Title: Kūpaʻa (Loyal, steadfast, loyalty, allegiance)

Summary: Episode tag to 2x10 Ki'ilua. After the Deceiver takes him from his home, it's the Loyal, the Steadfast that return him home.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based on the characters owned by CBS. There is no profit being made from this effort and no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: This story was written for Kylen at her request for a tag to Ki'ilua. Without her, this story would not have seen the light of day. If you haven't already read Wiwo'ole - her own tag borne from this request - I highly recommend it. Kylen: Thank you, my friend for rekindling my muse from lukewarm coals to a bright bonfire. It has been a pleasure to write and a great experience working with you and sharing ideas. Your support and your knowledge have been invaluable in my first foray into "h/c" territory. And thanks also for the amazing beta; this story is better for it. Any remaining mistakes are my own.


"Ribs hurt. Back hurts. Head hurts…" Steve's words echoed through Danny's mind as the deuce bounced down the gash through the forest that could barely be classified as a road. Those were the last words his partner had spoken before Lt. Jacks examined the commander and declared him free of immediate life-threatening injury. Danny cursed that they couldn't find one more string to pull that would have allowed them to land Tangerine at the airport.

Of course just because Steve was silent didn't mean he was out. No, he was wrapped in a blanket and braced between Danny and Joe, fists clenched and white-knuckled. McGarrett had conceded to the blanket but flat-out refused to lay down for the trip. A year ago Danny would have accused Steve of an overwhelming infection of machismo, but he'd learned since. He knew the SEAL wouldn't complain when there was nothing to be done. Steve had a strong will, and right now, Danny was willing to bet every last ounce of it was being directed to not being a burden.

Christ, Steve. We all know you're Super SEAL. Quit trying to prove it.

A particularly vicious bump bounced them all off the benches. Steve's face lost all color and for a moment Danny thought his partner might finally lose his battle. The SEAL curled in on himself, closed his eyes and took a few panting breaths. A moment later he resumed his rigid pose, eyes alert and scanning his surroundings as if he expected Wo Fat to swoop under the tarp.

Suddenly, the road was smooth. They were minutes away from the airport. Danny nearly cheered. The diesel engine whistled and their bodies swayed as Gutches gunned the engine. The detective resisted the urge to peek below the tarp and see if the hounds of Hell were on their tail. He knew there was urgency to get out of Korea as quickly as possible but they weren't being actively pursued.

Everyone tensed when the vehicle came to a stop. They'd left all the weaponry behind with Frank, but a truckload full of Americans - even ones that had left just hours earlier - was bound to raise questions. Then, as quickly as they had stopped, they were moving again. Danny was going to have to ask Gutches later how he managed to get them through, no questions asked. Moments later, they stopped and the cab door slammed, and then Gutches banged loudly on the box of the truck.

"All right, ladies! Let's move out!"

There wasn't much gear to grab. Lori, Kono and the SEALs grabbed the few packs and jumped out the back of the deuce. Not for the first time this crazy mission Danny was grateful for the efficient way their motley little crew had operated. No fuss, no bickering over who did what job, they had each taken a role and made it work.

Jacks called over his shoulder, "Be right back, gonna grab a stretcher."

Danny knew the stretcher was in the area Jacks had prepped on the flight. During the ten-hour flight to South Korea, Danny had been annoyed – even though he fully understood the necessity of preparation – by the constant reminder that someone or several of them may not return to the plane whole and hale.

Danny sighed as his partner seemed to have no interest in waiting for the medic to return. All Danny could do was grasp the elbow of his bullheaded partner to steady him as he rose to his bandaged feet. "Hey, idiot, we can wait the 45 seconds for Jacks to return, you know."

The determined glint in Steve's eyes only sharpened. "Not waiting," he grit out between clenched teeth.

Danny sighed as Joe grasped Steve's other elbow and helped guide him to the back of the truck. Chin and Danny hopped down to assist Steve's exit. The former Jersey detective felt the trembling in Steve's hand as it rested on his shoulder for support. Danny looked at his friend's pallor and he knew the man was nearing the end of his resolve, the last of the adrenaline burning away faster than dry paper in a blast furnace. There was a force driving his partner though and while he didn't know what it was, he understood the need and bit back his sigh of resignation.

