Chapter 28 – Alternate Ending
Okay, here is what was requested. If it's effective, you'll need an anti-depressant and a box of Kleenex. Thank you, (I think), to those of you who pushed me to write it. I have to go now. The tractor trailer with my delivery of rocky road just pulled up and I have to help them unload.
Note: The first part of the chapter is exactly as most of the original ending. The new part begins where Cheney's body is discovered by Danny.
Thank you for your wonderful support and your fabulous ideas - many of which were incorporated into the story. Thanks also to sallydeathhands for the term 'charred cockroach'.
Disclaimer: The usual
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0* Hawaii 5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*
The Man Who Would Not Break
"Danny!" yelled Steve as his friend's shirt ripped away from his grasp; the detective landing heavily on the walkway.
Through the hole that had been blasted in the door, Steve caught a glimpse of terrified eyes behind the swirling smoke and with horror realized there was probably an entire classroom of hostages.
Keeping low, he grabbed his partner under the arms to drag his limp body around the corner to safety. He could see blood darkened hair over Danny's right ear with more of it soaking into his collar. Quickly locating the pulse point on the side of the unconscious man's neck; he was relieved to find a strong if fast throbbing. His own heartbeat matched if not surpassed the rapid rhythm.
Looking around for the detective's gun, he realized it must have been lost when Danny had crashed to the concrete. That meant he had only one gun with one clip at his disposal which was worrisome without knowing what firepower the shooter had in addition to the shotgun.
As they'd run toward the classrooms, his SIG had almost magically appeared in his hand. Even though he wouldn't be working for several more weeks, the ominous feeling that haunted him for the last couple of days demanded he arm himself. When he'd clipped the gun to his belt this morning along with his badge, Danny had raised his eyebrows but had said nothing. Perhaps telling him of Catherine's warning had been a good idea.
"McGarrett!" echoed a voice through the smoke.
With a jolt, Steve immediately recognized its owner. This is it; the manifestation of Catherine's warning and his own sense of foreboding. So, the bastard hadn't died in the fire!
"What do you want Cheney!?" yelled Steve, "If you want me, I'll come out! Let the kids go!"
There was no answer. The only sounds were that of crying children and, in the far distance, sirens.
"Cheney! Your issue is with me! The children have nothing to do with it!" he called again, "Let your hostages go!"
Rising from his crouch with muscles tensed to make a charge, he peered around the corner but saw nothing other than the smoke that continued to pour through the ragged hole in the door as well as from the transom style windows above it.
He turned back to Danny when the downed man groaned and began to stir.
"Stay down D.!" hissed Steve as he placed a hand on his partner to stop him from getting up.
"Grace! My Gracie's in there!" moaned Danny as he struggled against the large paw planted annoyingly in the middle of his chest.
"Stay down dammit!" growled the SEAL
"Steve! I have to . . . "
"Danny stop or you'll make it worse!" barked McGarrett; this time pushing his partner not so gently back onto the concrete.
"Worse! Worse! Le'me up and get out of my way dammit! I'm gonna kill that bastard and get my daughter back!" yelled Danny as his head began to clear a bit.
"Danny! Knock it off! We have to first figure out how to go in so that no one gets hurt when we do it! We don't want Gracie getting hurt, (or killed, he didn't even have to say it), if we push the shooter into doing something quicker than he'd planned!"
The words seemed to sink in. The detective's pale blue and still not terribly focused eyes held a terrible desperation but he nodded and stopped struggling.
Cheney yelled, "You still there McGarrett?" He actually sounded amused; no hint of anxiety in his voice. Steve knew that wasn't good. It meant the madman had made up his mind about whatever evil he intended and was confident he held all the cards.
Danny stiffened when he heard that voice. "That's the bastard we thought was dead!"
"Yeah, looks like the charred cockroach made it back to the islands." confirmed Steve taking his hand away and trusting Danny not to immediately charge around the corner.
"I said let the children go, Cheney! They're not part of this! It's time you and I settled whatever it is you think needs settling."
The madman calmly replied, "You know, this isn't going exactly the way I'd planned it but I'm sure it will work out in the end. You need to know what comes next McGarrett! You need to know that someone you love . . . another someone . . . is going to die because of what you did!"
Having to latch onto Danny once more to keep him from rushing the classroom, "Don't you dare touch those kids!" thundered the SEAL.
