A/N Well, first of all, please don't be mad at me. I was, really was trying to work on "And Then There Were None". But as I had no time to write lately during the day and I was too exhausted to even think about writing in the evening, the story kept being put off, until I finally found myself with a horrible case of writer's block. And then when I finally, FINALLY, found some free time and sat down to write, I couldn't come up with anything. And then this plotline took up residence in my head, and I couldn't get rid of it. I don't know what brought it on. I have no real dislike of Amber's character. But I miss Steve and Danno, the bromance, the ribbing and bickering, the way those two were in the beginning - before Catherine, before Grover, before Amber, before carguments and hanging out stopped being just a Steve/Danno thing. So this ... thing... came out. There is some plot, though it's not the focus of the story, nor the reason for it. It was just a way for me to work out some of my issues with the direction the show has been taking lately. I hope you enjoy it. I would love to hear your thoughts. And I promise, promise, promise that I am not going to abandon the other story, not even considering it. I just need to get my head back into it :)

"Do you have a problem with my girlfriend now?"

Steve flinched, pulling back a bit, taken completely by surprise both by the undisguised and unwarranted - at least as far as he could tell - hostility in his blond partner's voice and by Danny's clearly intentional word choice.

"I'm not," he defended, raising his hands at his sides to emphasize the point, "I didn't... I just-"

"Just what, Steven? Making an observation? Pointing out your obvious trust issues?"

He frowned, shaking his head at that. "I just meant that maybe you're moving a little too fast. That maybe you need to find out a bit more about ... who she really is."

"Who she really is?" Danny's eyes narrowed suspiciously, and he took a step closer to Steve, invading his space once more. "Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?" And then he knew, and his face sharpened in anger and annoyance. "You checked her out already, haven't you? Haven't you?"

Steve nodded reluctantly and flinched once more, as Danny's hands cut sharply through the air much too close to his face, followed by an equally sharp "You're unbelievable!".

He chewed on his bottom lip, weighing the wisdom of saying his next words - his own safety in saying them in the face of Danny's rising temper versus Danny's safety should his suspicions have some ground to them. Danny's safety won.

"She is too clean, Danny," he plunged on, his voice quiet but sure. "Too perfect. Her file reads... synthetic almost."


What was it with Danny repeating everything he said? He shifted, trying to hide his discomfort by stuffing his fisted hands deeper into his pockets, the fingers digging painfully into his palms. "It looks like the file's been doctored, Danny," he continued stubbornly, forcing himself to stand his ground despite his partner's threatening closeness. "Believe me, I've seen enough of those to know..."

Danny stepped back then, giving him a long scrutinizing glare that made Steve feel a little too much like a bug on a slide. A moment later he smirked - an unkind, almost disgusted gesture, picking up his half-empty beer bottle and raising up to Steve's face.

"Is this why you called me here, huh, McGarrett? Beer, malasadas. 'Come over for a bit after work, Danny. We haven't hung out in a long time, Danny.' You're worse than your spook mother!"

"We really haven't hung out in a while, Danny," he maintained with a note of almost childish reproach, trying to pretend that the comparison didn't bother him as much as it did.

"No, see, if you needed to 'hang out', as you say," Danny spat, slamming the beer bottle back down onto the table and throwing in a couple of air quotes for good measure, "you could have just called on your new best buddy Grover and left me out of this."

Steve blinked at him, frowning in confusion. "Wait... you're... jealous?"

"Jealous?" the blond barked out an angry laugh, and Steve's frown deepened. "No, I'm not jealous. I'm just curious to know if you had been as thorough about snooping into your new BFF's background as you were into Amber's, who, by the way, is absolutely, positively none of your business."

"BFF?" He couldn't help but smirk at that, even as Danny's face pinched in annoyance.

"I have a preteen daughter, Steven, and it's a legitimate expression. Get with the program."

Steve nodded then, because, yeah, Danny's face seemed a bit too red, and he was beginning to really not like how this conversation was going. "I did check him out," he admitted. "But it's different with Grover."

