A/N: And of course, I had to do a tag for 5x07. (Of course.) This story differs quite a bit from my usual writing style, but it really flowed well while I was writing, and as I'm pretty sure the H50 writers aren't going to give us any of this (as usual) I just had to scribble down my own for that thrilling, mind blowing, heartbreaking episode.

(Un-beta'd as always, and, sadly, I still don't own H50.)

(And if any of you who have followed or read my other story "Not Again" are reading this, you have my most sincere apologies for my delay in updating that story. I have NOT abandoned it, I've just been a little burned out. Writing this re-awoke my muse, however, so hopefully I'll be able to get back into the wonderful world of Fanfiction and finish that up soon. ;))

"You're not going to kill me," Wo Fat's voice echoes through the small, damp, concrete room. He sounds confident, but a touch of uncertainty colors his voice, and is confirmed by the words that follow. "Are you?" There is a pause, and the sound of dripping water, punctuated by harsh, gasping breaths fills the silence, "Brother?"

Brother. Steve tenses unconsciously, but doesn't take his eyes from the bloody face of the man across from him. His body aches, blood dripping onto the wet floor where the two men lay, exhausted, bloodied, beaten, but neither willing to give in. His vision swims, and he can barely find the strength to hold his head up off the floor, but the only thing of clarity in his vision is the face of his enemy; the man who murdered his father, who took his mother from him so many years ago.

Steve always knew it would come down to this; the two of them, two guns, and an empire built on that moment years ago when Victor Hesse pulled the trigger. An empire of determination, of strength, of the difference between right and wrong; the difference between justice and revenge. Of love and loss.

Of family. Always of family.

But this isn't exactly how Steve had pictured the end. He always figured his team would be there; standing behind him, supporting him, just like they always were. Chin's constant, steady presence, Kono's encouraging gaze and support, Danny's sarcasm and undying loyalty. Even Lou Grover had become a part of the team, and his professional, yet smartass attitude had quickly made him irreplaceable as part of the team - and their ohana.

But then, things never happen the way you expect them to, and here they are, just the two of them.

And no matter how this ends, the outcome will finish what Wo Fat started all those years ago - the years of torment, of struggling with guilt, as the sound of his father murder played over and over in Steve's ears. The years of missing his mother, the lonely, confused nights after everything he had ever known had been stripped away from him, only to be found and lost all over again.

This would finish it; this would bring an end to the hell he has been living in for the past 4 years, and - for the first time - there is nothing stopping him.

Wo Fat's last word echoes through his mind. Brother. Steve's finger tightens on the trigger, and it takes every last ounce of strength he has to form the words; to say the only thing that screams at him, over and over.

"You're not my brother."

There is a flash of white light, a roaring his ears and a burst of pain as Steve pulls the trigger, and two gunshots echo through the room simultaneously. Even as his body goes limp, Steve sees the familiar face of his father, and everything else fades away, only to be replaced by the sound of a loved voice - so familiar, yet so distant - saying his name.


There's nothing left of reality to hold onto, so Steve gives in to the invading darkness.

I'm coming, Dad.

The moment the door swings open, revealing three bodies on the concrete floor of the small room, Danny's heart rises in his throat, and for a moment, all he wants to do is turn and run the other direction. There is no movement, no sound, no sign of life from any of the two men on the floor (the only woman is obviously dead, her neck cleanly broken) but the thought that his partner - his best friend - had died at the hands of Wo Fat is not even to be considered.

A quick glance around the room shows that they are alone; besides the three, beaten and bloodied forms on the floor, the room is empty, and, aware of his teams' comforting presence behind him, Danny enters the cold, damp room; every muscle in his body is in knots, his throat so tight he can scarcely swallow, an overwhelming fear engulfing his mind, nearly strangling him.


Danny's voice trembles as he says his partner's name, but there is no answer, and inspite of the fear that overwhelms him, he is unable to pull his eyes away from the bruised, beaten form of his partner. Abandoning all caution, Danny drops his gun, letting it hang from the strap over his shoulder, and hurries to the unconscious man's side, taking note of the handgun still between Mcgarrett's limp fingers. The water on the floor immediately soaks the knees of his pants as he kneels down, but he doesn't even notice.

"Steve, you alright? " Throat tight with fear, Danny reaches for his friend's arm, but just as his fingers touch the cold, clammy skin, Steve jerks upwards, eyes wild, his gaze roaming over the faces bent over him with an expression of confusion, "Hey, you're alright, you're alright, c'mon."

He's alive. He's okay.

Chin kneels down on the other side of the trembling man, and gripping Steve's shoulders gently, together, they ease the bloodied man backwards, leaning him against the wall in a semi-upright position.

Gently, Danny clasps the back of Steve's neck with his gloved hand, hoping to ground him, and squeezes, speaking in a soft, reassuring tone, "Hey, you alright, huh? You alright?"

Light tremors are running through Steve's body, and he glances dazedly at Chin, then back at Danny, his eyes hollow and still slightly confused, "Yeah," he murmurs, then more softly, "Yeah."

Like hell you are. In spite of the expected - and usually rather humorous - affirmation, Danny finds nothing funny in his partner's words. It's almost as if the broken, beaten man before him is trying to convince himself, rather than anyone else, that he is, in fact, okay.

But okay is the last thing Steve Mcgarrett is. There are dark, prominent bruises on his arms, and charcoal colored circles under his eyes, and Danny doesn't like the harsh, raspy inhale, exhale coming from his partner's lips as he breathes, chest heaving like he just finished running a marathon.

Burn marks cover his torso, obviously from the cattle prod that sits nearby, and silently, Danny curses Wo Fat's unnatural fondness for that particular device. There are multiple injection sites, on Steve's chest, arms and neck and blood is trickling from a bullet wound on his arm and another on his forehead. But what is worrying Danny the most is the confusion; the look of dazed uncertainty, the dull, dead expression in Steve's haunted, dream-stricken eyes.

