A Partner's Prerogative
By: Ridley James
A/N: Wow, I'm so humbled by the kind reviews, helpful critiques and awesome alerts for this story, especially as it was my first in the fandom. The encouragement and feedback really do make us writers work faster, or at least we work with a smile on our faces. I hope the quick turn around on the final chapter is a fair payoff for the gracious welcome.
After talking to Steve's doctor and making it to his partner's room, Danny found it hard to hold onto his frustration. The doctor's rundown of McGarrett's injuries and the fact he kept marveling at just how lucky his patient had been to survive brought back all Danny's stress from the previous night when Danny thought his friend might not stand a chance in hell of seeing morning. Even though the floor nurse assigned to Steve's care also assured him the prognosis was good and her patient showed signs of waking up soon, it was hard to reconcile her gentle reassurances with the scene that greeted him.
Steve appeared impossibly small in the hospital bed. He was completely out of his element, even more so than the time when Grace charmed the big scary Navy officer into being her partner at one of the Hilton's Friday night Hula contests. The outrageous coconut bra and grass skirt had nothing on invasive tubes.
Danny tried to blame the imposing machinery surrounding Steve. The fact his partner was sporting a massive bandage around his head, his dark hair sticking up like a sleep rumpled kid's and was wearing a garish faded green hospital gown that could have made the toughest UFC fighter look as fierce as Mr. Rogers, didn't quell the roll of unease that rocked through Danny upon entering.
"So, Steven, I guess you think this whole unconscious routine is going to spare you from my wrath?" Danny's voice was loud, echoing in the compact, sterile space like he was speaking to an empty room. The unsettling thought forced him to approach his sleeping partner, moving to his side so he could see for himself that the injured man was indeed breathing.
Danny wasn't as comforted as he should have been by the steady rise and fall of Steve's chest. He had cataloged a stockpile of looks in McGarrett's repertoire over the last nine months they had worked together-highly pissed, jazzed on adrenaline, out for blood and just plain deadly to name a few. Defenseless and vulnerable were not ones that popped up with frequency.
There were those rare unguarded moments after a few too many beers when Steve might speak about his father, revealing to Danny with a wistful smile one of the seemingly uncommon happy memories from their somewhat rocky relationship. Or when a case took a turn for the worse and a family was faced with an unthinkable loss similar to the ones Steve had endured. Chinks in McGarrett's armor most definitely appeared any time one of those mysterious envelopes involving Wo Fat showed up. Every time it happened it made Danny want to pay a visit to Hess, to beat the truth out of the son of a bitch.
"This act may buy you some time, but you might as well go on and open up your eyes because you're only delaying the inevitable." Danny continued their one-sided conversation as his thoughts of Steve's more human qualities made him think of Grace. Despite the horrible first impression his partner gave him in regards to relating to children, Steve somehow managed to transform from super badass SEAL to 'Uncle Steve' with all the ease and finesse with which Kono could mount a surf board. The sheer novelty never failed to catch Danny off guard. Steve's unshielded moments left him feeling a little like he'd been clocked with something akin to that surprise punch from Keoni.
Each time it happened Danny was struck dumb by the realization that Steve McGarret was, indeed, human. That had been a fact Danny wasn't all too sure about during their first few months as partners, but it didn't take the detective long to figure out McGarrett wasn't immune to pain and grief. He damn sure wasn't impenetrable to blades and bullets. That didn't mean Danny didn't like to pretend he still didn't know the truth. In fact, he found himself actually clinging his naive ignorance as their partnership grew.
"I almost wish my theory about you being one of those military slash government experiments gone awry had panned out, partner." The nurse suggested Danny talk to Steve, encouraging the detective with a promise that her patient could hear him. Danny had never had a problem with talking before. Even though there had been many occasions when Danny wished Steve were unable to respond, he now found his friend's silence daunting making it difficult for him to force his thoughts into words.
"You know I pegged you for some kind of Robo Cop, Six Million Dollar Man hybrid, only with gills and fins. It made it much easier to hate you." Danny grabbed the lone seat in the room, scooting it closer to the railing before gingerly lowering himself. The chair's legs scraped noisily against the linoleum and he hopefully searched Steve's slack face for a reaction. His partner remained motionless, the beeps from the offending monitors the only answer to Danny's attempt at bantering. The disappointment settled in his tired bones like a cold, rainy New Jersey morning.
