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kumu (part 3)


(part 2)
*h5o*wingverse*

“We should get to work,” Steve said just after breakfast when Rachel looked smothered by Danny’s hovering. They had a year to get on each other’s nerves. Steve wanted to postpone the tension as long as possible. Grace might be blooming with her father’s attention, but something had Rachel on edge. “I was told that we have office space set up and a pile of personnel files to comb through looking for your new students, Danno.”

Danny readily agreed. “Let’s get this pelagic school started.” He was feeling the inactivity already. Steve knocked on Chin’s door and wasn’t surprised to see Kono lounging on the spare bed answering text messages.

“Time for work,” Steve said. He had meant for it to be a question, but the tone was a little demanding.

Danny smirked at him but let it pass. Kono and Chin hopped to and followed Steve who knew the layout of the Enterprise the best. Danny and 5-O walked to their new conference room. They didn’t run into a fraction of the people they met in the walkways yesterday.

“Where is everyone?” Danny asked.

“On the flight deck.”

“Learning the new rules?” Chin guessed.

Steve answered, “Or getting shipped off.”

“Shipped off?” the team echoed.

“Anyone whose job can’t be justified on the Enterprise now is getting shipped out. It’s only going to be Security, Intelligence-since all of the computers are wired into the ship and can’t be moved, Maintenance, Medical and half of Admin. That’s what was happening on the bridge,” Steve translated all of the naval terms that had been tossed about carelessly.

“And us,” Danny said.

“And us,” Steve confirmed.

The conference room was much smaller compared to their old offices. The touch screen table now dominated the room. The governor had graciously had most of their equipment moved to the Enterprise and the Navy was pleased to have someone else pay the bill. The governor wanted 5-O to return to their former duties after things calmed down. The screen was carefully leaning against one wall, but no one had had a chance to set it up. It was going to be a tight fit with four desks squeezed around the perimeter.

Chin looked at Kono. “Ready, coz?”

Kono grinned and flexed her arms. “Tell me what to do.”

While Chin and Kono were setting up the office electronics, Danny and Steve were seated in a corner, between the desks they had claimed, going through stacks and stacks of personnel files.

Danny sighed. “For once, I am looking forward to having the table up and running. This will be faster if we aren’t dealing with paper. I’m afraid if I touch a pile I’ll cause an avalanche.”

“Part of it’s my fault,” Steve admitted. “I wrote in the contract that you had to have an informed decision on the applicants. I stipulated that any surprises would automatically disqualify the student from continuing in the school, no matter how far that person had come. Whoever read the contract took it seriously. Your security clearance just went up, way up.” He held up a file. “I hadn’t previously been cleared to know this op and this is just one file.”

“Oh goody, a whole room of super SEALs.” Danny tossed his file on top of the pile. He watched the pile slide a little, but hold firm. “This isn’t going to work.”

“Okay,” Steve acknowledged that Danny didn’t work the same way as the rest of the world. The wings were just a small part of it. “What would? What would make it easier to choose some people? Keep in mind that you don’t have to make final decisions and be stuck with these same people for a year. We’ll trade out until you are comfortable with everyone. It won’t reflect on their records. So what do you want?”

Danny thought about it. “I want an essay, five hundred words? No more than a thousand. I want to know about them, things that I would never know from reading their jackets. Something important, not state secrets, but their priorities.” He nodded decisively. “That would help.”

Steve stood. “I’ll go tell the XO.”

“No need.” Chin waved his cell phone. “I have Robins’ cell number. Robins told me to text him with any problems and he’d delegate the solution. Something like Danny’s essay question and he’ll want to know immediate…” Chin’s phone beeped. Chin checked the message and grinned. “Robins said that the essay makes sense. He’s already sent out the order for all applicants to e-mail their answers within seventy-two hours.”

“That’s fast,” Danny mused.

“It’s not faster because a good portion of the applicants were submitted by their CO’s.” Chin had obviously had a long talk with Robins about the selection process. “Several applicants were on ops at the time of Danny’s contract being signed and more are on tours of duty around the world.”

“So they might not know about my little flying yesterday?” Danny asked hopefully.

Kono laughed. “Between the three news cameramen and the thirty-eight YouTube videos uploaded since it happened, even people deep in the jungles of the Congo know about your ‘little flying.’ Combined, you have the most hits in the history of YouTube. You now have a Wikipedia page.”

Danny looked horrified at the notoriety. “How wrong is the Wikipedia page?”

“They have it locked. Only people that can prove a close connection to you are allowed to update it.” Kono used her phone to access the site and summarized it as she read. “So far it pretty much says that you were born in New Jersey, was a detective with eighty-seven homicides solved to your credit. You moved to Hawaii and became a member of HPD and then 5-O, the governor’s elite task force. And that yesterday you were the first person in the confirmed history of humankind to fly with your natural born wings.”

Danny groaned loudly.

“No worries, brah,” Kono consoled. “At least they didn’t use your driver’s license as your profile pic.”

“No?”

“Nope. You remember the picture that was in the paper after Walton Dawkins?”

“The one with me and the cane?”

“Yep.”

“I looked like an old man.”

“Yep.”

“Argh! You know what, until I get some essays, I’m not going to make any decisions. Chin, you need any help?”

Chin looked at the tangle of wires in his hands and then to Danny who was notoriously bad with electronics.

Danny didn’t give him a chance to turn down the offer. “Since you obviously have everything under control, I’m going to go spend some more time reassuring my daughter that she’s not about to get kidnapped again.” He waved at the team and meandered away.