"Oh, there's only one child I have any interest in. Of course, the others may wind up collateral damage. You'd know about collateral damage right McGarrett?" There was a sick glee in the voice that floated with the acrid smoke into the courtyard.
"My baby's in there! I'm going in to get her!" snarled Danny
Not releasing his hold, McGarrett evaluated his battered and bleeding friend. "You can't even see straight." he pronounced
"I can see well enough!" snapped Danny though his still unfocused gaze in no way substantiated his claim.
"You stay here. I'll bring Grace to you. Stay here Danny." tried Steve though his orders had no chance in hell of being followed.
"Not gonna happen dammit! Le'me go!" demanded the blonde as he pried at the hand keeping him in place. "Besides, I know the layout. There's windows on the back side of the room. They face the playing field behind the school."
"McGarrett!" again sounded the madman's voice. "I'd planned on using the smoke bomb to grab your partner's kid and make a run for it. It would've made for great media coverage but it seems, with your unexpected appearance, I had to alter that plan. How many shrinks do you think it will take to straighten out these kids after they watch one of their classmates die?"
Suddenly, there erupted the sound of terrified high-pitched screaming followed by a gunshot.
With that, Danny lurched upward while punching his friend in the chest. The blow caused the SEAL to see stars as his still healing wounds reacted to the impact. Gasping, he rocked backward at the sudden agony in his chest but before the blonde could get any farther, launched himself forward to get him in a choke hold.
Danny's nails gouged at the arm like a hinged iron bar around his neck. As he struggled while the blood supply to his brain lessened, his vision began to waver before all went black. His last thought was of his daughter.
Feeling Danny's body jerk once in spasm then go limp, Steve gently lowered him to the concrete. He couldn't have any one else he cared about injured or killed because of something he'd started those many years ago.
"Hey, McGarrett! You still there?" yelled Cheney
"Yeah, I'm here! What are your demands Cheney! What do you want in exchange for the children?" Steve knew full well what the bastard wanted. He wanted to kill Grace in front of him.
"I tell you what Commander, (he made the rank sound like a slur). "You come to this room unarmed and alone and I'll let these brats leave."
"How do I know you'll do what you say?" asked Steve, stalling for time. He needed HPD to get here to pose a distraction.
"You don't. But you do have one minute to decide if you're going to show up before I start using these little fuckers for target practice." was the icy reply. "I'm starting my count now, McGarrett . . . tick-tock." the last part spoken in a cheery sing-song as though it amused him.
16A was one of the two classrooms that made up the eastern boundary of St. Thomas Aquinas Academy's open courtyard configuration. With thick masonry walls and windows that opened onto the field behind it, it lessened the chance of anyone catching a stray bullet. The windows that faced the short hallway leading to the courtyard at one end and the playing field at the other were high-up just below the roofline but the ones on the wall facing the back were lower down. There were no windows of any sort that opened directly into the courtyard.
Knowing his mission, gun held low, the SEAL quickly rounded the corner to duck past the ragged opening in the door before continuing down the hallway to the iron gate that opened onto the grassy expanse behind the school. He turned left around the next corner and keeping low, began to belly crawl across the recently mown grass. He could smell the crisp green of it even through smoke still swirled out of the big tilt-out windows above his head.
Though the man was crazier than a bedbug, he knew Cheney would be expecting to see someone at the most accessible entrances to the room. Steve had the feeling that as soon as the bastard caught sight of him and was sure 'The Commander' could observe his actions, Gracie would be killed. It was important that he move quickly and silently before Cheney could spot him or time ran out.
Cautiously rising to risk a quick peek through a corner of a window, he saw a group of children cowering against the back wall. He couldn't tell if Grace was among them or if she'd already been separated from her classmates. A woman lay bleeding on the floor in the middle of the room. He couldn't tell if she was alive.
"You got ten seconds left McGarrett before I start shooting!" called out Cheney, "Ten, nine, eight . . . "
"Let my daughter go you bastard or you're gonna be filled so full of lead, they'll use you as a boat anchor!" came a yell from the direction of the door. Danny had come-to and apparently found his gun.
Cheney never made it to 'seven' as Steve used the distraction to launch himself through the narrow opening, bending the metal frame downward and breaking its glass as he flew through it. He hit the floor and rolled behind the big wooden desk at the front of the room. With screaming children huddled behind the shooter, he couldn't risk snapping off a shot.