"Wait, don't tell me," Danny's tone was bitingly sarcastic now, and Steve really didn't like it. "It's because he's a cop, isn't it."

"Yes, it's because he's a cop," he retorted, a bit angry himself now. "And because HPD would've been extra thorough in vetting their future SWAT captain."

That seemed to deflate Danny a bit, and he turned away, running a nervous hand through his blond locks. "She said she came here to get a fresh start," he said finally, turning back to Steve with an almost accusatory expression in the pale blue eyes. "Have you ever considered that she might be in WitSec and that by digging into her history you might have triggered something that she will once again have to run from?"

Steve remained silent at that, even though the thought about WitSec did occur to him and he did contact a US Marshall friend of his, who owed him a favor. Jim, his friend, could find absolutely nothing in their records about an Amber Vitale. And that was not good. Not good at all. He was going to tell Danny that, but Danny needed to calm down first, to get his rational mind back online to be able to listen to him, to reason.

Only Danny didn't seem to be interested in reason, already wound too tight to be able to do anything but steamroll over his partner with a new torrent of angry accusations. "I don't believe you, MacGarrett. I don't fucking believe you. I finally find someone I'm fairly attracted to, and you immediately have to stick your giant snout into my business and screw everything up."

Giant snout? he mouthed, baffled. "I thought you were attracted to Gabby," he protested.

"I was," Danny confirmed, cocking his head to the side. "And come to think of it, you weren't being nearly as big of a jerk about it then. What's different now?"

"This girl's different," Steve maintained doggedly, still rooting for reason. "You know nothing about her, other than that she's, supposedly, from New York. She could be playing you, for all we know, using you for something."

"Playing me," Danny threw up his hands, anger mostly replaced by exasperation. "You make her sound like she's some dastardly criminal mind. Tell me, Steven, do you think she somehow arranged to have herself shot in the head as well? Just so she could manipulate me into helping her spend a few nights in a luxurious beachside hospital?"

Steve sighed, closing his eyes briefly in frustration. "I just meant that you should be more careful around her, Danny," he admitted on an exhale. "That maybe having her meet Grace is not a good idea yet. You waited a lot longer with Gabby."

The blond's hand froze in midair - halfway through an aborted rant-accompanying gesture. "You... unbelievable," he hissed out. "How do you even know I'm having her meet Grace?"

"I overhead you talking," Steve confessed. "On the phone yesterday." And, yeah, the admission hurt, too, because it wasn't too long ago that there would have been no need to overhear, that something like that would have been discussed between the two of them over a beer or within the sleek, air-cooled confines of Danny's car. But then they'd all been so busy lately - each of them dealing with their own issues. Steve hadn't even realized it that they began to drift apart. Yet they did, and it stung. Deep.

"Right." Something in Danny's face had closed off, and then he turned sharply, striding swiftly and purposefully to the front door. "I'll see you at the office on Monday, McGarrett," he threw over his shoulder, fingers curled around the door handle. "Don't call me."

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"McGarrett is going to be a problem."

She pressed the phone tighter to her ear, slipping surreptitiously out of the clothing store and away from prying eyes. "Not the most subtle way of starting a conversation, Boss," she hissed, glancing back at the shopkeeper and cringing at the woman's inquisitive gaze."

"He's been looking into your file, making inquiries," the man at the other end continued unapologetic.

"So?" she countered, unconcerned. "The file is solid, isn't it?"

"Obviously not solid enough for McGarrett," the man objected brusquely. "The man's former Naval Intelligence. If he is digging, it means he's suspicious."

She sighed, annoyed all of a sudden. "What do you want me to do?"

"Go over to his house. Find out what he knows. Get rid of the evidence."

"And McGarrett?"

There was a brief silence on the other end. Then, "Him too. At your own discretion."

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She sat in the car, watching the house from a distance. A black Camaro was parked in his driveway next to a pickup truck, and that meant that Williams was inside. She sighed, settling back against her seat - she needed to wait.