Steve followed him at a safe distance, not sure the civilian could navigate the maze of an aircraft carrier. He was somewhat surprised when Danny didn’t make a single wrong turn returning to the officer quarters.

Just as Booker stepped out of the way to their passageway, Danny turned and waved at Steve. “I made it, safe and sound, babe. Now, go do some SEAL stuff and quit hovering.”

Steve laughed and walked away. Maybe he’d go find the weight room. He had some leglifts and crunches to do.

*h5o*wingverse*

They hadn’t planned on it, but the 5-O team met up in the enlisters’ mess about lunch time. Steve was chatting with the SEAL commander, Alex Grumberger, that had cleared Wo Fat’s ship when Danny walked in, hand-in hand with Grace. Many of the conversations hushed, but quickly resumed when Danny glared at them. He helped Grace pick out what she wanted for lunch and then chose a salad that made his daughter beam with approval. There wasn’t anyone sitting near Steve, with his back against the wall, and Grumberger kitty-corner to him, so Steve at least wasn’t surprised when the Williams joined their table. He was surprised when Danny arranged to sit between Steve and Grace. Steve figured that he would put Grace in the most secure location between the two of them. He did notice Torres standing in the corner watching all of the sailors with an eagle eye.

Completely nonchalant, Danny sat, arranged his plate and silverware the way it wanted it and then tapped Steve’s shoulder. It was an old sign for him to open his wings while Danno made them solid. Steve wasted no time in stripping off his shirt and obeying. For some reason, since yesterday Steve hadn’t been able to solidify his wings on his own. Danno would need to do this often and while in public, if he was going to get more people flying. Danno’s real, ‘sparrow’ wings appeared through the slits in his shirt and when Danno’s left hand tangled in Steve’s shadows, his wings changed from shadows to their patterned selves. Steve hid a grin when Grumberger’s mouth dropped open. It was one thing to see the YouTube videos, with shaky footage and a moving target a half mile away, and quite another to witness the wings stationary right in front of you. Even intellectually knowing how large they had to be to support a grown man, they were a sight to behold as they arched over their heads and the feathers trailed to the floor. Danno ignored him and shoveled food into his mouth with his right.

Steve continued talking knowing that Danny would not be happy with anyone staring. He already felt like a freak and he didn’t want his daughter feeling the same. With a little prompting, Grumberger continued telling Steve about the men he had hadn’t killed during his hunt on the ship. Those men had not surrendered to Grumberger’s team, but rather forced the SEALs to kill them. Grumberger did a good job not actually saying the word ‘dead’ or ‘kill’ in front of Grace.

“So Super-Steve missed a few?” Danny teased as he pushed his empty plate away and stacked Grace’s half-empty plate on top. Steve added her lack of appetite to her hollow eyes. She had night terrors over her kidnapping. She climbed into her father’s lap, silently listening to the conversation. She felt safe there.

Steve huffed in indignation because it was expected of him. “They evac-ed me before I could clear the ship.”

“Excuses,” Danny countered.

“Why Steve didn’t finish the job?” Chin asked as he sat in Grace’s abandoned seat. He handed Grace a cookie, passed Steve an apple and Danny a cup of highly sugared coffee.

“Yep.” Danny accepted the coffee. He released his grip on Steve’s feathers and used that hand to drink his coffee. Steve shifted so his wing was pressed between his shoulder and Danny’s. It was just barely enough contact to keep his wings solid. He didn’t know why he was having trouble. Chin was wearing a vest with really large arm holes in the back and slacks. Danny nodded at him and Chin opened his shadow wings. Danny tangled his free hand into the brown feathers.

Though they had done this before, it was the first time they had done so in public. Too busy staring, two sailors dropped their lunch trays and the clatter echoed through the room. A lieutenant commander jumped on them and ordered them to clean it up, double-time. Then he ordered them out of the room for some unpleasant detail.

Steve ignored the noise. “Danny, Chin, this is Alex Grumberger. He’s part of security for the Enterprise. He’ll be doing the evening watch for the officer quarters. Alex, this is Danny and Grace Williams and Chin Ho Kelly.” No one offered to shake hands because they didn’t want Danny to stop what he was doing.

Grumberger did a good job making nice and even managed to coax a smile out of the silence Grace. He kept the conversation light talking about sports and cities on the East Coast. Grumberger was a Charleston boy –Vermont, as if there was any other Charleston, dipstick- and would cheerfully argue against Danny to defend his home. Danny could appreciate a loud, ridiculous fight and declared Newark to be better. Steve literally watched Danno’s muscles relax the longer the fight continued. As Danno relaxed, so did Grace. Steve looked twice and realized that she had fallen asleep amidst all the arguing.

Kono strode in like she owned the place. In her bikini top and jeans, most of the guys would have given her whatever she wanted. Even Grumberger stopped and stared.

“That is my cousin,” Chin told him.

“Sorry,” he wiped the drool off his chin.

Kono joined their table and shifted Chin over. “My turn,” she declared. She sat between Danny and her cousin and opened her slim wings inside of Chin’s sturdy ones. Danny twisted his hand so that it was tangled in both of their wings at the same time. Kono’s white wings stood out against Chin’s brown patterns.

Danny looked down at his sleeping daughter and then over at Grumberger. “What do your wings look like?”

“They’re grey. Just… grey.”

“Well, take off your shirt. I figure you have no modesty either?” Danny teased both Steve and Grumberger in the same breath.

Grumberger wasted no time stripping off his shirts.

Steve answered while he was busy. “We work hard and it just so happens that we look good shirtless.”

