nell65: (by roulade)
[personal profile] nell65
Okay - it turns out that I wasn't ready to walk away from my Eureka/H50 universe. I think, maybe, I didn't like that Danny was unhappy? Whatever the cause - this story burst into my head and would not leave me alone until I wrote it and shared it. It was a fun ride, and I hope others will enjoy it too.

I have also posted it to my AO3 account, here:http://archiveofourown.org/users/Nell65

Title: Bright Morning Comes
Fandom: Eureka, Hawaii 5-0
Characters: Zane Donovan, Jo Lupo, Steve McGarrett, Danny Williams, Catherine Rollins, Chin Ho Kelly, Kono Kalalula, William Shaw, General Mansfield, Dorris McGarrett
Relationships: M/F, M/M, Multi
Category: Gen, Action/Adventure, Scifi
Words: ~20,000


Prologue:


The video opened with a wide pan of a lengthy but orderly airport security line, before zooming in on a very slender, impeccably dressed white woman. Her fashionable purse dangled from its short strap over her forearm as she held her tickets and passport ready for the first inspection station. With her free hand she reached up to brush her hair back from her face, showing off her thin, aquiline nose, high cheekbones and elegantly understated makeup. She took a step forward, and another, swayed, started to raise her free hand, and then, like a marionette whose strings had been cut, collapsed onto the ground in an untidy sprawl. The lines swirled and broke as people rushed to her side, struggling in vain to revive her. The video ended with another close up shot framing her face, her dead eyes staring emptily up into the camera.

Jo had recognized her instantly. It was Beverly Barlow, spy, terrorist, felon, fugitive, very occasional ally and now, it seemed, corpse. Though Jo would have preferred to be able to stick pins in her, a lot of pins, just to make sure.



General Mansfield turned to Jo and Zane, who were seated across from him in the small conference room, just off the Director’s offices at Rockwell Industries. His many ribbons were a bright splash of color against his dress greens, and his expression was studiously bland. “That was taken two days ago at Hong Kong International Airport. Any thoughts?”

Jo kept her face impassive and her shoulders still, and hoped against all experience that her husband would muster the same control. Just one quick glance at Zane, however, and she knew he was about to say something obnoxious instead. Three, two, one, and…

“You’ve got a great video editor?” he offered, all disingenuous helpfulness. “That had to have been cut together from about ten different cameras. Could use a sound track, though.”

‘Bingo’ she thought, and wished she bet herself something comforting. Like a stiff shot of Ouzo or an extra thirty minutes at the gun range. Or, maybe, both.

Mansfield narrowed his eyes, and opened up another window on his laptop. “This was taken last spring, in Hawaii. Just before that unfortunate incident with Dr. Parrish.”

By which he meant that time the Consortium kidnapped Parrish from the Unconventional Weapons Convention in Honolulu. They attempted to grab Zane and Jo as well, intending to jack them all into another VR prison. With the help of the Hawaii Five-O Taskforce they avoided capture, rescued Parrish and destroyed the computers. Along the way, and quite incidentally, they also rescued Beverly.

Unfortunately for her, not before her former allies had shot her full of nanotech explosives, the same explosives that apparently had killed her two days ago in Hong Kong. And, now unfortunately for Jo and Zane, they had let her go without revealing her existence or whereabouts to Mansfield. Beverly had known too many of their secrets, secrets that could get them all killed. She had also helped rescue Zane from the Consortium the year before, and they owed her something for that. At the time, it had seemed the right thing to do.

And by the pricking of her thumbs, Jo knew exactly what footage the General was about to bring up on screen. This time she bet herself the Ouzo. She was sure she was going to need it.

The video began and, yes, ‘Bingo’ again, it was the brief footage of Beverly Barlow standing in front of the elevator banks in their hotel in Hawaii. The same images that had led them to Parrish, and that Zane had done his best to scrub away.

Damn Beverly Barlow and her stupid need to be in the middle of things, Jo thought resentfully. She could have stayed in hidden retirement, but no! Beverly had loved orchestrating grand events, and her death was proving just as good as anything else she’d ever pulled off in life.

“This video was quite hard to find,” Mansfield said, shooting another gimlet-eyed glance Zane’s way, “but,” and he smiled a small, triumphant smile, “eventually it turned up.”

He waited again, but this time Zane kept quiet.

“It seems to me,” Mansfield went on once it was clear they had nothing to add, “that your debrief on the whole incident was woefully incomplete.”

He reached over and closed the laptop. To Jo, the click of the lid snapping closed sounded exactly like the lock on the jail cell in the Sheriff’s office.

Mansfield continued, “It also seems to me that there might be questions you would rather I didn’t ask. Loose threads you’d rather I didn’t start pulling. Barlow. Senator Wen. Dr. Monroe. Henry Deacon. Grant. To name a few.”

He watched them carefully in the silence that followed, his glance flickering between them as he waited for their response.

Jo felt curiously numb. They’d been waiting so long for this ax to fall that she didn’t even feel fear anymore. Just a strange, distant, floating sensation as she watched the two men enter into their best gunfighter stare-down impressions. She glanced at her watch and decided to time them. Zane could and would keep up this sort of adolescent posturing all day, while the General was a busy man.

“In exchange for NOT pulling on those threads,” the General didn’t quite snarl, “I have a small project that could benefit from your particular skill set.”

Four minutes, twenty-six seconds, Jo noted. Not their longest stare-down, but not the shortest either.

His minor victory secured, Zane asked, “Whose skill set? Mine? Or Jo’s?”

“Both.” Mansfield sat back, another triumphant little smile hovering around his mouth. He knew as well as they did that Zane even asking the question meant that he had won this round. “A little breaking and entering, and a little coding. You can handle that, Donovan, and Lupo here can cover your back.”

Five days later they were standing against a wall in a busy market district in a small city a few hours outside Seoul, in South Korea. Wilson, their curiously inept CIA handler, pointed with relief to an anonymous looking apartment over narrow storefront, “There! That’s the safe house.”

Jo shared a sidelong glance with Zane. He shook his head infinitesimally; he didn’t want to follow Wilson either. This entire adventure had been a long series of disasters, and relying on the intel and contacts provided at their all-too-brief briefing had been part of the problem from the start.

