This is the final part. Thanks so much for all of the alerts and reviews!
Danny believed that everyone had ghosts—phantoms of memories, emotions or happenings that haunted them. It wasn't a bad thing. It wasn't always a good thing, either. But it was important. His ghosts were responsible for the person he was today, and he was grateful for them. He thought about those things that haunted him on the way home from the hospital. It was better than contemplating the long recovery he had ahead of him. The weeks of riding the couch and then the desk and then light duty where those ghosts would only be all the more powerful.
He thought about the high school basketball coach he had in high school, who laughed at him for his desire to be on the team during the painful and draining journey from the car to Steve's couch. He thought about how he'd made the team by sheer tenacity and the satisfaction of shaking the coach's hand when he was named MVP while he swallowed a half-dozen horsepills with his soup.
He thought about what ghosts he cursed Grace with having a lifer cop as a father while he watched Steve swim from the dry serenity of the beach.
"You've been quiet," Steve said as he puttered around his father's house.
Danny shrugged. The doctor hadn't wanted Danny go home alone and Steve had instantly said that he was going home with him, as if they'd discussed it. "I don't have much to say."
"Let me note that for the record books," Steve smiled.
Danny scratched his chin, wanting a greasy pizza instead of the flavorless broth Steve had made him. "How many times have you been shot?"
"What are we comparing figures?
"Inquiring minds want to know. As a Navy SEAL of six years, how many times have you been capped?"
It was Steve's turn to shrug. "Three, not including grazes. Stabbed twice, once by a nine-year-old kid I didn't have the heart to shoot. Why?"
"Curiosity, Steven, I'm like a cat that way."
Steve stared at him, blue eyes bright in the sunny kitchen. "It gets easier. It's no picnic but once the injury heals and you get your feet back under you, it doesn't seem so bad."
"Yeah, maybe." Danny sighed.
He was trapped in his own body, and cursed with the horrors of his own subconscious the next two months. The ghosts seemed all the more powerful now. But he looked at Steve, who had been all over the world and in probably hairier situations than a revenge-thirsty ex and a bad fall, and felt pitiful, weak. Danny didn't do weak.
"What's going on in that head of yours, Danno?" Steve asked quietly.
Danny smiled. Normally, he was an open book with Steve, and everyone else in his small, but tight band of friends. But sometimes, he shutdown and got quiet. He was nearly silent those long last months of his marriage.
"I just don't like being on the sidelines," Danny simplified. "I was…a lot when I was younger, and it bothers me."
Steve's eyes narrowed.
Danny gritted his teeth and ignored his partner's imploring, searching look. Steve had always been disturbingly candid about everything he legally could be. He spoke in brief, painful bursts about his parents' murders and the missing years with his sister. He fumed to him about Wo Fat and the Yakuza, and Danny was honored that he trusted him with such heartbreaking parts of his life.
"I hide it really well, but I'm smaller than your average bear. Always have been," Danny said.
Steve suppressed a smile. "I hadn't noticed, no."
"I thought so."
"Anyway, I was always sickly. I didn't just get the sniffles like normal kids; I got bronchitis, ear infections, and strep all at once. I had pneumonia twice before I was 10. I grew out it, but still…the damage was done. I was known as Bacteria Boy until I was fourteen. You can laugh if you want."
Steve shook his head. "It's not funny…or all that creative."
He scratched the side of his head. "My dad was a firefighter, and everyone looked up to him, and respected him. He's one of those big ass guys, carved out of stone, and tough as nails, ya know? I always wanted to be respected like that. To do something important like that. When I graduated from high school, I enlisted. In the marines."
He slid his eyes over to Steve, waiting to see the shock there or even the incredulity.
Steve knew better.
"The drill sergeants looked at me like a friggin' steak dinner, tore into me like one. I'm pretty sure half the stuff they did to me violated the Geneva Convention. I toughed it out just like I toughed out football coaches who called me Rudy, and girls who didn't want a boyfriend smaller than them. I fought for it like I fought for everything in my damn life. And then two days before finishing basic, I cracked. 'Til this day, I don't even know what happened, how it happened. I just knew that I ended up in a bus station outside of South Carolina, begging my mom to pick me up. I never quit anything in my entire life."
Steve wasn't sure how he should respond. Danny's unfettered hatred of all of the armed services always seemed a little extreme for a man who proudly wore a badge, but he'd never imagined that it was because Danny had enlisted. "That's not fair, man."
"I mean, it's fine. I went wild for a year…sowed a whole field of oats, became a cop and met the mother of my child. It made me who I am just like the navy made you into the armed freakshow you are. I just…I don't like being down and out, ya know? It makes me feel…like Bacteria Boy all over again," Danny sighed.