"Just a few more feet," he encouraged as they approached the stairway into the plane. It was as much to his partner as himself. He wanted nothing more than to get that cabin door closed and leave this whole mess behind as a bad memory.

The stairway was barely wide enough for two to ascend side-by-side. Chin dropped back a step without a word as Danny took more of the injured man's weight. Halfway up the steps, McGarrett's feet stopped. There was no slowing of momentum, no warning - Steve just stopped moving. Danny looked up to his partner's face as Steve looked down with a ghost of a smile and whispered, "Thanks."

A fraction of a second later Danny's heart skipped as Steve's eyes rolled back and the SEAL's knees buckled. The sudden boneless weight staggered Danny. For a frightening moment, Danny thought they were both going to pitch down the steps until Chin caught Steve's shoulders.

"No, no, nonononono, Steven!" Danny barked, "Huh-uh, dammit, not when we're this close!" The words tumbled out of his mouth as the panic started to flare. "Medic! Jacks!" he cried.

Almost as a single unit, Chin and Danny gently maneuvered their fallen leader, Chin supporting Steve's shoulders and Danny taking his legs. They finished the trek up the steps as Danny continued to holler for the medic. Danny's shouts brought not only Lt. Jacks to the rear of the plane but the rest of the team as well.

"Over here, on his side," the Lieutenant ordered, pointing to a cot he'd designated for McGarrett. Chin and Danny lowered the SEAL onto the cot and were abruptly pushed to the side as Jacks began his examination.

"What? What is it?" Danny demanded as Jacks let out a quiet curse after checking the commander's pulse ox and blood pressure. "What the hell is wrong with him? You said there was nothing life-threatening!"

Jacks threw an inscrutable look Danny's way and the detective wondered if there was a course in SEAL School for aneurysm face. "He's going into shock," was the only thing lieutenant offered as he efficiently slipped an oxygen mask over Steve's face. Before Danny could even register the motion, the medic was prepping to insert an IV.

The detective shot an accusatory glare at the medic and shared his own medical expertise, "Shock is life-threatening!" Danny seethed as his mouth got ahead of his brain. He couldn't do anything right now, so useless or not, he ranted.

Jacks spared a glance to Gutches. "Get them back."

Gutches and then White both tried to back him away from Jacks and McGarrett, but neither seemed to understand Danny's need to make sure Steve was going to be OK. The pit of fear wormed its way into his gut, and Danny couldn't help but despair all of this was going to be for naught - that they could still lose him.

"Dammit, Steven! You fight, you hear me? We did not come all this way to lose…" his rant aborted before it gained steam by Kono's gentle touch. Her cool fingers on his bicep grounded him while she spoke softly with clear confidence, "He'll be OK, Danny. You got him this far, let Brad do his job. We're not going to lose him."

The detective met the rookie's gaze, the rising panic fueled by exhaustion and adrenaline quelled by the simple faith he saw reflected in her eyes that things were going to be fine.

"Okay," he threw his hands up in resignation. "Okay," he sighed out as he backed away, mind suddenly filled with memories of irrational friends and family members pulling just the behavior he had – distracting the very people that needed to concentrate.

He planted himself in the jump seat nearest the cots Jacks had set up and watched the man work over his partner. Kono patted his shoulder in reassurance as she made her way to her own seat. Joe closed the cabin door. Lori and Chin and the rest of the SEALs secured the gear and strapped into their own seats. The engines whined as the jets spooled up - and Danny watched Jacks work.

Danny wasn't sure how much time had passed when the gentle shaking roused him from his doze. He'd lost track of the passing time the moment he'd lost the connection to Jenna. He'd finally allowed himself to drift sometime after the medic had stopped working on Steve. Danny'd watched the whole dance, reassured in the man's competence and efficiency. It sobered him to think how much practice the man likely had. Once they had been airborne, Jacks had deftly maneuvered around the wires and IV and catheter lines attached to his partner to begin suturing. Danny stopped counting the number, somewhere after thirty he just didn't want to know. After spending time just watching his partner breathe, Danny had assured himself that the only good thing to come out of this fiasco wouldn't disappear. He could finally close his eyes.