Sweet Christ did she have a bone to pick with Mansfield if they survived to see him again –‘a little breaking and entering, a little coding,’ her fine ass. He’d wedged their small team, uninvited and unwelcome, into a CIA op that sent them into the heart of North Korea’s nuclear weapons center. Their formal mission was to steal copies of all the ICBM operating systems. Gob smacking as this order had been, it got even better. Mansfield also wanted Zane to slip Trojan code into the facility’s hardware, code that would allow the US to seize control of the guidance systems if the North Koreans were ever capable of launching any weapons towards the US. Without alerting anyone else on the team or the CIA to what they were doing.

Not that he had provided much in the way of a team in the first place. The moment she and Zane laid eyes on the small collection of people on the military flight to Seoul, they realized that Mansfield’s briefing had been, at best, incomplete and, at worst, deliberately misleading.

“What the hell is this?” Zane had hissed in her ear, “The Bad News Bears take on North Korea?”

He was exaggerating, but not by much. Each member had a different background—CIA, Army Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, NSA—and had never met before. As the only civilians in the group, the CIA analyst was assigned to them as their handler. Wilson had only the briefest of field experience before he landed a desk job and his only apparent qualification for this gig was his Korean-American heritage and his fluency in the right languages. By the time they had all introduced themselves, Zane had quit whispering under his breath and was openly calling the group ‘the Expendables.’

“If you can get away clean, good. If not, make it big,” had been Mansfield’s parting shot.

They didn’t get away clean. A network of CIA agents got them in, but things went south, they improvised like mad, and then Zane triggered the small charges they had laid during their entry. In the ensuing chaos they and the rest of their team managed to slip out of the complex. Fortunately, and not at all accidently Jo was sure, they were all dark haired enough that in coveralls, jackets and caps they passed sufficiently in the crowd to make it through. Then the NSA agent died trying to get them to their CIA extraction point. Their attempt to get back to the CIA safe house they had started from that morning led them to two more dead CIA agents and the not terribly shocking but seriously infuriating discovery that their back trail was completely blown. The whole thing began to reek of a set up.

The Military Intelligence Officers Mansfield had flown in with them had the same reaction. Ditching the CIA and pooling their own prior resources, they helped Zane and Jo and their handler get to the border before peeling away, each to mysterious business of their own.

They had crossed back into South Korea late in the afternoon. Wilson insisted on immediately calling in for support and new instructions. By this point she and Zane both were convinced that the CIA had set them up to take the fall, and the last thing they wanted to do now was follow their directives. They tried to explain to Wilson why they thought he was nuts to trust his home office, but they failed entirely to convince him.

Given Wilson’s excitement and relief at seeing their destination, Jo didn’t know what else to do. So she cut their losses. “Fine,” she said. “You go first. We’ll wait here until you’re sure it’s clear.”

As soon as Wilson slipped away, blending immediately into the early evening crowd along the market street, Zane touched her elbow. “We should go.”

Jo nodded.

His fingers closed around her arm, tugging her along with him as he stepped into the foot traffic headed the opposite direction from Wilson. “Jo. We did our best.”

She shook herself out of her regret and stepped up her pace. “I know. Come on.”

They had just cleared the block when the sound of a muffled explosion reached their ears. They hopped on the next city bus that passed, riding away from the wailing of sirens rushing in behind them. As they slid into two open seats, she muttered, “That wasn’t very subtle.”

He scooted nearer to her, dropping his arm around her shoulders, pressing his long thigh close to hers. “I think someone is trying to attract attention.” His voice was a low rumble against her ear.

“What?!”

“From,” he patted the full backpack resting on his knees, “you know.”

She vented her outrage about this whole damn clusterfuck with a hissed wail, “Oh my God! How many layers of double crossing are going on here?”

“As many as possible, I think.”

She straightened her shoulders. “We need to get to an army base.”

“Which one? And how do we know they won’t shoot us on sight either?”

That stopped her. She could still hear sirens behind them. “Well, what do you propose?”

“We have to get ourselves to Mansfield.”

Jo searched his face, hoping to find any trace of doubt, anything she could use to challenge her own conviction that he was right. There was nothing. “That means the airport in Seoul.”

He nodded. “We’ll need papers and money,” he murmured, his eyes already back to scanning the other passengers.

Jo scowled down at her own pack. They didn’t have either. They didn’t even have phones. Mansfield had requested that they leave everything behind but the two backpacks full of gear he let them select from a small but satisfyingly diverse armory at the airbase in DC. The equipment had been life saving, literally, but right now a giant wad of cash would have been more useful still.

Zane leaned even closer, his breath warm on her skin, his thumb a slight warning pressure along her jaw. “Don’t look up, but I think we’ve been made. Wrong season for tourists.” He brushed his lips across her cheekbone and down to her mouth, slanting his head to kiss her. “Next stop, we get off and lead him into an alley.”

His lips closed on hers and she leaned in, automatically reaching up to thread her fingers through the soft hair along the nape of his neck. She deepened their kiss and held onto the moment, on to him, until they felt the bus start to slow.

She saw their tail step off the bus as she and Zane turned the corner, headed for the darkest alleyway they could find.

Jo knocked him cold with the butt of her handgun and Zane quickly riffled through his pockets. He pulled apart the phone, smashed his watch, pocketed the money, and handed Jo the ID. She shrugged. “I can’t read this.”

He took it back. “I used to be able to read a little, but,” he frowned in the dim light leaking around the street entrance, “I’m way out of practice. I think it’s just a drivers’ license and a state ID. Probably not even his real name.” He stood up. “What do we do with him?”

Jo took a deep breath. “Look away.”

“What?” He stared at her in confusion for a beat, then comprehension set in and he nodded and moved to the alley mouth.

Jo joined him a moment later, tucking her knife and her gloves back inside her coat. “How much money?”

“Enough for train tickets, or,” he cocked his head at her, “gas money.”

“For what?”

“A car. We’d get further, and with less need for ID.”

Jo started to object that it would be too dangerous, but Zane stopped her. “Jo, I love that when you look at me, you see a mostly honest man. But, right now, I need you to channel the Enforcer. Remember that I was a thief. And a damn good one.”

“Computer crime!”

“You really think there’s some bright, clear line between stealing money on the Internet and stealing material things in meat space?” He shook his head. “Come’on Jojo. Enforcer. She knew what I could do.”

“But, those were all just pranks when you were a kid…” She trailed off, daunted by his crooked smirk and shaking head. She tried again, “You were never charged with anything like that.”

He shrugged again. “Like I said. I was good.”