"Yeah, well, that doesn't sound like my partner." Steve said, crossing his arms over his chest. "I've been in the military since I was 16, Danny. I graduated from Annapolis at the top of my class and went directly to the Navy, and I'd been climbing the ranks ever since. I've been trained by the best of the best in the world and I'm not scared of much, but somehow your stupid ass has followed me into some pretty awful situations. You never missed a step, so what does that say to you, Danno?"
"The Navy really needs better training techniques?" Danny fired back as the realization bloomed in his eyes.
"Try the marines lost one of their best. I don't want to hear shit like that come out of your mouth ever again. You're not on the sidelines…as long as you're in Five-0, you never will be."
Danny nodded, more than touched and a little speechless. He braced himself against the table, preparing for the painful process of standing up. "Let's get this damn walk over with before I keel over."
They were six steps from the beach when Danny's cell phone rang. It was Grace's school. "This is Danny Williams," he greeted. He heard a high-pitched keening in the background.
Her screams were so loud that he pulled the cell away from his ear; that Steve whirled around. Even as his heart began to race, pumping pain to the deep bruising. Gritting his teeth, Danny snapped at Steve, swiveling painfully in the sand.
"I'm afraid Grace is a little upset. Some of the kids mentioned the father-daughter picnic in class today and she lost it."
"Yeah, I hear her. Tell her I'm coming right now."
Danny thanked every god he could remember that Steve was quick on the uptake. He'd already sprinted ahead of him and was gunning the engine to Danny's Camaro before Danny had even reached the house.
It was twenty tense minutes of potholes igniting pain mostly dormant from the painkillers and sirens before they reached Grace's school.
Steve literally pushed Danny up the stairs and he shuffled gingerly down halls that were longer than he remembered. Grace was in the guidance counselor's office and by the time Danny had got there, she was throwing a travel mug across the room after already having destroyed the rest of the small office. The counselor's desk was empty, save for a framed picture and a paperweight, and all of the papers and files were tornadoed on the floor. His child was red-faced and so angry that she was beyond words. Danny hadn't seen her like that since the divorce.
"Grace Abigail Williams, what the hell are you doing?" Danny shouted over her keening.
Grace, all wet cheeks and messy pigtails, turned around and gaped at her father. Her little chest heaved as she nearly hyperventilated. Danny pushed into the room, ignoring the flustered counselor and dropped to his knees, not caring how much it hurt. Grace glared at him. "I hate you."
"No, you don't." Danny said confidently. "You're just mad. Tell me why you're mad."
Grace paced, clinging audaciously to her anger just like her father. "Bad guys hurt you and they wouldn't let me see you! I told Mommy that I wanted to see you, and she said no over and over. And I didn't know why or…how bad it was…like last time." She hiccupped.
"I know, baby. I'm sorry. I thought you'd be scared to see me in the hospital."
"Mommy was crying for two days, and she wouldn't let me come. And I thought you left like Grandma, and that they didn't want to tell me because I was a kid."
"I made a mistake, Grace." Danny beckoned her closer, heart breaking. "Danno made a mistake. Even dads makes mistakes. You don't come with a handbook. I just wanted to protect you."
Her little hands were balled into fists. "I'm old enough to know when things are bad, Danno."
"You're right. I just made a mistake. Do you forgive me?"
He reeled her in anyway, hugging her as hard as he could like he had when she was a baby. "You will. You know I couldn't take it if you didn't."
"I don't hate you, Danno."
"I know, monkey."
He pulled back, swiping Grace's cheeks with his thumbs and planting a kiss on her forehead. "Now I need you to pick this stuff up and apologize to this nice lady. It's okay that you were mad, but you can't break things. You know better."
Grace nodded and did as she was told. Steve lingered in the doorway, watching Danny soothe and parent.
Danny called him over, and looked a little sheepish. "If you even ask I'm going to punch you in the face," Steve said through clenched teeth. He scooped up the sniffling child. "Come on, Grace. Let's go home."
Steve laid low for the rest of the evening. He watched through the kitchen as Danny showed Grace his injuries and explained what happened. Steve had assumed that she'd cry or scream, but she was mostly curious and even a little awed. Danny answered all of her questions with very little censoring, and Grace had finally crashed from her hysterionics. The father and daughter napped on the couch. Steve called Kono and Chin to invite them for dinner, hoping that would cheer up both the younger and older Williams.
