of heating water, Danny felt his shoulders start to unknot and relax. The kettle reached boiling point, announced its readiness with a low whistle that rapidly increased in urgency.
Danny pushed himself up from the stool; turning toward the stove, he caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of someone walking through the lit-up living room, a flash of pale, flowing cloth and long, dark hair. “Kalei?” Danny called out, rushing to retrieve the screaming kettle. He filled his mug to the brim, breathed in a cloud of chamomile-scented steam; paused, set down the kettle. “...Kalei?”
Danny moved swiftly to the door connecting to the living room, picking up his gun in passing. As he reached the threshold he spotted a woman in white standing in the far corner; she turned towards him, hair parting around a pale, featureless void, no eyes, no mouth, no face—!
“WHAH!” Danny burst out incoherently, instinct raising his gun arm. The faceless woman took a step backwards– through the wall– and disappeared.
Danny stood frozen, gaping like a fish, his heartbeat thundering in his ears. After several long moments he stumbled back into the relative safety of the kitchen and sat with his back pressed up against a wall, his tea in one hand and his gun in the other.
He did not sleep again that night.
~ ~ ~
Morning found Steve and Danny deep in the thick rainforest of windward Kohala, Danny trailing behind Steve as he exercised the tracking skills he’d learned as a Navy SEAL, following evidence of Olokui’s passage that was invisible to Danny. It was a warm, sunny day, but under the towering ‘ohi‘a and giant hāpu‘u tree ferns the forest was dim and damp, and muddy boots and clothes were rapidly becoming a fact of Danny's existence. McGarrett led a grueling pace through the dense kāhili undergrowth, the fresh, sweet scent of ginger rising with each swing of the machete to mix with the smell of moist dirt and rot.
Lunch, when it came, was a brief affair, but as they walked Steve picked low-hanging strawberry guavas and liliko‘i, tossing Danny's share back to him and insisting he eat all of it, even the sub-par banana poka, to “supplement their travel rations”. Danny could well imagine that the crisp flatbread, jerky, and dried fruit that most of their meals would comprise would do little to satisfy his hunger after a long day of scrambling over logs and under branches and into and out of sheer-sided ravines, but he somewhat doubted that a few pieces of fruit would help.
“Break,” announced Steve as they skidded to a stop at the bottom of yet another of the many ravines. Danny glanced at his watch; Steve hadn't looked at his, but he'd called the break at the exact top of the hour like he'd been doing all day, the freak. Danny dropped his bag and eased himself down a moss-covered boulder next to the water and groaned, closing his eyes.
“How you doing, Danno?” Steve asked, and the tone of his voice made Danny open his eyes and look at him. Steve was eyeing him askance, wary.
Danny groaned again. “Fine, fine, I'm good, I'm just tired, I didn't hardly sleep last night. Noisy gecko in my room, you know.” Steve nodded, seeming to accept this.
Danny stretched out his leg gingerly... his knee was tired, okay, not sore, just tired. He glanced around at their surroundings; dim sunlight coming in green through the low-hanging branches, a small waterfall tumbling down into a deep pool, cool water pressing up against a gravelbar before escaping down a series of mild rapids and disappearing around a bend. It was kind of pretty, actually. All things considered Danny would rather be on the couch watching football, but he had to admit the view wasn't half bad. He turned his eyes to Steve who had dropped his bag but was still pacing, restless, coiled-up energy, a drop of sweat at the curve of his jaw tracing the full length of his neck, eyes turned toward the sky, sharp and bright behind dark lashes... yeah. Um. Yeah.
Steve dropped his eyes to Danny's and Danny shook himself a little. “We should fill up on water,” Steve said. “It's getting late, I dunno if we'll cross another stream before we have to make camp for the night.”
Danny nodded, consolidating the contents of his water bottles and filling the empties. He'd gone through a lot of water; the air was still and humid and warm under the trees, his shirt was soaked with sweat, and they'd been skirting around the backs of deep, cliffy valleys for much of the afternoon. Heights gave Danny dry-mouth, who knew.
Danny dropped iodine tablets into the bottles, shook them, and set them aside. He glanced to Steve, who had finished with his refills and was poking down the bank, sucking on one of those foul energy gels and eyeing the ground for signs of Olokui's passing. “So, we catching up to him, or what?” Danny wondered.
