Author's Note: Well, here we are. The final chapter... I can't believe it, this story has been insane. So much fun to write, and then an avalanche of reviews, it was absolutely nuts and wonderful. So thanks to everyone who reviewed, and two special shout-outs - Brutus, neharika, my thesis buddies... I swear I'm not posting this while you're working on your own theses... :/
For all those who wanted more, you will get it - my muse has been in overdrive with H50 ideas lately, so more will be coming! However, my muse has been incarcerated for the next month for threatening my thesis... oh don't worry, she's still yelling at me and threatening to sic Steve on me... but I'm doing my best to ignore her so I can concentrate on my thesis... So look for more stories in early November!
Also, did anyone else hear the news? James Caan is going to guest star on H50 - how sweet is that!
And without further ado... the final chapter.
He didn't want to be in the dark. The dark was bad. The dark was heat, and smell, and pain. No, he really didn't want to be in the dark.
But he couldn't move. Tied down. Lying down. That was different. But he didn't care, he didn't want to know what they had planned this time. Because whatever it was, it had to be bad. But he couldn't move, couldn't get out, couldn't escape, though he was struggling.
The voice broke through the darkness, but he recognised it. He recognised it. Danny. Danny had finally come.
"Yeah, babe, I'm here. Just open your eyes Steve."
Open his eyes? Weren't they open already?
"Uh, no. No, they're not open."
Oh. Since when had Danny been psychic? Well, he could open his eyes. He could do that. He could. Or he tried, anyway. His eyes seemed suddenly heavy. But they slowly flickered open to bright lights, and a blurry face looming over him.
He flinched before he could help himself, and the face flew back, letting Steve scan the rest of the room, searching out anyone, everyone.
"Easy, Steve, sorry. You're in the hospital." Danny sounded exasperated. Like he had been through all this before. Had he? Steve was getting a strange sense of déjà vu.
He looked back at the blurry face, trying to make sense of it, only to find that the blurry face was Danny himself. The bright lights morphed into a hospital room, and he blinked. "Hospital?"
His words sounded garbled, and he realised it was because he had an oxygen mask on, could feel the soft breeze of it on his face. He also knew he should be feeling some pain, could remember that so clearly, but all he felt was fuzzy, and light, and full of morphine.
"Yeah, hospital," Danny answered calmly. "Have been for nearly two weeks. Not that you seem to be remembering any of it."
"Two weeks?" he demanded, unable to believe it. "What happened?"
Danny's face went blank for a moment, and he sat down. "What happened? We came and we got you out of there."
"Oh." Steve closed his eyes for a minute, before adding quietly, "I don't remember."
"You were pretty out it," Danny told him tiredly. "What's the last thing you do remember?"
Pain in his side, heat, exhaustion. "Church stabbed me," Steve whispered, opening his eyes. "And then he left. What happened?"
"Didn't I just answer that? Pretty sure I just answered that," Danny reminded him, and Steve was too tired to stop him speaking. "I know you've forgotten everything I told you every time you wake up, but this is the first time you've forgotten it without falling asleep first."
Steve decided rolling his eyes was a bad move with his head feeling all light and fuzzy, so he settled for a derisive tone that was a little lost in translation through the oxygen mask. "I meant with the case, Danny."
"Oh. Well, thanks to the USB and the info you stole, we found out who Jones was. Followed him when he arrived. He led us to you, we stormed the place. Martin arrested Jones, and uh, I killed Church. HPD's just finishing rounding up the rest of them."
Steve's eyebrows rose. "You killed Church?"
"Yeah, he tried to kill me. Guess I showed him, huh?" Danny gave a small smile, but even drugged full of painkillers, Steve could tell he didn't feel any amusement. "Anyway, you should get some more rest. Doc Young says you're getting there, but you've got a long way to go."
More rest sounded good. But there were things he wanted to know first. "How bad?" His eyes wanted to close, but he needed to know. He looked up at his friend, who wasn't answering. "How bad?"
"You should really try to rest, Steve."
No answer was not a good answer. "So, pretty bad."
Danny sighed and closed his eyes, nodding. "Yeah. Pretty bad. But the doctors all say you're doing well, and you should make a full recovery."
Steve nodded, and let his eyes slide closed. At least this time the darkness didn't seem so bad.
Kono watched from the door as Steve drifted off to sleep again, and Danny sat down in the chair, head in his hands, looking absolutely exhausted.
"How many times is that now?" she asked, making Danny look up in surprise.
"Hey, Kono," he greeted softly. "Um, that would be number four. And every time it's the same questions. What happened and how bad. At least this time he asked about the case as well. Something new."
Kono walked further into the room, and handed a coffee over to Danny. And not hospital coffee. Real coffee. Danny looked like he would kiss her. "You are a lifesaver."
"You could always go home, you know," Kono suggested, taking a seat.
"Yeah, I could." Danny took a mouthful of his coffee, before deciding Kono deserved a better answer. "I don't want to. You saw what happened when he woke up when I'd ducked out to get a coffee. Nearly popped his stitches."
