Author's note: Here it is, guys- the last chapter! Can you believe we made it? I have a lot I want to say, but I know you would rather read. So, if you are so inclined, please see the author's note after the epilogue for excessive rambling. Really, really excessive. You've been warned.
Everyone else had left a few minutes ago, allowing him some privacy.
Steve stood there, alone, his jacket on; his left arm in the sleeve, the right side draped over his body and splint. He looked down at the ground and stared.
His eyes searched for the edge of the boundary. It was not as clearly defined as it was three weeks ago. Time and rain had flattened the mound, encouraging the surrounding grass to grow. Fresh, bright green runners now stretched out, reaching onto and across the brown earth. In a few more weeks, the grass would take over and the starkness would fade, the grave becoming like all the others.
The light wind ruffled the American flag, which was planted at the top of the grave. A white marble headstone had been placed next to it, permanently fixed into the ground. It was simple and classic, just like the woman it represented.
It read simply:
At Peace Forever
"I hope you are at peace, Laura," Steve said softly.
The morning sun shone brightly as he stood there, with only a few puffy clouds dotting the brilliant blue sky. He could hear the birds chirping happily in the nearby trees, not caring that their habitat was a place of sorrow for many. Although, today their singing did not seem out of place to Steve; in fact, it felt appropriate.
"We did catch Wo Fat," he continued, looking back down. "He'll go to prison for murdering you. And everyone knows what the Governor did. And who she really was."
Steve shifted his weight but this time, he did not hear the soft clink of metal, his wool jacket stifling all sound.
He almost did not wear his uniform today. Still unsure of his status with the Navy, he thought it would be better if he paid his respects in a suit. But just before he left the house, there was a knock on the door. He went to answer it, finding a Navy Ensign on the other side.
Steve nodded, finding his mouth suddenly as dry as the Sahara.
"This is for you," the young ensign said, holding out an envelope with his name typed on it and the official Navy logo embossed as the return address.
Steve signed the clipboard the ensign held out to him, acknowledging receipt of the letter. Then he went inside and closed the door, thankful for the privacy.
He stood there for a moment in the living room, gathering his resolve.
This was it. The letter inside held how he would serve and where he would live in the present. It held what he could expect in his future. And it contained how his and his family's legacy would be remembered in the past.
He blew out a long breath and then turned the envelope over, slitting it open on the seam. He withdrew the letter, unfolded it, and began to read.
Upon finishing, he tucked the letter back inside the envelope, placed in on the mantel, and smiled.
Then he went upstairs to change.
The Bronze star and Purple Heart now adorned his chest, along with all the other commendations and flags he had earned over his course of service in the Navy.
There were no medals or flags handed out for civilian service, no remembrances of your victories to wear on your chest. But none were needed. The satisfaction of a job well done was enough.
However, Steve did have one regret.
He continued to look down, carefully studying the spray of white roses backed by palm fronds they had placed at the base of the headstone when they arrived. The sweet scent wafted up into the air, its fragrant tendrils tickling at his nose, and he inhaled. He was silent for a moment, and then sighed.
"I'm sorry I didn't figure it out earlier," he apologized, quietly, and then paused before he continued. "If I'd known where the key fit, I would have found your information and put it all together sooner. And then, maybe, you'd still be here with us… alive."
He turned to his left and saw Danny standing in the parking lot, beside the Camaro, dressed in his Newark PD uniform. Danny was squinting in the bright morning sunlight and even at this distance, Steve could see both the patience and encouragement on his face.
He glanced at Kono's car parked behind the Camaro. Chin and Kono were both standing there, waiting for him, each dressed in their HPD uniform and wearing the same expressions as Danny.
Steve knew each one of them would stand there all day if he needed them to, literally watching his back and providing support.
But he didn't. He was almost finished.
He looked back down at the headstone and at the American flag, still dancing in the breeze.
He cleared his throat and said, solemnly, "thank you, Laura. I'll never forget what you did. For me. And for my team."
He turned and glanced at Danny, Chin, and Kono. Then he looked back at Laura's headstone one last time before nodding once. "Good bye, Laura."
His words said, Steve turned and walking towards the cars. He stopped when he reached his team, standing in front of them.
