A/N Long wait. This final chapter just didn't want to come out, no matter how much I coaxed it :) I had to rewrite the final scene several times, and it just never seemed right. I am much more satisfied with the way it is now, but... well, I'll wait on your verdict. I may have taken some liberties with military procedures and maybe a bit with our two main characters. I hope you'll forgive me for those - I really couldn't help myself, I was starving for the emotional aspect that the show writers have been robbing us of lately. (although, from the return of the so sorely missed banter in tonight's episode and the - I gotta say - ABSOLUTELY FREAKING AWESOME preview of the next week's episode, my hope in the show is being renewed. yay!). Now, on the calmer note, I offer you this last installment chapter (a much longer one - but it just wouldn't have worked as a split piece). I do hope you enjoy it.
Thank you to each and every one of you who responded with their wonderful, heart-warming reviews, who put my story on alerts and into their favorites' lists! You have been absolutely awesome!
Danny Williams cast periodic worried glances at his partner who sat slumped against the passenger side door. With his eyes closed, the man almost appeared to be sleeping. But Danny knew better. The thin sheen of sweat, the tightly clenched jaw, the slightly uneven breathing interrupted by occasional convulsive swallowing... - the stupid bastard was in pain and lots of it.
Swearing quietly under his breath, Danny cursed his partner's pigheadedness right along with the apparent incompetence of a hospital that could discharge a patient, who is so obviously not ready to be released.
"And don't forget to include yourself in the list of imbeciles," his inner Danny reminded him cruelly. "You were the one who let this goddamn Rambo-wannabe rope you into breaking him out of there."
The nearly surefire certitude that the Super SEAL would have found a way to escape from the hospital with or without his help provided but little comfort to Danny. Yes, he was perfectly aware that had he, Danny, not stepped in to drive Steve home, his crazy-ass partner would now be doing something completely moronic, like catapulting himself down the side of the hospital building while holding on to a makeshift rope knotted together from his ripped-up bed sheets. Yes, he knew that this way he was at least keeping him relatively safe. The knowledge didn't make him breathe any easier, though.
"Couldn't... stay there... anymore, Danny..."
The quiet, raspy voice startled him out of his wretched musings, and Danny cringed involuntarily. Whipping his head to the side to glare at his friend, he lashed out, letting irritation mask his worry.
"So this is your excuse, Mr. Mind Reader?" he seethed, gripping the steering wheel with so much force that his fingers ached in protest, as he tried hard to ignore the deep creases of pain etched in his partner's features. "That's supposed to make you keeling over in my car somehow justifiable?"
The former SEAL unglued his eyelids, doing his best to look indignant. "Wasn't... gonna..." he grumbled irritably, the blue eyes leveling the detective with a frustrated stare.
At that exact moment their car hit a pothole, and Steve's eyes slammed shut, his body going rigid under the agony of the new assault. The muscles in his left arm tightened impossibly, white-knuckled fingers digging into the armrest, and Danny swore loudly, looking away.
For the longest time all Danny could hear was the harsh, ragged breathing at his side, and he purposely kept his eyes on the road, trying to block out the image of his partner's ashen, pain-twisted face.
A soft thump reached his ears, drawing his attention back to his passenger. Steve had gone slack, slumped in his seat; his head resting harshly against the side window. The hand squeezing the armrest had gone lax as well, falling limply into the ex-SEAL's lap.
"Great! Now he's unconscious." Danny bit his lower lip in a vain effort to rein in the worry that had once again begun to gnaw at his gut.
He reached out a shaky hand, his fingers brushing against his partner's neck, jerking back almost instantly as he felt the other man shift slightly under his touch.
But the barely-there whisper and the painfully hitched breath did nothing to reassure the Jersey detective.
Curling his lips into something resembling a snarl, he turned back toward the road, grumbling loudly. "You know, I'm tickled pink that your definition of 'good' includes 'barely breathing' and 'in excruciating pain'. But you have to forgive me my desire to get a normal person's perspective on your particular predicament."
The Navy commander cracked open one eye, giving Danny an incredulous look. "You... consider yourself ... normal, Danny?"
The blond detective humphed indignantly, fixing his partner with a withering stare. "Really, Steven? This is what you're going with? You do realize that compared to you most people in an insane asylum would probably pass for normal?"
He marveled briefly at how easily he slipped back into the familiar comfort of their mutual banter, and he sent a silent 'thank you' to Steve for giving him something else to focus on, something beside his own growing concern over his friend's too pale a face and still alarmingly labored breathing.