"See, I had it all worked out in this great little fantasy." Danny ran a hand over his mouth. "I figured Governor Jameson, Chin and Kono were all in on the plot and that one day after Hess was finally taken care of I'd show up at work and you'd all be gone, along with the fancy offices and our magic computer table. The joke would be on me. I'd search the files to find that Steve McGarrett never existed, all traces of John McGarret and Mary McGarrett erased. Kamekona would swear the only time he'd seen me was when I'd brought my little girl by his business for shaved ice. The police shrink would call me in for making up elaborate hallucinations. It would be the first documented case of insanity by overexposure to sun and sand."
Danny knew it was a testament to his initial feelings for Steve that he had actually played that little scenario over in his mind on pretty much a daily basis after being forced into Five-O. Those were the days when Danny was convinced his relocation to Hawaii was only the beginning of his punishment for some unknown wrong deed he had perhaps committed in another lifetime.
"There was also a very graphic yet oddly gratifying couple of scenes where you in one of your full blown Ninja episodes dropped Stan from a ten story building and put Rachel in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. The best part was the end though because as the credits rolled to a Bon Jovi song, me, Gracie, and my beloved Camaro return to New Jersey for a well-deserved happily ever after and I never saw another pineapple for as long as I lived."
Danny brought his gaze back to his friend, letting his fingers wrap around the cool metal bed railing. He didn't know when the fantasy started to lose its appeal, when it went from a daily broadcast to an occasional replay only on those days when Steve had him praying for both their lives from the passenger's seat of his own damn car. Even when he found himself in such a state to consider the scenario, it didn't hold the satisfaction that it once had.
"The Steve of my little daydream definitely did not end up here in a hospital bed." Danny gripped the rail tighter, leaning forward. "I have to say you let me down, partner."
Danny might have loved to rant about Steve's reckless behavior, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the very thing that drove him crazy about McGarrett, the antics that sent him on a verbal tear daily, were also the very things that he'd grown to count on. What cop didn't want a superhuman partner?
"Now that I have actual proof that you aren't made of steel-the doc had to show me your X-rays by the way-I'll have to work twice as hard to keep us both out of an early grave."
Danny let go of the railing, folding his arms so he could rest them on the bar to serve as a head rest. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the beeping and the chemical smell that only hospitals seemed capable of generating. "I liked it so much better when you were an indestructible bastard whose one goal, besides avenging your father's death, was to make my life even more miserable on this godforsaken island."
The weak voice had Danny's head snapping up. He could not stop the no doubt dorky grin from spreading over his face. "Hey, it lives."
"Wha…where am I?" Steve raised his head off the pillow with a pained grimace, licking his lips as he looked up at the ringers of fluid hanging above him.
"So much for your super sleuth powers of deduction, G.I. Joe. No wonder you chose HPD's best detective for your partner." Danny reached through the railing and gave a quick squeeze to Steve's wrist. "You're in the hospital, Genius."
Steve's confused gaze went from Danny's face to the detective's hand which he had left splayed across his partner's arm. "Shit. Am I dying?"
Danny withdrew his hand with a snort. "That depends on how pissed I still am when you get out of this joint."
Steve's frown deepened and Danny softened his voice. "You're going to have one hell of a headache when the warm and fuzzy drugs wear off, and I'm pretty sure you won't be doing your masochistic morning mini-marathon for a while, but the doctor assures me you'll be up to dragging me into harrowing situations again in no time flat."
Steve moved his eyes to one of the monitors and then to his bandaged leg outside of the blankets. "When's that?"
"Surely you are not asking me when you are getting out of the hospital." Danny rolled his eyes, his hands batting the air. "But of course you are. Only you would ask upon immediately awaking from surgery 'when can I get back on the streets?' Do you not want to know about the hours of hard work that went into digging those slugs out of your leg, because your doctor has quite the talent for graphic exposition? How about the fact that if Montero's buddy had been a better shot forensics would still be collecting pieces of your skull from the warehouse dock? If, as in typical form, you don't care about yourself, then you should at least have some consideration for you team, who have been waiting around without decent food or a change of clothes for the last ten hours or so to see if you were going to pull through."
"What the hell happened?" Steve reached up to touch the bandage around his head. "Kono and Chin?"