It took about another half an hour before she finally saw the front door fly open and the short detective walk out, stalking over to his car. He looked positively furious, and she wondered idly about the reason behind his anger, even as she lowered her binoculars and slid low in her seat to avoid being spotted. An instant later he was gone - having peeled out of the driveway as though a pack of hellhounds were on his tail, and she shrugged indifferently to herself before pulling her silver car into a spot next to the blue Silverado.

He answered the door mere seconds after the first ring, flinging it open with an expression of almost childlike hope. His gaze fell on her and instantly his face fell, the dark blue eyes becoming guarded, almost angrily so.

"What are you doing here?"

The question was one of hostile suspicion, and she winced inwardly - Kendricks was right, this guy must have already dug up something on her. He needed to be stopped. Pulling on her best acting face, she affected distress, looking up at him nervously - eyes batting, lips quivering, her perfectly chiseled eyebrows wrinkled in feigned worry.

"I'm sorry to burst in on you, Commander, but I haven't been able to get a hold of Danny, and we were supposed to meet later today. I'm really starting to worry. I thought maybe something happened to him. And you're his friend- I thought, maybe you knew..."

He shook his head, hand already on the door, ready to slam it back in her face. "Danny's fine," he assured her coldly. "He just left here a few minutes ago. I'm sure he'll call you back."

He stepped back, starting to pull the door closed, and she had to hold back a growl of frustration. Running out of both time and patience, she did the only thing she could think of at the moment. Reaching into her slightly oversized purse, she felt for the gun she always carried there and, turning the purse to have the still concealed weapon point at McGarrett's right leg, squeezed the trigger.

The man stumbled backwards under the unexpected assault, one arm shooting out to seek purchase on the nearby end table, the other grabbing at the gaping wound in his thigh. And she was already moving, thrusting her pointy-heeled shoe into the bleeding hole. He wavered further then, the bad leg giving out under him and bringing him to his knees with a pain-filled grunt. Satisfied with these results, she continued her blitzkrieg of an attack. And so she let her purse simply drop to the ground, as her gun-wielding arm swung in a sharp half-arch toward him to connect brutally with the side of his head. The hit was well aimed, she wasn't new to this after all, and her target crumbled senseless the rest of the way to the floor.

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The first things he became aware of were a dull throbbing pain in his thigh and a nauseatingly sharp pounding in his head that threatened to pull him right back into oblivion. A voice drifted into his pain-dulled consciousness, and he peeled his eyes open, blinking away the red haze and trying to focus on the blurry shape before him. To his dismay, the red-filled mist remained, and he made to wipe it away only to run into yet another obstacle - he couldn't move his arms.

There was a moment of panic until his scrambled brain came more or less fully online and he realized that his hands were handcuffed behind his back, the sensation of metal digging into his wrists finally reaching his awareness. Memory came back too, and he squinted up angrily from his half-lying position on the floor at the now clearer features of Danny's supposed girlfriend, silently berating himself for letting himself be caught off guard like that.

The woman was as yet unaware of his scrutiny. She was busy talking to someone on her cell phone and her back was to him, as she fiddled with something on his computer.

"You were right, he's got a whole bunch of files here... Yes, I deleted all of them... Elsewhere?... I don't know... Alright, alright, I'll ask."

She hung up the phone, turning to face him, and smiled, noticing his furious glare. "Awake already?" she acknowledged with a brief nod. "You really do have a hard head, just as your partner says."

Steve ignored the dig, spitting out a hoarsely sharp "Who the hell are you?" instead.

"My name is not important," she shrugged. "Besides, you're not going to be able to do much with this information anyway."

He didn't bat an eye at a not-so-veiled threat. "What do you want then?"

"A much better question." She smiled, taking a step closer, her hand reaching out to rest on his temple, and he tensed, forcing himself not to flinch away from her touch.