“Hard to say,” Steve replied, shaking his head. “He's got a pretty big lead on us... although not as big as he could have. Maka was right, he didn't go very far last night. He’s got... several hours on us, maybe.” Steve paused in front of a ti plant. “See, look at this,” Steve said, frowning, “he's deliberately torn off a couple of the leaves. I've seen this a few times at stream crossings... I wonder what that's all about?”
“Tell you what, babe, when we catch him, we'll ask him,” Danny suggested.
Steve smirked at him. “...Come on, we'd better get out of this ravine before the sun goes down.”
Danny shouldered his pack and crossed the gravelbar, picking his way carefully over the slick stones at the top of the rapids. Hopping up onto the opposite bank, he turned to see if Steve needed a hand– and of course Steve didn't, he could probably do this blindfolded, what was Danny thinking?
In the next moment the pond exploded, and Danny got an impression of eyes and scales and teeth, wide-open toothy jaws rushing at him, and Danny had just enough time to turn, to get his pack between him and whatever-it-was, when it hit him like a truck. There was a snarling growl and a blast of hot breath, and the thing had its teeth in his pack and was shaking him so hard his teeth rattled. Danny fumbled at the catches on his straps and slipped free of the pack, crawled away a few feet, caught a glimpse of the creature– something like a gecko and something like a saltwater crocodile and something like a motherfucking dragon, its head was almost as big as Danny was– and then it was flinging the pack aside and coming for him again. Danny clasped his hands together and brought his doubled fist down hard on the creature's snout– like you do with sharks, like he'd taught Gracie to do– and the creature roared and shook its head, backing off a little.
“HEY!” Steve was waving his arms, trying to attract the beast's attention, the idiot– and it worked, the creature was rushing him now. In another moment Steve's gun was in his hand and he fired off a shot. The creature roared and thrashed, twisting away from him, and with a hard slap of its muscular tail it sent him flying backwards into the rapids. In a moment the beast was tearing after him again.
“STEVE!” Danny's gun was in his hands and he advanced down the bank, firing shot after shot. The dragon-beast roared again and abandoned Steve, clawing its way over the boulders and disappearing downstream. Danny gaped after it, panting, then holstered his gun and jumped into the water, slipping and stumbling on the rocks. “Steve!”
Steve was still strapped into his heavy pack, struggling to get up against the water pressure. Danny clasped his arm and hauled him up, didn't let go until they were both on dry land again, tried not to freak out about the bloody scrapes on Steve's arms and the small gash on forehead. “Jesus, Steve, look at you, are you okay?”
Steve nodded, panting. “I'm okay, I'm okay.”
“You're bleeding from a head wound, McGarrett, Jesus Christ, where's the fucking first aid kit—”
“I'm fine, Danny, do that later, let's just get away from the water first, yeah?”
Danny's gaze slid from Steve's slightly wild eyes to where that– monster dragon thing had just disappeared. “...Yeah, you know what, we're gonna do that later, let's get out of here, come on.”
They made record time climbing out of the ravine, cursing and slipping as they went, and once on flat ground again Steve collapsed against a tree, gun in his hand and eyes watching the stream bed warily. Danny dropped his pack and dug for the first aid kit, pulling out gauze pads, antiseptic, and butterfly bandages before kneeling next to his partner. “Steve? Look at me. ...Okay, I don't think you have a concussion and it doesn't look like you'll need stitches, but let's get you fixed up, okay?”
“Seriously Danny, I'm fine—”
“Steve. You and your head wound and all of your other wounds have just had a nice bath in water that you've assured me is swimming with leptospirosis and other fine diseases, so we're going to get you disinfected, okay? Don't answer that, that was not a question, this is not a debate. Stay still.”
Steve snorted but laid his head back and sat still, closing his eyes briefly. Danny got to work on his injuries, trying to concentrate on applying iodine and not thinking too hard about whatever-the-fuck-that-was impossible creature that had just tried to eat them– and, well, fuck, that wasn't really working, now was it? “...Steve.”
“...What the fuck was that thing?”
