This is a one-shot that came to me one morning and wouldn't let go until I wrote it down. Don't ask where it came from. In fact, the working title of the story was "I Don't Know Why". All of these wonderful characters still belong to CBS and their affiliates...and not to me. But a gal can dream, can't she?
When I initially sent this to be beta'ed, I only had the first two parts of it. My normally 'nice' beta person screamed bloody murder at me to 'fix' it. I won't mention her name but it begins with an "S" and ends in "ockie". And I do truly appreciate Sockie and also Rogue Tomato for their help and input in making the story much better.
Malamapono a hui hou
His fingers were white-knuckled from pressing down so tightly. Or they would have been white if they weren't coated with slick, red blood that was seeping through the spaces between each finger. Both hands were bearing down on the wound in a futile attempt to keep at least some blood on the inside.
He had always heard that 'blood was life'. . And if 'blood was life', he refused to think what the blood spilling onto the concrete could be. His body wouldn't stop trembling; the pressure he was exerting on the injury along with the absolute terror when he realized he could fail in this task was taxing his own body to the point of exhaustion.
"Wore a…vest." The weak voice caught his attention.
"I know you did…and that's why we can have this conversation. The other bullet is lodged in the vest right below your heart."
"Vest…shifted …raised… arms…fired."
"You, my friend, need the extra long version of a vest. Maybe they come in "Big and Tall" size. Or we'll get you full body armor. Something to keep you from getting gut shot."
He coughed. Just a small choking sound. But the additional pressure from inside the body created a gush of blood to spill over onto Danny's hands.
"Don't do that," Danny ordered, while pressing down even harder, leaning forward on his knees to put all his upper body strength into the task at hand. His only task.
"And you can't apologize for something that wasn't your fault. Doesn't work that way."
Danny raised his eyes from his mission to look at his partner's face. The sun was brilliant in the sky, beating down on them on the hot concrete, lights and shadows from the alley outlining the pain on Steve's face. McGarrett stared up at the yellow orb, unmoving except for the small gasping breaths he was trying to take.
Danny looked back down at the wound. Was the blood flow less? Maybe so. He couldn't tell. Had no clue how long he had been pressing down in his attempt to stifle the flow. He heard his partner say something else.
"Sorry, say again?" He turned to look at the pain-filled face. Steve repeated the word, and Danny watched as his partner's expression changed. The wounded man continued to stare at the sun, but the pained expression receded and was replaced with a smile that changed his countenance. Danny had only seen a smile like that one other time in his life. It was almost contentment…pure joy.
"No, no, no, Steven. You're not doing this."
Steve's eyes shifted slightly to look at him. The smile didn't reach his eyes; instead Danny read regret for all the things his partner could not say.
The smile faded, the light in his eyes dimmed and the blood no longer flowed.
"STEVE? Oh, God, please, NO. You can't—"
Steve felt the impact and knew instantly that he was in trouble. He had a bead on the smuggler who was nearest his position and angled in to get a better shot. He fired his weapon at the same moment a slug hit the center of his vest. The shock left him feeling suspended, upright, but unable to move, the breath knocked from his lungs. Immediately after the first hit, he felt another, that one bringing with it searing pain in his belly. And that one sent him flying backwards to the ground.
He was frozen. Couldn't move, couldn't breathe. His vision was gray. And then the pain hit him again…hard.
And suddenly, he was no longer alone.
The vest was ripped open and he was given the order to breathe. After a couple of feeble attempts, he was able to do so. It hurt, but any air was good. The pain from before was nothing like what he felt when pressure was placed on his gut. His vision exploded with red stars that slowly changed to black as consciousness receded.
Moments…maybe hours later, he didn't know; he was aware of the pressure and pain once again. It consumed him. He opened his eyes. And he remembered.
"I wore a vest."
He watched Danny's mouth move and knew he should be listening. It was important. Not really hearing you, Danny.
"The vest shifted when I raised my arms and I fired," Steve continued explaining to his partner. By the book, this time, Danno. I did it by the book.
Danny was talking again. He could hear maybe every other disjointed word. Rant, rant, vest, rant, armor, rant, shot…
He laughed. Or thought it was a laugh. Sounded more like a cough. And hurt like hell. Danny ordered him not to do that. And now that he could hear Danny's voice, he realized his partner was scared.
"Sorry, Danno." Hey, don't worry, you're doing the best you can.
Steve felt the sunlight on his face, floating down on him through the leaves of a palm tree. A tree? They were in an alley. Weren't they? He could no longer remember. Didn't matter anyway.
The sun should feel warm, but now he was cold. Then the sun's rays were blocked when a woman moved into his line of sight. Hey, get her out of here…crime scene. She looked down and stared into his eyes. Although it had been awhile, she looked familiar. But what would she be doing here? It couldn't be. But it was.