He exited the kitchen to find Grace gently touching his box of medals on his father's desk with the same inquisitive expression Danny wore when he arrived at a crime scene. Grace's hair was a dark honey color from the sun, and still a little mussed from sleep. She looked alarmed when Steve entered the room. "I was just looking," she whispered, crossing her hands behind her back.
"It's okay." Steve smiled, and picked up the box and sat Indian style on the floor. He opened it, and pulled them all out. "I got these in the navy."
He placed his Silver Star and Medal of Honor in each one of her tiny hands. "Wow, they're pretty."
"Yeah, I guess they are."
"Why did they give them to you? Did you save people from bad guys?"
Grace's eyes glittered and she looked at him in a way she never had before, and then back down at the medals clutched delicately in her hands. "Does Daddy get one?"
She looked up at him with an innocence Steve had forgotten existed. "Um…you want to give him one?"
Her head bobbled forward frenetically, and Steve may have melted. "Let's give him one then."
It took a ridiculous amount of coordination and secrecy to plan a surprise for a seasoned detective who didn't understand boundaries with an ex-wife who hated his profession. Thankfully, it all came together a month after Danny's release from the hospital when he was mostly pain-free and regaining his energy. Danny had walked into the Steve's house after a doctor's appointment. Kono laughed when he heard Danny barking Steve's name from the patio.
"Now I know what you were complaining about, boss."
Rachel grimaced primly. "I was married to him for nine years," she said with a smile.
"You win," Chin said.
It was just a minute later when Danny emerged from the house finally back in his dress slacks and shirts. He executed a perfect double-take, seeing Steve, Chin Ho, and Kono in their dress blues; Rachel and Grace in dresses. Danny shoved his hands in his pockets. "Is this an intervention? Steve, I told you I'd go back to my apartment tomorrow." He seemed nervous.
Grace stepped out of the line of Danny's friends and family and pulled him over, directing him to the perfect spot. The sun blared over his shoulder and the rush of the nearby ocean was almost deafening. Chin gave the Hawaiian blessing, like he had at Kono's graduation, and it was then that Danny understood. Steve could see it. His eyes brightened and his chest puffed out slightly. Steve walked over to Danny with practiced military precision. He lifted a box containing his own Medal of Honor, and opened it, presenting it to his partner. "This medal is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of the United States," he recited. "Detective Daniel Williams, you are hereby honored with his medal for the honorable acts committed in the line of duty."
Steve placed the medal around Danny's neck, over that ridiculous tie, and saluted him.
Danny's eyes were shining and his lip was trembling as he saluted him back. "Steve, this is yours," he whispered.
"It's okay, Danno. I've got two more." He winked.
The celebration ended with a barbecue and a few beers and Danny beaming so brightly. The medal around his neck was a ridiculous, but beautiful gift. He wanted to give it back, because he knew whatever unspeakable things Steve had done to earn it wouldn't even compare to what Danny had done, but he knew that doing so would be an insult. And it meant more to Danny than all of the gold in the world. His fingers brushed the bronze star around his neck again as he said good night to Rachel. "Thanks so much for coming."
"It was no problem, Daniel. It was selfish, actually, I just wanted to see you healthy again. And I probably owed Steven."
He spread his arms wide, turning around for good measure. "I went to the doctor today. I'll be cleared for duty in three more weeks. Lungs are fine; kidneys are fine; heart is fine. All organs are…in tip-top shape."
"Ha, you managed to pull that off without a touch of sarcasm. Good for you." Danny drummed his fingers on the door. "Look, I know that this brought back some stuff…from when I got shot the last time, and I'm sorry about that. That was the beginning of the end of us."
"I am, too."
Grace bounded up to her mother and father, hyper from too much sugar and excitement. "Do I really have to go? Kono's going night-surfing!"
"Yes, Monkey, you have to go, and even if you didn't, you're not going night-surfing. Kono shouldn't be doing it either. I might have to arrest her later." He said with a laugh. He picked her up. "Thank you so much for my party. I loved it, babe."
"You're welcome." She kissed his cheek and hugged him tightly. "You're my hero, Danno, like better than Batman."
No, Danny didn't believe in superheroes, but his daughter did and that was just fine with him.
Author's Note: A few people have mentioned to me how rare and what an honor it is to get one Medal of Honor. I did do research and I am aware of how rare it is and how it is probably impossible for anyone to get more than one. I took a little artistic license with it for two reasons: 1) That's the medal I saw Danny get in my head and 2) it's a television show. As awesome as the SEALs are, I don't think one of them could pull off half of the things Steve McGarrett does on the show. Television shows take place in a heighten reality, and I try to bring that into my fiction. Thanks!