Steve opened his eyes, laughing a little under his breath, looking just slightly hysterical. “...I think that was a mo‘o.”
“Okay, you're laughing, why are you laughing, what the fuck about any of this is funny, Steven, what the hell is a mo‘o?”
Steve shook his head and laughed a little more, that same hysterical, breathy giggle. “It's a Hawaiian mythological beast, their equivalent of a dragon. They don't exist!”
Danny stared at him for a long moment. “...Okay. Okay. Well, clearly they do.” He dropped back on his heels, ignoring the strain that put on his knee. “...What the fuck is going on?”
Steve just shook his head again.
Danny chewed on his lip. “...Hey, uh... you know how I didn’t get much sleep last night?”
Steve blinked at him. “Yeah?”
“...I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone was choking me, but there was no one in the room.”
“...Seriously?” Steve's eyebrows climbed into his hairline.
“And then I saw a woman with no face walk through a wall.”
“You saw a mujina? A faceless ghost?”
“I saw a– what, is this like a thing, there's a name for this thing?”
“Yeah, it's– it's like a Japanese thing, a woman with no face, just a smooth, blank space, usually with long hair, a white dress—”
“Yeah, yeah, that's what I saw!” Danny interjected. “Long, dark hair, white dress. ...What about that other thing, the choking thing, is that a Japanese thing, too?”
“Sounds like a choking ghost, or pressing ghost. Those are found in many cultures—”
“What are you, some kind of ghost expert?” Danny demanded.
Steve flushed. “It's not like I ever believed, but Hawai‘i's supposed to be really haunted, I grew up with the stories, you know, people talk—”
“Yeah, well, it's not like I ever believed, either, and then last night I wake up and something invisible has its hands around my throat, and then today some gecko dragon pond monster is trying to kill me!”
Steve was quiet for a few seconds. “I woke up last night too,” he said. “I thought I heard someone walking on the veranda, I mean, I could clearly hear footsteps. But there was no one there.”
Danny spent a few moments digesting that. “...You know,” he said, holding up one finger as he held forth, “it's starting to look like maybe– and I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but just maybe our kahuna friend is not quite as crazy as I originally thought.”
Steve laughed softly, a breathy chuckle. “Yeah, maybe.”
Danny sighed. “...Okay, well, I’ve cleaned you up as best I can, guess we should get a move on, huh?”
“Yeah, good idea. ...Hey.” Steve touched Danny’s wrist lightly, catching his eye. “...Thank you, Danno.”
Danny felt hot, and his ears buzzed a little. He swallowed. “Yeah, uh, you know. You’re welcome.” Steve nodded, releasing him.
Danny’s wrist tingled.
~ ~ ~
They made camp in the brief twilight between sunset and full dark. Olokui had led them along a high ridge above a deep valley, where there was almost a clear path to follow, a pig trail maybe. They found a small clearing with relatively dry, almost flat ground right on the edge of the cliff, and in the last of the light they had a sweeping view up and down the valley. Steve pitched the tent, using the machete to chop guava tent poles for the lightweight rainfly they carried; Danny dug out a roll of duct tape to mend the holes torn in their backpacks by mo‘o teeth and claws.
“Hey. Are we gonna have to worry about more of those mo‘o things tonight?” Danny wondered. “'Cause I'd kind of like to get some beauty rest without having to worry about being some overgrown iguana's chew toy.”
“I hate that this is a question that I have to take seriously, but... nah, Danno, I don't think so. Mo‘o tend to be associated with bodies of water... streams, fish ponds. I think we're okay here.”
“So those weird chirping things all around us aren't baby mo‘o or something, they're birds, right?”
“...What? You mean the coqui? ...They're frogs, Danny. From Puerto Rico.”
“Frogs, seriously? They're, uh....”
“I was going to say 'really annoying', actually.”
Steve smirked. “Yeah, that would be the general consensus on this island. Well, except for the people who think they make cute pets.”
“Oh, yeah, it's so loud I can't hear myself think, these guys would make great pets.” Danny sat down, groaning a little under his breath. God, he was so fucking tired. “...Where the hell are we, anyway?”
“I think we're in the back of Waipi‘o Valley,” Steve replied. “Not far from the town of Waimea.”