Danno reached across Steve for Grumberger’s wings. The wings turned into a distinct grey pattern. “Owl, Great Grey,” Danny said succinctly. He released the wing and it instantly returned to its former shadows. “You like the nights?”

“Yes.” Grumberger said, unable to hide his awe. Steve knew exactly how he felt. For as long as he lived, he would never forget the first time, how it felt when his shadows had solidified into wings. “I’d sleep all day if I could.”

“How did you know?” Steve asked.

“Matty had close to the same wing shape.” Danny pressed Grace’s head against his chest and covered the other ear, just in case she was faking it. “I think that’s when he started to go wrong. He should have planned for a night job. He did awesome trading on the Japanese market but he sucked when he was trading during the day, living in New York and trading on Wall Street.” He took his hand off of Grace’s ear. “The Great Grey is also known as the Great Grey Ghost and the Phantom of the north, so that’s kinda cool.”

Grumberger was thrilled with the revelation. Steve was sure he’d look into it as soon as he had access. Though from the scholarly types sitting two tables over, Steve was sure that Grumberger was about to be dragged into the sick bay the minute Danny and Grace were out of the room. Though the United States government was bound by contract to not experiment of the Williams or 5-O, the soldiers and sailors jockeying to be part of the Wing School probably had to sign contracts allowing their bodies to be catalogued and tested, repeatedly. Those two doctors were probably the first researchers hired to find answers, while never allowed to even talk to the primary source. If he was looking for the solutions, he would have been greatly annoyed by the handicap. As the recipient of the space, he was pleased with Chin’s forethought for including the clause.

“I’m going to put her to bed,” Danny interrupted Steve’s thought process. “I’ll see you in the wardroom for dinner?”

Steve nodded.

“Chin, Kono, you want to come with me back to the cabin and tell me everything you’ve learned about the ship?” Danny would use the time to solidify their wings even more.

Steve wasn’t surprised when the cousins took Danny up on his offer. He did laugh when the two scientists cornered Grumberger immediately and ordered him to report to sick bay. There were advantages to being a civilian. Steve looked down at the file he had hidden from Danny. It was official. He was retired. It didn’t hurt as much as Steve had feared. The Navy had treated him well, but Steve was definitely moving on to better things.

He stood slowly, but trying to reveal any stiffness. His back was one big knot from his flight to Wo Fat’s ship. He didn’t want anyone to think that Steve couldn’t handle the physical exertion from flying. If Danny could do it easily, Steve sure the hell could train his body to take the abuse too.

*h5o*wingverse*

The next morning, Steve woke to Danny pounding on his berth door.

“What?” Steve finally called.

Danny opened the door and got an eye full of Steve wrapped around Cath. She had stopped by after her shift, given a suffering Steve a back message and never left. Danny hurried in and closed the door behind him. “Oh! You could have said something!” He was still facing the door.

“You could have waited for a proper invitation,” Steve groused.

“So is this going to be a common occurrence? ‘Cause we’ll need a code.”

“Waiting for a simple ‘come in’ should suffice.”

“Nah, I’d never say that to you,” Danny argued. “And I don’t want you walking in on Rachel and me.”

“You and Rachel?” Steve repeated, hoping to get the low down on that very rocky relationship.

“Ahh, Rambo-ette, how do you fit into all this?”

Cath laughed at the nickname. “The captain knows about my relationship with Commander McGarrett.”

Danny laughed at that. “Really? You’re naked in bed with him and you’re calling him ‘Commander McGarrett’?”

“Steve,” Cath corrected herself. She and Steve were dragging on clothes under the blankets since it was obvious Danny wasn’t going to leave without some extreme measures. “So I was told that my standing orders are to keep your secrets unless it compromises the security of the Enterprise. They are expecting Steve to report any breaches, but just in case he’s not around, I’m to inform the chain of command.”

“Can I turn around yet?” Danny asked.

“Yes,” Steve grumbled. “You can also leave.”

“No, I can’t. I need help.”

“I can leave,” Cath offered.

“No,” Danny waved his hands. “Steve trusts you and you don’t know me and won’t take my side. Rachel needs someone to listen to her and I’m not sure she’d consider Kono an unbiased party.”

“Danno,” Steve sat on the edge of the bed. “What’s wrong with Rachel?”

“Nothing’s wrong, per se, just atrociously bad timing.” Danny paused. “Rachel is pregnant and the baby’s mine and that, my friend, is going to be painfully apparent with the first ultrasound.”

“Oh.” Steve couldn’t think of anything witty to say. “So Stan is out of the picture on purpose?”

“Yeah. He decided to hide out on his estate in Arizona. But more important people-: Rach and the baby. So she’ll need doctors and pre-natal vitamins and I don’t want people to treat her like a science experiment.”

“How’d you manage it with Grace?”

“My mom had a mid-wife friend who helped with my birth ‘cause she was more hippy than not. And it was a good thing too that I was born at home. Don’t ask her about it, ‘cause she will tell you all about unexpected feathers mixed with the blood. But that was before ultrasounds were so common. With Grace, we knew there was a good chance she’d show up special early on, so we went back to Aunt Annie. Sure enough, it was a good thing we did.”

“Do you want your Aunt Annie flown out here for the pregnancy?” Cath asked.

Danny stared at her as if that was like asking for the moon.

“Danny, the US government really wants to keep you happy because every other government out there would give you anything you wanted if you were willing to train their students.”

Danny sighed. “I’m going to become a spoiled brat.”