His voice trembled when he spoke to her.
She kneeled down beside him, smiled and laid her hand along the side of his face. It had been a long, long time since he had felt her touch. He smiled back as her warm fingers caressed his cheek. She was here. She was here for him.
He looked back at Danny. Had to tell him it was all right. Let his partner know that he had done all he could. He had to let him know that everything would be okay.
He was barefoot, walking on the beach, palm trees swaying in the breeze at the edge of the sand. Funny, I don't even remember getting up. He glanced down at his mother, walking along side of him. His arm was around her shoulders and hers was around his waist. He grinned as she looked up at him.
"I know that smile. What are you thinking?" she asked.
"I…its funny. I guess I never realized how short you were."
"Well, last time I hugged you, you were a good four or five inches shorter and didn't have all these muscles. Or tattoos." She punched his arm, and then turned to face him, placing her hands on his forearms. "Let me just stop and get a good look at you." She smiled wistfully. "Not my little Stevie anymore, are you?"
He shrugged and gave her another lop-sided grin and then whispered, "You're as pretty as you always were." He glanced at the bright sunlight shimmering off the water, shining down on her, highlighting her hair and face.
She hugged him close, as he bent down to lay his cheek on the top of her head. "And you always were a charmer," she told him.
He took a deep breath and held it. "I…I remember the way you smell. I had forgotten—"
"Don't, Steve." She pulled back and placed her fingers on his lips. "Just wait. We need to talk."
"I…yeah, OK." He took another breath. "So, tell me how this works."
"I'll explain what I can," she told him as they began walking again. She looked out toward the water and then looked inland, seeing the back of their house. "Do you remember our nightly walks out on this beach?" she asked.
He looked at the house, only the happy memories coursing through him. "Almost every night after dinner," he answered, nodding. "From as early as I can remember."
"Those were precious times," she told him. "Ones that I wouldn't trade for anything. Steve, you need to know how proud your father and I are of you. You have accomplished so much and have done so much to help other people. Both in the Navy and here at home. No parents could be more proud of a son."
"Is Dad with you?" he looked around.
"No, not today."
"Then, how did you—"
She shook her head. "Honey, I don't have all the answers. I just knew I was needed and suddenly, here I am. Your father…for lack of a better explanation doesn't have the ability to move around as easily as I can. I think it takes time to figure out how everything works. But," she looked up at him. "He sends his love. We both know how hard you have been working on solving these mysteries. And don't give up, you'll figure it out."
"How can I solve anything when I'm here? And…where is here, exactly," he asked.
She shrugged once again. "It's just…here. It's like earth but on a different plane of existence. I can watch things on earth, but can't interfere. I can't change things. For instance, like watching you get shot today. That is the most frustrating part of all this."
"But you are here…I can feel you," he told her.
"Yes, but that's because you are here and not there," she explained, pointing over her shoulder. "And that's what we need to talk about."
"OK. Tell me what I need to know. What do I do next?"
"What you need to do, son, is go back. Today is not your time."
He looked down at her, a confused expression on his face. "But, I'm here. It has to be 'my time'."
"No, turn around and look."
He turned around, and even though they had walked several yards along the beach, he could see with clarity what was happening in the alley. He glanced down at the clothing he was wearing. Green shirt, khakis, flak vest open. No blood. The 'him' on the ground was covered in blood, surrounded by EMS personnel.
Steve's breath caught when he saw Danny, with Chin standing at his side, holding him back. Danny dropped to his knees, his hands spread in front of him, looking at the still wet blood on his palms. He could read Danny's lips as he repeated, "I tried" to Chin.
"They need you," his mother calmly stated.
"But…" he turned to look at her, and then back at the scene behind him, torn in his allegiance. "I want to stay here with you," he finally admitted in a whisper.
"Steve, I was sent to tell you that you can't stay. You've got a lot more living to do. A lot more living to enjoy. Besides, I want grandchildren. You need to get busy."
"I'm just saying." She grinned at his embarrassment. " A mother has hopes and dreams for her children. My hope for you is that you find peace. And happiness. And to continue to excel in your job." Keep our homeland safe."
"So…what is it you want me to do?"
"I want you to go back. It won't be easy; and you'll have to fight for your life. And as much as I don't want it to, it's going to hurt. But your friends, who I happen to like very much, will be by your side every step of the way. Lean on them; let them help."
"How do you know so much about my friends?" he asked, his hands on her shoulders, his eyes never leaving her face.
"Baby, just because you can't see me doesn't mean I'm not there. I can't always *see* you, but I can sense what you feel and know when you're in trouble. And you can think about that the next time you go off and do something stupid on your own." She smiled at the look of surprise on his face. "Like I said, these things are hard to explain."
"Will…I ever see you again?"
