So sorry for the lapse in posting. I caught a brutal cold last week and between that and work, I wasn't able to complete the final polish until now.
Thank you to everyone who has alerted this story. I'm amazed and gratified always by the awesome response of the H50 fanfic readers (and happy there are so many fellow Danny whump fans out there! 'Cause, you know, I'm a little partial *g*).
Special thanks to everyone who has left a review. I appreciate every single one and am so grateful that you take the time to let me know what you think. You remind me that I don't write in a vacuum—much maholo.
And JoaniexJony, I am always grateful to have you for my beta. Thank you so much, my dear.
I hope you like the final chapter. Please let me know what you think.
And now on with the show. When last we left off, Steve had news for Danno regarding Grace…
Bad Luck and Trouble
"She's okay Danno," Steve said. "Gracie's okay."
The weight that had been pressing against Danny's chest lifted, and the pit in his stomach finally eased. He closed his eyes and let out a long breath. He felt Steve's fingers tighten reassuringly around his forearm.
"Where was she?" Danny asked, re-opening his eyes and looking up at his partner.
Steve shook his head and grinned. "She was at my house…our house."
"What?" Danny lifted his head up from the operating table. "You're kidding. How the hell did she get all the way there?"
"She walked," Steve said with something akin to awe in his voice.
"Walked?" Danny's pitch rose several octaves. "What the hell!" His shoulders arched off the table. "It has to be at least five miles from her friend's house to yours."
"Detective Williams," Dr. Hughes said, the kindness in his dark eyes belying the sternness of his voice, "I'm extremely relieved to hear that your daughter is safe and sound, but need I remind you that I am trying to operate on your leg? Please lie back down and be still or I'm going to have Heddie sedate you."
"Five point two, actually," Steve whispered conspiratorially. His pale blue eyes shining with pride even as he placed his hands on Danny's chest and began gently pushing him back down.
"What the hell was she thinking?" Danny asked incredulously, his body suddenly limp with exhaustion. "Jesus. She's grounded until she's forty. And no more slumber parties - ever."
"Nothing happened, Danny," Steve soothed. "She's fine."
"I just don't understand why she would have taken off like that. She knows better," Danny slightly shook his head.
"I think the simple answer is she felt really bad for ditching you," Steve gently squeezed Danny's shoulder. "She got it in her head that she needed to see you, and thought she could make it to the house before Rachel was supposed to pick her up from the party."
"How did she even know where to go?" Danny asked, weakly raising his hand.
"She mapped it out on her cell phone," Steve shrugged. "She probably would have been okay, too, except the battery died. She got turned around and it took her longer to make her way to the house. When she got there, we weren't there. The house was locked, and we never got around to getting her a key. Grace knew she wasn't supposed to approach strangers so she didn't go to a nearby house for help. She went around back and sat down on the porch swing to wait, but was so tired she fell asleep. She didn't wake up until Kono and I found her there."
"Jesus," Danny closed his eyes, fatigue sweeping over him.
"It was Kono who put it together. She tracked Grace's cell phone to an area about a mile from Clara's, where the battery died. When she saw Grace had tried to call you repeatedly on Saturday and again this morning, she thought maybe Gracie was missing her dad. We checked the house first and there she was," Steve smiled under his mask.
"Where is she now?" Danny asked, opening his eyes to look up at Steve.
"She's home, with Rachel," Steve said quietly. "Grace really wanted to see you, but we didn't know how long your surgery would take and when you'd be ready for a visit, so Rachel took her home. She's promised to bring her by in the morning."
"Good. That's good," Danny nodded.
"So I'm gonna get out of here and let the doc finish fixing you," Steve nodded towards Dr. Hughes. "Okay?"
"Okay," Danny reached out and grabbed Steve's hand. "Thank you. Thank you for helping find my Grace."
"She's family, Danno," Steve said softly. "There's nothing I wouldn't do for either one of you."
"Thank you," Danny whispered, his blue eyes glistening.