Steve didn’t believe that, but he had reason. Since he had his pants on and his gun holstered to his belt, he charged and manhandled Danny into the hallway, regardless of his loud blustering. Danny managed to get in a few good punches, though at half strength.

“Really Steven? Really?”

Steve grinned at his partner. “Just keeping you humble.”

Danny rolled his eyes.

“But seriously, Danno, Aunt Annie?”

Danny shrugged, glancing away to hide sorrow. “I really wish we could, ‘cause she had a way with Rachel but she’s seventy-two and is fighting stage three cancer.”

Steve would have to start asking questions to see just how far the government was willing to go for Danny. Maybe Congress could pick up the bill for better cancer treatments?

“But anymore conversation is going to have to involve Rach. I just wanted to get the ball rolling.”

“I’ll look into it,” Steve promised.

“Thanks.”

*h5o*wingverse*

A freckled, redheaded young man was matching single pieces of paper to the personnel files as 5-O walked into their combined offices close to their normal arrival time for work days.

“Who are you?” Danny demanded.

“Petty Officer Crawford, sir. I’m assigned to get you what ever you require. I’m available whenever you need anything.” He held up a stack of papers. “The essays you required.”

“A coffee maker and a big bag of malasadas for breakfast,” Danny answered blearily. Whatever had happened between him and Rachel after the discussion in Steve’s berth had wearied him. That relationship was too uncertain for Steve’s piece of mind. And to add a second child to the mix? Steve worried that Danny and Rachel would shatter each other in this pressure cooker. “I want good fresh coffee, none of that Navy…” Danny’s voice trailed off as he decided how insulting he was going to be.

“There’re some Hawaiian brands that he likes,” Steve talked over him with a smile. Normally it was his job to be abrasive and Danno’s job to smooth things over. The reversal in roles was interesting.

“Of course, sir. Will you need anything?”

Steve answered for the team. “Some civvies from our homes? Are our places secured?” Steve wanted a change of clothes and he knew that Kono and Chin were tired of living in the spares that they had had stashed in the trunk of Kono’s car.

“Yes, sir. Yours, Mrs. Williams’ and Mr. Chin’s houses are.” He made eye contact with Danny and Kono. “We have emptied the apartments, let the leases lapse and have brought everything onboard. You can go through it at your leisure.”

“There’s a good coffee maker in there,” Danny offered. “We can use it in our office.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Hell, if you took everything, there should be some coffee grounds packed up too. I had just gone shopping.”

“I’ll get right on that, sir.”

Danny turned before the petty officer could depart. “Oh, hey Crawford, how will we find you?”

He pointed to the entryway. “A desk is being put in out there for my use. I’m to regulate traffic, even after they get through the bodyguards. Just because they have clearance to see you doesn’t mean you have to see them. Only the people you want will be permitted in your office.”

“Good.” Danny liked the idea. “My wife and daughter are always allowed access to me. Actually, my daughter is if we’re not looking at anything gross and some days I’ll be hiding from Rachel, but I’ll tell you when that happens.”

“Yes, sir.” Crawford left on his mission.

“Let’s see finish up the electronics,” Chin told his coz. Kono grinned and the two of them returned to the battle of the wires. Now they were attaching the 5-O table to some internet and electronic connections that had been installed overnight. They would have the access and power to run all of their equipment soon.

Danny sighed and sat down in a corner chair and started reading the essays. It didn’t take him long to start separating the piles, two large and one very small in comparison. Steve took the largest pile. “You don’t like any of these?”

Danny looked up. “That one is a maybe-later-depending-on-the-lot-I-liked-initially,” pointing at the small pile. He switched his finger to the other large pile of folders. “That one is the rejects.”

Steve picked up the indicated pile. “You mind if I go through it and put some in the ‘maybe later’ pile?”

“Knock yourself out.”

Steve read through the essays and personnel jackets. Crawford returned with expertly brewed coffee and fresh malasadas. The offerings were eagerly accepted by the group. Steve knew that someone must have taken a helicopter to the Big Island just for Danny’s malasadas. Steve judged that it was a simple enough request from a national treasure. Steve handed Crawford pile of personnel rejected by both of the 5-O leaders, but Steve knew some of these other men and women. He thought Danny might like them too if he gave them a chance. After all, Danno didn’t like him initially either and look at them now?

Why did Danny like some people and not others? After a while, Steve decided on a new tactic. He read through some of the essays of the accepted personnel. The first one was by an Air Force pilot whose grandfather, a WWII vet, had taught him to fly planes. Joseph Bell loved to fly and always believed that someday, he’d be able to use the shadow wings he had been born with. Ross Holland had been a Recon Marine until an IED had taken both of his legs. Holland was swift on his prosthetics (he was training for a marathon) as he encouraged vets at Bethesda. He wanted to give other disabled vets hope of mobility. It didn’t matter how many limbs were missing everyone still had a full set of wings. Steve wondered how many fights Danny would have to keep Holland on the Enterprise. Too many people would consider the training wasted on him. Frankly, Steve was surprised that that Holland’s file had made it all the way to Danny in the first place.

Jamal Pella wrote the concise essay of duty and honor that Steve would have written, only with fewer words. Steve was pleased to see a fellow SEAL and friend among those Danno had accepted. Steve double-checked the word count: Pella had written everything in five hundred words exactly, only if hyphenated words counted as two.

Carmen Forbes (Marines) and Lisa Arotin (Navy) were the only women in the pile currently. Both essays were close to a thousand words and were exceptionally well written. They were excellent communicators. Forbes was also a Jujitsu instructor and Arotin was a polyglot. If no one more qualified came through, the Williams might use them as instructors for Grace’s education.