McGarrett gave him his best semblance of a smirk. "...hhow do you ... compare then?"
"Against what?" Thrown off his game by worry, Danny didn't notice the trap, walking right into it.
"The insane." McGarrett's pale lips twisted into a smile, and Williams couldn't help smiling back, feeling just a tad bit of relief creep into his bones.
"Why don't you shut up and focus on not passing out in my Camaro, eh Rambo?" he grumbled good-naturedly, and shifted slightly in his seat, allowing himself to relax a bit for the first time since leaving the hospital.
-H50- -H50- -H50- -H50- -H50- -H50-
"Are you sure you're gonna be okay?"
Danny kept a watchful, worried eye on the former SEAL, as the latter hobbled over to his bed, lowering himself painfully onto the covers.
"I'll be fine, Danny. Just need to get some sleep." As if to underline his point, Steve stretched himself out on the bed, grunting as the movement brought additional discomfort to his already throbbing injuries, and pushed his head deeper into the pillow, laying a tired hand over his eyes.
The blond detective frowned, unconvinced. "You want me to bring you anything?" he asked gruffly, taking a few steps toward the prone figure. "A bottle of water, a blanket, a competent medical professional?"
The corners of Steve's mouth curled into a tired, amused smile. "Thanks, Danny. I'm good. You really don't have to stay."
"Right..." Danny folded his arms across his chest, the sarcasm in his voice unmistakable.
The hand covering his eyes fell away, and Steve's slightly bleary blues tracked their way slowly to Williams' face.
"Seriously, mother hen, you can stop hovering now... I'm-"
"-good, I know," Danny finished the phrase for him, shaking his head incredulously. "Stubborn sonofa..." He blew out a breath of frustration, fighting to keep himself from outright snapping at his so obviously hurting idiot of a partner.
So, okay, maybe the SEAL wasn't gonna listen to reason. Doesn't mean that he, Danny, has to blindly follow him like a puppet on the goddamn strings. He had already done him one favor - got him out of the hospital and into the comfort of his own home, despite being strongly cautioned against it both by Steve's doctor and the annoyingly insistent voice of reason inside his own head. And seeing how quickly his friend's condition had deteriorated once they left the hospital, Danny was becoming less and less certain that he made the right choice by backing Steve up that way. The notion of leaving the former SEAL to his own devices was just too much, and Danny wasn't about to wage an all-out war against his own conscience. Enough was enough.
"Look," he began, keeping his voice as level as he possibly could, "I know you would like nothing better than to get rid of me."
Steve quirked an eyebrow at that, and it was all Danny could do to stop himself from physically assaulting the man. Fisting his hands tightly, even as he imagined wrapping them around his irritatingly smirking partner's neck, he continued, once again reminding himself to breathe.
"HOW-ever, if memory serves me correctly, the absolutely, unequivocally binding condition of your release was that you have someone keep an eye on you 24/7."
McGarrett opened his mouth, about to object, but Danny cut him off with a sharp wave of his hand. "So unless you wanna have your ass hauled back to Queens Medical, the next words coming out of your mouth had better be 'Make yourself at home, Danny.'" He punctuated the last sentence with an assertive nod and folded his arms back on his chest, awaiting a response.
In the heavy silence that followed Steve closed his eyes, feeling suddenly too exhausted and in too much pain to argue. Sleep - that was what he wanted. No, needed. Desperately. Every fiber of his abused and wearied body longed for it. A couple hours. That's all. Then he'd be as good as new... well, almost. If Danny wanted to waste his time babysitting, he was welcome to do it. His loss.
"Suit yourself, Danny," he murmured in a feeble whisper, as he waited for the blessedness of oblivion.
-H50- -H50- -H50- -H50- -H50- -H50-
The show was over; the final credits segueing easily into a nightly round of infomercials, and Danny sighed disgustedly, switching off the television set. Silence, held at bay by the quiet sounds of late-night programming, rapidly invaded his little islet of noise, plunging the entire house in absolute stillness, punctuated by the rhythmic lapping of the ocean waves against the nearby shore. He raised his eyes to the ceiling, listening for any sounds of distress from McGarrett's bedroom, but nothing disturbed the peaceful quiet of a warm Hawaiian night. Danny leaned back against the cushions of the sofa, stretching out his tired muscles, as he gave out a big yawn. Steve appeared to still be sleeping, and perhaps it wasn't a bad idea for him to follow the SEAL's example. With that thought in mind, Danny laid himself out on the couch, squirmed restlessly, trying to find a more or less comfortable position, and, still grumbling to himself about the wretchedness of his current accommodations, fell asleep without even realizing it.