"You ok, Boss?" Chin asked.
Steve looked Chin in the eye and nodded. "Yeah."
Danny opened the passenger side door of the Camaro for him, but Steve shook his head and walked around the car. "If it's ok with you, I'd like to drive."
"Are you asking permission?" Danny asked, grinning.
"Not really," Steve grinned back as he opened the driver's side door.
Danny chuckled and shook his head. "Didn't think so." He tossed the keys to Steve, who caught them in the air with his left hand.
Steve turned to Chin and Kono. "See you guys at the office," he said with a lift of his head and a smile.
"Will do," Chin said, as he and Kono both returned Steve's smile and opened the doors to Kono's car.
Steve took off his uniform jacket and carefully folded it, placing it in the back seat, and then removed his hat, setting it on top of the jacket. He slid in the driver's seat and started the car.
"Let's go, partner," Steve called to Danny, who was still standing outside the open car door, waving once to Kono and Chin as they drove past.
He looked over at Danny as he climbed in the passenger seat and closed the door.
Then Steve smiled, his eyes sparkling. "We've got work to do."
Author's notes: (Let the rambling begin…)
First of all, I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for reading and hanging in there with me all summer. I enjoyed writing this story, but what I really love is the interaction with you guys, the readers. I've said before that you are the reason I write, and that still holds true. You are. So, thank you for sharing your summer with me and I hope I made yours a little bit better, as well.
I also need to thank my wonderful betas, Cokie316 and Rogue Tomato. They are both fantastic writers, betas, and friends and getting to hang out with them (virtually) has been a bright spot in my summer. I may have spent a lot of time writing this story, but they also spent a lot of time making it better. So, thank you, ladies, for your time, patience, and thoughts. And for not killing me for misspelling "Hesse" as "Heese" about 18 million times. I promise, one day I *will* spell it right. :D
And an extra thank you goes to Cokie, who refused to let me chicken-out of writing this story. I don't think anyone, other than Cokie, knows that "Enemies" almost didn't happen. Long story kinda-short, I actually started plotting and writing this story before the season finale aired (thanks for spoiler pics, Peter! :D) Then, on the night of the finale, I got horribly sick. I was up most of the night and when I finally did fall asleep, I had honest to goodness nightmares about how I was going to incorporate the revelations I hadn't guessed into this story. By the time morning rolled around, I was freaking-out and wanted nothing more than to literally chunk my computer out the (still closed) window and never think of H50 again. (And I can assure you, had I not already written two chapters by this point, I never would have started). And Cokie talked me down off the ledge. She assured me it would all work out, told me reviews would make me feel better, and kept emailing me, telling me to post, until I finally gave in and posted chapter 1. (and once I posted, it was a done deal, because I refuse to post a story I won't finish). And you know what? Cokie was right. It did work out. And your reviews did make me feel better. So, thank you, Cokie, and thank you to everyone who reviewed (or alerted) chapter 1, especially the readers who reviewed on the first day- moonjat54, attyboy, raefhn, rogue tomato, cokie316, shirik, azgirl, sparkesann, poohbear-29, and annic. You have no idea how much your kind words meant to a poor, miserable little sickie like me.
As to what's up next, I do have a couple of one-shots to post in the next few weeks. The first one, titled "Cargument", is just a fun little banter story. It is also a companion piece/sequel to "Control Issues", although it can easily stand on its own. So, if you liked "Control Issues" (or even if you didn't or never read it), please check it out.
The second one, titled "Cars, Camaros, and Closets" (title subject to change), is hard to define. It's part character study, part banter, and a little bittersweet. The closest thing I have to compare it to is "Beer and Taxes." So, I would love it if you would check it out as well.
And then, of course, I will write the one-shots for our "review winners" and post them as soon as possible as well. No timeline on those yet, so if you want to read them, please check back or just go crazy and put me on author alert. ;) (and, as a reminder, I'll pick the "random review winner" on Monday and notify them via pm. So, check your inboxes on Monday! You could be a winner! ;D)
So, with all the announcements (and my rambling) over, I offer a final, hearty "thank you" for your time and friendship. I love you guys and I hope to see you again. Hugs.