Christopher Steiger was an Army Ranger and combat engineer. His essay was more of a short story and much longer than a thousand words. He detailed a mission where wings would have been useful to get a civilian family over a river where insurgents had destroyed the bridge. Steve double-checked Steiger’s jacket and sure enough the mission was included. Though Steiger hadn’t mentioned it in the essay, he had lost half of the family due to enemy fire. Steiger wasn’t even hoping for enough strength to fly the family over the danger if the situation ever happened again. No, Steiger wanted to be able to traverse the ravine and secure ropes on the other side so that everyone could move at once. Flying would merely be another tool in Steiger’s impressive repertoire. Danny had probably picked him because he hadn’t chosen to use the emotional blackmail.

Will Tanner was an Army sniper. His essay was less than three hundred words with multiple homophone mistakes. (A quick glance at his file confirmed that he suffered from dyslexia). Steve held up his file to Danny. “Why this one?”

Danny recognized the name immediately. “His wings are already brown and patterned. He might get them solid faster than the others.”

That was a theory worth investigating. Steve put aside the ‘accepted’ and started filtering the ‘to be rated’ pile. Any soldier with color in their wings was moved to the top of the pile for Danny to judge. Steve found five with ‘abnormal’ wings, three of them female.

Steve yelled for Crawford. The man appeared in the doorway as if by magic. He handed the man the ‘accepted’ files before they could be lost in the towering stacks of personnel jackets. “These are the ones Danny likes. See that they’re transferred.”

“Immediately, sir,” Crawford promised with a grin.

“Oh,” Danny leaned around Steve to make eye contact with Crawford. “Make sure that Grumberger is included in the class.”

“Yes, sir.”

It wasn’t long after that Danny threw down his files. “I need a break and Gracie’s asked to go flying and Chin needs some air time too. How’s that going to go now that we can’t drive somewhere secluded?”

“I think I need to talk to Robins and the captain, face to face for that,” Steve said. “I can’t imagine them saying no. How about the flight deck if no planes are incoming.”

“That’s fine. I’ll get Grace and catch up with you topside,” Danny answered. “Chin?”

“I’ll be there,” he said eagerly. “I just have to stop at my bunk first.”

*h5o*wingverse*

“Captain.” Steve stood at attention even though he was technically a civilian, as of twenty-four hours ago.

“McGarrett,” the captain acknowledged him between files his subordinates were showing him. “You requested a meeting?”

“The Williams were wondering if there was going to be any incoming traffic this afternoon.”

“Traffic?” the captain repeated. “Just the normal comings and goings. I assure you that we are maintaining our high level of security on all ship’s visitors, even pilots.”

“I am sure that you are, sir. But the Williams were inquiring about the flight deck.”

The captain blinked and almost smirked, but that would have been unbecoming for a man of his position. “Getting cooped up, are they?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Robins!” the captain called out. “Any incoming aircrafts?”

“No sir, not for four hours.”

“The Williams can have the flight deck for three hours, just have someone that can call them in if someone needs an emergency landing.”

“I’ll be there, sir,” Steve promised. He would take a communication headset from the workers of the flight deck.

The captain wasn’t ready to dismiss him. “How regular of an occurrence will this be?”

“A couple times a week?” guessed Steve. It wasn’t something that Danno liked to discuss, but Steve wanted to give Danny and Grace plenty of time to be up in the air. He wanted to fly again as soon as Danny was willing.

“Hmmm.” He addressed his XO. “Robins, see about working the Williams into the flight schedule.”

“Aye, sir.” The XO looked pleased with the challenge. With the sudden habitation of 5-O and the Williams, the Enterprise had been taken off all patrol rosters. For the next year, the Enterprise was going to be a floating fortress for the ‘Wing School,’ which meant that many of the regular sailors had been unnecessary and a security risk. Those sailors had been shipped off to active ships and carriers within the first twenty-four hours. No reason to give idle sailors a temptation to sell information about Danny and family. The XO didn’t have a lot to do now. Until the military started shipping in the new guys and Danny made more personnel decisions, things would be slow. So far the Enterprise was going in circles, dodging security hazards and being careful with their fuel consumption. As much as they were all military men who lived for the adrenaline of danger and believed in confronting enemies head on, there was a little girl on board depending on them avoiding it.

Steve hurried off the bridge to the topdeck. He wanted to witness Grace flying by herself. He wanted to witness Danny having fun his wings (because, seriously, he could fly!). It would be watching history unfold. Official military cameramen were setting up tripods in the shadows of the Enterprise. They would record these flights for posterity, but they would do so without making Grace self-conscious.

Danny, Grace, Kono and Chin were waiting. Grace was truly grinning for the first time since her kidnapping. She was dressed to use her wings and hopping from one foot to the other. Danny had a firm hold on her hand, so she wouldn’t go far, and occasionally tugged on one of her braids to get her attention. Steve grabbed a flight deck headset in case of an emergency landing and jogged over to the group.

“Ready?” he asked.

Grace nodded enthusiastically.

“So we got the all clear?” Danny confirmed.

“The captain said that you can do this a several times a week around the incoming and outgoing jets.”

“Yea!” Grace cheered. “Come on, Danno. Let’s fly.”

“Hold your horses, one more minute.” He turned to address Chin. “We’ll go around the boat a couple times, checking wind currents –updrafts, downdrafts, air pockets, any problem spots, etc. Then I’ll be back and scoop you off the end.” Steve was impressed that Grace had improved enough to not only fly solo, but that Danny was willing to occupy his attention with someone else. Then Danny dispelled that idea. “If Gracie gets into trouble though, I’m dropping your ass into the ocean and you’ll have to swim back.”