-H50- -H50- -H50- -H50- -H50- -H50-
A scream, loud and desperate, pierced the nocturnal quiet, ripping through the warm and cozy blanket of sleep that had wrapped itself around his mind, and Danny bolted upright on the sofa, blinking uncomprehendingly at his surroundings.
In the next breath he was already on his feet, bounding up the stairs two-three steps at a time.
Pushing the bedroom door open, he burst inside and froze, as his eyes fell on the crumpled mess of twisted sheets that was Steve's bed. Empty.In the eerie twilight of the pale moon, the deserted bed appeared an even more desolate, sinister sight.
Panic gripped him for all of two seconds until he noticed a familiar silhouette on the balcony, huddled against the glass door.
"Thank god," the whispered sigh of relief blew past his lips; the nervous tension retreating just a bit, allowing him a few calming breaths.
Making his way carefully through the murky room, Danny pulled open the second balcony door and stepped outside, glancing sideways at the motionless figure of his partner.
Steve remained perfectly still, making no move to acknowledge Danny's presence. Knees drawn up to his chest, arms hanging limply at his sides, he stared unblinking out into the pitch black waters that rippled softly in the near-stillness. He appeared lost somewhere in a place he alone could see, and a faint gleam of spectral moonlight cast a ghostly shadow on his face, making him seem almost otherworldly.
Danny shivered unconsciously, chalking the sudden chill up to the cool night air, and lowered himself onto the wooden floor next to his seemingly catatonic partner.
Broken briefly by his careful movements, silence resumed its reign, enveloping them both in its soundless cocoon. Danny wasn't sure how long they sat like that. It must have been a while. He might have even nodded off at some point, because when he opened his eyes after what he thought was a simple blink, the sky had grown lighter, a faint pallid glow that heralded the impending dawn.
"It was a simple extraction mission... so they said..."
Steve's words, raspy and quiet, shattered the stillness, catching him unawares, and Danny jumped, hitting his head against the door.
His friend continued talking, seemingly oblivious to his plight, and the Jersey native bit back a curse that threatened to escape his lips and listened with bated breath, like a hiker that stumbles upon a singing nightingale and freezes in place for fear that the slightest sound would break the spell and cause the bird to take flight.
"An informant, who got worried that he might have been found out and wanted us to take him into our custody.
"We flew in at night on a stealth bird... A simple, in and out job. Simple!"
A laugh, bitter and humorless, rang hollowly through the tranquil pre-dawn air, and Danny felt his heart clench suddenly with anguish and worry. His hand hovered a moment above the tense, t-shirt clad shoulder, ready to provide its meager comfort - the reassurance of a friend's presence, but indecision held him back and his hand fell away without making contact.
Silence stretched between them again, and Danny found himself biting the inside of his cheek to keep himself from nudging the former SEAL along. Whatever it was, Steve needed to get it off his chest. But he needed to do it at his own pace. The slightest push, and the man might clam up or bolt like a frightened deer. So Danny forced himself to remain silent, fingering his lower lip and keeping a watchful eye on his partner.
Beside him Steve shifted slightly, leaning forward on his drawn-up knees, and Danny felt himself lose the last crumbs of patience that have been holding his lips together.
"What happened?" he prodded, wincing instantly, as he fully expected the former Navy man to take flight.
To his great surprise Steve remained where he was, frozen in the same awkwardly bent pose. His voice, when he finally spoke, had the same dull, hollow ring to it that sent shivers down Danny's spine.
"They were waiting for us," he said simply, and Danny didn't need to ask whom he was referring to.
"An ambush?" he gasped, and Steve merely nodded into his knee.
"They waited until our radio operator was on the ground before they struck. Four of my guys were still in the chopper when they shot it out of the sky. The rest of us - they hit us with everything they had. It was..." Steve raised his head, his gaze lost somewhere thousands of miles away. "They were prepared," he ground out, his voice flat and drained. "Knew exactly how many of us there were gonna be, our weapons, even our procedures. We didn't stand a chance. And neither did our rescue."
Danny felt his insides grow cold at that. "That's why they wanted your radio guy alive."
The whispered guess earned him another nod¸ and Steve continued, still refusing to make eye contact.
"They wanted to take out as many SEALs as they could. They knew we were gonna radio in for extraction. Decided to kill two birds with one stone." Steve's eyes narrowed slightly, his features hardening in the receding shadows of the night.