"Of course you will. When the time is right. I just pray that it's in your distant future. Now," she glanced back to the scene in the alley, "you need to go. They're getting ready to take you out of there."
"Steven, you always trusted me."
"I know, but—"
She placed both hands on his cheeks, her thumb over his mouth. "Please don't argue. This is for the best. You'll understand someday. Just know that I love you more than anything. And if I could make the pain go away, I would."
He shook his head, his eyes bright. "I can't do this."
"You can. Now, give me another hug to tide me over." She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tightly.
He held her close, not willing to let go, savoring the smell of her hair, the soft touch of her hands. She reached both hands up and cupped his face again. "I love you, Stevie. And I always will. Stay safe. Now bend down so I can give you a kiss."
He complied and felt her lips feather soft on his cheek.
"I love you," he choked out.
"You, too, Baby." She turned him around, her hand on his arm. "And when the nurses start to give you something for pain, don't argue with them. That really makes me mad and you're going to need the extra strength stuff."
He gave her a wan smile. "I'll think about it."
"You do more than think about it. Now…I'm going to give you a little push to get you on your way. Remember, I love you, Son."
Minutes turned to hours, and hours to days. Three to be exact. Three days since Steve McGarrett had died and miraculously come back to life.
And here Danny sat.
The personnel in ICU had given up asking him to leave. He sat in the dimly-lit room, staring, not at his partner, but at the quiet blips on the monitor next to the bed. For those blips told him that Steve really was alive. He still had trouble believing it was true.
EMS techs had loaded Steve into the back of the ambulance and he had moved to get in with his partner. One of the technicians held him back, shaking his head, refusing him entrance. Not this time. Danny could read the man's sorrowful eyes.
Not this time. There's nothing more we can do.
He knew it. Chin knew it. They drove to the hospital together, silently; each lost in his own thoughts. At some point, Kono had called and, in clipped tones, Chin asked her to come to the hospital and not ask questions. He had hung up the phone and tossed it onto the console between them.
Once in the emergency room, there was no rush to go to the desk. Chin got the nurse's attention and told her they were there with McGarrett. She had nodded and they stood, waiting on the sidelines, in silence. Kono had arrived and took one look at them. And without a word spoken, she knew, too.
Forty-five long minutes later, a nurse opened the double doors and said, "McGarrett". The trio looked at each other and shuffled along behind her into the inner-sanctum of the emergency room. She pointed them into a consultation room and said quietly, "Dr. Li will be here in just a moment to speak with you."
They waited in miserable silence, staring at the floor before he finally arrived and closed the door. "Sorry for the delay, but I had to change scrubs. It got a little messy in there." And then he gave them a small smile.
Danny was ready to hit him. His facial expression must have conveyed that fact to the doctor because the man lost the smile and cleared his throat.
"Well, Mr. McGarrett—"
"Commander McGarrett," Danny bit out, finally speaking.
"Ah, yes, Commander McGarrett lost a lot of blood from the belly wound. Severed an artery." He shook his head. "Things were pretty dicey but they managed to get a pulse in the ambulance. He coded again when we got him on the table, but we brought him back a second time and started flooding him with blood and fluids. They just took him up for exploratory…"
"Wait. Stop," Danny yelled, his blood stained hands waving in the air while he tried to process what the doctor was saying.
"What are you talking about? We thought… I mean, he was…"
Chin clarified for him, "Doctor, we thought Steve was dead. You're saying he's in surgery?"
"Yes," Li replied. "No one came to tell you he was even alive? I sent a nurse out twenty minutes ago."
Three blank faces stared back at him. He then watched as sadness transformed into disbelief and finally hope, on the face of each one.
"Steve's alive?" Kono asked, gripping Chin's arm. "Really? He's alive?"
"OK, you need to hear me out," the doctor began again. "His condition has been rocky the entire time he's been here, but he was stable enough to send him upstairs in hopes of tying off the bleeder and getting the bullet out. His blood pressure was so low, it was almost indiscernible. And I'm not making any promises. McGarrett's condition is still touch and go."
"But he now has a chance," Danny replied, his voice still hoarse.
Li nodded. "I'll have a nurse take you to the OR waiting room. And I'll make sure you are advised of the commander's condition as soon as possible.
Following a tense period in the recovery room where he had coded a third time, Steve was brought to the ICU and they were allowed a few minutes with him before being shooed away.
But Danny refused to leave. He stood against the wall, out of the nurses' way, watching over his partner. The nurses got used to him and someone eventually brought him a chair. And showed him where the coffee pot was in their lounge. He knew each of their names and the hours they worked. And they let him wait for his partner to wake up.
Danny saw the extra little blip on the screen and then heard a hitch of breath. He took his eyes off the monitor and looked at Steve.