“Understandable, brah.” Chin’s legendary calm was wavering. He was nearly vibrating in place with anticipation. He was doing a grown-up version of Gracie’s dancing. Steve couldn’t tease him because he was going the exact same thing, hoping that Danny would change his mind and take him up too. Kono was more relaxed about the situation, but then she knew precisely how far she was behind the rest of them. For security concerns, 5-O had decided that they would gain their wings in stages and the rookie was last. Steve bet that Kono was counting how many months she was behind Chin in gaining control of her wings. He would be in the same situation. It would be akin to a child marking off the days on a calendar until Christmas.

“I’ll try to give you a fair warning,” Danno was still lecturing seriously and it was sobering enough that the adults settled. “It’ll be up to you to make your wings disappear before you hit the water. Water and wings do not mix. We clear?”

“As crystal,” Steve answered for them both. “And then you’ll take me up?”

“No. Chin, you wanna say something?”

Chin lifted the contraption of straps and buckles in his hand. “Will this work? As a kind of harness?”

Steve and Danny looked it over. To Steve, it looked like the harness would distribute the pressure of Danny pulling from above on Chin’s body. He wondered if Danny had any clue as to weight distribution verses the human muscles.

“Pretty good,” Danny said, sure of his answer. “It’s close to Grace’s. I’ll show you a picture of it when we’re done here.”

“Danno,” Grace whined.

“I’m coming, I’m coming.”

The two stood on the edge of the deck and opened their wings. Just for a moment, they basked in the wind tugging on their feathers. Then they grinned at each other, lost in a father-daughter moment that no one could join or intrude on.

“Last one in the air is a rotten egg,” Danny called and the two of them dived off the Enterprise, stretched out their wings and glided. Danno flapped his wings, tilted his legs like a rudder and executed a sharp circle around Grace. His daughter didn’t have the same abdominal strength and it showed. She actually had to work harder to get wherever she wanted to go because her legs hung down uselessly.

“Have you been doing Danny’s leglifts?” Steve asked Chin. “Because that stresses your back.” Thank goodness for Cath’s massage. He was still sore from his flight –glide- but it was nothing that he couldn’t work through.

Chin was seeing the same problem that Steve was. “Not enough,” he said ruefully.

“I have,” Kono gloated. “Everyday, like Steve.”

“What about your harness?” Steve motioned to the straps in Chin’s hands. “You could set it up so that your body would remain straight.”

“I didn’t, unfortunately. I’ll fix it later.”

“Where did you get the harness, anyways? We’re going to need more.”

Chin stripped off his shirt and stepped into the harness, awkwardly. Obviously, he hadn’t practiced putting it on and taking it off. “I had jerry-rigged it based off of climbing rigs. I combined two from the special ops storage.”

“Good idea. You think Danno would take me up if I used it after you?”

“Don’t know, boss,” Kono said thoughtfully. “He won’t even consider it right now. Maybe tomorrow?”

Maybe. Steve put on his borrowed headset, one earmuff off, one on and the microphone far away from his mouth. He didn’t want to unintentionally transmit information. He judged the chatter to be inconsequential. They were discussing code names for the ‘birds’ up in the air. Grace was voted ‘chickadee,’ but no one could agree on what to call Danno.

Danny glided above. “You ready?”

Chin was all strapped in, standing on the edge and gave him two thumbs up. Danny glided past, dived off the end, hit an updraft and with a lot of speed, circled back again, low. He managed to slow down just a bit, his body vertical instead of horizontal but he still body-slammed Chin off the edge of the Enterprise, using the contact to grab hold of Chin’s harness. Steve and Kono looked over the edge as Chin’s wings stretched out and caught air. Before they hit the ocean, they were gliding. Danny caught the edge of another updraft, flapped his wings and pulled them both up. They were soaring. Chin’s legs were slowing them down, but Danny seemed to be expecting that.

Steve and Kono sat on the edge of the deck and watched. Grace was in her element as she flitted about. Danny had a firm hold of Chin and was keeping him in the air. He was telling Chin some things pertaining to flight. It was too bad that Steve couldn’t hear the lecture. It was odd seeing Danny talk when he couldn’t wave his hands around.

Steve opened his wings and tried to make them solid. It worked for a moment and then they were gone. For some reason, Steve couldn’t keep his wings solid like he used to. With the slightest bit of wind speed, they disintegrated from individual feathers to shadows. He worried a bit about back step. Kono was watching him with worried eyes, but then she returned her gaze to the wings above.

“Mind if I join you?”

Steve and Kono looked up. Grumberger looked a bit uncomfortable but eager.

“The scientists finally let you escape?” Steve asked.

Grumberger held up a bandaged arm. “They literally kept me for twelve hours. During which they took nearly half of my blood and… other fluids,” he answered ruefully.

Kono patted the deck beside her. “Come join the ranks of the envious.”

Grumberger sat down next to Steve and Kono on the topdeck and they watched the three humans soar.

“So I looked up my wings. The Great Grey Owl is rather impressive, though I’m glad I don’t share the same face,” he started the conversation.

Kono and Steve laughed with him, completely understanding the sentiment.

“Some of the traits I think I share and others, I hope to attain. I gotta ask, what about your birds?”

“I’m an osprey,” Steve answered. “Predator of the waters all over the world. I do well both migrating and not.”

“I’m an ‘akikiki,” Kono piped up. “Native Hawaiian wetland bird. Endangered but stubbornly holding on.”