Something odd in his voice caught on her ear, and she pulled her gaze back from the street to look up at him more carefully. His eyes were hooded, his lips were pulled thin and flat and the muscle was twitching in his cheek. She realized with shock that he was nearly vibrating with worry, and not about his ability to steal cars. He was afraid that revealing more of his criminal history would make her doubt him, doubt them, again, even now. She didn’t know if she wanted to rip out her own hair or break his fingers. Or maybe the other way around. Good God, had they done a number on each other, each too caught up in their own fears and hurts to see the wounds they had made.

Her eyes filmed with sudden tears, and her heart swelled hot and huge in her chest, nearly choking her. Less than fifteen feet away lay the body of the man she had just killed and Zane didn’t even flinch. She was a soldier and that was who she was and he had never once questioned or challenged that. In fact it was part of what had drawn him to her in the first place. But he was panicky that she would run from him again because he knew how to steal the cars and money they needed to get home.

She pressed close to his chest, running her hands up to capture his head and pull him down to whisper in his ear, “I love you, Zane Donovan.”

Then she kissed him. She poured everything she had into it, willing him to remember that he really did know how completely she loved him, desired him, trusted in him.

In seconds he had reversed their positions and backed her up against the nearest wall. Time blurred and she was lost, again, always, in his arms, his mouth hot on her skin and his hands leaving aching trails along her body. When she realized she was already grinding against his thigh, a keening moan in the back of her throat, she pushed hard against his chest. “Car. Seoul. Papers.”

He laughed, low and relieved, and ducked his head to scrape his teeth along her jaw once more. Then he stepped back and held out his hand. “Yes ma’am.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

The sound of his phone woke Steve from a deep sleep. Picking it up, he squinted at the time. Four AM. Terrific. There was no way he’d be going back to sleep today. “McGarrett,” he said, his voice thick with tiredness. It had been a long week already.

“Steve? Hey! It’s Zane.”

For a bleary instant Steve couldn’t place the voice or the name, and then it clicked. He struggled to sit up. “Donovan? Zane?”

“Yeah! Listen. I know we’re calling out of the blue, but Jo and I could really use your help.”

“Okay.” Steve was trying to shake the sleep cobwebs from his brain. Zane calling before dawn and asking for help could not be a good thing. “Where are you?”

“On a plane. We’re flying in from Seoul and will be landing a little after 11am your time. Could you meet our flight, and give us an escort to Fort Shafter?”

“Yeah, sure, but…” the oddness of Zane’s phrase finally clicked, “Escort? To Shafter? What’s going on?”

“We’re kind of in trouble.”

“Trouble?” He wasn’t alert enough yet do more than repeat things, apparently.

“Beverly Barlow dropped dead ten days ago, trying to get through airport security in Hong Kong.” Zane sighed. “This revealed to certain parties that we might not have been entirely forthcoming about, well, about a lot of things. As a consequence, I received an invitation I couldn’t refuse. To provide IT support to a group doing business out of Seoul.”

Zane paused, probably to make sure Steve was following along. He was, unfortunately, and feeling the ground slip out from under his feet as a result. He had known last spring that Zane and his wife, Jo, were hiding Beverly Barlow from a General Mansfield. Mansfield was with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for whom he did a number of irregular and mysterious things. Things like ordering covert executions on American soil to hide the existence of advanced technologies and the attempted theft or use of the same. For instance.

Steve had assumed that, after last spring, Barlow would have the good sense to stay hidden. But according to Zane, something had sent her on the run and now she was dead. Unlucky for her, and for Jo and Zane. Her very public death had revealed their cover up to Mansfield. Mansfield’s punishment for their deception had been to send Zane out to commit computer crime on behalf of some DOD project, and likely in North Korea, by the sound of it. Fantastic. At least Mansfield had the good sense to send Jo along with him. “Okay,” Steve said. “I’m with you so far.”

“So,” and now Steve could hear the exhaustion and the anger in Zane’s voice, “I was just ‘support’, only the ‘computer guy’. Everything that could go wrong, did. It was a stupid plan, and we told them so, but, you know. ‘Professionals’.”

His scorn was withering and his contempt for this waste of his extraordinary talents was clearly boundless. The man had an ego the size of a planet when it came to his work, and one he almost deserved.

“What do you need now?” Steve asked.

“We got separated from the rest of the team. We have a package we have to get out of our hands, and into Mansfield’s. We made it onto this flight, but probably not alone.”

And there was a tale for another day, Steve noted to himself. “Why haven’t you called him?” he asked.

“Seriously? You don’t think we’ve tried? We can’t get through. We don’t have any other names or contact info.”

“You can’t find any?”

“Commercial aircraft. Over the Pacific. No, I can’t ‘find’ him or anyone else right now.”

Right. Zane might be a world-class hacker but even he couldn’t work with little to no bandwidth.

“Where is your handler?”

“Not coming back. Along with half the team.”

“Wow. You are in trouble.”

“Yes. Thank you. Can you help us get off this damn plane? Preferably in one piece?”

“Yes. Let me talk to Jo.”

There was quiet, and then Jo’s familiar voice, low and honeyed with a hint of whiskey, came on the line. “I’m fine.” He could almost hear her smile. “I’m relieved you’re smart enough to check, though.”

“How valuable is the package?”

“Extremely.”

“How off the books do you think this is?”

“Since his staff claims that Mansfield is on vacation and unreachable? Even by me? Way, way off.”

“Great.” By which he meant, ‘oh shit.’ Jo was chief of security and DOD liaison for a private firm that did a significant volume of R&D work for the DOD, both on and off the books. She was also former military herself. Which meant a lot of personal attention from Mansfield, who knew Jo personally as well as professionally. As did, presumably, his staff. If they were blocking Jo, something was really wrong.

“Yeah.” Jo’s voice was quiet, and worried.

“Okay. Give me your flight details. I’ll see you when you land.”

After Steve ended the call he dropped his hands between his legs, his elbows resting on his raised knees, phone dangling from his fingers, and took a deep slow breath. He had something less than seven hours to figure out what the hell was going on, find Mansfield, and make sure Jo and Zane got off their flight and into secure hands. Which meant it was time to get out of bed. Now. He kicked his legs free from the sheets and headed for the shower.

Four hours later Steve was pacing his office, wearing a path in the floor. He had tried and failed to make contact with anyone in DC or on the island who would even admit to knowing Mansfield. Oh, plenty of people had met him, his public record was easy for even Steve to find on the Internet, but no one knew him.

Steve had finally deciphered this astounding ignorance an hour earlier. They all knew him. But none would admit it without a direct order. Which, wherever the hell he was, Mansfield was not issuing. And without their team or their handler, Zane and Jo had been left out in the cold.

