Thanks Again for the Honeymoon

by Mary Clare

Ben Kokua walked into the hotel bar just after midnight. He was dead on his feet. Whoever had dreamed up this whole "honeymoon" scheme was a real genius -- Manicote, he guessed. Anyway, it didn't really matter who was to blame. The upshot was that Five-O had screwed up the security, Marty Walker was dead, and now they were faced with protecting his widow Toni, far from the safety of the prison where she belonged.

Ben slumped on a barstool and waited for the bartender to return. McGarrett would kill him for drinking on duty -- though technically, Danno had just relieved him from his post. But you were never really off duty when you worked for Five-O, were you? At this point, he didn't care -- he just needed a tall, cool one. Or a short, stiff one. Whatevahs.

A faint noise further down the bar made Ben glance up. He recognized the lovely face of Margo Cooper, the photographer who'd come to Hawaii to photograph Toni's wedding. Ben felt disturbed; he'd never seen such a beautiful lady sobbing into her beer.

Ben slid off his stool and cautiously approached. "Miss Cooper," he said. He lifted his hand and gently touched her on the shoulder.

Margo looked around, startled. She seemed to be hoping for someone else, for the light faded out of her eyes as soon as she saw him. "Hi," she whispered.

"It's been a pretty upsetting day," Ben said softly. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she said, and then laughed a little, knowing how ridiculous that sounded. "No. I'm a mess, as you can see."

Ben shook his head. Every girl should be such a mess as Margo Cooper. He sat down on the stool next to hers and said, "Anything you want to talk about?"

"No." She kneaded a ratty kleenex in her hands and sighed. "Ben, have you ever just felt like a complete fool?"

Ben grinned. "Just about all the time."

Margo laughed in spite of herself. Then she turned sad again. "I don't know why I came here," she said, her voice breaking. "It seems so foolish now. Just a foolish, stupid, childish dream."

Ben paused for a moment to consider her words. It was plain to anybody with eyes that she and McGarrett had some heavy history. Obviously, things hadn't worked out the way she had planned. Whatever had happened, he really didn't want to know about it. He traced his finger around a watermark on the bar and said, "Miss Cooper, I've checked the Hawaiian penal code, and it's no crime to be overly optimistic."

She smiled bleakly. "I guess not," she said. "And please, Ben, call me Margo."

Ben nodded. "How long are you going to be in the islands, Margo?"

Margo sighed. "A week -- at least, I'd planned to stay for a week. I'm driving back to Honolulu tomorrow."

"So are we," Ben said. "Where are you staying?"

"The Halekulani," Margo said. She'd imagined her and Steve lolling on the bed, eating the complimentary chocolate macadamia nuts that they gave you every night at turndown. Guess that's not going to happen now, she thought morosely.

"Well," Ben was saying, "as long as you're here, would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?"

Margo felt startled. Her first instinct was to refuse immediately, but something stopped her. There was something about this big Samoan that she liked -- actually, there were a lot of things. Physically, he was a hunk, of course, but it was more than that. He was quiet, soft-spoken, a good listener. Plus, he seemed to realize there was more to life than being a cop.

"I'd love to, Ben," she heard herself saying. She looked into his eyes and smiled.

"Great!" Ben flashed a hundred-megawatt grin. "I'll pick you up at eight."

***

Ben and Margo sat at a small table in Lau Yee Chai, one of Honolulu's most famous Chinese restaurants. Unfortunately, the staff seemed to be having an off night. The restaurant was nearly empty; only one other couple, half a football field away, occupied the cavernous dining room. Ben looked at his watch and sighed. It had been twenty minutes since the hostess had seated them, and still no waiter in sight.

Margo perused the menu for the umpteenth time and tried to look perky. "'Lau Yee Chai,'" she read in a bright voice. "' The world's oldest and most beautiful Chinese restaurant.'"

"And the emptiest," Ben muttered, "and the slowest." As the waiter finally approached, he leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially: "And the cheapest."

Margo clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. The waiter, a bland-faced, geriatric Chinese, didn't seem to notice. He put some hot tea on the table and plodded off to the kitchen with their order of fried won tons, crispy chicken with snow peas, and moo shu pork.

"So what did you do today?" Margo asked conversationally.