“And them,” Grumberger waved a hand at those in flight.

“Chin’s a Hawaiian Hawk and Danny claims to be a sparrow.”

“Claims to be a sparrow?” Grumberger echoed. “Really?”

Kono and Steve looked at each other and then decided to trust the man. “We did some research,” said Steve. “We think Danno identified himself rather young and was looking at adult bird wings instead of immature birds. We’re pretty sure that his wings are that of the red-tailed hawk. It’s harder to identify without the signature tail and it has an immature state and several color morphs. It’s a survivor. It has adapted all over. For a bird of prey, it’s pretty common.”

“That makes more sense than a sparrow.” They watched Danno glide and direct Chin in the same patterns. “That’s a predator’s flight pattern, not a sparrow’s.”

“Agreed.”

Grumberger waited a moment and then blurted out. “I’ve got a good team. Do you think Detective Williams would consider them?”

“We can ask, but it’s all on him.”

Danny and Chin swooped around. “Coming in for a landing!” Danny announced.

“You were only up there for eight minutes.” Steve had been timing him.

“Don’t want to do it for too long. Ready, Chin?”

“Yes.” Danny glided in low and as slow as he could manage. Chin landed and promptly fell to the ground, holding his knee. “Ow,” Chin said, surprised at the pain.

“Yeah,” Danny landed as light as a feather two steps to the side. “You better get that looked at. How do you think I really screwed up my knee the first time? You can do a lot of damage with landings.” He looked up at Grace still flitting around. “See a doc,” he suggested. “I gotta get back up there.” He dove off the side of the ship and was back in the air.

“I’ll walk him to the infirmary,” Grumberger offered. “I now know which doc has the gentlest touch.”

“Cuz?” Kono asked.

“I’ll be fine. It probably just needs wrapped. You stay and look after Grace and Danny.” Chin reached to Grumberger for support and was hauled away.

“You think we could get a cushion out here to land on?” Kono asked.

“We’re going to have to ask Danny about practicing landings. I’m sure he did something with Grace before letting her land on her own.”

“True.” Danny was notorious for being overprotective. Currently, he was circling around his daughter, yelling encouragement and offering helpful hints. They really needed to get Danny wired for sound, so that more than just the person flying with him got to hear the advice. Getting something appropriate from the military would easy compared to convincing Danny to wear it. Well, Steve would requisition something and then work on Danny.

Grumberger returned and reported, “It’s just a sprain. They wrapped it and I took him to his berth to put his leg up and ice it.” He looked at his wristwatch. “They’ve been up there a while. I need to report in to the XO before my watch. When should I show up tomorrow?”

“I have no idea,” Steve admitted. “I wasn’t going to nail Danny down to a time until more people were picked.”

“Can I bring my team to your offices, or should I wait for him to come to us?”

“Let’s try to meet up in the mess for lunch,” since 5-O took breakfast and dinner in the wardroom. “We’ll see how it goes from there. Danny won’t go for a formal introduction.”

“Guessed that. What about Kelly’s rig? It looked handy and it wasn’t too difficult to take off him, even with the injury. Are we going to make more?”

“Danno said that he and Grace used one and he’d explain the specs to us tonight. I’m planning on making one for me.”

“Me too,” Kono added.

“Let me know now what the specs are and I’ll req the materials for fifty. Otherwise, I’ll see you at lunch.”

Steve nodded and Grumberger jogged off. Steve and Kono continued watching the two in the air, pointing out observations that they might be able to use to steer if they ever had strong enough wings. The sun was hot and the wind was strong, but nothing short of a hurricane would have chased the two off of the flight deck.

It was amazing, watching Danno and Gracie control the skies. They were flying -flying! Sometimes, it still felt like a dream because it had been considered impossible for centuries.

Grace and Danny circled closer to the deck. Grace landed first. She lost her balance as the wind grabbed at her wings and she fell on her butt. The adults rushed her, but she held out her hands. “I’m fine. I’m okay.”

“You’re tired,” Danno dictated.

“You’re not,” Grace answered.

“It’s kinda boring up there by myself. Especially when I can be spending time with you down here.”

“It doesn’t have to be long. Comeon, Danno. Five times around the ship. You know you want to.”

“How can I argue with that logic?”

“You can’t.”

Steve tapped his watch. “We could time you, see how fast you are and keep a record of your times. Maybe you’ll improve as well.”

“After the day I’ve had, I’m going to be slow.”

Steve grinned and challenged. “You’re always slow.”

Danny waved both hands at Steve, brushing him off. “You’re an idiot.”

“Five times, Danno.” Steve was not going to surrender on this. He wanted to see Danny soar. “Starting…”

Danny dived off the edge of the ship, wings only extending when he was close to the water. He used gravity to increase his speed then opened his wings and pivoted around. He was halfway around the ship in seconds. This wasn’t soaring, this was something much faster. Danny had such control and precision over his body. He knew exactly what he was doing.

One time around.

“Did you see me Uncle Steve? Kono?” Grace was asking.

“Yes!” Kono answered. “And you were wonderful up there.”

“It’s fun!”

“It looks like fun.”

Two times around.

“Is Danno a good teacher?” Kono asked.

“He’s the best,” Grace said loyally.

“You’re going to have to remind him, ‘cause he doesn’t think he’s good enough to teach the rest of us.”

“Okay.”

Three times around. Man, Danno was fast when he wanted to be. If someday Steve could be half that fast, he’d be thrilled. Though if Steve was honest with himself, he knew that he would work his ass off to be just as fast as or faster than Danno. It might never happen, but not for lack of trying.

