For the first time ever, Danny did not protest not driving himself to a job site. He spent the first few minutes of the trip making sure his head was in the game, not quite meditating but just getting centered.
When light whiskers brushed along his knuckles, Danny glanced down to see his Spirit Animal—a short, brown, river otter—sitting patiently between his feet in the seat well. Danny held his arms toward the dashboard and the otter gracefully climbed into his lap. Danny felt his mind and energy calm immediately.
For the rest of the drive to downtown Honolulu, Danny sat silently communicating with his otter. His driver, another unbonded Guide from the Center, made no remarks but would occasionally glance in his direction. Danny knew his Spirit Animal was an entertaining sight on most occasions. River otters were known as nature’s clowns, and this Spirit Animal would often frolic around the Center while Danny was working, entertaining Sentinels and Guides in the gardens of the Center, so the Driver had most likely seen the otter around. When a Sentinel or Guide was really calm—or really in distress—Spirit Animals would become fully corporeal and visible to everyone in an area. Danny wasn’t exactly calm, but the presence of the otter was welcome anyway. Danny needed to be fully ready to deal with a Feral Sentinel, because talking him down would be difficult enough if Danny was calm—if he was distressed, it would be impossible.
When they reached the scene of the incident, the driver pulled to a stop behind a line of police and emergency vehicles. Danny got out of the car and approached the person who looked to be in charge—an older uniformed officer whose name badge read ‘Lukela’.
“Hello,” said Danny, holding out a hand in greeting. “I’m Guide Daniel Williams. The S/G Center thought I could be of some help. Can you tell me what happened here today?”
Lukela stepped away from his vehicle to shake Danny’s hand. “A silent alarm went off in the bank around 7:30 this morning. The opening staff had not yet arrived, so dispatch sent a squad car over to see what was going on.
“One offer approached the front entrance, which was still locked, and saw some movement inside through the glass. He was radioing for backup when a bullet fired from behind hit him in the back and he went down. His partner called in for help, announcing shots fired, and tried to pull the wounded officer from the front of the building. He was also shot from behind and hit in the shoulder.
“We sent out several units, along with SWAT and Sentinel McGarrett and Guide Kelly. SWAT identified the shooter in a building across the street and took him out. Kelly and McGarrett found the entrance the thieves blasted into the bank from the building next door, and that’s what set off the alarm. McGarrett and Kelly radioed that they were using that entrance to sneak up on the thieves, since we weren’t certain how many there were, and during that confrontation Kelly was shot. That’s when it all went to hell.
“We don’t know how badly Kelly was hurt or how many of the thieves were in there—and are now injured—and McGarrett has pulled Kelly behind the teller counter to keep him shielded from observers. When SWAT tried to enter the building, McGarrett ‘growled’ at them and fired a warning shot.” Lukela wiped a hand across his face. “I’ve never been in this situation before, Guide Williams. I know there are injured people in there, so we have to get to them. Those would-be bank robbers could all be dead for all I know. If you can make it so that Sentinel McGarrett will allow the EMTs inside, that would be great.”
Danny nodded soberly. “I do have experience with distressed Sentinels, but this is a first for me: A Sentinel with an injured Guide. I’ll do my best. Do you have a vest I can borrow?”
As Lukela gestured for SWAT to provide a bullet-proof vest, the sound of quickly-scabbering claws on concrete drew Danny’s attention, and he looked down to see a large otter dancing on the asphalt by his feet. Danny frowned and looked around, finally seeing his own otter peeking from behind the wheel of a police car.
“Is that one going to help you in there?” Lukela asked, nodding toward the visible otter on the street.
“I have no idea,” said Danny. “He’s not mine.”
“I thought I saw you with an otter when you got here.”
Danny began to fasten the vest around his torso. “You did. Mine is smaller than that. North American River Otter. He’s hiding under the car right now.” Danny looked up to see his otter and the strange, larger otter, butting heads together. “Well, he was hiding under the car. Okay, I’m going in. I’ll go through the front door, slowly, so don’t allow anyone with a weapon near me. His senses are probably dialed up high, so he’ll smell ammunition. I don’t want him to attack before I can talk to him, okay?”
Lukela nodded. “We’ll follow your lead on this, Guide Williams. You have more experience that we do in this case.”
Danny nodded and moved to cross the street, and the large otter moved to guide him in. The dark-furred mammal was ungainly in its movements, as if it rarely moved on land, and Danny’s much smaller otter moved gracefully beside it, as if it was sure of its place beside the new Spirit Animal. Danny wondered about it for a brief moment, and then forced himself to emit only calm and safe emotions, using his Empathic Projection to let the feral Sentinel inside that he was no threat.