The next words Steve utters, however, are enough to make Danny feel like someone has punched him in the gut. Hard.

"Hey, where's my father?" Steve turns his head, and looks around briefly, eyes raking the walls and open doorway, "I wanna see my dad. I wanna see my dad."

Danny catches Chin's eye, and he can feel Kono's concerned gaze burning like fire into his back from where she is crouching down, her face a mask of worry. "Hey," Danny's words are choked; forced out from between reluctant lips. Steve's bleary gaze catches his, his eyes searching, questioning, begging, and Danny has to look away for a moment. "Buddy, your dad died four years ago, okay?"

He can see it; the shift in Steve's eyes as he forces himself to meet his partner's gaze. The return from whatever drug-induced world he had been lost in; the return to harsh, cold reality. He sees the confusion, then a flash of self-consciousness, and the realization that nothing - not even killing Wo Fat - could ever bring his father back.

"Yeah." Emotions play across the ashen, blood streaked face as clearly as lightning streaking across a black sky, a hurricane of memories, and he repeats, "Yeah."

In a flash, Danny sees the extent of the pain, the loss, the guilt, that weighs on Steve like a physical burden on his shoulders, and then, Steve's face crumples, his chest heaving, straining, fighting against the tears that force themselves to his eyes.

Throat tight, Danny manages to murmur a few words of comfort, gripping Steve's neck tighter, his heart pounding painfully in his chest at the overwhelming flood of fear, anger, relief and sorrow that begs for release. But then, the raw emotion on his partner's face fades to an expression of defeated resignation, pain, and exhaustion, and Steve's voice actually trembles as he rasps, "Alright, let's go," his lip quivering, face contorted with pain, "Let's go."

The silence in the room is oppressive, almost smothering, and Chin and Danny tug him gently upright, their hands sure and supportive as they ease under Steve's arms, and settle his weight on their shoulders. Lou touches Steve's limp hand reassuringly for a moment as they shuffle past him towards the door, but as they reach the body lying on the floor, Steve halts suddenly, trembling, and rasps out, "Wait, wait."

His arms heavy on the shoulders of his friends, Steve stares into the blank, open eyes of the man before him, the blood pooling like a crimson river on the concrete, the bullet-hole in the center of Wo Fat's forehead. His breath hitches in his chest, and he pants painfully for air, chest heaving, eyes fixed on the scene of death before him, tears clouding his vision.

He can feel Danny's gaze, and the tightening of the blond man's fingers around his waist. When he is finally able to tear his eyes away, his breath is coming in sobbing gasps, his voice barely audible as he murmurs, "Let's go. Let's go."

He barely registers the movement as Danny and Chin steer him towards the door, doesn't notice the sound of Grover's voice behind them, talking in a tense, animated tone to someone on the phone, doesn't even see Kono walking in front of them, her shoulders as tense as wound coils, her face a mix of vulnerability, determination and sorrow.

He grips his friends' shoulders more tightly, and just holds on as he is lead forward out of the darkness, and towards the light.

By the time they reach the impressive number of stairs leading out of the warehouse basement, Steve is shaking more violently, and is barely able to keep his head up. "Danny… D-Danny…" his voice is raspy, and trembling with fatigue, and his dragging feet force the small group to a standstill, "I don't think... I can't…"

"We're almost there, babe," Danny's voice is reassuring, calming, encouraging, but his eyes connect with Chin's for a moment, and an look of growing concern passes between them. "Just hang in there, alright? We're almost there."

Kono is waiting for them, her eyes asking unanswered questions, and Lou's muted voice echoes through the eerie hallway as he blusters and bellows the information to the voice on the other end of the line.

"You can do this, Steve," Chin says, encouragingly. "You're almost there."

Painfully, Steve raises his head, but the image before him blurs in and out of focus. Everything hurts; his head pounds, a dizzying chorus of drum beats and gongs, his neck, shoulders and arms ache from the restraints, abuse and needles, but what is bothering him the most is his chest. Every breath is a combination of painful gasps and wheezes, due to the water in his lungs. And that last syringe full of drugs seems to be doing something to his heart - it pounds furiously, painfully fast, and Steve almost thinks it will burst out of his chest at any moment.

The harsh white walls are jumbling together now, and his legs seem determined to work against him, but he nods. It's all he can manage. Now is not the time to give up; he's not allowed to - not yet - and mere moments later, he finds himself being half carried out of the warm, stuffy building and out into the clear, evening air.

He's shivering, but his skin is on fire - every inch of him seems to be burning, crumbling, screaming. As the cool, soothing breeze caresses his tortured frame, he sucks in a deep breath, tasting salt on his tongue. The whisper of wind ruffles his sweat soaked hair and brings with it the smell of the distant ocean as the dusk deepens.

"The ambulance will be here any minute," Grover says, his eyes sweeping over Steve's beaten form before finding Danny's face, "I'll guide them over."

Danny nods, and tightens his grip around Steve's waist as the man stumbles, fatigue rending every movement clumsy, and by god, nearly impossible. "Steve, you still with me?"

The words penetrate the haze surrounding Steve's mind, mingling with the images flashing before his eyes; memories of Mary, his father, and his mother. Laughter, wind blown curls, the glare of the sun on the ocean, his father's voice telling him to smile for the camera, a breathless, gasping laugh as his mother throws her head back, eyes sparkling joyously…

Flashes. So many flashes.

Bursts of light - camera flashes, car lights, lightning, bombs, electricity, the sizzle of a cattle prod…

"Steve! Hey! Man, stay with me, now."