Steve gently placed Danny's hand back on the table and with one last glance at his best friend, turned and walked out of the operating room.
Danny watched him leave and then glanced up at his nurse. "You know Heddie…"
"You ready for that sedative now?" she asked with a knowing smile.
"Yes please," Danny sighed tiredly.
"You got it," she nodded towards the anesthesiologist, Dr. Doyle, who promptly filled a syringe and injected the medication into Danny's IV.
Within minutes Danny had drifted into a peaceful sleep.
Danny woke to the bright morning sun streaming through his window and across his hospital bed. He blinked muzzily. His eyes felt sticky. His mouth was dry, as was his throat.
Images jumbled in his mind: Of being woken from sleep by razor sharp teeth ripping and tearing at the tender flesh of his leg. Of Buck Ellsworth looming over him, laughing as Danny screamed in pain. Of writhing and twisting in agony, sweat soaking his body, struggling against Steve as his best friend pinned him down, ordering him to hold on. And then…nothing. Now, he wasn't sure what was memory and what had been a bad dream.
Danny breathed a sigh of relief. At least the pain was gone. Then his breath hitched in panic when he realized he couldn't move his legs. He was numb from the waist down.
"Daniel, you're okay," Rachel said softly, her hand gently touched his shoulder in reassurance. "You were in so much pain after the surgery they decided to leave the epidural drip in."
"Wasn't sure…if that was real," he swallowed thickly. As he turned his head to look at her he felt tubing pull against his cheek and then felt the telltale drift of air just under his nose.
Rachel smiled sympathetically as she pulled her hand away from his shoulder and leaned back in her chair. "Steve said it got pretty bad. I'm afraid they also had to…um…" she pinked slightly as her eyes darted towards his midsection.
"Oh you gotta be kidding me," Danny groaned in disgust.
"The anesthetic numbs the nerves of the bladder…" Rachel's voice trailed off in embarrassment.
"Well isn't that just my luck," Danny sighed. He shook his head in resignation and hazarded a glance towards the foot of his bed. His injured leg was outside the blankets, propped on several pillows. An ace bandage wound from his ankle to his knee, wrapped tightly over layers and layers of gauze. His entire calf was immobilized by a splint. And there, snaking along the edge of the mattress was the unmistakable tubing of a catheter.
"Shit," Danny sighed again. At least he couldn't feel the damn thing.
"You lost quite a bit of blood during the surgery and then they had difficulty controlling the bleeding from the fasciotomy." Rachel continued quietly, "They've given you a blood transfusion and are keeping your leg elevated above your heart to reduce any further bleeding. They're hoping they'll be able to close up your leg in another day or two. With any luck, you won't even need a skin graft."
"Yeah, because I have all the luck," Danny shook his head. He glanced up at his ex-wife. "Is that why I'm feeling so lightheaded?"
"Between the blood loss and the epidural you had a major drop in blood pressure," she nodded, adding reassuringly, "But your doctor said that's not unusual, and they're giving you medication for it, along with IV fluids. The good news is, your temp hasn't spiked since they got you on the antibiotics, so they're hopeful they've avoided a widespread infection."
Rachel fell into silence, one hand absentmindedly rubbing the growing bump in her belly. Danny's eyes were drawn to it, the physical reminder of everything he'd thought he had, and everything he knew he'd lost.
Catching the gaze of his eyes, Rachel abruptly dropped both hands to her lap, clasping them together. Uncomfortably she cleared her throat.
"Where's Grace?" Danny asked hoarsely, coughing slightly.
"She's in the gift shop with Steve picking something out for you," Rachel said, pulling herself to her feet and filling a cup with water from the bedside table. She moved back to the bed and carefully slid her hand under Danny's neck, supporting his head as he sipped.
Danny swallowed gratefully, relishing the feel of the cool water against his scratchy throat.
"Better?" she asked as she eased Danny's head back down against the pillows and set the cup on the bedside table.
"Yeah, thank you," Danny nodded. "How is she?"