“That where Olokui's headed, you think?”
“Nah, we're going the wrong direction. If we're lucky he's headed for Kukuihaele, but at this point, who knows?”
“Well, I'm glad one of us knows where we are. We gaining on him at all?” Danny put his face in his hands and closed his eyes, massaging his forehead a little.
“A little, I think, but he’s moving pretty fast. ...Hey, Danno, you okay?” Danny could hear the concern in Steve's voice and lifted his head, trying to shrug off the exhaustion.
“Yeah, babe, just tired. Today was a bit much on no sleep and not enough coffee.”
Steve's lips twitched into a sympathetic smile. “Come on, let's get some food into you and get some sleep, we're gonna have to get moving as soon as it's light, and there won't be any coffee tomorrow, either.”
Danny chewed and swallowed his dry, cold rations without even tasting them and was asleep before his head touched ground.
~ ~ ~
Danny was up and reaching for his gun before he recognized what had woken him, Steve sitting bolt-upright next to him, frozen still and tense in the darkness. “Steve? What is it?”
“Shh!” Steve hissed, and Danny held his breath, straining to hear over the loud chorus of coqui.
“Drums,” Steve said, and yeah, he could hear them now, those were definitely drums, and yeah, okay, that was kind of weird. A moment later Steve was crawling forward to poke his head out of their makeshift tent, so Danny followed.
Higher up the ridgeline there was a string of hot, bright lights that flickered and seemed to be moving, just slightly, and— “Are those torches?” Danny wondered.
“...They're coming down the pig trail,” Steve said, and stopped breathing. “...Shit!” Steve exploded into motion, propelling himself from the tent and hauling on Danny's arm, “Come on, Danny, we have to go, go go go, now, leave everything, just run!”
“What are we running from?!” Danny shouted as they plunged into the jungle, following the weak, unsteady beam of the LED headlamp Steve clutched in one fist.
“What?!” Danny yelled, and then he only had breath for running, tearing barefoot through the dark, wet forest, ignoring scrapes and bruises and falls, just running.
When Danny's lungs felt like they were about to burst Steve finally slowed down, stumbling to a stop and folding over, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. He held a finger to his lips and they both strained to hear over their own heaving breaths and pounding heartbeats.
“I don't hear anything, do you hear anything?” Steve gasped out. Danny shook his head, and Steve collapsed against a tree. “I think we're good. I think we're good.”
Danny gulped down greedy mouthfuls of air. “...Night Marchers?!”
“Maka said so, Huaka‘i Pō, should've listened... Jesus, I can't believe it, actual fucking Night Marchers... that's probably not a game trail, that's probably one of the old ways down into the valley....”
“Okay, wait, even I've heard of these guys... dead warrior chiefs marching around at night with drums and torches, and if they catch you, they kill you, right?”
Steve nodded. “If you can't run away you're supposed to strip naked and lie face-down on the ground and if you're really lucky one of your ancestors will be in the line and will spare your life, but I don't have any ancestors who were Hawaiian warriors, do you? So basically, for us, it's run away or die.”
“Awesome.” Danny looked around, taking stock of their surroundings. They were in the middle of the woods, it was pitch fucking dark, they'd left behind all of their supplies except for a headlamp and a gun, and oh, it was raining now, that was new, great. “So now what?”
“We stay here. Until the sun comes up. And then we go back and get our stuff and get the hell out of here.”
Danny looked around again: damp leaves, damp moss, damp logs. “Awesome. Yes. Well, this looks comfy.” He shivered, suddenly, and wrapped his arms around himself; his body was starting to cool down after all of the running, and the chill breeze and misty rain wasn't helping matters.
Steve flicked the headlamp toward Danny. “...Cold?”
“Yeah, you know what, yes, it is a bit cold. It is surprisingly cold, considering. Aren't we supposed to be in a tropical paradise here?”
“It is winter.” Steve flicked the beam of the headlamp around, taking stock for himself; Danny heard him huff a sigh. “...This isn't good.”
“Oh, 'this isn't good', really Steven, what part of this scenario do you think we could possibly have construed as good—”
“Danny, shut up. ...Look, it's cold, it's raining, we don't have rain gear or adequate shelter... as things stand, we're at risk of hypothermia.”