Gracie, silent but eyes wide with fear, was clutched in front of the madman. Cheney, gun wavering between two targets didn't have a chance to get off a round as Steve barreled into him and they both crashed onto a pile of chairs stacked against the far wall; Gracie falling to the side but nimbly regaining her feet to rush toward her father.
Danny, quickly snatching her up, herded the screaming children toward the doorway as the two men struggled on, knocking over desks and bookcases that emptied their volumes onto the floor to be trampled in battle. Cheney was tougher than he looked and held onto his gun despite his opponent's best efforts to take it from him as shots went wild. Steve, tiring badly, lost his SIG when, together, they'd crashed onto a metal project table and the edge of it bit into his wrist and numbed his fingers. It wasn't a proud moment.
Danny set Grace down and placed himself between the struggling men and the kids, attempting to be a human barrier between them and stray bullets. One of the children cried out and went down just before the last of his classmates made it out the door. Danny quickly scooped him up and, as a shot took a chunk of wood out of the frame next to his head, burst out the doorway toward safety.
Having delivered the wounded boy into the arms of an EMT, Danny once again found Grace in the frightened gaggle of youngsters standing crying and shaking on the far side of the quadrangle. Several members of SWAT rushed past the kneeling father and his daughter toward the besieged classroom as another shot rang out followed by what sounded like breaking glass.
"Monkey, are you alright?!" frantically questioned Grace Williams' father as he kneeled in front of her.
The brown-haired girl, dark eyes wide and frightened merely shook her head yes as her father hugged her tightly then pushed her away from him while keeping hold of both shoulders to examine and confirm her silent declaration of well-being.
Danny heard someone shout, "There's no one here except an injured woman! Get EMT's in here! Check outside!"
"Stay here baby! I'm going to go check on Uncle Steve!" shouted Danny to Grace as an officer he recognized was suddenly beside them and he urged his daughter toward her. "Take care of Grace for me Hanna I've gotta check on my partner!" Without waiting for Officer Hanamoa's response, he ran across the courtyard and down the short hallway that ended at an unlocked iron gate. Slamming it open, he rushed onto the grassy school ground.
Through the smoke that drifted across the expanse he saw two bodies on the grass. Heart in his throat, he rushed forward; not even feeling the ground beneath him. Reaching the first man, he didn't bother to check for a pulse. Cheney was clearly dead; head at an odd angle; neck obviously having been snapped.
A few feet away, Steve lay sprawled face down. Reaching him in another stride; Danny knelt to feel for a pulse. His own heart nearly stopped as, at first, he couldn't find one but he adjusted his fingers and it was there; weak and frighteningly irregular. Gently turning his partner onto his back he could see what had been a light blue T-shirt now almost solidly stained a bright crimson.
"Shit, shit!" muttered Danny as he pressed on the wound to staunch the alarming blood flow. Voice cracking with despair, the detective yelled out to those behind him, "Officer down! Get the EMT's!"
Steve moaned and tried to curl away from the pain.
"Quit moving around dammit!" yelled Danny as blood flowed out from between his fingers and over the backs of his hands, his worry making him sound angry.
"Danny . . . 'm sorry . . . didn' geh hur . . . hurt on purpose." stammered Steve before coughing a fine spray of blood onto the front of his partner's shirt.
"I know, babe, I know. It's gonna be okay." responded the detective, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice, "Just stay still, we're gonna get you help. It's gonna be alright."
"Is Gracie 'kay?" more coughing, more blood.
"Yeah you idiot, you saved her."
"Tha's good. She . . . she's a good kid." Whatever else he intended to say was abandoned for a groaned expression of pain, "Hurss."
Shh, I know, I know." said Danny, "And I know it wasn't on purpose. Just stay with me okay?"
"So tired." breathed Steve, eyes beginning to close.
"No sleeping! You stay awake!" desperately ordered his partner.
In the distance he could hear people shouting orders and going about securing the area. Eddies of black smoke drifted across the face of the sun; their ominous shadows floating over them as the smell of burning wood and gunpowder swirled about in acrid layers. The smoke bomb must have started a blaze but there were plenty of firefighters here to take care of it.
"Sorry Dan . . . no. Doan think 'm gonna make it outta this one. Tell . . . " the wounded man paused to take a bubbling breath, "Tell Gracie . . . I . . . love her . . . Chin and Kono too ."