He’d rousted Chin a while back, and set him to find out who Mansfield’s staff officers were, but this avenue hadn’t panned out either. The General’s entire operation was buttoned down tight, which meant no way in for someone without the right clearance or contacts. Catherine was also doing her best, but Mansfield was Army, not Navy, and that was a pretty huge barrier.

Kono came in with a big fancy coffee for him, not his favorite, but the calories and sugar were welcome. “Here,” she said. “Chin told me what’s going on.”

“Which must have taken him about thirty seconds, since we don’t have a freaking clue about whatever the hell is going on.”

“Is it time to start making a plan to get them off the plane?”

“Yeah. I think it is.”

“Can we just arrest them? Have the plane held closed at the gate, escort them off, regular drill?”

“Arrest who?” Danny walked in, smooth hair gleaming, pressed shirt tucked neatly into his trousers, looking all bright and chipper and like a man who had had his full night of sleep.

Steve smiled optimistically. His big plan for this was to act like it was good news. “Zane Donovan and Jo Lupo.”

Danny frowned in confusion. “As happy as that would make me, for what, exactly? And where? Aren’t they home in Oregon?”

“They’re flying in from Seoul in a few hours.”

Danny leaned forward, his eyes wide with surprise. “From Seoul? In South Korea?”

“Yep.”

Danny frowned again.

Steve waited.

Danny sighed and waved his hands and dropped into the chair in front of Steve’s desk. “Okay. I give up. There are so many questions to ask I can’t even begin. Just brief me and get it over with.”

Once he’d finished, and given how much they still didn’t know it didn’t take all that long, Steve sat back, leaning on the edge of his desk. “So. That’s it.”

“I see.” Danny looked up at Kono. “So, your idea for getting them, and their ‘package’ off the plane is to arrest them. For something.”

“Sure. Why not?” said Kono. “Then we can take them through security, out of the airport and off to Shafter. We can be there in less than ten minutes. It’s like, what? Four miles from the airport?”

“Why Shafter and not Hickam? And why would anyone at Shafter want them?” Danny looked at Steve, not Kono.

“That’s where they want to go. I assume because Shafter is the Army Pacific Command HQ, and Mansfield’s Army. So’s Jo. I’m also assuming that once we actually show up, someone will at least take charge of their package until the General can be found.” Steve replied.

“And if they don’t?”

“They will.” Steve leaned forward. “Come on, Danny. Missions in progress that might blow up are denied. But missions that actually cross the finish line, goods in hand, well, they count.”

“Is this the actual finish line?”

Steve sat back again.

“Ah.” Danny leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. Waving his finger in Steve’s general direction he said, “You have no idea. All we know is that Donovan and Lupo are involved in another clusterfuck and are hoping we will clean it up. Again.”

“That’s not fair, Danny. They did the heavy lifting last time, we were backup and you know it.”

Danny remained stubbornly unyielding. “If they hadn’t lied to the General about Barlow, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“She helped them as much as, or more, than she hurt them. They felt they owed her.”

“For what?” Danny’s voice rose with his exasperation.

“Zane’s life, along with the lives of nineteen other people.”

Danny scowled, chewing the inside of his cheek as he considered this. Finally, he said, “I suppose you did all this sharing during the week they spent at your house?”

He made it sound more like an accusation than an observation.

“Yes. And you could have been there too, only you refused to come over.”

“I wasn’t invited.”

“Bullshit, Danny. You were invited every damn day. Just like always. Just like Chin, and Cath and Kono here,” Steve gestured to where Kono had been standing, only to realize that she had slunk away. Coward. He wished he had the courage to join her.

“Kono where?” Danny looked around. “What happened to her?”

Chin appeared in the doorway. “I might finally have a line on someone who can help. A Lt. Colonel William Shaw, Special Forces, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. He isn’t part of Mansfield’s staff, but his name shows up in some of the same reports as Mansfield’s, and it rang a bell for me. He was mentioned in Jo’s army record. She served under him in Afghanistan, back when he was a captain.”

“Have you gotten in touch with him?”

“Yes. He took my call. Sounded very relieved that we’d heard from Jo. Claimed he had no idea what was going down,” Chin’s expression made clear what he thought of that assertion, “but would call back as soon as he could.”

On cue, Chin’s phone rang. It was Shaw. Chin explained who they were, then turned the phone on speaker so they could all hear. Shaw had a slow, pleasant baritone, the kind that made you think of the reassuring Allstate Guy. “I’m not directly involved,” he said, “but knowing my connection to Jo, people reached out to me, in case I heard from them. I haven’t been able to learn much, but I gather that everything blew up badly. Several people are dead, they thought they had lost Jo and Donovan as well.”

It was left unsaid, but Steve had the distinct impression that while Shaw seemed grimly pleased that this wasn’t the case, other people involved might not be.

Shaw went on, “Can you arrest them at the gate? Get them to Shafter?”

Steve frowned. “We were thinking of something along those lines. But, for what? And, why us and not you?”

“Theft. I’m sure he took at least a handful of things with him that should never have left the research facility.”

That came too promptly even for this crisis. Steve was sure he heard some history there. “Okay. But, why can’t you send MPs?”

“This whole,” Shaw paused, obviously choosing his next words with care, “project is a Hail Mary put together at the last minute by parties who should have known better.” He sighed. “It seems their markers got called in by someone else. It doesn’t officially exist, and can’t. Get them to Shafter. I can take it from there.”

Steve and his team were at the airport thirty minutes early, airport security and HPD standing by. As they stood about the gate area on the ground level, waiting to go out and board the plane using the rear stairs, he assured himself that this would be just like any other fugitive apprehension. Nothing to worry about. Completely standard operating procedure. Not at all dicey, like, say, collecting two amateur spies fleeing from a mission gone up in flames, carrying God knew what sort of intelligence with them. Any minute now he would start to believe it, he was sure.

The plane actually landed a few minutes early, and after what seemed an interminable wait, but was really probably only about a minute and half, Steve’s phone rang. “McGarrett.”

“It’s Zane. Where are you?”

“At the gate. We’ll be coming in to arrest you as soon as the plane is parked. Try to look a little surprised and disappointed.”

“Right. I think there are at least two people on the plane with us who’d like to take us out of play and retrieve our packs.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I spent two years running from the FBI. I’m pretty sure when I’m being followed.”

Steve chuckled quietly. “Fair enough. See you in a few.”