"Doing much better than I am," Rachel shook her head wryly. "She got scared when she got lost, but I don't think she fully comprehends the danger she put herself in. But we've already had a long chat about following the rules and never going off without the knowledge and permission of an adult."
Rachel lowered herself back into the chair. "Honestly I'm just so relieved she's okay, I couldn't bring myself to punish her," she continued, folding both of her arms across her stomach. "Do you disagree?" She glanced over at Danny.
"No," he murmured, shaking his head.
"Danny…" Rachel bit her lower lip. Her dark eyes were full of sadness and misery. "I know the last few months have been hard on everyone."
"Not on everyone," Danny's voice was tinged with bitterness. "You're not the one who lost your family. It's you who made all the choices. I never got a say. I barely even see my own daughter…"
Danny's voice trailed off, anger and fatigue washing over him in equal measure.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," Rachel's eyes welled with tears. "I never meant for any of this to happen. I'm just trying to do what's right. For me, for the baby, for Grace…" she slumped in her chair, her voice faltering. "And you Daniel."
"I would have loved that child like my own," Danny whispered. It was true, too. He'd loved Rachel. He would have loved her child, too.
"I know that," Rachel said quietly. "But this child isn't yours. Just like Grace isn't Stan's. Would you rather I have cut this baby's father out of his or her life?"
Better him than me, Danny wanted to say. But it didn't matter anymore. The whole conversation was a waste of words. There was no going back now. When Rachel had chosen to go back to Stan, she'd burned the final bridge between them. But he couldn't help but feel that his relationship with Grace was falling into the chasm left behind.
"Grace loves you Danny," Rachel said. "You're a wonderful father. Stan could never take your place."
Danny closed his eyes and lifted one hand to massage his aching forehead.
"Listen to me, Danny," Rachel grabbed Danny's free hand and squeezed it hard. Fiercely she said, "You are not losing her. She talks about you all the time. She calls you and texts you, and she felt so badly about canceling her weekend that she walked five miles to find you. Do not doubt for one instant the depth of her love or loyalty to you. I had to give Stan the same chance with his own child. I'm sorry. I'm desperately sorry I hurt you…" Rachel's voice dissolved into a sob.
"I know, Rachel," Danny sighed, gently squeezing Rachel's hand. "I know."
Rachel nodded, slowly pulling her hand away and standing up. She moved to the sink and grabbed a tissue from the dispenser. She'd just finished wiping away her tears when the door opened.
Steve walked inside, leading Grace by one hand. In his other hand he held a huge bouquet of balloons.
"Hey Danno," Steve smiled. "Brought someone to see you."
Grace hung back. Clinging to Steve's hand, she pressed herself into his leg. Her dark eyes were wide and brimming with tears.
"C'mere Monkey," Danny called softly, holding out his left hand and motioning her over.
Grace launched herself towards him, burrowing under his arm and settling against his chest.
"I'm sorry, Danno," she sobbed, her face buried in his shoulder.
"It's okay, Gracie," Danny soothed, firmly wrapping his arms around her and gently rubbing her back. "It's okay. You're safe, and I'm safe. Everything's all right, babe."
Finally crying herself out, the little girl pulled herself up. Danny gently stroked her tear streaked face. The guilt in her eyes made his heart lurch in his chest.
"It's my fault you got hurt." Grace's lips trembled and the tears threatened to begin anew.
"What?" Danny shook his head, softly running his hand up and down her small arm. "No, baby, it's not your fault."
"But I didn't come over this weekend. And you went away. I missed you so much my stomach hurt," Grace babbled. "I wanted to see you so bad."
"Gracie," Danny lightly tugged a strand of the child's hair and stared seriously at her. "I don't want you to ever feel guilty for doing something that makes you happy. Were you having fun at Clara's?"
Grace nodded, her eyes guiltily shifting downward.
"Hey," Danny lifted her chin up with one finger. "What did I just say?"
Grace nodded, trying to smile and failing miserably.
"What changed?" Danny asked softly.