A voice speaks in his ear, and gasping, Steve jerks away, desperately trying to free himself from the hands that are holding him, chest heaving, reeling from the overwhelming flood of memories, and mixed dreams, confusions of reality, present and past.

That voice again, calling his name. Dad?


Steve blinks. Not Dad.

"Danny?" he rasps, his words jumbled and muted, "D-Danny." He blinks, and slowly, slowly reality comes back into focus, materializing and solidifying before his eyes; lights are flashing in the distance, and a hand rubs his neck, the ghost of a breath warm on his cheek.

"Steve, hey," Danny tightens his grip on Steve's arm, the muscles tense underneath his fingertips, and lowers his voice to a murmur, "Hey, it's alright. Everything's going to be okay, you hear me?"

Steve blinks again, and the worried face of his partner emerges from the haze before his eyes.

"You hear me?" Danny repeats, "Everything's going to be fine."

The sound of Danny's voice is soothing, confident, and very, very real - so unlike the shimmering, flickering voices of his hallucinations - and the lines on Steve's face ease just slightly, "Yeah," he says hoarsely, his voice barely audible above the sudden wail of sirens approaching, "Yeah."

And he is - at least, he will be. Wo Fat is dead. He's alive. He's no longer alone in the dark, damp room haunted by ghosts of the past, and demons of the present. Surrounded by his team, his friends, his ohana, he knows everything will be alright.

Besides, if Danny says so, it must be true.

"How long?"

Sitting in the back of the ambulance, his knees touching the silver metal of the stretcher Steve is lying on, Danny directs his impatient question at the young medic before him. The ambulance has barely pulled away from the ring of flashing lights and excited voices, and she is already engaged in fixing an oxygen mask over Steve's ashen, sweat soaked face. Her hands are sure but gentle as she slips the strap over Steve's head, and adjusts a knob on the oxygen canister.

"We're not far," the medic looks up briefly from her patient, the pale light glinting off her white name tag that reads "Alani" in a dark, dull font. "Don't worry, detective, we'll be there as soon as we can."

She shoots him a small smile, but no matter how hard the driver presses the accelerator to the floor, it's never fast enough to suit Danny. Not when his partner - his best friend - is lying on a cold, uncomfortable gurney, face twisted in a pained grimace, every breath coming in slow, gasping heaves despite the condensation forming on the mask over his nose and lips.

There are dark, gray circles under Steve's eyes, augmented even more harshly by the unnatural pallor of his skin, and the bruises beginning to appear in shades of purple and green. His eyes are closed, but the occasional twitching of his eyelids tells Danny that he's not asleep, unconscious or even resting.

A tangle of electrode wires attached to Steve's chest lead to a heart monitor that is beeping rapidly in the background, and the medic is wrapping gauze around his arm, gently dabbing at the clotting wound on his temple and applying a thick ointment to the painful burns on his chest.

Danny knows she's only doing her job, but every time her hands touch Steve's skin, he stiffens as if he'd been burned, the annoying beep, beep of the monitor quickening, then slowing until the next touch sends Steve's pulse into a flurry of erratic, disjointed beats.

An IV has already been inserted in the back of Steve's hand. It is continually pumping a steady stream of clear liquid into his bloodstream, flushing his system, restoring the fluids that Steve's severely dehydrated body sorely needs.

Danny can still see the terror that sprang into Steve's eyes when the medic approached, holding the needle… still feel the anger burning in his chest at the thought of what kind of brutality it takes to turn someone like Steve into the trembling, desperate, and utterly terrified man he'd seen before him.

Pupils dilated, his gaze frantically flicking over the unfamiliar faces gathered above him as he was settled on a gurney, hands clenched into fists. It had taken a good deal of reassuring, calming words before Steve had allowed the silver needle to be inserted into his vein - and the sight of the other puncture marks scattered over Steve's bruised body only fueled Danny's anger into a raging inferno.

Danny sighs heavily, and adjusts his grip on Steve's hand, rubbing his thumb gently over the bruises and abrasion that fleck Steve's knuckles. He hasn't released Steve's hand since gripping the searching, desperate fingers upon their departure from the warehouse parking lot, and the surprising strength in Steve's grip tells him that the contact is a lifeline - a thin line of reality connecting Steve to the present.

He hears the mumbled words of the paramedics as they communicate with each other; a bevy of words, and only a few that Danny recognizes. Words like "high blood pressure", "erratic heartbeat" and "...unknown substance...", and inspite of the false, reassuring smiles pasted on their faces, Danny knows that Steve's present condition is anything but ideal.

"Commander," Alani's voice snaps Danny out of his troubled thoughts and he looks up to see her addressing Steve, who's eyes are now fixed blearily on her face, "Do you have any idea what drugs you were injected with? Did you see a bottle, or a label of any kind? Do you remember anything that could tell us what was used?"

Steve's eyes flutter from the medic's face to Danny's, a look of exhausted confusion in his blue eyes, and Danny wants to scream in frustration that no, the man was just tortured; of course they didn't tell him what they were injecting him with, just out of consideration, but he holds his tongue.

"No," Steve's reply is distracted, his eyes half lidded and shifty. The lights are blinding him, burning into his skull like thousands of tiny arrows, and he licks his lips before rasping out, "N-no, nothing." And it's true - even in his drug muddled state, he knows that Wo Fat was too careful - too efficient - to leave anything behind that might help him in any way.

There is a renewal of pressure on his hand, a calm, steady force, and Steve turns his head. A blurry face comes into view, the blue eyes tired and strained, face lined and flushed, but Danny's lips curl upwards into a small smile as Steve's vision clears just slightly.

"Hey," Danny's voice is soft, distorted, as if coming from a great distance. "How you doing, buddy?"