"Don't think I'm gonna be your messenger boy. You can tell them yourself." snapped the detective.
Danny thought he saw a brief smile before Steve's face twisted in pain.
"We need you, babe." pleaded the blonde, "You're not going anywhere."
"Cath . . . "
"What about Cath? What about her?" asked Danny desperately trying to keep Steve from closing his eyes and slipping away.
"She's . . . wait . . . waiting."
"What is she waiting for babe?" asked Danny in dread though he was pretty sure he knew what the answer was going to be.
But Steve couldn't answer. There was more coughing, more blood and his partner's tears dripped onto a shirt now stained a solid red
Danny, desperate to keep his brother from drifting off into that place where he couldn't follow implored, "You didn't answer me babe. What is Catherine waiting for?"
Steve looked up at him with eyes that seemed strangely clear and free of pain and announced softly, "I have to go now."
"Please don't leave Steven, please . . . help's coming. Just hang on a while longer babe." pleaded Danny, giving up trying to hide just how desperate he is.
"She's waiting for me." Hazel-blue eyes widened to gaze somewhere beyond his friend. "I can . . . I can see . . . her. She's so beautiful." he breathed as a smile transformed his face into an expression so filled with longing it broke Danny's heart.
"She's waiting . . . with . . . with our baby".
Choking back his own tears, Danny suddenly realized his own selfishness for what it was. Steve needed to go with her. Pulling his hands away from where they'd been pressed and taking a deep shuddering breath before speaking he said softly, "its okay Steven. We're all gonna be fine now. You did your job and everyone is safe now. You can leave if you have to. You can go be with Catherine."
"Mm sorry Danny." said Steve in a whisper only barely audible as Danny leaned closer and stroked the dark hair back from a pale forehead.
Barely able to make his tightened throat release the words, Danny choked out, "You tell Cath hi for me and . . . and . . . ", He had to do this. He had to let Steve go. "If she doesn't know, tell her how much you were loved and we want her to take care of you as you took care of your ohana."
Steve's eyes looked one last time into his and as he closed them a soft smile came over his face and he took one, last, shallow, breath and with a gentle exhale became still.
Steve had finally joined his Catherine.
Danny clasped his friend tightly to his chest as his tears silently slipped down his face. Strangely, at that moment, the scent of blood, cordite and smoke was no more and the air that blew over them was cool and fragrant with the scent of gardenias.
He didn't think he could even sleep but, finally, exhaustion had claimed him and he had a dream. It was a strange one.
Steve and Catherine were dancing on the shore in the moonlight. They were waltzing; the sand not inhibiting their smooth graceful movements. Their music was the sound of waves spreading out around them then retreating to pull them lovingly toward the ocean.
With their perfect bodies pressed together; they gazed into each other's eyes and didn't seem to notice him watching. They danced as light sparkled on the water and stars sparkled over them. The dark sky and dark ocean became a seamless velvet surface dotted with glittering points of light . . . and Steve and Catherine danced on.
He watched for what seemed an hour as tension melted from his body and he could feel something loosen and unwrap from around his heart as they glided on in beautiful silence.
When he woke, the living room glowed with sunlight and through the window that had been left open came the lingering scent of ocean and flowers – gardenias maybe?
Still having the key to the house, he couldn't go home after the funeral and had come to Steve's perhaps to find comfort in a place that had provided it so many times in the past even though his friend was no longer in it.
Sitting up, he tried to empty the images from his mind as he surveyed the room. He saw his jacket, shirt and slacks piled in the corner where he'd dropped them before collapsing onto the sofa in exhaustion. Strangely, there seemed to be sand crusted on his shoes as well as the cuffs of his pants.
The next thing he noticed was that, somehow, he no longer physically ached with sadness. As he rose from his sleeping place he thought perhaps it was all a dream . . . everything. Maybe Steve and Catherine were going to be waiting for him at H.Q. but the thought was interrupted by the memory of his partner's blood staining and stiffening the cloth of the shirt he tore off and threw in the trash as soon as he got home. Tears immediately sprang to his eyes.
Clearing his throat, he picked up his phone and glanced at the time before hitting speed dial for Rachel. She picked up on the second ring.
"Daniel?" she asked tentatively though she knew who it was.
"How's Gracie?" he asked
"She's still abed. She finally cried herself to sleep in the wee hours. How are you?" she asked
"I don't know." he answered honestly.