At the door, Danny took a deep breath to center himself and then he opened the glass door of the bank. He pulled the door open slowly and only poked his head inside so he could call to McGarrett.
“Sentinel McGarrett! My name is Guide Daniel Williams. I understand that you have a wounded Guide with you, and that he needs medical attention. Will you allow me inside so that I can help him?”
Danny could feel the tension inside the bank, thick like a wool blanket. After an immeasurable time, he heard “Come in, only you”, and Danny moved further into the darkened bank. He took a short moment to allow his vision to adjust to the darkness, then he looked around, making note of the bodies—and they were bodies at this point. Three men lay fallen on the floor of the bank lobby, and all of them had weapons beside them. The poor fools thought they were a match to a Sentinel after they tried to take out the Guide. Danny almost felt sorry for them. He knew that the Sentinel in question would face no legal action, because he obviously killed in defense of a Guide, but unless Danny could talk him down that Guide was still in danger.
Danny moved slowly toward the teller counter at the back of the lobby, listening for the sounds of two men breathing. “I’m coming toward you now, Sentinel. Dial up your hearing so that you know that I’m alone. I’m not a doctor, but I need to see your Guide. Can you do that for me?”
Danny could hear a shuffling sound and then a dark-haired man stood from behind the counter.
For a moment, Danny was stunned.
This man was gorgeous!
His hair was thick and dark, like the fur of the strange otter that preceded Danny to the bank doors. In the dim light Danny could see the Sentinel’s light-colored eyes as they surveyed him, looking for obvious weapons. Danny held out his hands in supplication to show that he was unarmed, and he quickly got himself under control.
“I’m not armed. I don’t even have a first-aid kit. But I’m going to come toward you now, so that I can see your Guide, okay?”
McGarrett nodded. “Okay. Only you.”
Danny walked softly and slowly toward the other man, and in the silence Danny could hear the labored breathing of the hidden injured man. Danny neared the counter and peered over it to see Guide Kelly, bleeding from a chest wound but awake and aware.
“He’s hurt pretty bad, you know? We have to let the paramedics in here so that they can take him to the hospital.”
McGarrett growled and Danny thought he was going to protest, so he quickly said, “Look, I know it’s your imperative to keep him safe. But he’s not safe in this place, okay? You can go with him to the hospital, but he needs a doctor.”
When Danny looked up, however, McGarrett was leaning toward him, softly scenting the air around Danny.
“Can I call in the paramedics?” No response. “Sentinel! Can I call in the paramedics?”
Danny’s sharp tone brought McGarrett back around. “Call them in.” McGarrett’s voice was hoarse and sharp.
Danny backed away toward the door, keeping his face to the Sentinel, and he reached behind him to open the glass doors where paramedics were waiting.
“Come in slowly, okay? No sudden movements. The robbers are all a lost cause, so there’s only one patient that you need to worry about. Just follow me and try not to make a lot of noise.”
Danny led the paramedic to the teller counter and McGarrett allowed the two-man team behind the counter to assess Kelly. They asked questions, and Kelly was able to answer, but McGarrett’s attention was all on Danny. As the paramedics loaded Kelly onto the gurney, McGarrett moved slowly closer to Danny. The lead medic gave a questioning glance at Danny, but Danny waved him away to the door. As the paramedics exited the bank with their injured load, two otters—one large and one smaller—gamboled around on the bank floor in front of the teller counter.
McGarrett had finally come into contact with him, leaning forward to sniff delicately at Danny’s shoulder.
Danny sighed again.
“We can NOT do this here, okay! There is something seriously wrong with you if you think you’re going to get to know me in the middle of a crime scene.”
McGarrett leaned forward until his head was resting on Danny’s shoulder, and he began to sniff at Danny’s neck. Danny pushed him away, and McGarrett whined.
“Seriously? No! We are not doing this here! The police have to get in here, and the medical examiner needs to get to your mess over there, so you and me? We’ve got to go, now!”
Danny shook his head in shock as he pulled the mellowing Sentinel toward the door and sunshine, and past the influx of police officers that needed to secure the scene. By the time Danny found Lukela again, McGarrett was plastered to his back and very mellow.
“Look, officer, I have to get this lug back to the Center before he makes a mess out of both of us. You can contact us there in a few days, okay? And I’m sure Guide Kelly will be able to answer questions after he’s out of surgery.”