Steve licks his lips, but his answer isn't in response to the question. "Danny," his voice is husky and barely audible from behind the mask, "D-Danny, can you…" He can't say what he wants to, but the heart monitor complains again as Alani inspects a swollen, inflamed injection site on his arm, and Danny's eyes flick down to the hand he is still gripping, a flood of realization washing over him.

"Oh, babe," Danny's tone is apologetic, angry and suddenly choked, but there is nothing but understanding reflected in his gaze, "yeah, yeah, hold on." Loosening his fingers from Steve's grasp, Danny first unbuckles the restraints around Steve's wrists, then moves to the ones around his ankles, dropping the items on the floor as if they are burning coals.

"There," returning to Steve's side, Danny does his best to ignore the harsh red abrasions around Steve's wrists, "Is that better?"

"Yeah," Steve's eyes meet Danny's, the lines on his face softening ever so slightly, and he nods jerkily, his voice thin, "Thanks."

Danny nods, and finds his seat by Steve's side, his eyes never leaving the half lidded, bleary gaze of his partner.

Steve licks his lips, and frowns, his brow wrinkling in concentration, "Where's Chin?" Steve rasps, as if just noticing the absent team members, "Kono?"

"They'll meet us at the hospital," Danny reassures him, and Steve nods, a few more lines around his mouth and haunted eyes easing at the words, and Danny's throat tightens, because even in the shape he's in, even after being tortured, drugged and absolutely wrecked, Steve is worried about them; worried about his team, his ohana. "They're following us," he says softly, "We'll be there soon."

There is a barely perceptible jerk of Steve's head, a pained grimace washing across his face, brow tightening, and Danny says instinctively, "Hey buddy, you okay?"

The question is so outrageous, so utterly absurd and unanswerable, that Steve can't help the harsh laugh that comes out and swiftly turns into a dry, hacking cough that sends spikes of pain through his head and chest. It leaves him breathless, and even more exhausted than before - if that is possible. He feels the flow of oxygen past his face increase, and a hand finds his, his tight chest expands a little.

"Steve? Hey, it's alright, take it easy." Danny's voice is more than a little concerned, his free hand strangling the metal bed rails with a white knuckle grip, "Steven?"

Once again, their eyes connect, and Steve raises his eyebrows, swallowing another cough as his chest rasps and wheezes. "W-what."

"What's so funny, huh?"

Steve's lips quiver, ever so slightly. "…You are."

There is a moment silence, then Danny huffs weakly, and says, "Glad I'm so amusing."

Danny's voice, the reassuring pressure of a hand clasping his, the warmth and surety of the grip… all this is familiar; comforting . But the tone is another story; in fact, it's almost unrecognizable. Gone is the habitual defense of sarcasm used so often to cover anger, frustration and even fear, and in it's place is a cold blanket of concern, and uncertainty.

Steve's dark lashes brush his pale cheeks as he gives in to the weight on his eyelids, his face taut with pain, chest hitching and wheezing with every pained breath.

As far as the question, "how are you" goes, that is probably best left unanswered.

The dark haired man driving the ambulance has just announced that their destination is less than a minute away when, without warning, Steve stiffens, his body arching off the gurney, arms rigid at his side, hands in iron fists of agony. His teeth are gritted, eyes rolled back in his head, and the heart monitor begins to wail, the beeping filling the small, cold vehicle with deafening clarity.

Danny's heart nearly stops.

"He's seizing!" The medic scrambles to Steve's side, her hands frantically making adjustments and Danny is pushed rudely aside, "Hurry it up," she yells to the driver, "We're losing him!"

She is injecting yet another clear liquid into the intravenous line, when suddenly the seizure stops, and the rapid, erratic beeping from the monitor evolves into a toneless whine; empty, droning, deafeningly meaningful in the void left behind.

Three minutes.

Three minutes, 180 seconds; it might as well have been a lifetime. It felt like it.

That is how long it had taken the doctors to get Steve's heart beating again; to reduce the shrill scream of the heart monitor to a erratic, beeping noise - still alarming, still dangerous, still much too fast, but after the longest moment of his life, all Danny cares about is that it is there.

Just like Steve.

Ashy pale, his face nearly translucent in its unearthly, ghostlike pallor against the white hospital sheets, mouth and nose covered by an oxygen mask, coal colored circles framing the dark lashes resting against his cheek; chest covered with electrodes, wires and white bandages on the burns, an IV in his arm, and another beneath his clavicle.

Broken, beaten, lost and found, fraying and fragile, but still here.

Danny sighs, and lowers his head into his hands, blocking out the pale green hospital room where he sits, illuminated by sallow, yellow light. The room is empty, except for him, the man in the hospital bed, and 3 deserted chairs; by the time Chin, Kono and Lou arrived, Steve's heart was doing what it was supposed to - more or less.

They had stayed, nervously pacing, until the doctor assured them that Steve was stable, although still in critical condition, and that it would be an unknown number of hours before he regained consciousness. Their reluctance to leave had been lessened by Danny's reassurances that he would inform them the minute Steve awoke, and they had left, albeit unwillingly, to conclude the business of the case, and help sort out the surrounding events.

A sound jolts Danny from his memories, and looking up, he sees the white coated doctor entering the room, his face set in an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry to wake you, detective…"

Danny blinks away the fuzz in his eyes, and instinctively pushes himself to his feet, his muscles protesting his prolonged stillness, "It's fine. I wasn't sleeping." Then, switching tracks instantaneously, "How is he doing?"

Moving towards the foot of the bed and picking up Steve's clipboard, the doctor sighs, and rubs a heavy hand over his bristly face, before returning his gaze to Steve; unconsciousness has rendered the previously pain lined, taut face almost tranquil in its oblivion.

"He's hanging in there. All the tests we ran show no lasting effects from the…" here the doctor clears his throat, "…abuse his body endured, but the drugs in his system are the main concern. We're flushing his body with fluids, and in time, I'm expecting a full, physical recovery. The side effects of the drugs, however, will more than likely affect him for a time in the future."