“Okay, yes. Very good, Sherlock, I agree. What do you suggest?”
Steve huffed another sigh. “Shared body heat.”
“You're suggesting we cuddle?”
“No, you're right, I agree, forget I said anything.”
“Okay. Okay, so—” Steve swung the beam of the headlamp around, searching, then made his way over to a particularly large ‘ohi‘a tree, settling down among its roots on the leeward side of the trunk, where there was some protection from the elements. “Okay. Come here.”
Danny carefully picked his way over to him, then stood staring down at where Steve sat in a tiny pool of illumination, back to the tree, knees up and spread slightly. “...Are you kidding me Steve? I'm supposed to be the little spoon?”
“What– seriously, Danno?”
“Yes, McGarrett, seriously, what are you trying to say here—”
“I'm not trying to say anything! Look, Danno, okay, fact: I'm a little taller than you, and you are, okay, a little bit shorter– ah ah ah!” He held up a finger, forestalling Danny's argument. “I'm not trying to say anything here, I'm just being logical, okay, do you really want to spend the whole night with your nose pressed into my shoulder blade?”
...Yeah, I am not going to answer that honestly, Danny thought. “...Okay, okay, fine,” he said, sighing, and tried not to think too hard about anything as he sat down and pressed his back against Steve's chest, felt Steve's arms and legs wrap around him like an octopus. A muscly, sexy octopus, who was quite pleasantly warm, actually. “...This? Is not fair.”
“Yeah, well, life isn't fair, Danny. And what are you complaining about? Little spoon is the warmer spoon.”
“Oh. Well in that case, thank you, Steven, for your noble sacrifice on my behalf.”
“Hey, you know, you're welcome, Danny.”
They lapsed into a comfortable silence, then, and Danny tried to make sure it stayed comfortable, tried not to think about how he could feel every breath that Steve took in the rise and fall of Steve's chest, in the puffs of warm air on his cheek, his ear, the back of his neck... tried not to think about how comfortable and secure he felt with Steve wrapped up around him, solid muscle hemming him in on all sides, and the man was warm, gave off waves of heat and Danny was so comfortable he could go to sleep right now, just close his eyes and turn his face into Steve's neck and breathe deep....
Comfortable was bad, faces in necks bad, Danny had to be strong, he could do this, this was just like all of those other times Steve had been just a little bit too much inside of his personal space, thigh pressed up against his on a park bench, arm casually stretched behind him on a couch, Danny had very admirably kept his cool during those times, this was just like those times... except that this time was so much worse, wasn't it?
Steve shifted position a little, his forearm brushing against Danny's, and Danny held his breath, forced himself to let it out easy. There was a pause, and then Steve's hand very deliberately brushed up the length of Danny's forearm, resting lightly at the crook of his elbow. Danny shivered, his thoughts going white and staticky a little.
“...You're hot,” Steve said.
“You feel warm. Too warm.” Danny could hear the concern in Steve's voice.
This was closely followed by the feel of Steve's fingers in Danny's neck. “Gah! McGarrett– cold fingers, stop that!” Steve pressed the backs of his fingers against Danny's temple and cheek and Danny changed his mind, leaning into them a little. “No, wait, that feels kind of nice, actually, keep that up.”
To Danny's dismay the fingers withdrew. “Danny, I think you have a fever.” And that was Steve's frowny face, Danny could just hear it.
“Wonderful. Wonderful! Just what I need.”
There was a long silence from Steve, and the general feeling of frownyness emanating from behind Danny's head started to make him twitchy. Finally, Steve just shifted position again, drew Danny closer against his chest and said, “We'll get you some ibuprofen when we get back to camp. Try to get some sleep... being so tired from last night can't be helping.”
Danny thought to make a few comments concerning the clinginess of worried SEALs, but his thoughts were running slow and sticky, and before he could compose a clever enough sentence he fell asleep.
~ ~ ~
Danny woke from confusing dreams about large black birds and the sensation of chasing and being chased to a firm grip on his shoulder and Steve's voice in his ear, soft and low and a little rough from disuse, “Hey. Danny. Come on, Danno, wake up.”