Four times.

Steve tried to image a world where everyone could fly. It didn’t compute. Unfortunately, he foresaw a world of discrimination. It was already happening, but at the moment, it was in their favor. It was always dangerous when one group was given preference over another. They would have to be careful, for the pendulum could always swing against them.

Five times. Danny flew right next to them, up a bit and then the wings disappeared. He dropped into a crouch then stood and brushed his shirt into place like it was nothing out of the ordinary.

The ass. Danno, completely ordinary? Like hell, but now Steve had a flying time to beat.

“Hey Gracie, do you know what happened to your harness?” Danno asked his daughter.

“I don’t need it,” Grace was quick to point out.

“We know, but Uncle Chin needs a harness and would like to copy yours.”

Grace shrugged. “I gave it to Mom a long time ago. I don’t know what she did with it.”

“Then, we’ll have to ask her.”

“We better get off the topdeck. This is not a place to stand around and talk,” Steve suggested.

Danny nodded. “Let’s walk to my cabin and I’ll ask Rachel what happened to Gracie’s harness.” The group hurried to the side port, pausing only long enough for Steve to return the headset.

“So tell us about the best way to land,” Kono prompted once they were out of the wind.

“There’re a couple different kinds of landings,” Danny mused. “You can do Steve’s thing of rolling as you drop or you can actually try to land. It needs practice. Lots and lots of practice.”

“What’s the best way?”

Danny suddenly focused on him. “You think we can get some mats and those big pillowy things for falls? And one of those rigs –the zip line- that the judge’s daughter fell from? A lot of times, landings feel like getting off of one of those mid-ride.”

“Danno set up a rig for me and we had a bunch of old mattresses underneath the end and that’s how I practiced,” Grace told them. “We practiced a lot-a lot back in Jersey, even before my wings were strong enough to fly with. It was fun.”

“Well then,” Steve answered. “I guess we’re going to have to requisition the same. How high will we be practicing from?”

Danny spoke as he mused aloud. “We’ll start low at a couple of feet, but sometimes the wings might give out a couple stories up. Learning how to read your body and know when you can’t take any more is tough. I think the brain has difficulty translating the muscles of something that can disappear in the blink of an eye.”

“Is that why you won’t let me fly today?” Steve asked directly.

“Yes. You flew too much last time –it took us at least fifteen minutes to get to Wo Fat’s ship- and yeah, you normally don’t use those muscles so you don’t realize it now but they will scream the next time you try. You have to give them time to heal.”

“But I’ll be able to fly?”

“Who knows? I don’t.”

“But there’s a chance. I didn’t mess up my chances… It was worth it, by the way. I ended my parents’ killer and saved Grace. If I don’t get to fly again, it was still worth it.”

“I think you’ll fly,” Danny said. “It just might take a little while extra.”

“Good.”

“I can’t wait to fly with you and Kono,” Grace declared.

“And we want to fly with you too,” Steve answered for the rest of the team. “You’re really good at it.”

“Danno’s better.”

“Why is that?”

“He’s practiced more.”

“So are you going to practice all the time now, so that you’ll be as good as Danno?”

Grace thought about and grinned up at her father. “Yes. I’m going to be as good as you someday.”

“I can’t wait. Let me dodge into our place and I’ll be right back out,” said Danny. “Come on, Gracie. Tell your mom about your flight time and your goal for the end of the year,” Danny was saying as he ushered his daughter into their cabin. Steve and Kono could hear the girl’s cheerful voice as the door closed behind them.

Steve and Kono had agreed to wait nearby. They would visit Chin in the meantime. He was sitting on his bed, with his leg propped up. He pointed to the crutches in the corner. “The docs suggest that I use those for a couple days, just as a precaution. What did you learn?”

“Danny’s fast,” Kono said.

“In small zones with obstacles, he’s more maneuverable and faster than a helicopter. Especially on lift-off. Though if the race was longer than one hundred yards in a straight line, the ‘copter would win.”

“Good to know. And Grace?”

“Not as fast, not as maneuverable, but looking to improve.”

Five minutes later, Danny stepped into Chin’s room alone but with a trophy. “You’re not going to believe this, but not only did Rachel keep Gracie’s flight harness, she packed it. I guess she didn’t want anyone else to get their hands on it after we disappeared.”

Grace’s harness was bright pink with heart and flower patches sewn over connections as extra padding against pressure points. The stitches were more consistent than anything Steve had seen Danny do. (He remembered the late night Santa tailoring and Danny’s astonishment that Steve could sew well.) If Steve were to guess, Rachel had had a hand in creating the harness. “It’s not quite what we need here ‘cause she never needed help keeping her wings solid. You guys do. So my handles will need to be closer to your wings than Grace’s were.”

“You know that museum they’re talking about building?” Kono asked. Steve blinked at the sudden change in topic.

“What museum?” Danny echoed dangerously. “And define ‘they’.”

“The governor is floating a suggestion of turning our old 5-O offices into a museum and charging tourists to go through it,” Chin informed them. Of course, he knew what his cousin was talking about. “Because when we return to work on the island we are going to need a much more secure HQ. The museum will be about 5-O but mostly about the first humans to fly on record.”

“That is so not right,” Danny muttered.

Kono plowed ahead. “I think we should donate… or sell Grace’s harness to that museum. She’s outgrown it –in multiple ways. She’ll never need it again and no one else will either. Why not show it off?”

Danny wasn’t pleased with the idea. “I’ll think about it.”

*h5o*wingverse*
(Part 4)