"They're fine." Danny caught his partner's hand, redirecting it back to the mattress with a challenging scowl usually reserved for Grace on the extremely rare occasion she pushed the limits of Danny's doting father patience. He considered getting Steve's nurse, but figured the increased beeping from the monitors would bring one soon enough. Danny would rather take advantage of the short time alone with his now alert partner before they were interrupted. "What do you remember?"
Steve sighed, looking a little more with it. "Montero pinning us down."
"Pinning you down," Danny corrected.
Steve's frown deepened in concentration. "You were under the crates."
"I was quickly disentangling myself from the crates when you went all Super Solo Steve on me." Danny would not soon forget making it to the back of the warehouse to discover his partner down. From the moment Danny saw the blood pooled beneath Steve's head, the puddle of red growing under his legs, he'd thought for sure his friend was dead. He realized in that horrible second their partnership, which he had not wanted anything to do with in the beginning, had somehow morphed into some intricate part of who he was. It was as rattling to his psyche as the unwanted epiphany of Steve's mortality.
"Montero shot me."
"Very good, Watson." Danny smirked; glad that Steve's brain wasn't completely scrambled. "But to be precise Montero shot you after his associate drew a bead on you and proceeded to shoot you. The guy was waiting with a getaway boat, using a concept you are not exactly familiar with called, covering his partner's ass by providing adequate back-up. He gave you that lovely bullet score above your right temple. Something I'm convinced would not have happened had I been with you."
"What's with the blood?"
It took Danny a moment to realize that Steve was referring to the gruesome stains covering Danny's pink t-shirt. "That would belong to the idiot laying in the hospital bed."
"What happened to your face?"
Danny let his head hang, giving it a good shake to remind himself only moments before he had been praying for this kind of conversation with his friend. "A stack of crates fell on me when you and Montero crashed through the window of the upstairs office. Remember?"
"Your face was fine." Steve actually tried to push himself up in bed. "I remember."
Danny stood, placing a hand on his partner's shoulder to keep him in place. "Forgive me for forgetting your special enhanced Seal photographic memory is selective. It has no problem letting you recall a fleeting flash of your partner's face, but you can't recall hours and hours of conversation about proper police procedures when it comes to backup protocol."
"You were over me, talking." Steve blinked up at him. "After I was shot."
"Actually, I was yelling." Danny brought his hands back to the rail. He had been shouting at the EMT's for help as he desperately tried to find the wound on Steve's head to stop the bleeding. There was talking if you counted the soft pleas he made with Steve to stay awake, for him to just hang on until the ambulance could get there. Of course there was no way Danny was ever going to own up to any of that now that Steve was awake and out of the woods. "You, on the other hand might have been crying, princess, but I promise to let that stay between us to protect the reputation of your Spock-like emotional restraint. Now back to that part where you threw yourself unwittingly into harm's way…"
"Chin will tell me." Steve rested against the pillows, wincing as he tried to shift his leg. "Where is he?"
"Fine, if you must know this happened while I was at the station doing paper work, paper work that is always compounded when an officer is involved in a shooting. Something that you would think I might have grown accustomed to in these months since working with you, but as second in command, not only did I have to account for several dead bad guys to our new Chief, but I had to recount the glorious details of an officer being down, not just any officer, but my partner. It made me rather grumpy, and I might have lost my temper, if only for a brief second." Danny waved a hand at his throbbing eye. "So this, like my ruined shirt, is basically your fault."
"It's my fault the copier finally hit you back?"
"Cute." Danny detested the copier, not understanding how they could afford a computer system that rivaled anything ever seen on Star Trek, and not manage a basic office machine that did not jam every time he needed to collate and staple. "The concussion has obviously improved your sense of humor."
"Sorry." Danny reclaimed his seat, realizing the futility in his exertion of energy. He might reconsider the two by four and Kaye's CIA strategy after a good night's sleep when Steve wasn't looking and sounding so unlike himself, for the time being he just didn't have the heart. He his hands along the sides of his hair. "For what exactly are you apologizing, Steven? Because I can count on one hand the times I have heard those two words come out of your mouth. Please say it's the part where you totally neglected to wait until someone was covering you before following after a hostile."
"For scaring you."