The clouded eyes blinked once, twice, before opening. Steve stared at the ceiling, a growing look of confusion on his face. He glanced around the room, his eyes finally landing on Danny, who was by now leaning against the bedrail.
"I'm here." The words were spoken quietly, but in amazement.
Danny was surprised at the comment, but agreed with him. "Surprised me, too," he told him. "How do you feel?"
Steve thought for a moment before answering. "Numb, I think."
Danny reached for the call button and said, "Got to call the nurse. Promised I'd let her know the minute you woke up."
Steve reacted and jerked a hand up to stop him. "No, wait. Just…just give me a minute...ok?"
His partner loosely held the button in his hand, but conceded, "I can do that. You sure you're all right?"
Steve nodded. "Think so. Feel sort of...weird."
"Well, you lost a lot of blood and they're still putting it back in. What do you remember?"
"The beach," he immediately replied, then scrunched up his face in confusion. "No, that's not right. We were...in the alley."
"Tell me about the beach."
Steve thought, and then slowly shook his head. "No, just a dream." He closed his eyes and mumbled sadly, "Only a dream."
Danny watched him and knew he wasn't asleep, so he decided to broach the subject. "You know, back before Grace was born, my dad had a heart attack. Had to have triple bypass afterwards. Anyway, mom and I were in the room that night and, I don't know what happened, but all the alarms started going off. The room was flooded with doctors and nurses but all I could do was watch dad. He... I saw him smile...and then he coded. My dad...he died that night and they brought him back."
He looked at his partner, knowing he had his attention, so he continued. "I asked dad about it the next day and he said he had looked up and saw his mom…my granny. She had taken his hand and they went for a walk in the flower garden behind her house. They sat down on a bench and she told him that he had to go back, because it wasn't his time to die. He said that he begged to stay with her but she insisted he come back."
"So?" Steve's expression was as closed as his eyes.
"My point is, that was the only time I had ever seen a smile like that...until I watched you 'die' three days ago."
"It was nothing, Danny."
"What did you see," Danny asked quietly.
Steve opened his eyes and looked at him, but shook his head, not willing to share his experience.
"Or, maybe I should ask, who did you see?"
Steve sucked in his breath, and then grimaced in pain. "I think I talked to my mom," he finally replied. "She, we went for a walk, and, uh, she said I had too much living to do and that couldn't stay with her. She told me...she and my dad were proud of the things we are doing here. And...she said she liked my team." He finished and gave Danny a ghost of a grin. "Go figure."
"I think I like your mom." Danny smiled at him.
"Danny, it was…it seemed so real. I could touch her and...and she smelled just like she used to. And, I really wanted to stay," he admitted. "But it had to be a dream."
"That's what my dad said, too. But you know what? Granny told him he had to come back so he could hold Danny's little girl. He told me that, but you want to know the kicker? We didn't have the ultrasound until two weeks after that. So Dad knew Grace was a girl before we did. Explain that."
"Mom said we are going to solve the mystery of the champ box and its contents."
"Well, that's good news. And for the record, I'm glad you are back."
His reply was halted when the nurse stepped into the room. Danny held up the call button and told her, "Was just going to call you. Look who is awake."
"Commander, it's good to see you. Can you tell me how you feel?"
"Let me see if I agree with you," she said with a smile, and then proceeded to check his vitals. Once that was completed she pulled down the sheet and checked the bandages on the wound in his stomach.
"Are you in much pain," she questioned.
"Not too bad," he replied, watching Danny roll his eyes.
"Commander, your stubbornness precedes you. Am I going to have to wrestle you to get you to accept pain medication?"
He had his mouth open to refuse it, but stopped before speaking. "No," he told her, "not today."
"Wise choice," she told him with a smile. "Although, I think I could probably take you today."
She filled the syringe and added the liquid into the IV line. "That should begin to work very soon, so you should start feeling more comfortable almost immediately."
She patted his arm, then gathered her supplies and left the room.
Danny looked at his partner. "Who are you and what did you do to McGarrett?"
"My mom said it made her mad when I wouldn't take pain meds." He gave a crooked smile. "A dream made me feel guilty. Pretty stupid, huh?"
"Maybe it isn't a dream."
"Has to be."
"If that's what you want to believe."
"Anything else is too hard to accept," Steve mumbled.
Danny watched as Steve's eyes began to lose what little focus they had. "Get some rest," he told him. "I'll be here when you wake up."
"'K. When can I go home?"
Danny laughed at him. "Not today, Superman, so don't worry about it."
He settled back into his chair as Steve closed his eyes. He watched as his partner turned his head and once again smiled.
And if anyone had asked, Danny would have sworn that he felt someone squeeze his shoulder while brushing past him leaving the room.
* 'Malamapono a hui hou' means 'take care, until we meet again'.