Kono watched him for a second. "You could let Chin or I watch his back for an hour or two. Just while you got some sleep."
"Yeah, I could do that too."
Kono let it go. "Have the doctors said anything about when he might start remembering?"
"I don't know," Danny muttered, leaning back. "There was some long explanation about head trauma and short term memory, but the neurologist Young brought in seems to think it'll fix itself in the end. Just like everything else. He just needs time."
The rookie nodded. "Well, time he has. He's not going anywhere, and neither are we. We'll get him through this."
Danny smiled at her. "And here I thought I was meant to be the one with the wise words."
"Danny, I don't think anything you've ever said could be classed as wise."
In the end, Steve was actually thankful that Church and his men had hit him in the head a few too many times. He remembered some things. Church stabbing him. The taser. But most of it was a blur, and the neurologist, Dr Cheng, didn't think that would ever change. He was glad. He had enough bad memories as it was.
He knew Danny was getting sick of being asked the same questions though, and a few days after he had been able to stay awake for more than ten minutes, he had given Mary a call and spoken to her for half an hour, only to find out later that he had called her a few hours previously. He couldn't remember that first conversation, though he imagined it had gone a lot like the second, with questions of how he was, and when could she come visit, and why did he have to put himself in these positions.
Martin came to visit him, the day before he took Jones back to the mainland. Steve had been sleeping, but the door closing had woken him up, and he had looked around, with some panic. Martin had winced.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. I can come back."
"I'm awake now," Steve told him, taking as deep a breath as he could, sitting up, trying not to grimace as he pulled on his ribs. "Besides, my guess is this'll be a short visit."
"I just came to -."
"Forget about it."
Martin looked up at Steve's quick interruption. "You don't even know what I was going to say."
Steve cocked an eyebrow. "Don't I? So you weren't about to apologise?"
Martin scowled at him. "Well, obviously. But if you'd just let me -."
"No," Steve interrupted again. "Not your fault. Not my fault. Neither of us could have predicted what happened. It just did. If I can live with it, then so can you."
Martin studied him for a minute. "Can you live with it?"
Steve studied him right back, glad he was so lucid for this. The morphine tended to really kick his butt. "Can you?"
Martin gave a small, unamused chuckle. "Fine. I guess we'll leave it at that then." The man stood up and straightened his jacket. "Oh, but if you ever get sick of playing cop on these islands, give me a call. I owe you. And that, you're not allowed to deny."
He had left before Steve could even try, so the SEAL just leaned back in bed and flicked on the television with his good arm, giving his stiff and sore body a small stretch.
He was just thankful he was a quick healer. Always had been. And with Danny popping in every day and staying for hours, it was easy to forget the tingles and niggles of his repairing body. It was easy to ignore the flashes of memory, the shadows that sometimes darted across the edge of his eye.
Even the nights weren't too bad. He had nightmares, and everyone knew it. But they understood. They all knew what he had been through, even better than he did, what with his memory problem. But he could deal with what had happened. He had done it for a reason. He had done it to save someone's life, someone who would have died for things that he himself had done. And in the end, the pain was just a memory. They hadn't mutilated him, hadn't hurt him beyond recovery, hadn't destroyed him, hadn't broken him.
It didn't even matter that Steve knew, without hesitation, that Church would have broken him if he had been more patient, had had more time. Because it hadn't happened.
He also knew Danny was worried about that, about the way he could accept what had happened so easily. But they didn't talk about it, just spent their days playing cards, or watching TV, at least, when Steve started remembering everything Danny told him about the case.
About how Mary had been seconds away from flying out here. About how Danny had thought she would anyway, even after telling him she wouldn't.
About how Thomas Jones had begged for a deal when it had become clear his brother wouldn't be providing any fancy Harvard lawyers.
About how Jimmy Keone was in protective custody, and had taken that deal Jones was begging for.
About how Danny had floored Martin. Now that, Steve wished he could have seen. It made him laugh, except then his ribs had protested, and he had had to stop, while Danny hovered over him protectively.
The man was worse than a mother hen. Steve wasn't sure what drove him – like he said, they didn't talk – but it began to get very irritating at about day one. Though the whole hospital thing drove him stir crazy. He had always hated being injured, hated lying about for days on end, waiting for his body to be ready to move. Even when he was the first to admit that it wasn't.
But it would be. He was getting there, and soon enough he would be back home, sitting on the beach behind his house, enjoying the fresh air, and the smell of Hawaii, not the dank, disgusting smell of the hole he had spent a day inside.
But he tried not to think about that. Tried to ignore the sensations, the memories, the dreams and nightmares. Tried not to wake up sweating and gasping for air with Church's smug face and cold eyes still burning in his retinas.
And as time went by, he even managed to start succeeding.
Danny had always thought Steve would be the kind who could not handle sitting in a hospital bed for days on end, with nothing to do except watch television.