“Our fugitives from justice?”

Steve refused to rise to Danny’s bait. “Yes. Our fugitives who call first, just to let us know they’re anxiously waiting for us. You know. How fugitives do.”

Okay. So, maybe he rose just a little bit. He could see Danny smirking out of the corner of his eye. Steve cleared his throat, then with a glance that took in Chin and Kono as well, he said, “Chin, you and Kono cuff them, Danny, you and I will be carrying their packs, and trying to spot at least one, maybe two tails.”

“Why can’t I cuff them? What happened to ‘book’em Danno’?”

“Because you’re being an ass.”

“Me? I’m being an ass?”

“I get it, Danny, I do. But you’re blaming them for something they had no control over. Because it’s easier to do that than to deal with the reality of a system that violates things you believe in.”

“Like, truth, justice, and the American way? Oh, and, not arbitrarily executing people?”

“Danny,” Kono broke in, “they need our help.”

“And like good little operatives, we aim to please, do we?”

“No. Like friends. That’s what friends do.”

“Friends. They’re everybody’s friends. Everybody likes them. Zane and Jo. Jo and Zane.” Danny altered his voice into a breathless falsetto and fluttered his hands around his face, “ ‘When are they coming back for a visit, Steve? They’re so much fun! I like them so much!’” Dropping his voice back to his normal register and his hands to his hips he glared at Kono. “Even your aunties like them.”

Kono crossed her arms and glared back. “You have got to stop this, brah.”

“Everybody likes you too, Danny,” Chin added.

“What? Wait!” Danny held up his hands. “I am NOT jealous! You don’t need to reassure me about my place.”

“Fine.” Chin turned his back on Danny and stared at the gate agent, waiting for their cue.

After a pointed frown, Kono did the same thing.

Danny looked at Steve and assumed the classic, hands-open pose of a bewildered man, a brilliantly executed ‘what did I do?’ expression on his face.

Steve crossed his own arms and sighed. Back in the spring, Zane and Jo had been vacationing on the island and he had met them while rock climbing. They had hit it off immediately, sparking a new friendship. Later, Five-0 had helped Zane and Jo rescue a kidnapped colleague, which was good, but the operation had concluded with the covert execution of five men, which was bad. Steve had accepted General Mansfield’s order for what it was, the neatest solution to an intractable problem. Danny, however, had been righteously pissed over what he saw as Steve’s consistent rejection of the ideals of police work in favor of the brutal calculus of warfare. It only added fuel to an old argument, and one they would probably never be able to fully resolve. But, at some point, Danny had transferred his anger from Steve directly to Zane and Jo, or really, just Zane.

Steve hadn’t been aware of it at the time, mostly because Danny had avoided him as much as he could until Zane and Jo returned to Oregon. Steve had hoped the week they spent at his house would give Danny the opportunity to get to know Zane and his wife, see what Steve liked about them, deal with what happened, and let it go. But it didn’t pan out that way because Danny refused to participate.

Danny’s absence aside, their visit had been a blast. They liked everything, from the beach to the mountains, and were willing to try anything once, from spam to surfing. They had been a huge hit at the Kalakaua/Kelly event Chin had dragged them all off to, one of those gatherings that began as ‘stop by for coffee’ and ended with fifty people and a roaring barbeque and an active, open bar. They even worked in more rock climbing.

Once they were gone, Steve and Danny almost immediately settled back into their familiar routines, easy give and take restored. So Steve had happily assumed that during his self-imposed time out, Danny had gotten over his anger on his own. Then he’d tried to share a very funny, and very obscene, joke Zane emailed him, and Danny had practically turned purple with rage. After a jaw-dropping harangue, Danny finally slammed out of the office bellowing about his role as the father of a beloved daughter whom he could not bear to release into a world in which such vile things existed.

A few experiments later, and Steve realized that Danny hadn’t gotten over anything at all. He had only pushed all of his anger onto Donovan. Pointing out that this was particularly bizarre, because it was Lupo who had issued the order to her security force under direct orders from her own DOD superior, had no impact. So, Steve dropped it. He told himself things like ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ and ‘time heals all wounds,’ and similar reassuring clichés. He didn’t share either of the other emails he’d received from Zane since then.

If he was being really honest with himself, Danny blaming Zane rather than Steve smoothed the way for Steve to make his move on Danny without sorting their professional differences. And for Danny to respond positively, even after Steve cautiously explained that his relationship with Catherine was part of the package, and that he wanted to explore the possibilities of a less conventional romance. If anything, that had actually seemed to reassure Danny, took some of the weight off what they were doing, meant that no one had to take on more relationship than they were ready for.

Catherine had been even more willing than Danny. In fact, Steve thought he had even detected relief on her part. Now she could set aside the weird tug of war she and Danny had found themselves in and instead work with him to balance all their lives. The only thing she asked was that she be the only woman in Steve’s life. Wrapped around her in his bed, skin-to-skin, heartbeat-to-heartbeat, that had been a frighteningly easy promise to make, clear eyes and open heart. Without Danny’s place safe in his life he might have been too panicked to make it. With him, some of the hard knots pulled free and loose. Steve slipped into love with them both as effortlessly as he swam in the sea.

But with Zane and Jo’s arrival imminent, Danny was positively sparking from suppressed energy, a mass of combustible emotions and unsettled arguments just looking for a flame.

The plane slowly taxied up to the gate, and after the usual round of checks and safety procedures, Steve and his team crossed the short distance of noisy, hot tarmac and climbed the rear stairs. The passengers had stayed in their seats at the instructions of the pilot and flight crew, so the aisles were clear. Zane and Jo were in a middle row, toward the back, which made picking them up easy. Coming up from behind startled them enough that they looked genuinely surprised, and then they both adopted attitudes of grim resignation.

In their jeans and battered leather jackets and scuffed boots, with tired eyes and appearing vaguely un-showered, and in Zane’s case, quite unshaven, they looked exactly like the sort of couple who could be carrying stolen property.

With Danny carrying their packs, grumbling under his breath about demeaning tasks and what are you hauling in here, anyway, rocks?, they made their way off the plane and into the back corridors of Honolulu International Airport.

“Did you see them?” Zane asked under his breath.

“I think so. 34B and 23H?”

“You’re good.”

“They were already on the phone, reporting to someone.”

“Yeah. Not so good.”

Once they had passed behind locked security doors, both Zane and Jo straightened up and let out huge sighs of relief. “Oh man,” Zane grinned at Steve as Chin opened his handcuffs. “I have rarely been so glad to be cuffed in my life.”