"Clara's dad was so nice," Grace's voice began to warble. "He made popcorn and played with us but I wanted my dad, so I called you but you didn't answer the phone. I thought you were mad at me 'cause this was our weekend and I didn't come…" Tears trickled down her cheeks.
"Oh, Monkey," Danny sighed, kissing her forehead. He drew his daughter into a hug and said fiercely in her ear. "I could never be so mad I wouldn't talk to you. You understand? Never."
Danny felt Grace nod her head against his shoulder. Gently he pushed her upright and caught her eyes.
"Well, there is one thing that would make me mad," he amended. He cocked his head at her, his blue eyes twinkling gently. "If you ever become a Redsox fan…then there's gonna be trouble."
"The Redsox suck," Grace giggled.
"That's my girl," Danny smiled broadly.
"I love you Danno," Grace said.
"I love you more, Monkey," Danny squeezed her shoulders. "That's why you have to promise me one thing." Danny waited until Grace met his eyes and then he continued somberly, "You have to promise that you'll never run off like that again. You scared your mother and me half to death."
"I promise, Danno," Grace nodded, chewing her lower lip.
"Okay," Danny nodded. "Now, do you have your cell phone with you?"
"Uh huh," Grace said.
"Go get it," Danny instructed, waving his hand.
Grace climbed down off the bed and retrieved her backpack from one of the chairs. She pulled out her cell phone and handed it to Danny.
"I'm going to put Steve's, Chin's and Kono's numbers in here," Danny said, glancing up at Grace as he opened her address book. "If you need me and you can't get a hold of me, I want you to call them. They'll know where to find me. You understand?"
"Uh huh," Grace nodded again, climbing back up on the bed.
"Okay," Danny said, completing his task and handing the phone back to her. He glanced over at Rachel. "Thank you for bringing her by this morning."
"I checked with your doctor," Rachel said, clearing her throat. "He said it was okay if Grace stayed with you today, as long as there was someone here to watch her so you can rest."
"I can stay," Steve grinned.
Danny looked over at Rachel. He rubbed Grace's back with one hand. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she nodded. "I have to go. I'll be back this evening to pick her up."
As Rachel walked across the room to grab her purse, she stopped by the bed, dropping a kiss on the top of Grace's head.
"I'll see you later, sweetheart," Rachel said. "I love you."
"Bye Mommy," Grace turned her face up to smile at her mother. "I love you too."
Rachel nodded at Steve as she walked out the door, closing it behind her.
Steve walked over to the bed, holding the bouquet of balloons out to his partner. The ribbons were tied around a thick bundle of rolled up paper.
"Don't you have a suspect's rights to go violate?" Danny asked, his lips quirking in a smile as he stared up at his partner.
"Thought I'd take a personal day," Steve grinned back. "Chin, Kono, and Lori got us covered."
"So what's this?" Danny motioned towards the wad of papers.
"These," Steve said, pulling the ribbon off and holding up the papers, "are listings for apartments, condos, guest houses and houses that have two bedrooms and a backyard. We," Steve motioned towards the three of them, "are going to go through these listings and pick some out to go look at. Then, when you're out of the hospital, I'll drive you and Grace to visit them."
"It's Operation Find Our House," Grace giggled, stumbling slightly over the words as she glanced adoringly over at Steve.
"It's time for you to move on Danny, to start over," Steve said quietly. "There's no going back…the past is done." He offered the stack of papers to Danny.
"Okay," Danny nodded. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Steve was right. It was over with Rachel, and it was time to accept it. Hawaii was his home now so he needed a permanent place to live.
Danny took the real estate listings from Steve and smiled down at Grace. "Let's get started."
"Check this one out," Steve said excitedly, sitting down in the chair Rachel had vacated and fishing out one of the listings. "It's a great place, Danno. You're gonna love it. Look at this backyard."
Danny rested his head against the pillow. He gazed at the little girl who gave his life purpose and his best friend, his brother, who'd been there every time he'd needed him. He smiled. He had to admit, maybe his luck was changing after all.