Groaning, Danny squinted open his eyes. There was just starting to be enough light under the trees to see by. Danny had shifted in the night, curling onto his side a little and pressing back into one of Steve's arms; Steve peered at him from a few inches away, too close to be entirely in focus, eyes a stormy dark-gray in the twilight. Danny blinked at him. “'Morning,” he mumbled.
Steve's lips twitched into a small smile. “'Morning.” He reached up to touch Danny's forehead; Danny squirmed away from his icy fingers and Steve frowned. “You've still got a fever.”
“Yeah, maybe, or maybe you're just really really cold,” Danny suggested, frowning right back. He snatched at Steve's cold hand, chafing it between his own, then reached up to grab his chin, tilting his face from side to side. “You're looking a little pale, babe.”
Steve smiled again. “I'll be fine once I get moving. ...Come on. Up. Let's find camp and get some breakfast, then we'd better get on the trail again.”
Danny moved away slowly, reluctant to leave his nice little cozy warm spot, pressed up against Steve's chest. Climbing inelegantly to his feet, he groaned again and stretched, popping the kinks out of his neck and spine. “How'd you know when to wake up?” he wondered idly. “I didn't hear an alarm. You Navy guys come with built-in clocks or something?”
Steve hesitated, then accepted Danny's outstretched hand, pulling himself to his feet. “...I didn't sleep.”
Danny's eyebrows went up. “Excuse me?”
“I figured it might be smart to start listening to Maka, keep a watch at night. I slept okay last night, you didn't and you're coming down with something, so.” He shrugged.
“So, what, you figured you'd take one for the team and keep yourself up all night? Without consulting me?”
“I got some sleep in the tent– whoa, okay Danno,” Steve said, holding up his hands in an attempt to forestall a rant, “just this once, all right? You needed the sleep, I didn't. We'll split the watch from now on, okay?”
Danny glared at him. “You're damn right we will.” Stupid, self-sacrificing, mother-henning meathead.
They found camp easily– their wild midnight sprint had left a trail even Danny could follow. Danny swallowed pills and broke down the tent while Steve used some of their minimal supply of fuel to heat water for instant ramen, which Danny was grateful for; it had stopped raining, but the cold and damp clung to him like the mist in the treetops, and even in dry clothes and a fleece Danny couldn't stop shivering.
A few minutes on the trail fixed that problem; soon Danny was sweating buckets as he hauled himself through the underbrush and over logs, feeling even heavier and more tired than the day before. Steve kept up the same vigorous pace, but he cast Danny frequent concerned glances which Danny returned as glares when he caught them.
Their first stream crossing of the day gave them pause; Olokui's tracks brought them to another large pond, its surface opaqued by ripples and reflected sky. Danny stared at Steve. Steve stared at Danny. Danny stared at the pond. “You know, babe, I'm not too excited about trying to cross that. That look like a scaly monster-sized pond to you?”
Steve frowned and moved away a few paces, scanning their surroundings. “Looks like Olokui didn't like it either; he didn't cross here. See, look!” Steve pointed at a fresh scrape in a bank of clay-like mud. “He moved upstream.”
Steve glanced around some more, then backtracked, stopping in front of a ti plant and staring. Danny came over to look; one of the leaves had been torn off. Steve was staring at it like it held the answers to all of life's problems, and would give them up if only Steve chose the correct interrogation technique. “...Steve, what is it?”
“...I'm just remembering something Mamo told me once,” Steve replied, sounding distracted. After a moment he shook his head, tore off one of one of the ti leaves, and tossed it into the pond. They watched as the leaf bobbed peacefully on the surface of the water for a few moments. Then a small whirlpool formed around it, sucking the leaf under before disappearing, leaving the pond's surface placid and empty once more.
“Whoa, okay, guess that answers that question!” Danny said, backpedaling.
“Yeah, uh... let's. Let's go upstream. Yeah,” Steve agreed, hastily leading the way.
They tested the water further up; finding it mo‘o free, they crossed without incident, and then it was back to forging through the damp, slippery forest at a speed man was just not designed to go. They didn't speak much; Danny found he needed his breath for bushwhacking rather than talking. Instead he distracted himself by watching Steve: back straight, machete a natural extension of his corded forearm. His eyes were bright and alert as he scanned the jungle, sifting signs of Olokui's passage, largely invisible to Danny, from the background noise of an endless multitude of fern and moss and leafy branch.