And he wasn't, not really. He fidgeted and got a bad attitude, but he never actually asked when he could go home. And Danny thought maybe that was the trick. Because the moment he could stay awake for longer than an hour, sit up without help, and walk on his previously fractured ankle, the doctors kicked him out of there without so much as a thank you.
Of course the foot did take another two weeks, and he had to wear a boot on it for another few, but Steve left quicker than any of them had hoped, with strict instructions to attend every physical therapy session and MRI scan. He was still having problems with his memory, but not nearly so often, and besides that he was almost healed. Besides the broken wrist, and the mental scars.
Danny drove Steve home the day he got out of the hospital, taking the opportunity while he had it to drive his own car. It was a short ride, but a quiet one, with Steve just watching the scenery with a small smile on his face. It was the first real smile Danny had seen on him since he had woken up.
The house was ready for him; Danny had filled the fridge and made up the bed in the guest room downstairs, so he wouldn't have to negotiate steps. Steve, the observant Navy SEAL that he was, noticed, and thanked him, before limping out to the beach behind his house.
"Hey, you know you can't get the cast or the boot wet, right!" Danny called, rushing after him with two sodas in his hands.
"I know," Steve called back, stopping a few metres from the wave line, and sitting down in the sand. "But I can still enjoy the beach."
Danny grumbled under his breath and went to sit down beside his friend, offering a soda can. "Think you can remember how to swim?" he asked, joking. It was the only way he knew how to deal with his partner's memory problem.
Steve glared at him, and opened the can one handed. "Think I can remember enough to teach you to swim," he joked back.
"Ha ha," Danny muttered, wiping the sand off his palm. "This stuff really does get everywhere, you know."
"I think it's great," Steve told him quietly, sobering up. Danny looked at him in time to catch the shadow.
"Nothing," Steve answered quickly, glancing at the shorter man.
"Steve, I sat in that hospital for nearly two weeks. I saw the nightmares. You can talk to me. I mean, you're gonna have to talk to a shrink anyways, but you can actually talk to me."
Steve glanced down between his legs, at the sand. "It's not me, though," he muttered. "I'm good at dealing. Compartmentalising. That's me."
Danny didn't say a word. He had picked up a few of his own tricks over the years, about how to deal with psychological trauma. And he knew one of the best tricks was silence. And apparently it worked on Steve.
"I uh... I didn't think I'd ever see the beach again," Steve told him after a few minutes. "I mean, a few other things crossed my mind, when Church stabbed me. But the beach, that's home. And I didn't think I'd see it again."
Danny nodded. "For uh, what it's worth, I'm sorry we took so long. Finding you..."
Steve was shaking his head. "You don't have anything to be sorry for, Danno," he reminded his partner. "Martin already came to see me, and tried to apologise, and I told him the same thing. It was my choice. I could have said no. I knew the risks, going into it. I knew what would happen when I gave myself up for Jimmy. And I can live with it. I'm not saying I won't have nightmares about it. But I can live with it. I did what I had to so Jimmy wouldn't be killed for something I had done. And I did what I had to, to survive."
There was something about that last sentence. After dealing with a one-word maximum partner, Danny had learned to pick up the nuances. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Steve didn't answer for a minute, just let sand run through his fingers. And then, "I told them I was a SEAL," he said quietly. "I gave up information. Church had been at me for... it felt like days. Anyway, when he brought the taser out... I needed a break. I needed a chance to rest, to manage it all, like I had been trained. But he wouldn't stop, just kept pressing the taser in." Steve's fist had gone tight around the sand, but Danny didn't stop him. He knew his partner had to get this out now. "So I told him. I told him I was a SEAL. I thought it wouldn't hurt, that it wouldn't matter. They already knew I was an undercover agent of some description. But it actually led them right to me. They found out I was head of 5-0. And then..."
He sighed and paused, shaking his head.
"And then what?" Danny asked, wondering if his friend could explain any more.
But Steve shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I can live with my decisions."
Danny just nodded, letting it go. But he really wanted to ask the same question he had asked Martin that day they had found Steve. Could he really live with it?
Suddenly Steve grabbed at the boot around his ankle and started undoing the straps. "What the hell are you doing?" Danny demanded. "Did you not hear Young say that thing has to stay on?"
Steve rolled his eyes and pulled the boot off. "Help me up. I just wanna walk in the water for a few minutes."
Danny eyed his partner, remembering the previous confession, and then sighed, pulling off his own shoes, before standing and hauling Steve up. "If Young hears about this, I was never here."
And he helped Steve hobble to the ocean, letting his partner stand in the small waves for a few minutes. And after those few minutes, Steve just smiled and lifted his head to the sun. "Thanks, Danno."
Danny refrained from rolling his eyes, or sighing, or making any sound of disapproval. And he just, for the moment, let himself enjoy the feel of the water on his feet as well.
A/N: I hoped you liked it - and for all those who wanted more on what happened to Steve previously... you'll just have to wait til November.
Thanks, and have a great October!