"Scaring me?" Danny tried swallowing the lump that sprung to the back of his throat. "You forget I grew up in a not so nice neighborhood in New Jersey. I've been a cop a very long time. I'm a parent for Pete's sake. Not to mention the fact I've been Captain America's partner for the last nine months. Scared is not even a concept I acknowledge at this point."
"I heard it in your voice…when you were talking to me." Steve blinked, looking as if he could go back under at any moment. "You have a tone."
"Ah yes, the tone." Danny rested his hands on the bed's railing once more.
"Haven't heard it too often," Steve continued, softly. "But I recognized it."
Danny couldn't help to think of his earlier musings concerning Steve's different looks. He and his partner were a lot more alike than he wanted to admit. He gave a nonchalant shrug. "I was not scared; perhaps I might have been rationally concerned for my job security for about half a second."
"You sounded scared." Steve's eyes stayed closed a little longer, and Danny glanced to the doors wondering where the damn nurse was with her perfectly timed interruption.
The truth was Steve was right. Danny had been scared, terrified actually. So afraid that the fantasy he once relished in when their partnership first began might just turn out to be his worst nightmare in the end. In this new scenario Danny would most assuredly return to HPD to find his office gone, the magic table confiscated for the governor's next pet project against crime. Those were meager losses considering Kono and Chin would fade into the bright green foliage and surf of the islands from which they magically emerged and Steve McGarrett would be gone from Danny's life, erased just as sure as if he had been a superhero figment of the detective's imagination all along. Only now, if Danny was ever able to return to his beloved New Jersey, Hawaii would haunt him forever. It would be an inescapable part of him, a scar to his soul he would have to carry the rest of his days no matter if he ever saw another damn pineapple or not. It was the real reason he beat the shit out of Keoni, just like he had all those schoolyard bullies from his past. Danny Williams hated to be afraid.
"I'll accept your apology on one condition."
Steve managed to keep his eyes open long enough to meet Danny's gaze. "Name it."
"Accept the fact that you're no longer the Lone Ranger you once were." Danny's hands lifted from the rails, rising and falling in the air like gulls over the waves. "Get it through your steel enforced head that you have people to back you up; people who want to help you with this crusade of yours. Not just flunkies under your command. You have a partner. And in case you haven't figured it out, having a partner isn't just about having someone to watch your back; it's about having someone who is counting on you to come out of the firefight alive and in one piece. So even though Lt. Commander McGarrett may only report to God and the governor, at the end of the day the real person you, Steven have to answer to is me."
"You make it sound like we're married."
Danny snorted, letting his hands drop exhausted to his lap. "Just don't think if this relationship goes south I'm giving you custody of Kono or following you to some place even more godforsaken than Hawaii, like Los Angeles for instance."
"Okay." Steve's mouth twitched, his sideways grin making a brief appearance.
"Okay?" Danny quirked a brow. Maybe Chin was on to something with the anesthesia. Or maybe Danny should have just shot Steve in the head nine months ago and saved himself a whole shitload of aggravation. "You're agreeing to my conditions?"
"From now on I'll tell people I answer to God, the governor and Danno."
"That's a start." Danny would outline the specifics, making sure Steve understood in detail what he was expecting from him, including a special preamble on making nice with HPD officers. Danny could not be getting into any more brawls in the bull pen. He was a cop for God's sake, Grace's father.
"Now go home and changer your shirt. Put on a tie." Steve made an attempt to lift his arm in the direction of the door. "Take Kono and Chin with you."
"If it's all the same to you, I think I"ll stay." Danny, although thankful for the time to clear up a few things with his partner, wasn't very impressed with the hospital staff's response time. It was as lagging as Keoni's. He would stay for no other reason than to make sure Steve had adequate supervision. Danny had a feeling that after such a close call, it would be some time before he was comfortable trusting his friend's well-being to someone who wasn't a member of Five-0, who wasn't as Chin had so simply put it, ohana.
"I could order you."
"I could choose to ignore it." Danny leaned back in the chair, enjoying the very familiar aneurysm face that Steve was now attempting. The pitiful try for a menacing look was at least a very welcomed change from defenseless, no where near as frightening as vulnerable. "It's a little something I like to call a partner's prerogative. Don't worry though, Super SEAL we'll cover that and talk about why you might be receiving a not-so-friendly visit from Chief Makaha after Kono brings me my coffee and bagel."