"Mostly damage control," Ben said. "There's a lot of fallout from the Manola case. Chin's still on the carpet for letting the cyanide slip through our security and kill Marty Walker. Steve's just hoping that King Manola is a big enough prize to get the press off our backs."

"Ah, business as usual," Margo curled her lip with a hint of distaste. She wondered how Steve had kept from going crazy all these years. Out of curiosity, she asked, "How do you stand it, Ben?"

"It's hard sometimes," Ben admitted. "But I asked for it when I became a cop. And especially, working for Five-0, you have to put up with a lot of criticism. Just comes with the territory."

"Do you ever think it's not worth it?"

Ben studied the flakes in his tea and smiled ruefully. "Well ... I've always been a little bit of an idealist. I like to think our efforts make a difference -- you know, putting criminals away, making sure evil people get punished. But the reality is, it's a losing battle. We hardly make a dent."

Margo felt surprised. "Oh, I don't know about that --"

"Sure you do," Ben said. "I bet you feel a little bit the same way. I mean, you were in Vietnam."

"That's true," Margo said thoughtfully. "I visited the hospitals, the villages, the combat stations. I took pictures of it all, thinking it would make a difference in how people thought about the war. And, maybe it did. But still the war goes on."

"Exactly," Ben nodded. "You're committed to a cause, no matter how demanding or thankless it might be. It can be pretty rough on your nerves ... you know, your personal life."

"I know," Margo said with a wistful smile. "Ben, do you ever think about just walking away? Leaving Five-0?"

Ben didn't answer for a long moment. "Sometimes," he said finally. "Margo, I worked my whole life to get a shot at something like Five-0. But yes, once in a while I do ask myself if it's really worth it. Sometimes I think ... well, there's just gotta be more to life than killing yourself for a big-time job."

He glanced up and was surprised to see tears glistening in her eyes. "Hey," he said gently. "I didn't mean to stir up bad feelings."

"Not at all," Margo shut her eyes for a second and shook her head. "You didn't. In fact, I admire your resolve. I think maybe you're right."

Ben smiled, then suddenly squinted into the distance. "Don't look now," he said slowly, "but I think ... just maybe ... no wait ... can't be sure ... I think the guy's finally coming with our won tons."

Margo giggled again. What was it about this guy, that even at one of the lowest moments of her life, at the depth of her heartache over Steve, he could make her laugh? She'd never met anyone quite like him. "Ben," she said as the waiter unceremoniously deposited the won tons on the table, "I hope we can spend more time together during my vacation. I'd really like to take YOU out sometime."

"It's a deal," Ben grinned. "Five-0 or no Five-0. Next time, you pick the place." Her smile was brighter than the stars.

***

On Thursday and Friday nights, Jimmy Borges took the stage at the Top of the Ilikai nightclub and entertained the crowd with old and new Hawaiian standards. It was supposed to be one of the hottest shows in town. Ben just hoped he could stay awake.

He looked at his watch and stifled a yawn. It was almost 9:15 Ė high time Borges started his act. Ben groaned inwardly when he thought about how early Steve expected him in the Five-O office tomorrow morning.

"Tired, Ben?" Margo asked sweetly. Ben looked at her across the candlelight and smiled.

"This dating life is killing me," he confessed. Ben and Margo had been out almost every night this week. Ben accepted the possibility that she was just trying to ease the rebound blues, but he sincerely hoped it was more than that. Despite her long-time affection for McGarrett, Ben thought he and Margo fit together perfectly.

"Maybe youíd rather be home in bed?" Margo teased.

Ben looked at her long, dark hair and started to say, "Only if youíll join me," but his voice was drowned out by the pounding Polynesian rhythm of Jimmy Borgesí Hawaiian swing band. Borges bounded onto the stage and shouted, "A-loooooooooooooo- HA!"

Story of my life, Ben thought. Some bruddah always stepping on my best lines.

Margo looked wistful as the Borges swung into an energetic version of "Pearly Shells." It was her last night in the islands. Tomorrow morning, she was flying on to Tokyo, and from there to Peking, to take photographs of Nixonís historic visit. Ben envied the excitement of her life, but he found himself wondering when Ė and if Ė he would ever see her again. The thought that he might not was unexpectedly painful. He saw his own sadness reflected in her eyes and hoped she wasnít thinking about Steve.