Relieved, Danny nods, and clears his throat. "And the seizure?" He can still see the image of Steve convulsing, trembling, struggling, fighting, before going completely, horribly still. The feeling of absolute worthlessness at his inability to do something - anything - to help; all he could do was sit there, hoping, praying, wishing as the drugs wreaked havoc, leaving destruction in their wake.

Shaking his head, Danny blinks; the doctor is looking at him, a look of quiet understanding on his features, and Danny realizes he missed the answer to his question. "Sorry," he murmurs, "What did you say?"

The doctor smiles slightly. "The seizure was a side-effect of the mix of drugs in his system," his face sobers, and he shakes his head in wry amazement, "it's actually quite miraculous that he didn't have a seizure before he did. The wide mix of drugs and gases he was subjected to would have eventually done more damage than we could repair, if he had to endure it much longer."

Danny nods silently. Max had called him with as much information he could gather on the drugs without running full tests, and had also informed Danny that a vented room - more than likely used for blowing gas in - had been discovered at the warehouse, as well as a projector and a number of old home videos of Steve's family.

It makes Danny sick; the thought of drugging and gassing a man, caged like an animal, is almost unthinkable. And on top of that, tampering with a man's emotions and vulnerabilities in such a callous manner and then torturing him for information while his mind is reeling from the combination of drugs and uncertainties is downright barbaric.

The fact that that man had been Steve makes it even worse.

With a quiet thump, the clipboard is deposited back in it's resting place, and the doctor turns to go. He hesitates beside the blond man, a brief flash of uncertainty and concern flashing over his haggard features, and he lays a gentle hand on Danny's shoulder. "He'll be alright, detective. It's just going to take some time."

With another reassuring pat, the doctor withdraws, and the room is once again silent. It's just going to take time. The thought of sitting back down doesn't agree with Danny, and suddenly restless, he steps forward silently, and lays a gentle hand on Steve's arm, bruised and discolored against the white sheets.

"You're going to be alright," Danny mutters, more as a way of reassuring himself than anyone else. You're going to be alright.

When you're waiting for something that holds the potential to forever change life as you know it, any amount of time is too long; it seems to stretch on forever, blurring endlessly with no beginning, and no end.

Twenty hours.

Twenty, long, sleepless hours of pacing checkered floors, of muddy cups of coffee, of hands strangling phones, or magazines, or arm chairs, waiting. Waiting. It feels like a lifetime to the group of people - the anxious team - gathered in the pale, hospital room; to those toiling over piles of paperwork, waiting for a phone call, to the ones unable to be there, but whose faces are endlessly turned towards the clock, towards the cell phone clutched tightly in their hands, hoping for news.

Inspite of the doctor's reassurances that for someone who had 'been through what Steve had been through' (as he so delicately put it), the extended period of unconsciousness was perfectly normal, they worry. And they wait. Because it's all they can do.

But when Steve finally wakes up, he enters consciousness as abruptly as he had left it, and, from the moment he opens his eyes, he's asking to go home. Pale, haggard and undeniably weak, but just as stubborn as ever.

"When can I go home, Danny?" He asks restlessly, over and over, as if his thought process is a record player stuck on a single track, "I just want out of here."

"When the doctor releases you, you can go home." Danny's answer quickly becomes just as frustrating as the question; but he has no other. And every time, Steve's gaze wanders to the light-filled window restlessly, the skin under his eyes smudged with black, face unnaturally pale and lined, eyes haunted and never-endingly tired. And when he thinks nobody's looking, so, so uncharacteristically blank.

After tirelessly pestering doctors and nurses - and evading any and all questions and enquiries - he is finally released on the afternoon of the third day, with both obvious reluctance and undisguisable relief, and under strict orders to take it easy.

No swimming, no running, no driving, no working (for at least a week), and absolutely no stress.

"That is more than likely going to be impossible for Super SEAL here," Danny had snarked upon hearing the rules, which earned him a crooked, tired smirk from Steve.

Chin, Kono and Lou had been present nearly every moment since Steve's awakening, but they had gone home for some much needed sleep only hours before, and, as Danny meaningfully pointed out, one of the rules is "no driving"; thus, he was appointed the honor of chauffeuring the usually self-appointed driver home.

"You mean I actually get to drive my own car?" Danny quips, hovering nearby as Steve steps off the curb in front of the hospital and carefully situates himself in the passenger seat of the Camaro, the afternoon sun glinting off the black paint.

A smile stretches over Steve's lips, and he grins crookedly at Danny, "Don't get used to it, Danno," Every movement aggravates the headache pounding behind his eyes, and he's stiff and sore, one arm wrapped stiffly around his chest, the other white knuckling the car door arm rest. "I'll be driving you around again in no time."

Danny hears the slight tremor in his voice, and knows the causes of the painfully rigid posture – both physical and emotional – , but he just shakes his head, and climbs behind the wheel.

The ride home is short, and Steve says very little on the way, but frequent glances sideways tells Danny that ghosts are still hovering about the edges of Steve's mind, made obvious by the set-in-stone expression on the man's pale face and the lines around his mouth and eyes.

Besides giving the team a brief summary of Wo Fat's interrogation, he hasn't said a word about anything else that happened in that room - real or not - and Danny is hoping that maybe, just maybe, once Steve is home, he'll open up and let it all out - because, by God, he's got to do it sometime.

Danny pulls into Steve's driveway and puts the Camaro in park, but by the time he makes it around to the passenger side door, Steve has already pulled himself out, and is moving towards the front door, hands clenched in fists at the flood of memories already assaulting his mind.

But unlike before, these aren't hallucinations - twisted, fake, manipulated figments of the past and present deformed into a false reality. These are memories; events that actually happened, things he'd forgotten - things he had wanted to forget.