Steve grinned back at him as he unlocked Jo’s cuffs, “Do I want to know about the other times you’ve been glad?”

Rubbing her wrists briskly, Jo turned to look at him. She grinned, her brows arching in firm warning over her laughing eyes, “No. No, you don’t.” Then she reached up and hugged him tightly. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure.” Steve said, hugging her back, faintly surprised once again that the top of her head barely cleared his shoulder. She always seemed to take up so much more space than that. Letting go of him, Jo turned to hug Kono and Steve reached out to clasp Zane’s hand, pulling him into a one-armed embrace. “Good to see you, man. Even like this.”

By the time hugs were exchanged all around, they were all a little giddy with relief. Even Danny had managed to eke out a small smile and a one-armed hug for Jo, though all Zane got was a handshake and a grimace that, on a very charitable viewing, might once have had a relationship with a smile.

After they had all made it inside the small suite of security offices halfway down a white utility hallway, Jo turned to the airport security staffer who had accompanied them and demanded, “rest room?”

“Down that small hall and to the left, first set of doors.”

“Thank you!” she cried, and sped off the way she was directed.

Steve turned to Zane and gestured at their packs, inquiring, “Do I even want to know what you have?”

“Yeah,” Danny seconded. “One of those is really fucking heavy.” He toed the offending backpack, then pulled back, eyeing it suspiciously. “That won’t explode, will it?”

“Yeah, Danny. Seoul Airport security totally let me board a commercial airliner with a backpack full of explosives. Kick it and see.”

“Very funny, jackass.”

“Bite me.”

They glared at each other for a moment, but Steve could see that Zane’s heart wasn’t really in it. Zane turned back to Steve. “And, no, you don’t want to know.” He twisted his lips ruefully. “Some things are better not shared.”

“So, what went wrong on this little mission of yours, anyway?” Danny asked.

Zane pulled off his jacket and rolled it up, shoving it into the larger and heavier of the two packs. He was wearing a hideous and slightly too small ‘Gangnam District’ tourist tee shirt underneath. Steve figured it was even odds whether or not that had been the largest he could find in a hurry, or he liked the way it showed off his prodigiously well-toned abs.

Hefting the pack up as he rose, he slipped it back on, rolling his shoulders until it settled comfortably. “Honestly? I don’t really know.” He glanced sharply at Danny, “And it wasn’t my mission. There were a lot of things wrong with their exceptionally stupid plan, any of a half dozen flaws that were predictable spots for disaster.” He turned back to Steve and Chin, “We were already inside the facility and almost done with our part, when all hell broke loose behind us. After that, it’s mostly been running. Without a plan. For four days.” His expression darkened. “Loosing people on the way.”

He looked up as Jo re-entered. “Better, babe?”

She had taken the time to wash her face and pull her long, dark hair into a ponytail, smooth and neat against her head. She had stripped off her jacket and she also had on a souvenir tee-shirt, emblazoned with an anonymous looking mountain range. Hers didn’t cling nearly as tightly as Zane’s, but did nothing to hide her figure either. In fact, with the loose hem of her shirt spilling over her belt and her jeans tucked into her combat boots, she looked a lot like Kono’s shorter and curvier cousin.

She sighed with relief. “Oh my God, yes. I may get out of this without a yeast infection after all.”

Zane grimaced, an aggrieved frown appearing between his eyebrows. With a petulant whine in his voice, he demanded of the room, “Is there no aspect of my life that Mansfield’s fucking mission will not screw with?”

Jo shot him an evil eye. “So glad my discomfort is all about you!”

Which cowed him not at all. “In this case, yeah! It is as much about me as you.”

“Speaking of things better not shared!” Danny groaned. “Shut up about the personal parts people!”

Zane and Jo swiveled their heads to hit Danny with identical glares.

“It’s not over until you’re in Shaw’s hands,” Steve jumped in before things could drift any further into the treacherous shoals of TMI. “Come on. This way.”

“You’ve heard from Shaw?” Jo asked, her irritated expression lighting with pleased relief.

Steve filled her in as they made their way through the underground maze to the parking area. After listening without interruption, she frowned and said, “I’d feel a lot better if anyone had been in contact with Mansfield.”

“You don’t trust Shaw?”

“Oh, no. I do. He’s a good officer and deeply familiar with our work in Oregon. If Mansfield is MIA, Shaw is definitely my choice.”

“Yeah,” Zane piped up, “Jackboots is a pretty good guy, all things considered.”

“You really have to stop calling him that,” Jo snapped. “Especially if he’s the one who gets us out of this.”

“Fine. He gets us out of this, I’ll stop calling him Jackboots.”

“I’m not making a deal, Zane.”

“I’m not either. I said I liked the guy, didn’t I?”

“Hey!” Steve barked, “This isn’t over yet. Stay alert.”

Jo immediately looked chagrined, and nodded her understanding. Zane looked offended, then after he glanced at Jo, thoughtful. Then he nodded too. Steve decided that dealing with really smart people had its upsides.

Steve directed Zane and Jo into the backseat of Chin’s SUV and he took the wheel, Kono riding shotgun. Chin and Danny followed at a discrete distance in the Camaro. They pulled out of the parking lot and began to wend their way through the sea of rental car lots toward the frontage road.

Danny’s voice crackled in Steve’s ear at the same moment he saw it in the rear view mirror. “You have a tail.”

“Yep. See it.”

“Where?” Kono asked.

“Silver Impala.”

“Got it.”

“How did they find us so fast?” Zane asked.

“Airport’s not that big. Once we went through the security doors, there were only so many possible exits to watch,” Steve answered. Which also, unfortunately, meant they had enough watchers to go around. Whoever they were.

“Damn!” Danny’s voice echoed in his ear. “A second one. Black Malibu.”

Adrenaline starting to slip through his veins, Steve said, “See it.” He looked over at Kono. “Black Malibu.” He glanced at Jo through the rearview mirror. “Two bogeys now, and we’ve just turned onto the frontage road. I think you need to tell me what’s in the bag.”

“Shit.” Zane swore briefly. “Okay. We were supposed to make copies, but we were given crap equipment to work with and then we ran out of time. So I yanked the drives and the boards for the ICBM guidance systems instead. That’s what’s in the bag.”

“Where the hell were you?” Steve demanded, suddenly knowing the answer and feeling the peculiar thrilling terror that comes from blowing up something really, really big.