And then Danny was dragging his Sentinel to the Center car and driver, and shoving him in the back seat—while Danny took the front seat again, much to McGarrett’s displeasure. Danny told the driver to take them back to the Center and he pulled out his phone to call the Center.
“Director Yung? This is Guide Williams. I’m going to need you to find a sitter for Grace for a few days, if you don’t mind. I have Sentinel McGarrett with me, and apparently we’re going to need a Bonding suite for a few days.”
During the whole drive back to the Center, McGarrett was leaning forward to scent at Danny’s hair, and his hands were making grabby motions, trying to hold Danny’s hands.
The driver was softly chuckling the whole way. Danny could hear him.
Danny had managed to call Grace to explain what was happening, so he was sure his daughter would not worry when he didn’t come home after his mission downtown. Actually, Grace seemed quite excited that Danny had found his Sentinel and would be Bonding.
She was more excited than Danny was.
Danny was more apprehensive than anything. When he imagined finding his Sentinel, he never considered the lightning-fast attraction or the immediate need to Bond. He understood, intellectually, the Bonding Drive, but no one had ever explained that his pulse would race like he had run a great distance, or that his thoughts would be completely filled with SentinelSentinelSentinel, to the point of ignoring everything else. He managed to retain presence of mind enough to call his daughter and to arrange delivery of food and water to the Bonding Suite, but all too soon he was locked away with a man he barely knew.
A man that was intent of ripping his clothes away and imprinting on every part of him.
Danny pushed him firmly away, ignoring the whine of impatience. “Look, we’re doing this. I know we’re doing this. But…just…My name is Danny Williams, okay, and I’m divorced and I have a daughter who came online as a Guide at a really young age, so I have custody, and I think you should know all of that before any Bonding takes place.”
A soft, gentle smile settled on McGarrett’s face, transforming it immediately from intense and gorgeous to breathtakingly beautiful. “My name is Steve McGarrett. I was a Navy SEAL until I came online when my father was killed. I have one sister, who lives here in Hawaii, and my good friend Chin Ho Kelly was my acting Guide until I met you.”
Danny sighed and smiled. “Okay. That’s good. I just thought we should at least know each other’s names or something first.”
McGarrett—no, Steve—reached out and took Danny’s hand in a gentle grasp. “This is intense for me, too, you know. I was just…gone. Lost when Chin got shot, until you came in and turned my world—my life—upside down. I can control the impulse, if you need to get to know me better first.”
Danny smiled. “No, no, that’s okay. I’m good now. I just needed to tell you about Grace, because she’s my world and no Sentinel is going to take her place.”
Steve pulled Danny into a tight embrace. “I can’t wait to meet her. I’m sure she’s wonderful.”
“No, no, no! Steve, you can’t just…Let him up!” Danny strode past a bemused Chin Ho Kelly as he approached his Sentinel. “You can’t just dangle a suspect off the edge of a roof! What is wrong with you?”
“He’s going to talk, Danno! He just needs the proper motivation, that’s all.”
Danny sighed and looked to Chin, but he got no support there; Chin was quietly chuckling as he watched the antics of the Sentinel on the roof.
“I’ll talk! I’ll talk! Let me up!” The drug runner was practically begging for his life, but Steve was slow about lifting him back to the roof.
Danny cupped a hand over his eyes as he shook his head in disbelief. This was his life now. How was this his life now?
Steve began to happily recite the Miranda warning as he clapped handcuffs on the dizzy druggie.
Danny sighed. “Now you’re following proper procedure? Oh my god! How is this my life?” Danny’s rant echoed in the stairwell as they descended the building, Danny in the lead and Chin bringing up the rear.
They had been working together as a team for a month now, forming a Major Crime task force after Chin found his Sentinel, Lori Weston, while he was in the hospital recovering from his gunshot wound. Grace had finally settled into her new school and was able to deal with visiting her mother for short periods twice a week. Danny and Steve found a house on the beach near the Center, much to Grace’s delight, and the three of them spent many hours decorating it to their specific tastes.
And Steve? He fell absolutely in love with Grace when he met her, and Grace happily absorbed him into her life as well.
Danny’s life was really good now. He had family, he had his Sentinel, and he had a job he loved.
“I swear, Steve, the Army did something to your head!”
“Navy, Danno. I was in the Navy.”
“What ever! You do not toss criminals into shark infested water! You do not strap criminals to the hoods of moving vehicles! And you do not toss criminals off of rooftops! You are damaged, Steve! Damaged! And now I have paperwork to do to explain this action of yours!”
Behind him, Steve chuckled. “I love you, too, Danno.”