Lt. Jacks indicated with his head that he wanted to talk to Danny away from the rest of the sleeping team. The detective couldn't read anything in the medic's expression. By the time they reached the back of the cargo area, Danny's imagination was running wild with all the terrible things that the lieutenant was going to tell him was wrong with his partner.

"Relax," the medic held up a hand in an attempt to forestall the flurry of questions he knew was to come. "Steve is still doing about as well as I could've expected. He hasn't woken yet but that isn't surprising."

Jacks stopped, and dug into his pocket with his hand. "I wanted to make sure you got this, that it didn't get lost when we get back to Oahu."

Danny held out his hand, and Jacks dropped in a small, golden cross on top of a pooled chain.

Danny swallowed hard. He recognized the cross as Jenna's. He had seen the manacles hanging from the ceiling in the room they found Jenna. His detective's mind kicked into overdrive. There had been fresh blood on the floor beneath those manacles. He stared at the angry red abrasions circling the SEAL's wrists. Steve had been in that room. It was the only room they had cleared that had enough fresh blood to have been his partner's.

And Jenna's eyes had been closed. Jenna's neck had been bare, and her necklace was now in his hands. He stared at his partner as the realization struck Danny looked from the necklace to Steve. McGarrett had tried to escape.

His mind took the events further: Jenna had to have died before Steve tried to escape. Christ, had she been shot in front of Steve? She had still been chained to the wall. If he was able to undo his own restraints, he would have freed Jenna if she had been alive to save.

"You crazy sonofabitch," Danny swore softly. He clasped the small cross tightly in his fist. His partner had risked precious seconds collecting that cross, he'd stopped long enough to offer something - penance, maybe - to Jenna in death. For all he knew, those seconds could have been what kept the SEAL from succeeding.

Jacks clapped a hand on Danny's shoulder snapping him back to reality. The lieutenant was quiet a few seconds before stating, "I'm going to catch a few winks, keep an eye on him for me. Any change in his breathing, get me right away."

Danny nodded and dropped himself to sit next to his partner's cot. He twined the golden chain through his fingers while listening to the assuring sounds of his friend's breathing. Religion was not something he held tightly to, he certainly had no overt symbols of religious affiliation on his person. While usually inclined to dismiss faith as superstition, today he had to admit he felt there had been someone watching over them.

As he stared at the dangling piece of jewelry he noted the chain was broken. He glanced over his shoulder; at least his partner had the sense to not waste more time than he had to. He sighed heavily and dropped the cross into his pocket. It had meant something to Steve, enough to risk his life for. Despite Danny's suspicions about Jenna, he respected his partner enough to keep the item safe.

He studied his partner. His always-in-trouble, everyone's-life-before-my-own partner. He wiped a hand down his face. They had lucked out on so many levels with this one. Today was a day full of memories he'd rather forget. From that gut-wrenching instant when he flipped up the tarp and thought he was staring at his partner's corpse to the awful moment when Steve collapsed on the stairs and countless others before and after.

He had to admit, his friend looked better than he did hours earlier. The bruises on his face were darkening, but his overall color had improved greatly with the oxygen and fluids. It took him a moment to realize he was staring at the bag attached to another catheter – the one in a highly uncomfortable place if Danny remembered correctly. Fortunately there had been no more blood after the initial scare with first few drops Jacks had spotted when the medic had inserted the tubing. God, he didn't think he'd ever be so interested in another human being's pee, but right now it was just one more layer of comfort to everything Danny had observed. His partner was still positioned on his side, bolstered by blankets as a precaution against vomiting. It was probably a good thing Steve was still out for the count. Danny had cracked a few ribs in his time and knew just how damn uncomfortable it was to lie on your side.

Jacks had cautioned everyone that Steve wasn't completely out of the woods. His equipment could only tell so much. There was still the risk any number of problems but they just wouldn't know until they got to a hospital.

He sighed, a note of resignation in his voice as his thoughts boiled over into words.

"You know, I can't even be mad at you for this. I didn't even fight you on this one." Danny raked his hands through his hair and shook his head. "Not that it would've stopped you, you know, because that's just, well, you, but I could have at least had the satisfaction of 'I told you so.'"