“Yongbyon.”

Center of North Korea’s nuclear efforts. Holy shit. And Wow. So, so many questions. “How the hell did you get that through security in Seoul?”

“It looks like what it is; old, disassembled computer parts. I said we had volunteered at an electronics-recycling center and these parts were still good, so I was going to use them when I got home to build laptops for underprivileged children. Most people know fuck-all about what the inside of a computer looks like, so it was good.”

“Steve!” Kono interrupted, “White panel van, ahead on the left.”

“Holy crap. They’re going to try to box us in. Arm up, ladies.”

Steve took the next right turn at speed, and a second later, flipped on the sirens.

“What the hell, Steven!” Danny shouted in his ear, the radio earpiece not really doing much to keep it less deafening. “Way to tell them where you are!”

“My island, Danny. Mine. We aren’t running from them. We’re going to arrest them.” Steve said. “Kono. Call it in, request backup.”

Seeing the white van flash by at the next intersection, running fast in the street parallel to them, Steve grinned in anticipation. “Danny? We’ve got the panel van. See if you can herd either or both of the others towards us.”

He sped up, charged the next intersection and cut left. The van just beat them across the parallel crossroad, but he swung in directly behind. No one was going to chase him, not in Hawaii. Pursuit was Five-0’s job.

Jo’s happy cry from the backseat, “You remembered my gun!” made him smile.

“Beretta M9,” he said, risking a check in the review mirror. Her smile was the brilliant one that lit up her whole face, and he grinned wider. “Of course I remember.”

“You remember her birthday, too?” Zane asked.

Steve started laughing, even as he spun left to follow the van. Just because Zane knew he was a jealous bastard didn’t ever stop him from acting like one. “Make you miss your cop days, Jo? Nothing like a good car chase, am I right?”

Jo’s answering laugh managed to contain a hint of regret, “Not a lot of hot pursuit in a tiny research community.”

“Hey!” Zane protested, “What about that time with the kids from Tesla High?”

“What?” Jo sounded confused, then accusing. “You had something to do with that, didn’t you?”

Steve stamped on the brakes to follow the van into an alley, slinging everyone to the right.

“Bigger issues, Jo!” Zane said.

The driver of the van did his best, but he obviously didn’t know the area well, and within fifteen minutes had gotten himself so turned around that he trapped himself between pursuit and open water. Recognizing the dead end, the van spun to a stop at the far edge of an empty lot and four men, including the driver, boiled out, the rat-a-tat-tat of automatic fire filling the air.

Jo yelled, “Zane, head down. Now!”

Cursing his failure to have everyone in tac vests, Steve, Kono and Jo spilled out of the car, already firing back. Steve and Jo used their doors as cover, Kono shooting over the hood, and Steve bellowed, “5-O! Drop your weapons!”

He didn’t expect them to do that, of course, but there were a few pedestrians in the area so it was better to be clear about who was who.

The man on Steve’s right fell, clutching his leg, and Steve knew Kono had taken him down. He got the man in the middle square in his vest, knocking him flat, damn them for being better prepared than he was. The man to his left went down with a hit to the shoulder. Had to be Jo. The last man standing ducked behind the van, obviously deciding to make a run for it.

Steve took off after him, shouting, “Stay with Jo!”

Just then the black Malibu came barreling around the corner, headed straight for Steve and the man he was chasing. The man on foot veered away to make a run for it, but Danny and Chin were right behind the Malibu, and there was no time. The Malibu caught their accomplice head on, the solid thump of impact echoing in Steve’s belly. The hit lofted the man over the hood, up the windshield and off the roof to crumple on the ground behind. Danny swerved to miss him as Steve dove to the side to get out of the way of the Malibu. The driver slammed on his brakes, apparently aiming for a fishtail turn, but with a double popping of tires being shot out, the black car squealed and skidded across the open lot, coming to rest with the sound of crumpling metal against the front bumper of Chin’s SUV.

Steve was on his feet and running even as Chin and Danny burst out of the Camaro. They converged on the Malibu at the same time as Kono and Jo, the sirens of HPD blaring behind them.

Fortunately, the driver and his partner decided not to attempt to shoot their way out of arrest or into suicide, and in relatively short order five men were in custody. The sixth had not survived his encounter with the Malibu. The men turned out to be American, guns for hire, not enemy agents. Steve had no trouble believing that they had no idea why they were supposed to grab Zane and Jo; or that they were simply supposed to wait for instructions after that.

Unfortunately, the silver Impala had made a clean get away, which meant there were still people out there with orders to stop them. And given their now obvious destination of Shafter, well, there weren’t that many possible routes. Watching all three approaches would be easy if their opponents had enough manpower.

Steve finished checking in with the HPD officer in charge, then headed for Kono, Jo and Zane, whom Jo had finally allowed to get out of the car.

As he neared them, he heard Kono ask, “So. Car chases with teenagers, huh?”

Jo narrowed her eyes up at Zane. “Long story. From another time.”

“Yes, dear. I know.” Zane smirked down at her, even as he reached up to smooth his thumb across her eyebrow. “Such adorable frown lines.” Then he bent to press a kiss against her forehead.

Kono sighed even as she twinkled at them, her dimple dancing in her cheek. “You’ve been married more than a year. Honeymoon should be over by now.”

Zane and Jo turned to look at her, identical expressions of mild confusion on their faces. Then Zane laughed. Wrapping his arm around Jo, he said, “This? We’ve always been like this. Even when we were sneaking around.”

“Sneaking around?” Kono frowned. “Were you cheating on somebody?”

“No.” Zane shook his head, not offended, just correcting. “But the head of security didn’t want anyone to know she was banging the resident screw up.”

“You are such a jackass.” Jo slapped at Zane’s arm, but, not very hard. He didn’t even pretend to wince. And she left her hand resting against his chest afterward, her other arm still wrapped snugly around his waist. She turned her head to look at Kono. “He wasn’t a screw up. But he was a felon on parole, and, well, major, major weirdness if everyone knew. At least, until we knew. If it would be more.”

“Friends and lovers came later. And we got married a long time after that,” Zane added. He grinned teasingly at Jo. “And I was a screw up.”

Kono didn’t say anything, but Steve saw the wheels turning. He had a feeling that Jo was going to be cornered as soon as Kono could arrange it. Possibly ambushed even. Kono had never had anyone to talk with about Adam Noshimuri, not anyone who might understand. Gods knew he and Chin and Danny weren’t any good on that front, their position having always been that there was no way the sex was good enough or unique enough to balance out the danger. And if the danger was the point, there was always sky-diving. Even Cath, who was pretty tight with Kono these days, wasn’t very sympathetic. He’d have to find a moment to give Jo a heads up.