"I really am sorry for the rough treatment, Commander," she offered, inspecting her now blood-stained fingertips. "I want to assure you that it was nothing personal... at least not on my part. But you were getting too curious for your own good and," she shrugged again, almost regretful, "well, I cannot afford to have any evidence of your 'research' remain once I finish my job and disappear. So I am to ask you if there is any more of your 'research' anywhere else in the house apart from the laptop."

"And just exactly what is your job?"

An amused smile twisted her slightly full cherry-red lips. "You're just full of questions today, aren't you?" she huffed. "I suppose you expect me to confide in you now, tell you all my deep dark secrets?"

He shook his head slightly, forcing down bile that threatened at the unsanctioned movement. "Don't need to know... all of them," he rasped, closing his eyes for a moment against the nauseating pain. "Just what you plan to do to my partner."

She squatted in front of him, tsking softly. "No fair, Commander. You still haven't answered my question."

He smirked, baring his teeth in a feral, menacing gesture. "If there is any, I figure it's your job to find it. And since you're likely to kill me anyway, why should I bother to help?"

The hazel eyes grew cold, cruel, the delicate alabaster features becoming sharp and unattractive in a brief flare of rage, and Steve wondered idly if Danny had ever seen a glimpse of this Amber. Maybe if he had, he would have believed Steve and this whole mess could have been avoided.

His head was rocked back violently, his musings interrupted by a vicious slap, and he slammed his eyes shut against the explosion of pain that erupted bright and blinding like fireworks behind his closed eyelids.

"Whether or not this is a foregone conclusion remains to be seen, Commander. Either way, I think I might provide you with a different incentive. Perhaps the life of little Gracie Williams?"

The chilling words spoken above his ear came through muffled, but their effect was instantaneous. The slightly unfocused, pain-filled blue eyes flew open, zeroing in sluggishly on the grinning face before him. The mask slipped, as pain and confusion made it impossible to keep his emotions in check, and her grin widened in triumphant glee at the naked fear she saw in his eyes.

"How about it, Commander? You make this quick and simple for me, and I leave town with two more kills under my belt instead of three."

"Nothing," he swore huskily, hating himself for showing weakness, yet knowing full well that he couldn't have let things unfold any other way. Not when Grace's life was concerned. "There's nothing else."

She rose to her feet then, nodding her satisfaction. "I knew you were a reasonable man, Commander. I'm sure your partner will appreciate your cooperation as well."

She turned away from him then, digging for something in her purse, and Steve used that time to try and get his feet under him. He managed to get to his knees, sweating with effort and swaying from side to side like a sapling in the wind, his right leg numb with pain and blood loss.

"Why are you doing this?" he rasped, fighting to keep his balance. "He saved your life."

She glanced at him over her shoulder, smiling almost condescendingly at his pitiful attempt at standing up.

"Yes, that was quite a fortuitous chain of events, wasn't it. Allowed me to play a damsel in distress, gave Williams a chance to be my knight in shining armor. I suppose I should thank that kid - without him, I never would have been able to get to where I am with your partner this quickly."

She gave a small haughty laugh of amusement, turning once more to face him fully, and his gaze narrowed at the items she held in her hands: a smooth-bladed folding knife in one and his own phone in the other.

"I like Williams, but I have a job to do, you understand. For the sake of fairness, though, I'll make you a deal." She stepped closer, placing the phone on the ground before him. "After I leave, you'll have a chance to make one phone call: either to try and save your own life or to warn your partner." She leaned in closer, her lips nearly brushing his ear, her voice sultry and low with provocative pleasure. "Personally, I'll be rooting for the former," she whispered, and he winced in disgust, as he felt her hands move to his waist, tugging at his belt buckle. "I'd hate to see all this beautiful package go to waste."

She pulled off his belt, throwing it on the ground next to the phone, gave him another lazily seductive smile, and then her knife-wielding hand sliced toward him, and the next thing Steve knew was a sharp pain that laced across his left upper arm.

She stepped back quickly, her gaze drifting toward his arm, watching, mesmerized almost, as blood begun spurt forth from the severed artery, soaking into the surrounding fabric and dripping steadily onto the floor.