"I don't know how many were on that second chopper. I'm not even sure if any of them managed to get to the ground. I couldn't see anything. The smoke was too thick. And then I saw this giant fireball, and I knew the chopper was gone." He drew in a shuddering breath, clenching his fists with so much force that the knuckles gleamed an unnatural white in the graying darkness.
"Five of us were pinned down behind this wall, returning fire as best we could. And the shelling was getting closer with every new round. A few more seconds and they were gonna wipe us out.
"There was a line of some pretty massive cliffs on the other side of the river, a few hundred yards from our location. Lots of hollows and overhanging rock. Good cover. I told my guys to make a run for it. If we could make it to the river before the next round hit, we'd be able to hide out there. Regroup."
He gave a slight shrug of his shoulders. "It was our only chance... Problem was, to get to it we had to cross open ground, and with the way they were shelling us..." Steve let the sentence hang, shaking his head despondently.
"We knew some of us weren't gonna make it, but ... we had no other choice. If we stayed there, we'd be as good as dead anyway."
He fell quiet again, closing his eyes and leaning back against the door, and Danny mimicked his posture, shuddering inwardly at the images his friend's story was conjuring up in his mind.
Seconds ticked away in silence, both men sitting perfectly still, lost in their own thoughts, and only the sound of their breathing interrupted the surrounding quiet.
"Did ...uhm... did all of you make it?" Danny asked cautiously, his voice hoarse from non-use. He saw Steve's jawline tighten, a troubled darkening of his features visible even in the feeble light.
"Not all of us."
The strained, whispered reply should have given him everything he needed to know, but to Danny it wasn't enough. Steve needed to get it out. Allofit. That much he knew. The nightmares wouldn't stop, wouldn't have a chance of stopping unless the SEAL opens the floodgate all the way. And so with a heavy but determined sigh of a man about to jump off a cliff, the blond detective gave his partner's proverbial gate one final shove and readied himself for the imminent deluge.
The ruse worked. Steve rose abruptly, walking stiffly over to the balustrade, his fingers gripping the railing, curling around the polished wood. Danny stood as well, groaning as his knee protested the aftereffects of sitting too long in a less than comfortable position. Keeping an eye on Steve's painfully rigid back, he hobbled over to the railing next to him and stood there, leaning forward on his elbows, valiantly fighting to keep his mouth shut this time.
The sky grew lighter still, the shapeless imposing silhouettes of the distant mountains becoming clearer and more defined. The timid chirping of the first morning birds bashfully welcomed the approaching dawn.
Gazing out into the gradually brightening waters, Steve spoke again, his voice barely audible over the soft rustling of the wind in the nearby trees.
"He was just a kid, you know. Couldn't have been older than 18. His first mission."
"What happened?" Danny prodded as gently as he could, feeling very much like a wild horse tamer.
Steve closed his eyes, shutting out the paling sky and the gently rippling waters of the ocean.
"He froze." The former SEAL shook his head, as if in disbelief, adding bitterly, "And I didn't even notice until we were half-way to the river."
A tightly clenched fist rose above the railing before slamming sharply and painfully into the wooden surface. "I yelled at my guys to keep going and I went back for him. Grabbed him by his shirt front and shoved him toward the river. I figured there was no time to lose. I was right, too." A weary smile twisted his lips. "I remember hearing this whistling sound behind us, and all I could think of was 'we weren't gonna make it'. I threw myself at the kid. Pushed him as far as I could." He shook his head again. "Seconds later the shell hit."
Danny swallowed painfully against an impossibly dry throat, glancing worriedly at his friend's suddenly trembling hands.
"I ... I think I must have passed out at some point. I remember waking up on my back; Lennie leaning over me. He kept mumbling something, saying he was sorry. ... I told him to shove it, to get his ass across the river. I figured we weren't too far from it at that point. If he made a run for it, he had a pretty good chance."
"Did he?" Danny ventured cautiously. "Run, I mean."
A bitter laugh escaped his lips. "The damn kid refused to leave me. Picked that moment to remember that he was a SEAL." The fist clenched over the railing again, making the wood creak feebly in protest. "He tried to haul me along with him. I nearly passed out again when he pulled me up, but the kid was so damn determined. Kept hobbling me toward the river, mumbling 'Never leave a man behind, never leave a man behind.'"
Steve took in a harsh, ragged breath, fighting to regain control of his emotions. "We were moving too slowly," he managed gruffly, running a shaky hand over his eyes, "too good a target. One burst of machine-gun fire. That was all it took. The kid was dead before he even hit the ground." He fell silent again, sagging bonelessly against the balustrade. The violent images that haunted his dreams flashing before his unseeing eyes, making him nauseous and lightheaded.