"Hey, baby, lifeís too short." He patted her hand and glanced over to the dance floor. "Letís ring out your last night in fine Hawaiian style."

Margo put her hand in his and they moved out onto the floor, joining a crowd of well-dressed couples who were already swaying to the Borges beat. Margo seemed small and fragile in his arms. Ben held her close and concentrated on trying not to step on her feet.

"So are you all packed up?" Ben asked her.

"Oh heavens no," Margo laughed. "I love to travel, but I hate packing. Iím notorious for getting to the airport at the last minute. At least I donít have to pack a bunch of souvenirs."

"No ukuleles? No raffia hats?" Ben teased.

"Not this time Ė only memories."

"Not all sad ones, I hope."

"No," Margo smiled. "Because of you, wonderful ones."

Ben held her close. As if on cue, the music switched from uptempto to slow and romantic. Borges began crooning softly in his best imitation of Sinatra.

Must you dance

Every dance

With the same fortunate man?

Youíve been locked in his arms since the music began

Wonít you change partners

And dance with me?

"Are you excited about your trip to China?" Ben asked Margo.

"Oh, yes!" Margo exclaimed. "This is something I thought weíd never see Ė Nixon, the ultimate Cold Warrior, extending the olive branch to the so-called Red Chinese. After that Iím going on to Taiwan. I wonder what the Taiwanese will think of Nixonís visit. I hope to meet Madame Chiang Kai-Shek."

Ben grinned. "Youíre not afraid of anything, are you?"

"Whatís to be afraid of? If you make a mistake, you can always fall back on the excuse of being a dumb American."

"Too bad that doesnít work here," Ben joked.

"I know," Margo said with a sigh. "My worst mistakes always happen right here at home."

Must you dance

Quite so close

With your lips touching his face?

Canít you see Iím longing to be in his place?

Wonít you change partners

And dance with me?

"So what happens after China?" Ben asked. "Where do you go next?"

"I donít know. Wherever the magazine sends me. This spring, theyíre expecting student riots all over Europe. Iíll probably spend some time in France."

"Watching unwashed kids throw bottles at police? That sounds dangerous. Not exactly ĎApril in Paris.í "

"Spoken like a true Five-O cop," Margo smiled. "What about your job? I donít see you turning down dangerous assignments."

"Itís not so dangerous. I tail a gangster here, kick in a door there. Itís all in a dayís work. Mostly, I just do what the boss tells me to do."

Ask him to sit this one out and while youíre alone

I get the waiter to tell him heís wanted on the telephone

"That doesnít sound like you, Ben," Margo said. "I mean, thatís not the kind of life you want, hanging around taking orders from Steve."

"Frankly, it doesnít sound like a good life for you either," Ben replied.

Margoís cheeks turned crimson and she pulled away for a moment. She looked truly embarrassed. Benís heart sank a little.

"Iím sorry," he said quickly. "That was out of line."

"Itís all right," Margo shook her head, sighed, and relaxed. "Nothingís ever simple, is it? But itís a beautiful night -- letís just dance."

Ben drew her back into his arms. Trapped in the sea of swaying couples, he felt agitated. Damn it, he thought, sheís leaving tomorrow. Why canít I just say what I want to say?

Youíve been locked in his arms

Ever since heaven knows when

Wonít you change partners and then

You may never want to change partners again.

The song ended and bubbles floated out over the crowd. They clapped softly and made their way back to their table.

***

After Borgesí show, Ben and Margo strolled down Kalia Road on their way back to the Halekulani, Margoís hotel. The Hilton loomed up on their right, a palace of luxury that seemed always to be under construction. Ben shook his head and couldnít help wondering if the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce would be sorry in ten years that theyíd let these big hotels take over Waikiki.

But he couldnít dwell on it for long, not with Margo at his side. She linked her arm through his as they made their way along the sidewalk. Ben felt her breast pressing softly against his arm and had an immediate physical reaction. Jeez, he thought, I feel like a kid. He wanted to touch her and kiss her. But part of him was afraid she was still hanging on to Steve.

Margo didnít say much. She was smiling and savoring the sweet soft breeze blowing in from the sea. The tide was coming in, and they could hear the crash of the waves in the great dark ocean beyond the gleaming lights of the hotels.