"Good luck, Commander," she threw finally, as he swayed dangerously on his weakened knees. "I figure you have about 5 minutes to make your choice before it is made for you. I hope you make the right one." And she walked out of the house calmly, tossing her long hair back like someone without a care in the world.

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Steve fell sideways, pinning his injured arm underneath him in an attempt to slow down the bleeding, while he worked on bringing his cuffed wrists to the front of his body by forcing his feet through his arms. Moments later, shivering from effort and blood loss, he slid forward, his blood-slicked trembling fingers reaching for the phone.

Danny, he had to warn Danny. But then his muddled brain supplied a memory of Danny's parting words, his angry request not to call him, and his hands hovered in hesitation above his partner's highlighted name.

A drop of blood - thick and gruesomely bright - splashed down onto the screen, and he blinked sluggishly, coming to a decision. There was no more time to waste. Thumbing the next name down the list, he hit the speaker button and let the phone drop, reaching for the belt instead. He wasn't sure why she left it there for him, why this gesture of magnanimity for someone you have been sent to kill. He chose not to dwell on it, however. Besides, he wasn't sure it would be of any help to him anyway. Not with the way his bound hands were shaking as he fought awkwardly to wrap it around his upper arm.

"Hey, brah," Chin's relaxed laughter-filled voice pulled his wavering attention back to the phone, "did Danny ditch you for his date already?"

"Ch...Chin," he breathed out in relief, his voice gruff and barely audible. "Danny ... h-help Danny... he's..." He trailed off, suddenly finding himself unable to form words, as the room flickered unsteadily before him like a bulb of a dying flashlight.

"Steve?" the light cheerfulness was replaced by alarmed concern. "Steve, what's going on, brah?"

He gritted his teeth, pulling ineffectually at his makeshift tourniquet to tighten it. A brief jolt of pain from the movement gave him a moment of much needed clarity, and he hurried to get his message out. "Amber's not who she... says she is. D-danny 'n Grace... in danger... F-find 'em, Chin... f-find..."

His blood-coated hands slipped off the belt for the last time, and he let them be, knowing that it was bad but no longer finding the energy to move or care. He did what he could, and Danny would be okay. He trusted his team to take care of Danny now. He just wished Danny wasn't so mad at him. Maybe he'll be able to forgive him someday. He hoped...

Chin's worried voice accompanied him into blackness.

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He couldn't get Steve's words out of his mind. As much as he was still angry with the ex-SEAL for meddling - and where the hell does Mr. "My longest relationship has been with my SIG-Sauer" get off passing judgments on his choice of a dating partner - he had to grudgingly admit the wisdom of delaying Amber's meeting with Grace. Even if Steve's suspicions about Amber were off. And Danny really-really hoped they were, despite the fact that his friend's instincts have rarely been wrong and Danny trusted them implicitly and said so repeatedly, even when the SEAL himself would express doubts about them.

That, and only that (or so he kept telling himself), is why he called Rachel and told her he won't be able to pick up Grace today, giving her some half-assed excuse about having to work later than he'd anticipated. He could almost see Rachel roll her eyes at that, even as she assured him that she'll explain everything to Grace and that he'll be able to pick her up tomorrow instead. He could clearly hear what she wasn't saying, though: that Grace will be disappointed. And he felt like the biggest scumbag on earth for having done this.

And if that weren't enough, the moment he pulled into the parking lot at the Ala Moana Beach Park and saw Amber there waiting for him with a giant blue inflatable dolphin, he felt like an idiot and almost turned right back around to go and get Grace. Instead he gripped his steering wheel just a tad tighter, blew out a deep calming breath, and, with a resigned acceptance of a man condemned, turned the engine off.

Amber looked surprised when he approached alone.

"No Grace?" she asked, her smile a bit tense, confused.