He felt Danny's hand on his shoulder, his partner's voice whispering a sympathetic "I'm sorry". And he shook his head sharply, refusing the words of compassion.
"I went back to try and save him, Danny!" he bit out, turning to face the Jersey detective for the first time. "And I ended up getting him killed."
His voice trembled, the pain behind the dark blue eyes becoming so intense that Danny found himself taking a step forward, closing whatever little distance was left between them, and, mindful of the SEAL's injuries, pulled into a firm and gentle hug. The taller man stiffened at first, taken aback by such uncharacteristic display of affection on the part of his friend. Then came a shuddering breath, and Danny felt the tension leave his friend's body, as the latter leaned feebly, almost desperately into the comforting embrace.
"How bad were you injured?" he asked gruffly, when Steve pulled away.
Steve frowned, turning away abruptly. "Don't do this, Danny," he whispered, his tone almost pleading.
"Do what exactly? Remind you that you are not a superman despite of what you might have convinced yourself?"
"Danny!" his tone was almost pleading now.
"How bad?" the blond repeated, cutting him off. No matter how determined his blockhead of a partner was to drown himself in this sea of self-imposed, irrational guilt, he, Danny, was just as (if not more) determined to pull a little harder on the lifeline and yank the idiot out of it. By Golly, he was going to get through that thick skull of his partner's, no matter what it took. Even if he had to strangle the nonsense out of him in the process.
The former SEAL must have glimpsed some of those murderous thoughts in the unyielding, confrontational glare of Danny's eyes, for he relented finally and dipped his head, his shoulder sagging in defeat.
"The doctors didn't think I was gonna make it," he admitted simply, his voice hoarse and raw with barely suppressed pain. He turned away from Danny, his gaze settling once again on the now brilliant blue waters sparkling below.
The Jersey native nodded somberly. He figured as much. "Then I'd say you went above and beyond. Don't you agree?"
Steve shook his head ruefully. "I couldn't save him," he murmured tiredly. "He was a kid, Danny... only a kid. My charge, and I failed him..."
"But you didn't! Don't you see?" Danny grabbed the former SEAL by his uninjured shoulder and forcibly turned him around to face him, ignoring the latter's sharp hiss of pain at the rough movement. "That kid would have died anyway if you hadn't gone back for him. You did everything you could to save him, nearly died in the process."
"Shush!" Danny put up his hand, precluding any further objections by his companion. "My turn now, Aquaman."
Steve shrugged apathetically, acquiescing, and Danny cringed at the dull, defeated look in the other man's eyes.
"Listen to me, please," he began hurriedly, words pouring out of him with dizzying speed, urged on by worry. "I know you're hurting. I know you feel responsible. I get it. I may not agree with that, but I get where you're coming from. I do."
He took a breath, placing both hands gently on his friend's shoulders, trying to catch his anguish-filled blues.
"Before you go wallowing in self-hatred, though, I'd like you to consider something. That boy you saved died a hero. And that was your doing." Danny paused for greater dramatics, making sure his words sunk in. "You said he was frozen with fear. You were the one who snapped him out of it. Made him remember that he was a SEAL, not a coward." He gave a small, almost apologetic shrug. "It's small comfort, I know, but... compared to the alternative..."
He let the sentence hang, watching Steve's face intently for any sign that his words were getting through. He expected more objections, anger even. The SEAL's reaction surprised him, though. The taller man gazed out into the distance, eyes clouded over with a distant memory. A brief shake of his head, and he chuckled softly, a bittersweet smile touching his lips.
"His mother said something similar," he whispered, brows raised as if in confusion.
"Should've listened to her," Danny quipped then, casting another worried glance at McGarrett's face, whose near transparent ghostly hue became even more alarmingly pronounced against their steadily brightening surroundings.
As if to confirm his fear, Steve swayed unsteadily in his arms, and Danny swore sharply, tightening his grip.
"Why don't you sit down before you pass out on me, soldier?"
"'M not Army, Danny," Steve griped good-naturedly, letting the shorter man guide him to the floor.
Williams rolled his eyes in mock annoyance, keeping a steadying hand on the SEAL's shoulder, until the latter eased himself wearily against the railing.
The injured man closed his eyes briefly, lifting his face to the gentle rays of the morning sun, relishing in their warm caress.