Steve hesitates on the threshold as he pushes the front door open, and for a moment, all he can see is his father standing in the kitchen, greasy hands clenching the red 'Champ' box. Mary running through the house, bare feet pattering on the floor, Doris - his mother - pushing blond hair out of her eyes and laughing at her daughter's antics, sunlight streaming across the worn floor.

"Steve?" It's Danny voice that brings him back, his name spoken in a tone of a concerned query, and steeling himself, he moves through the doorway. Danny's footsteps echo his own as he moves into the sun-kissed kitchen.

His eyes fall on the kitchen table; the one where his mother sat in the evenings, sewing or reading. Family gatherings, laughter in the early mornings. His father's defeated form hunched over the table, uniform bloodied and torn, the tender hands of his mother, a source of steady comfort on his shoulders.

Suddenly, he can't stand being in this room any longer, brimming with memories, haunted with past regrets, and ignoring the alarmed, "Steve!" thrown at his back as Danny guesses his motives, he lurches towards the back door, shoving the screen aside blindly.

The sea breeze tussles his hair, and he tastes salt on his tongue, the sun warm on his face. He staggers blindly, fingers finding the worn railing of the porch, latching onto the pain-chipped wood like a drowning man clutching a lifeline.


He freezes, eyes slowly focusing on the two chairs sitting side by side on the beach, feeling rather than hearing Danny's approach behind him.

Arms outstretched, and then he's enfolded in his father's embrace; the strength, warmth, relief… almost tangible - so strong he can almost touch the feelings.

A memory that isn't even a memory. A time remembered that should never have been imagined - because wishing for something you can't have is bad enough. Finally having it and then it being ripped away is even worse.


His father, beer in hand, smiling at him. Quiet words, peaceful moments of sweet silence, or words scattered across the space between them… just him and his dad, just how he'd always envisi -

"Hey." A hand touches his arm, and Steve recoils, pulling instinctively away from the pain that is sure to follow. "Hey, whoa, take it easy, buddy."

He blinks, and his father is gone, the warm summer afternoon replaced with the rustle of a cool wind through the trees; a whisper of a time past, gone once again. "What?" He blinks again, and Danny's face materializes before him, fingers digging into his arm forcefully.

"You okay? You looked like you were…" Danny trails off, before continuing gently, "Are you... " The question goes unspoken, but Steve understands the double meaning.

"No." He's not hallucinating, just remembering - but neither is he okay. Unlike before, he can separate reality from delusion, but now, he almost wishes he can't. "No," he whispers, his throat suddenly so tight he can scarcely swallow. He raises his arm and clumsily grips Danny's shoulder, his other hand gripping the railing so tightly the wood groans in protest.

"Hey," Danny's tone is suddenly tight with concern as Steve reels drunkenly, his eyes dilated and unfocused, "Hey, you need to sit down?"

Steve shakes his head determinedly, but his voice shudders as he rasps, "No… no, not yet."

The only place to sit is in those two green chairs, and he's not ready to be back there yet. Not yet.

Danny wants to protest; wants to insist the idiot sit down and give himself time to heal and recover but the iron set of Steve's jaw tells him that nothing is going to change his mind; at least not until he gets the weight of the past 4 years - no, a time longer than that - off his chest. So, he tries another approach. Gentle, but firm.

"What's going on in that head of yours, babe?" And then, as Steve rubs a trembling hand over his pale face, his breath coming in harsh, raspy puffs, Danny lowers his voice, still gripping the man's arm, "If you're not ready to talk about it, that's fine. I just want you to know I'm here, all right? Always."

For a moment, Danny thinks Steve hasn't even heard him, but then, the iron profile softens slightly, Steve leans forward stiffly, his elbows planted on the smooth wood railing. "Yeah." Another moment of silence. Then, "Thanks, Danno."

As the tidal waves of emotions seem to have passed - at least for the moment - and Steve seems to be steady on his feet, Danny finally releases his grip on the man's arm. They stand in silence, eyes fixed on the horizon, a tide pool of emotions playing across each face, painting eyes dark with memories.

And then, without preamble or warning, Steve speaks, his back rigid, eyes still fixed on the dancing waves that are continually ripped away from the shore only to watch them be brought back again.

"You ever think of what life had been like if things had turned out… differently?" His gaze is fixed straight ahead, voice unusually soft; muted, like a whisper of wind through the trees. "If Chin was still in the police force, if Kono had never blown out her knee, or we'd never met. If you were still married to Rachel, if… if my dad was still alive?"

Danny is more than a little surprised at the question, at the suddenly seriousness of the man's tone. A shudder runs through Steve's body, the breeze cool despite the warmth of the dying sun.

"Yes," Danny says finally, mirroring Steve's position, arms planted on the railing, eyes focused on the horizon, "Everyday." Surprise and confusion spark in Steve's gaze as he turns questioning eyes on the blond man. "I wonder everyday what my life would be like if I'd never met you, Steven. One thing I can guarantee, my life would be a whole lot less stressful with you out of the picture."

Steve stares at him, confusion, uncertainty and puzzlement written in every line on his pale face, but only for a moment, and then his lips curl upwards, eyes glinting with something like the old, wry humor.

After another moment's pause, Steve straightens, pushes his palms against the railing, rubbing his hand wearily over his face, and continues, his tone softer than before. "In between interrogations, while I was unconscious, I was in a… an alternate reality, I guess," he clears his throat harshly, his voice muted, husky with fatigue when he speaks again,

"Everyone was there. Jenna. Josh. Malia. Chin was there, Kono and you. It… it was like a different life. Everything was different. And Kono... " Steve gives a muffled laugh, the lines around his eyes relaxing for a split second, "Kono was a pro surfer… and so, so different. Everyone was different. Everyone was happy."