He shrugged, trying to affect nonchalance. "She wasn't feeling well," he lied with what he hoped was enough conviction. "She was really looking forward to this outing, too," he hurried to add, as her smile wilted into a pout of disappointment. "And the dolphin - she would totally love it."

"Yeah?" Amber's smile was back, playful and flirtatious. "I thought she might. I was hoping to surprise her."

Disappointment was a palpable stain in her voice, and Danny's self-reproach grew exponentially. He opened his arms, moving to embrace her, only to halt as she froze suddenly looking past him toward the road, where the sounds of approaching police sirens could be heard, devastating the windless calm of the warm Hawaiian evening.

Her face darkened, crinkled with regret, and she leaned back against the picnic table she was standing next to, reaching blindly for her purse, her eyes never leaving the road. Puzzled by this strange reaction, Danny turned as well, frowning at the display before him: Kono's red Cruze and several HPD cruisers speeding down the street in their direction. He made a hesitant half-step toward them, scanning the horizon for Steve's Silverado and Chin's bike, his frown deepening as he spotted neither. What the hell was going on?

"I guess I overestimated your partner's desire to stay alive. Pity." A flat, unemotional comment was like a bucket of frigid cold water over his head, and suddenly the absence of the Silverado was a palpably ominous loss, a raw, gut-churning fear.

He turned back toward her, too stunned to acknowledge the gun that had appeared out of nowhere and was now pointing squarely at his chest or the unrecognizably cold, almost ruthless gleam in the piercing wide-set eyes.

"What did you do?" he gasped, still hoping this was all just a bad, bad joke, refusing to believe the worst, refusing to believe that Steve might be-

"I gave him a chance to save himself," she responded with a callous shrug. "He chose to save you."

The words ripped into him - a vicious, breath-robbing stab in the heart - and he reeled, eyes slamming shut in anguish and remorse. He didn't register the gunshot, nor the sudden pain that tore through his midsection, driving him to his knees.

There was a running of feet all around him, shouting, more gunshots. He heard none of it, his ears ringing, his head swimming with blood loss and the knowledge that his friend, his brother might be dead and it was all his fault.

"Danny!" A voice above his ear. Kono's. Anxious, breathless, worried. And he rocked forward unsteadily, risking a glance at her, as she kneeled beside him, placing her arms gently on his shoulders and grimacing in concern at something she saw on his shirt.

He followed her gaze, blinking numbly at the rapidly spreading blot of red around his middle. Oh yeah, the gunshot.

"Hang on, Danny. I've got a bus on the way." And she eased him onto the ground, both hands pressing hard onto the very center of the blot, making him hiss in pain.

"S-steve?" He had to know. Had to.

Kono hesitated, her face paling, lips pinched, and he felt the bottom fall out on his world. "No..."

"Chin's with him," Kono answered cautiously, refusing to meet his desperate, clouded gaze. "I don't know any more."

He nodded miserably, letting his eyes drift shut once more, his angry parting words to Steve haunting him all the way to unconsciousness.

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Amber Vitale, whose real name turned out to be Julia Ruehl, a CIA assassin, was captured by HPD within moments after shooting Danny. She refused to talk, but the team - Chin and Kono - pulled her phone records and managed to track down her handler, the one who ordered the hit on Danny. Kendricks. Former Deputy Station Chief Kendricks, who apparently didn't take too well to losing his cozy post courtesy of Danny's meddling. Danny's interference on Steve's behalf back then, his help in getting Wo Fat brought safely into custody stirred up a big hornet's nest within the CIA on the subject of shady arms deals being brokered by a known terrorist. Not that the CIA didn't know this kind of thing was going on, but it had just never been brought that brutally out into the open before, where they could no longer ignore it or pretend not to know anything about it. Now all of a sudden things needed to be done, dirt needed to be swept out of the house, heads needed to roll. Kendricks's head was one of those. He was publicly reprimanded, lost his well-cushioned post, took a big hit in salary. And so, disgraced and disgruntled, he turned to one of his former students to cash in a favor he had earned many years prior. He wanted Danny's head on a platter.