Danny felt a rush of something like affection, or awe, or gratitude. Thank God Steve was here, he thought; Danny would be in serious trouble without him. He didn't know the first thing about mo‘o and choking ghosts and whatever-the-fuck-else for one thing, and he probably would've frozen to death last night for another, and then Steve was just so God-damned capable. Danny wasn't the type of guy to discount his own worth, mind, he knew damn well he was tough as nails and smart and a damned good detective to boot, but his strength lay in figuring out people; and cities, cities he could work with, let him look at a back alley or a hotel room and ask him to find what's wrong with the picture, he could do that, but this... this backwoods stuff was completely out of his element. Steve though, Steve was comfortable here, looked as at-home stalking through the jungle as a tiger would, knew where he was and where he was going and how to get there, and that just impressed the hell out of Danny.
Steve called for a break and Danny sat down gratefully, breathing hard, but he kept watching Steve, eyes lingering on the long line of his throat as he tipped his head back and drank, on his mouth when he gasped in satisfaction and licked his lips. A particularly loud burst of birdsong sounded from a nearby tree and Danny watched Steve turn his head, search out the tiny speck of red feathers amongst the leaves, smile when he found it. Danny smiled, too.
Steve's eyes turned to Danny, and fuck, Danny was staring, wasn't he? He closed his eyes, and that was probably a mistake, too, because all of a sudden he could feel how very fucking tired he was, and now he really wasn't sure he'd be able to get his eyes open again.
“Hey, Danny?” Danny could hear Steve moving closer, heard him crouch down next to him. “You doing okay, Danno?” Steve gently pressed the back of his hand to Danny's forehead.
Danny didn't open his eyes. “You know, Steven, if I'm perfectly honest with you I can say that I've felt better.”
Steve chuckled, a laugh Danny felt more than saw, a puff of warm air across his cheek. But his voice was a worried rumble when he murmured, “Your fever's gone up.”
Steve turned his hand over, pushed his fingers through Danny's hair, and Danny opened his eyes. Steve's eyes were blue– had they always been blue?– dark and a bit green, like the ocean, and the worry in them showed through so strong it made something clench and squeeze in Danny's chest, made it hard to breathe.
“Steve—” Danny started to say, and stopped.
Steve's eyes were like the ocean. His voice was soft and breathless: “Yeah, Danny?”
The moment, precarious, hung between them by a thread for one heartbeat, two– and then snapped with a bloodcurdling scream.
Steve and Danny whirled toward the sound, branches snapping as something fell through the trees, a woman screaming and then a fraction of a second later a dark shape hit the ground with a sickening THUD and the scream cut off.
“Jesus—!” Danny choked out, and then he was running, Steve with him. Within seconds they reached the body that lay crumpled in a heap amongst the ginger and fern, dark hair fanned out in a tangled halo. A woman's body, broken and deathly still.
“Jesus, where did she come from?!” Danny cried, dropping to his knees next to her while Steve hovered anxiously behind him. Danny started to brush her hair to one side. He didn't want to turn her in case she had a spinal injury, but he bared her neck and reached for her pulse. Before he could touch her skin the woman moved. Her neck twisting at an odd angle to face him, the woman gave him a wicked, gleeful smile and abruptly vanished.
Danny shouted and fell backwards, bumping up against Steve's shins. “What the everliving FUCK?!”
Steve was pale and staring. “A ghost. That was. That was a ghost,” he said, sounding shellshocked.
Danny pressed a hand to his chest, trying to slow the frantic beating of his heart. “What the hell, that bitch took ten years off my life!”
“Kolohe,” Steve murmured, still sounding spacey, then translated immediately, “Troublemaker. ...At least she wasn't actively trying to kill us.” He offered his hand to Danny, pulling him to his feet.
“Yeah, well,” Danny replied, rubbing his arms and looking unsettled, “I'm kind of feeling like I want to get the hell out of this place, what do you think?”
Steve shook his head. “No argument there.”
~ ~ ~
[Part 1 | Part 3]