Danny's throat tightens as faces of those gone flash before his eyes, but he listens silently as Steve plunges into a brief recount of the hallucinations, the moments still fresh enough in his mind to be memories; just brighter, noisier, more detailed than memories or dreams ever are; hugging his shoulders in the cool breeze, as if his fragile grip is the only thing keeping him from flying to pieces.

The moments when the illusions all seemed to be reality; the voices, the faces, the conversations. How, when, upon awakening once again in the dark, cold room to pain screaming across his body, Wo Fat's presence a bitter reminder of his father's absence, more than anything, he wanted them to be real.

The different outcome to the phone call, how Danny himself was the one who saved Steve's father, the aloha shirt (at which, Danny huffs out loud), the car ride, the visit to Hesse in the hospital (here Danny thinks, "Definitely been hanging around you too long, buddy."). The hunt for Wo Fat at the docks, the flurry of gunshots, of noise, chaos, and then the final takedown.

The sun sinks lower on the horizon, and Danny rubs his hands over his arm in the cooling air, but Steve remains unmoving, eyes focused on an undecipherable point on the horizon. His gaze still fixed unwavering forward, Steve finally discloses the relationship between Wo Fat and Doris, and Danny clenches his hands in silent anger and indignation; disbelief and fury rendering him speechless.

And then, as the words finally die on Steve's lips, leaving them standing in the golden rays of the afternoon sun, a heavy silence settles over them.

Still facing the ocean, shoulders as tense and taut as a coil, Steve's hands are clenched; face pale and glistening with a thin sheen of sweat, and Danny can see he's trembling. And then, there's something in Steve's eyes; an emotion Danny recognizes, remembers, relates with - all too well.


Finally, reluctantly, Steve's gaze is wrenched from the horizon, and his eyes find Danny's face. Shoulders hunched, posture painfully rigid, expression guarded, Steve waits, searching for a lifeline, anything that will tie him to earth.

"Babe," Danny lays a gentle hand on Steve's arm, and for once, he actually doesn't flinch, but neither does he respond, "Babe, you know… you know it's not your fault, don't you?"

It's not your fault. The words Steve's been telling himself for years. Something he knows, but just can't bring himself to believe. It's not your fault your mother died. Not your fault you couldn't keep Victor Hesse from murdering your father. Not your fault you were too late; too blind, too stupid to see the truth.

"Yeah." And it's true. He knows. But knowing something, and accepting it are two different things, and suddenly, the note of pain in Danny's voice hits Steve; he feels like someone has kicked him in the stomach.

Danny, standing there listening, supporting, wordlessly encouraging, carries a burden of his own. Matt. Danny's brother, murdered, and the horrible, crippling feelings of helplessness, anger, disbelief on Danny's face; feelings Steve understands better than anyone.

Matt. Brother. A flash of white heat, pain scalds his skin. Dark eyes, inches from his own, voice chilling and hard. Those words, - our mother - tied together seamlessly.

"Steve?" Another voice enters his mind, the tone familiar, but not loud enough… not…

A voice, screaming - his own? - a shouted question, and again… that word; a name, more than a word. A claim.


"Steve, bud, you still with me?"

A gentle hand is laid his shoulder, and it grounds him, pulls him back. "I'm fine," Steve murmurs raspily, swaying slightly as he meets his partner's gaze, reading the mixture of a worry and guilt in the eyes that meet his, "Danny, you know… Matt… that wasn't… that wasn't your fault either. "

Danny feels like someone squeezed the air out of his lungs, and his throat tightens, his eyes suddenly misty. "Yeah, I know. I know it wasn't my fault, I just... " He sucks in a deep breath, gathering his thoughts before continuing, "The other day, Steve, when I came into that room, and saw you on the floor… I, I thought…"

Danny scrubs a hand over his face, and blows out a puff of warm air, before steadying his voice with an effort, "I thought I was going to lose two brothers in a months time, Steve."

Brothers. Wo Fat. Our mother. The words flash like a lightning bolt through Steve's mind. OUR mother. Brothers.

And all at once, he's back in that room; lying on the cold floor, in between waves of altered memories. Danny's voice, the fear in his tone as he says Steve's name, the frantic hands grasping his arm. There had been moments when all Steve wanted was to give in – let himself drift away on a wave of nothingness, and just let go.

But his team. His friends, his ohana. Gracie, Danny, Kono and Chin. Lou, even Rachel. Ellie. Catherine. Giving in meant letting them down, and that was something he couldn't ever do; but how would his friend's have known if he was alive or dead?

"Danny…" Steve takes a shuddering breath, "Danny, I-I'm…I'm..." Steve trails off, and Danny turns worried, gritty eyes from the glistening, rolling waves, his eyes roaming over Steve's ashen, haunted face. "What is it babe?"

Steve's throat is suddenly as scratchy as sandpaper. "Danny, I-I'm… I'm sorry."

Surprise, as well as a sudden flash of anger Steve doesn't understand sparks in Danny's eyes. "What for? You don't have to apologize for anything, Steve."

Steve chokes out the words. "I'm sorry I put you in that position… you just lost Matt, and… you…" His voice breaks, and it is suddenly impossible to see through the haze of tears that have been amassing behind a dam of invulnerability he's been building for years.

A reassuring hand grips his shoulder, and then Danny encompasses him in a warm embrace, arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders as the tears come, years of pain, moments of overwhelming loss, painful memories all rushing out in a flood.

"I got you," Danny murmurs over and over, his throat tight as Steve's shoulders shake, "I got you, babe."

You're alright. You're alright.

The force of the tears are as much like a hurricane as Danny has ever experienced, and he doesn't releases his death-grip around Steve until the flood of pent-up emotions have bled themselves dry and dissipated, almost as swiftly as they came.