Steve was never part of the deal. Not initially, at least. Not until he began looking into Amber's file, digging under rocks that were never meant to be turned over. Once Kendricks got wind of what Steve was doing, he gave his agent the go ahead to take care of him as well.

All this Chin and Kono told Danny when he woke up in a hospital bed following a surgery to repair a nicked artery that Amber, no Julie, managed to hit, and he was lucid enough to track what was going on. He absorbed the information. Grimly, painfully. His fault. His own damned fault. Steve had warned him about her, and he didn't see it. Didn't want to see it. And he had been a jerk. God, had he been a jerk! And Steve...

When Chin couldn't get any response from Steve that day on the phone, he called in an ambulance to McGarrett's address, told Kono to go after Danny and rushed over to Steve's place, breaking every speed and traffic record along the way. He told Danny, reluctantly and after numerous stubbornly worded requests, about how he found Steve unconscious in a pool of his own blood. About his handcuffed hands, the belt that was tied awkwardly and inefficiently around his left bicep. That makeshift tourniquet, sloppy as it was, gave him the few extra minutes needed for help to arrive, making that tiny hair of difference between life and death.

Yes, Steve was alive. But the heavy blood loss from a severed artery, coupled with a less significant blood loss from a gunshot wound and the trauma of a concussion proved to be too much. Steve coded. Twice on the way to the hospital and once more on the operating table. The doctors managed to get him back, but he had been in an ICU for the past three days, and they have not been hopeful about his chances. Danny made Chin tell him that, too.

After that Danny stopped asking any more questions. He stayed in his bed, pale and brooding, patiently waiting for his doctor to declare him well enough to be able to move around. Once he got his permission to walk, he got out of bed, grabbed his IV pole and headed straight for the ICU, where he parked himself in a chair next to his partner's bed, leaned back as much as he could, crossed his arms on his chest and glared up at the nurse, who followed him there, as if daring her to tell him to leave. The nurse merely shook her head, letting him be, knowing instinctively that no argument on her part would make even the slightest bit of difference.

And so Danny stayed by Steve's bedside, watching his partner's chest rise and fall with the help of a machine, keeping a crushing death grip on a blood-stained cell phone in his lap.

"He chose to save you." Amber/Julie's parting words to him rang loud and painful in his ears. And they made perfect, knife-twisting-in-the-gut kind of sense. With a severed artery Steve had only minutes before he would have lost consciousness and then bled out. Amber gave him his phone. Taunted him with a chance to make a phone call - one phone call, it would have been all Steve had time for - to call for help. Steve did call. Only not for himself. For Danny. And it killed Danny a little every time he thought about the fact that Steve didn't call him directly and the reason why he didn't.

It took another week - seven long, terrifying days - before Steve began showing signs of waking. Danny held his limp hand, waiting patiently for the blurry gaze to focus on him.

"Hey there," he whispered, getting a tired smile in response. "So I was thinking," he gave his partner's hand a light squeeze, fighting an urge to pull the man into a relieved and grateful hug right then and there, "you were right - we really haven't hung out in a while. I think we need to change that." At Steve's curiously raised eyebrow he clarified, "A guys' night out. Beer, malasadas. Maybe even some pizza."

Steve licked his lips, swallowing dryly, before giving him a small tentative smile. "No... psycho... girlfriends?" he croaked out painfully and closed his eyes briefly in relief, as Danny carefully fed him a spoonful of ice chips.

"No girlfriends period," the Jersey native confirmed, once his friend's eyes were once again focused on him. "Just you and me. Rekindling the romance, so to speak."

Steve's smile grew wider then, even as his eyes drooped in exhaustion. "I'd watch that kind of talk, Danny," he warned jokingly, letting his eyes close altogether. "People might start talking."

Danny smirked at that, patting his partner's hand in a gesture of mock consolation. "Too late for that, babe. People are talking already."

The End

There you have it. No real plot. Just an excuse for some whump and warm fuzzy feelings. Hope you liked it.