"We'll get through this Daniel. Grace and you and all of Steve's friends will somehow get through this."
"Do you believe in visions, umm dreams . . . that sort of stuff?"
Knowing what her former husband needed to hear whether she really believed it or not she said, "Of course."
Danny needed to hear Rachel confirm it. He knew that Steve had found his Catherine and he was finally at peace. How could he begrudge him that? How could he regret his brother had finally found what he'd been looking for and had been reunited with the woman he truly loved more than life?
Steven J. McGarrett would be missed with every breath his partner took but this was the way it had to be. This was the only way it could end.
The funeral was attended by pretty much anyone whose lives had been somehow touched by the man who'd so fiercely protected them and their islands. Rather than being buried in the National Cemetery where his father lay interred, Steve's ashes were scattered at sea as Catherine's had been, his sea . . . their sea.
Months ago, during a long, boring stakeout, Danny had actually spoken with him about where they wanted their final resting places to be if the worst came to be during their sometimes dangerous jobs. Danny had said he wanted to be buried in Jersey. Steve had smiled saying that was no great surprise then said he wanted his ashes to be scattered over the ocean and, if possible, to have a traditional Hawaiian ceremony with leis being thrown onto the waves in farewell.
At the time, Danny had been a bit surprised the SEAL didn't want to be where others in the military lay in their final resting places; where John McGarrett lay. Frankly, it seemed a bit out of character for his partner to choose such a romantic farewell. When he'd made reference to it being a bit sappy, Steve had smiled and said, "What the hell. Who knows how I'll go and where I'll be. Just try not to forget me okay?"
That could never, ever happen. No one in his ohana would ever forget him.
The team decided they couldn't continue without their leader.
In the mornings when the door to H.Q. swung open Kono half expected to see a tall figure with a swagger and a crooked smile come striding through it. Within a month, she tendered her resignation and spent several weeks trying to deal with her sorrow. For hours, she'd sit on her board as the water rocked under her and soothed her raw grief. After a while she began to give surfing lessons for pay. It was a struggle but when Steve's will had been settled she found that he'd left her some money for 'when you get tired of being a cop and want to do something sane'.
She used it to hire help and establish an actual school. It became almost immediately profitable. But in the evenings, as the sun dipped into the ocean and the sky became a riot of color, she thought of her friend and how he'd emerge smiling from the sea like one of its creatures that had become land-bound for only a short while before once again slipping into its waves. She missed him with all her heart.
Chin went back to HPD for a while. Though no one ever said anything directly to him, he still had the feeling he was only being tolerated. When Steve was around, no one would dare cop an attitude because Five-0's fierce leader would eventually hear of it, (though never from Chin himself), and it would magically cease. Finally deciding he'd had enough, Chin took the money Steve had left him and went back to school to become a teacher. He was, of course, an excellent one who gave classes in police science at the local community college. He even got a kick out of being called Mr. Kelly.
Danny was lost without his friend. Staying in Hawaii wouldn't ever be the same. Within a month after the cousins had made their decisions to resign from Five-0, Stan Edwards had decided to move to San Francisco to oversee one of his businesses. Danny didn't bother to fight Rachel over the move and once again followed his daughter across the ocean. He'd quickly found a place on SFPD's force and was relatively happy to continue his career in law enforcement but never again worked with a steady partner. No one could ever be his partner the way Steve had been and it was just as well to not compare all others against the man who'd been there before. Steve had provided a not unsubstantial amount to subsidize Grace's college education. She'd broken into tears when told of it and vowed to be the best student ever. Danny was in tears as well.
With all of its members now gone, Denning declined to keep 5-0 going. They'd made such a difference and now it was someone else's turn to step up. The Governor had HPD's headquarters re-named The McGarrett Building and on the wall commemorating its fallen officers was the portrait of a handsome dark-haired man with a fierce stare and a Navy uniform. Every time Sam Denning would happen to pass it he would stop and gaze at it for a few moments before going on about his business.
The wonderful experiment that was The Governor's Special Task Force was no more but Hawaii would never be the same. It was safer and more secure than it had ever been. And on moonlit nights, some of its residents could swear they'd smell gardenias and in the distance see a couple dancing on the shore.
*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0* Hawaii 5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*
Okay, there you have it. I hope it wasn't too AU and that it was a fitting end for our hero. Let me know your thoughts. I'm going to go lie down now.