Wiping his eyes, Steve finally straightens, and half-turns away, "I'm sorry," he murmurs over the sound of breaking waves, his voice raw. "I'm sorry, Danny… I… you... " A trembling hand scrubbed over his pale features, as if to erase the remnants of sorrow. "I'm sorry."

"Hey," Danny bridges the distance between them with one step, and grips Steve's arm, "Hey, don't apologize. Don't ever apologize. You have nothing to apologize for, you hear me? My God, after everything you've been through, just give yourself a break. You don't have to be a stoic badass SuperSEAL all the time, Steve. Cut yourself some slack."

After a moment, hand still clutching the railing, Steve turns, his eyes finding Danny's, "Yeah," he says simply. "Yeah."

And there's so much more that needs to be said – things on the edge of his tongue, only waiting to be voiced, but before he can finish, the signals his body has been sending him suddenly won't be ignored. His knees buckle on their own accord, and Danny's fingers tighten on his arms as he sags towards the ground.

"Hey, whoa, there," Puffing, Danny gently lowers him to the deck, and leans him back against the side of the house, the siding warm to the touch, the afternoon sun both erasing and illuminating the shadows on Steve's face, "Okay, okay, I've got you. Sitting down. Sitting down is good."

Heart pounding, a rushing in his ears, the sound of wind, Danny blows out a heavy breath, crouching on his heels, one hand on Steve's shoulder. "You okay?" he asks worriedly, squeezing the man's shoulder tightly until Steve's eyes connect with his, "Buddy, you okay?"

He honestly isn't sure, so he takes a deep breath, nods, and breathes out, "Yeah." Face once again fixed on the distant horizon, stretching and molding with the ocean, Steve nods, his expression unreadable. "I'm good."

Like hell you are.

A repeat, a step back in time, a reel rewinding to the moments in that damp warehouse; those same words, the same answer, the same disbelief. It's not true, and they both know it, but Danny blows out a heavy, resigned breath.

He presses his back against the rough siding, and allows his legs to slide out from under him; mirroring Steve's position, shoulders brushing, he finally allows himself to relax for the first time in 3 days.

"You really should listen to me more, you know. Because this, Steven," Danny makes a weary, sweeping motion with his arm, "This is why you should've sat down earlier."

Steve lets his head fall back against the warm siding behind his back, his only response a half-muted sigh. His eyes drifting shut, the sun casts shadows over his colorless face, but for once, he doesn't dispute Danny's statement.

The bruises on his face stand out in the gentle light, his dark eyelashes resting softly on the coal colored skin under his eyes, but the lines have smoothed out of his face somewhat, and when he speaks a moment later, his voice is once again steady. Weary and rough but no longer trembling like it's going to shatter into a million pieces from the inside.



A puff of air escapes from his lips, softening the raspy words. "Thank you."

"For what?"

A moment of silence, of unspoken meaning, of hope tainted by sorrow, but there is nothing but sincerity and gratitude in Steve's voice as he replies, "For finding me. For believing in me, supporting me. For always being there. Ever since my father died, you've always been there for me. I-I appreciate it."

Danny smiles tiredly, swallowing a snarky remark. "Always. That's what family's for, babe."

And it is; family is not just determined by blood. They're more than partner's, more than friends, they truly are family - ohana - and that's what a family does. No matter what.

"You know," Steve says, suddenly turning dead-tired eyes towards Danny, his tone musing, as if he's talking to himself, "Wo Fat was right about one thing, Danny."

"Really?" Danny blinks in surprise, and then his own eyes are fixed on Steve's face, brow wrinkled in confusion, because that was the last thing he had ever expected to hear his partner say. "What's that?"

"I do have a brother. But it wasn't Wo Fat." The twitter of a bird song breaks the stillness, the sun continues it's downward descent into the sea, and Steve continues raspily, earnestly, "It was never Wo Fat, Danny. It's you."

Danny's throat tightens, and a sudden mist comes unbidden into his eyes, and he manages a nod. "Yeah, buddy. I feel the same way."

"And Danny?"


This time, a genuine smile crosses Steve's face, and he smirks at Danny; eyes still dead tired, still haunted, still too full of the past, but no longer empty. "For the record? I like you just the way you are; even without the aloha shirt."

A similar smirk crosses Danny's lips, and he nods, "I'm glad to know the aloha shirt isn't a new requirement. Because I'm not about to wear one, babe."

Steve chuckles, his chest rattling wheezily, body stiff and sore, thoughts heavy with memories, but he feels lighter than he's felt for a long time.

Wo Fat, dead. His father avenged. The truth about his mother finally disclosed; and although knowing the truth has removed pieces from the puzzle, the end of the battle won't bring his father back or replace the lost time. But still, it's the first step of letting go; moving on.

And all of a sudden, he's is exhausted - not just physically, but mentally, and leaning backwards, he closes his eyes, relishing the last warm touch of sunlight on his face, and the sound of the sea breeze whispering in his ear.

Danny's voice, always concerned, breaks through to his suddenly sleep-hazed mind, "You alright, babe?"

"No." Steve's voice is soft, the sunlight illuminating his features, softening the lines of pain and weariness on his face. "No, Danny, I'm not. But I will be."

And for the first time in a long time, Danny actually believes him.

It's a process; a long, painful, agonizing process that will - as it has been said before - take time. They'll be okay. Eventually. Okay, yes, but not the same. Never the same. That's the thing about pain - no amount of time can erase the past, or remove the scars left behind. Change is a part of life. Pain changes you. Life changes you, and the only way to move forward is to embrace the change; learn from it, and let the past go.

Time. It'll take time, but he'll be okay. They'll all be okay.

Twilight deepens, and still, they sit in silence, shoulder to shoulder.

And the sun sinks flaming into the sea.