They were crossing in front of the Hale Koa, the islandís hotel for military personnel, when Ben noticed a jeep pulling down the drive. It was overflowing with loud, drunken officers and their female companions. Ben felt sure the driver would slow down long enough for them to reach the sidewalk Ė but he didnít. The jeep was barreling straight towards them.

Margo froze like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Ben grabbed her around the middle and threw her bodily onto the grass. He made it out of the intersection just in time to avoid being clipped by the speeding car. The occupants of the jeep hooted and laughed. The driver thumbed his nose at Ben, pulled the jeep into the street, and sped away.

"Oh my God!" Margo picked herself up off the grass and rushed to him. "Ben Ė you nearly got run over! Those people could have killed us!"

"Jerky officers," Ben griped, brushing off the front of his gray suit. "Think they own the place."

"Oh, Ben," Margo hugged him desperately. "That could have been terrible. Thank God youíre all right."

"Everythingís OK," he patted her back and felt Margoís arms go around his waist. Suddenly he realized what was happening. She was in his arms Ė at least for tonight. He tipped her chin back and looked at her beautiful dark eyes. Their lips met in a gentle kiss.

It didnít stay gentle for long. Margo kissed him fervently, passionately. People walking by glanced at them in surprise. A passing tutu muttered something disapproving.

"Ben," Margo gasped when they finally broke the kiss. "My flight leaves at 9 tomorrow morning. We have to get back to the Halekulani Ė and quickly!"

Ben didnít have to be asked twice.

***

Margoís travel alarm let go with a shrill, tinny buzz. Ben burrowed deeper into the feather pillow and tried to ignore it. His body felt pleasantly achy. Last night, he had used muscles he hadnít exercised since his football-playing days.

He smelled the sweet perfume of her hair and opened his eyes. Margo was laying next to him, gazing at him with a dreamy smile on her face. She sat up to turn off the travel alarm, treating him to a tantalizing glimpse of her breast.

Ben watched her as she checked the time, then checked it again. Her smile faded, her eyes widened, and her dreamy expression turned to horror.

"Ben!" Margo almost shrieked. "I set the time wrong! Itís almost 8 oíclock already! Steveís supposed to come pick me up to go to the airport! Heís going to be here in ten minutes!"

Ben looked at her with an almost comical expression of shock. "Steveís coming here?" he gasped. "Oh, shit, Iím late already! I was supposed to be in the office at 7:30! Heíll kill me!"

They shot out from under the luxurious blanket. The next few minutes were like a Mack Sennett comedy. Margo dove into a dress and began shoving stuff into suitcases, while Ben hunted frantically for his underwear, shirt, and pants. He yanked on his gray suitcoat and looped the tie around his neck. The prospect of McGarrett finding him here was, to say the least, unpleasant.

He pulled on his socks while Margo found his shoes. Ben stuffed his feet into them and, laces flapping, headed for the door. He stopped long enough to give her a goodbye kiss.

"Go! Go! Iíll call you from Tokyo!" Margo shooed him out the door. "Steveíll be here any second."

"Iím going," Ben said. "I love you."

"I love you too. Now go!" Margo slammed the door shut.

Ben ran down the hall and skidded to a stop in front of the elevators. Better not risk it. He ducked into the stairwell and hustled down the stairs, pausing momentarily to tie his shoes so he didnít fall and dash his brains out on the steps. Breathless and disheveled, he gave his ticket to the valet parking guy with as much dignity as he could muster.

Long, agonizing minutes followed. Ben grinned with relief when he saw the guy pull up in his beat-up Datsun. He fumbled for his wallet and was relieved to find he had a couple of quarters for the tip. He was just handing it over when he saw the big, black Mercury pull into the drive.

Ben didnít know what to do. He ducked and covered. The valet parking guy stared as Ben crouched in front of the Datsunís front bumper. McGarrett was getting out of his car. He looked tense, uptight Ė probably thinking about Margo. Maybe that was why he wasnít paying much attention.

Clutching his keys, Ben crabwalked around to the open driverís side door and Fosbury-flopped into the seat. He slid down so low he could barely see over the dash. Giving the stunned parking guy a quick shaka sign, Ben put the car into gear and pulled slowly out of the drive. He glanced into the rearview mirror long enough to see McGarrett go into the hotel. Ben allowed himself a laugh. Heíd blown enough tails to know that for once, he hadnít been spotted.

 

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