"She came to see me at the hospital," he murmured softly, and it took Danny a moment to understand what, or rather, whom he was talking about. "I was so doped up on pain-killers, I couldn't even put two words together. I kept trying to say I was sorry. But she... she said I had nothing to be sorry for."
The former Navy man blew out a shuddering breath, incredulous of his own recollections.
"She came to visit me every day since then, you know. Sat by my side, talking to me, holding my hand, while I screamed my head off, trying to escape my nightmares. She told me that helping me heal helped her feel closer to Lennie somehow."
"Makes sense," Danny nodded pensively. "You were with her son when he died. I guess being there for you made her feel like she was being there for him."
A sharp, hoarse bark of a bitter laughter was his response.
"I'm serious, Steve. She-"
"Thank you, Dr. Freud," the former SEAL quipped, letting his head fall back against the wooden bar with a dull crack. "I get it."
"Do you really?" Danny snapped in return. McGarrett's defeatist tone was starting to get on his nerves. "'Cause your nightmares say different."
The dark blue eyes flew open suddenly, seeking out Danny's. "She did get through to me, Danny. Okay? She did. For a while, at least. I guess, part of me wanted to believe her, so I did. I haven't had those nightmares in years. Haven't thought about it in years. Not until-" he broke off suddenly, biting down hard on his lower lip. The last thing he needed was for Danny to start feeling guilty over this. His screwed up psyche was his problem, and his alone.
But the Jersey detective had already figured it out.
"Your injuries from your little stunt with Wo Fat," he gasped, the realization - a mask of abject horror on his face. "The shrapnel. They were similar, weren't they?"
"Too similar," Steve acknowledged reluctantly, unable to contain a small shudder that didn't go unnoticed by his ever-observant detective friend.
Silence stretched awkwardly between them, and McGarrett felt compelled to break it.
"Listen, Danny, you know it's not-"
"-my fault? Right?" Danny grinned knowingly at him. "We make quite a pair, you and I. Plenty of guilt to pass around."
"Yeah..." The pale, bloodless lips stretched in a wan smile. "Hard habit to kick, I guess."
"Actually," Danny objected, a familiar smirk lighting his features, "in my case it's probably more a case of 'if you lie down with fleas...'"
"Wasn't it 'with dogs', Danny?"
"No. No. I like dogs. I see no need in drawing them into such a slanderous equation."
"I see. But you have no qualms about comparing me to a bunch of fleas."
"Well, if the shoe fits..."
"Funny, Danno. Real funny."
"I aim to please."
They fell silent again, but this time the uneasy tension was gone, melted away by the familiar comfort of their friendly banter.
A protracted yawn broke up their peaceful quiescence, and Steve lifted an amused brow at his friend, smiling softly. "Go home, Danny. Get some sleep. I'll be alright."
At the other's rather skeptical look, he added. "Despite what you might think, I am a big boy. I can do without a babysitter at least for a little while." The blue eyes crinkled mischievously. "Seriously, man, you look like shit. Go. Get out of here."
Danny was silent for a while, mulling over whether or not to tell the Navy man exactly what he thought about Steve's own "glowing" appearance.
"You know," he said finally, "there is this Russian expression I heard back in Jersey - sticking to someone like a bath leaf to a wet ass. It comes from their sauna tradition, apparently, where they use these bundles of birch twigs for massage. If a leaf comes off a twig and gets stuck to your wet skin, it's really hard to get off (or so they say). Hence the expression."
Steve's eyebrows shot up, incredulity written all over his face. "Is there a point to this culture lesson, Danny?"
"Sure there is," the blond detective's grin reached epic proportions. "Whether you like it or not, my friend, I am planning on sticking by you like that same leaf."
The former SEAL made a mock choking sound, shaking his head. "If you're a leaf, what does that make me then?" he wondered jokingly.
"Well, I told you how the expression goes, McGarrett," the Jersey native deadpanned. "Or would you like me to repeat it for you?"
"No. No, I got it." Steve's lips quivered with the effort of holding back laughter. "It's just ... I think I prefer a different version of this expression."
The face of the task force leader broke into a wide, impish smile that showed a neat row of perfectly white teeth, and he replied with as much gravity as he could muster, "The one about sticking like shit to a blanket."
"Careful, McGarrett, you know I can actually take you down right now."
"You really wanna get stuck having to babysit me longer than necessary, Danno?"
"Don't make me call you the 's' word."
"Shut up, McGarrett."
"Love you, too, Danno."
Phew. I'm gonna go put on my flak vest now and wait (impatiently) to hear your thoughts :)