Chin and Danny joined them then. Chin said, “We need a new plan.”

“Yes.” Jo stepped away from Zane. “I should call Shaw, let him know why we aren’t there yet.”

“A full on, sirens-blaring escort to Shafter isn’t in the works?” Danny asked, his expression hopeful but his tone already resigned.

“No.” Zane answered him, saving Steve the difficulty. “How could it be? Without Mansfield around, how would you even explain what you wanted it for? How would you explain us?” he gestured at Jo and himself, “Much less what we’ve been up to?”

“Remember what Shaw said?” Steve added, “That the whole project is unofficial? When HPD asks who authorizes this, who will be waiting for it, will anyone at Shafter even take their call?”

Danny frowned, his lips twisting in frustration as he struggled to come up with an answer.

“Besides,” Zane went on, not waiting for Danny’s inevitable objection, “Bringing the HPD in makes them part of something that they shouldn’t want anything to do with, makes them accountable for shit better left far away from them.”

“Okay,” Danny nodded at that, finally conceding the point. “How about this? We put you back in cuffs, take you to holding at HQ and wait for Shaw to send someone to pick you and your stuff up.”

Zane shook his head. “That just gives everyone more time to intercept us, and puts more couriers at risk. Assuming Shaw would even agree.”

“So what then? No one comes to claim their shit?” Danny demanded. “And why do we care?”

“Oh. Someone will come,” Zane said. “It’s just a question of who. And how.”

That sounded plenty ominous to Steve, knowing what Zane was carrying around in his pack, but Danny barreled on, oblivious. “Well, how about we leave you here, find your own way?”

“Fine!” Zane threw up his hands as his voice rose in exasperation. “You explain to the JCS and the DOD why you didn’t cooperate with their fucked up mission.”

Steve interrupted before the argument could spiral further out of hand, “What we really need is some sort of diversion. Right?”

He looked around and saw shrugs of agreement.

“Okay,” he suggested, “How about a car accident right in front of the main gate at Shafter?”

Chin nodded thoughtfully. “That could work. Make enough distraction, give the folks at Shafter a reason to mobilize at the front, gather a crowd, and Zane and Jo could slip in behind it all.”

Kono nodded slowly. “Yeah. I can see how that would play out… but, logistics, who drives what? Chin’s car is out, for now. Too obvious.”

“What about asking Catherine and my mom to drive the cars? Cath is off duty today,” Steve offered.

“Sounds plausible.” Zane nodded. “And it would be good to see Doris again, dude. She’s pretty smokin’. Got that whole, best-friend’s hot mom thing going on.” He provided a cheerful leer.

Steve scowled at him. “She can tie you in knots.” He tossed in a glare for good measure.

“Right up my alley. I love that.”

Steve tried blinking his eyes, but it didn’t change anything. Asshole was actually rubbing his hands with an anticipatory gleam in his eye. “What is wrong with you?” he demanded.

Zane dropped his hands and shrugged. Narrowing his eyes he said, “Karma’s a bitch.”

Jo elbowed her way in between them, somehow they had ended up nearly toe-to-toe. Putting her hands on their chests, she shoved them away from each other, hard enough they both stumbled slightly to catch their balance. Glaring at them both, she said, “Do you two need a ruler? We can get this whole size thing sorted right now.”

Steve frowned at her. “What? No!”

Zane just smirked. “What would be the fun in knowing?”

Danny turned to Jo, an expression of disbelief on his face. “Was your whole week like this?”

She folded her arms, “On and off. Fortunately, for my sanity, and,” she dropped her voice to a growl that was nearly a purr as she caught both Steve and Zane in her warning glare, “their lives,” she turned and smiled sweetly at Danny, “more off than on.”

Danny laughed sharply, then looked at Steve. “No wonder you like him so much. You’re both perpetually fifteen.”

Chin cleared his throat. “So. About a diversionary car crash.”

“It sounds good, but,” Kono shook her head, “no way Cath is risking her car!”

Steve frowned in annoyance. “Obviously. We’ll provide the cars.”

“What cars?” Danny demanded. “We don’t have any extra cars!”

Steve looked at Zane. “Just how good are you?”

“Stole your truck, didn’t I? Besides,” he sighed and a brief wave of darkness crossed his features, “I’ve been practicing lately.”

“Steal cars? You’re going to steal cars to stage a car accident?” Danny’s voice was rising with his incredulity.

“At this point the game is hot potato, and the longer we have the goods, the more likely it is we lose them. And that someone else gets hurt.” Zane responded. “We have got to get them off our hands and into Shaw’s as soon as we can.”

“Yeah,” Steve said, “it will take too long to get cars legitimately for this. And the cars can be returned, in as good or better condition. Right?” He looked at Zane.

“I’m sure someone’s budget has room. Mine, if no one else can be made to cough it up.”

Steve turned to Danny. “Come on. You know he’s good for it.”

He should, Steve thought. They all should. Zane had used up their entire supply of C4 and most of their grenades last time, and had all of it replaced and more before he left Hawaii. Steve didn’t know exactly how he’d done it, but he hadn’t wanted to know either.

“That is so not the point!” Danny exclaimed, punctuating his words with emphatic waves of his arms. “Why is it that when these two show up,” he pointed at Zane and Jo, “we start breaking laws?”

“We break the rules all the time, Danny,” Kono said. “I know you don’t like it, but honestly, it isn’t unique for us.”

“And I don’t like to play the whole ‘national security’ card thing, because that’s mostly bullshit, but this time, it is. Really.” Zane added.

Danny shoved his hands in his pockets and scowled balefully at all of them.

“Danny?” Jo stepped over to him, tilting her chin to look him in the face, her own large, dark eyes steady and more than a little mesmerizing. Steve guessed that Danny would fold pretty quickly in the face of those eyes. “We could really use your help.” She added a small, kind smile. “But, I also understand if you’d rather sit this one out.”

Danny eventually tore his gaze away from hers to look at his toes, then the horizon, then finally around at all their faces, ending up with his eyes on Steve’s. “You’re really going to do this thing?”

“Yes.”

He sighed dramatically. “Fine. I’m in.”

Score another one for Jo. “All in?” Steve asked. Just to be sure.

“Yes!” He shot Steve an exasperated glare. “All in!”
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