Quiet footsteps alerted Danny and he turned to see Chin regarding their leader. Danny gestured to the floor beside him, inviting Chin to sit.

"You know," Danny began quietly, "when I joined the academy in Jersey, I never in my wildest imaginings about what the job would entail considered clandestine journeys to communist countries. What does it say that since the inception of Five-0 this," he gestured around the plane, "doesn't seem so far-fetched?"

Chin offered a small smile, "I can't answer that for you, brah. But I'm sure you'll figure it out."

The detective snorted a quiet chuckle. The two fell into companionable silence while keeping watch over the head of Five-0.

It was the changing altitude that woke him. Danny scanned the austere surroundings of the 737 cargo plane forgetting for just a second where he was and why. His gaze settled on the still-unconscious McGarrett and the memories came flooding back. He had let Jacks sleep several hours. The remaining time left that he caught another cat-nap had evidently not been long. His eyes felt gritty and he felt that discombobulated sensation that came with waking at just the wrong time in the sleep-cycle. Danny unfastened his seatbelt and stretched as he made his way back to where Jacks was writing some notes and conversing quietly with Joe.

"There will be an ambulance waiting on the tarmac when we land," Joe announced without preamble.

A moment later Danny felt the rest of the team step up behind him. "We'll meet you at the hospital, brah," Chin's steady voice announced. Danny nodded acknowledgement, grateful once again that his team just knew.

Lt. Jacks handed over the notebook he had been writing in. "Give this to the paramedic, it will tell them everything I've done. I can't go along to the hospital; it would raise too many questions."

The gravity of what they had just accomplished and its myriad consequences started to weigh heavily on the detective. Danny wanted to protest, but he just didn't have the energy at this point. "Isn't their patient going to raise all kinds of unwanted questions? And just how are we supposed to explain offloading a torture victim from a cargo plane?"

Joe and the lieutenant shared a look before answering in unison.

"You don't."

Despite Danny's reservations the transfer was uneventful. The paramedic accepted the proffered notes scanned them, reattached the IV, oxygen and pulse-ox meter all before the doors to the bus were slammed shut. Danny could see curiosity burning in the young man's eyes, but to his credit he kept his questions strictly medical.

The ride to the hospital was strangely subdued, devoid of the usual frenetic activity that accompanied a patient en route. There was really very little for the paramedic to do but extend the care Steve had already been receiving. The commander showed no evidence of being aware he'd even been transferred. It was starting to eat at Danny that his partner hadn't come to any level of consciousness.

His concern must have been registering on his face as Steve was being unloaded. The paramedic clapped Danny on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Detective Williams, he'll be in good hands."

Danny narrowed his eyes; he didn't recall exchanging names. The paramedic chuckled as he walked, "Last time it was you on the gurney, brah, and you're still here."

He hadn't needed the reminder of his own close call several months back after being poisoned by Sarin thank-you very much, but the paramedic was right, he did get good care at this hospital. Danny shook his head while he followed the procession through the ambulance bay doors. He made to follow Steve into the examination room but was sternly redirected by one of the nurses.

"I need to be in there with him," Danny started to protest, suddenly feeling very alone.

"He's in good hands, we need these forms filled out, you can have a seat right over there," she instructed, not unkindly.

Danny was torn between complying with her request and telling her to stuff it and be with his partner. He was a procedure guy, he got it. But his friend was in a room of strangers doing God knew what to him, and after having God knew what done to him within the last 24 hours, he knew the SEAL would not be in a good place when he did finally wake.

He decided to compromise. He stood outside the examination room door and filled out the paperwork. The nurse opened her mouth again but whatever her suggestion was died on her lips at the glare Danny gave her. "I'll bring it to you when I'm done. His name is Lieutenant Commander Steven McGarrett, he's in your system from a broken arm a few months back. No new allergies." He turned his attention back to the paperwork, effectively dismissing the nurse.

His hand automatically reached for his pocket where he kept his wallet when he came to the "Insurance" section. He barked a humorless laugh as he remembered he had no identification. None of them did. They'd left it all behind before their trip down the rabbit hole. The sudden and crashing return to the mundane was surreal.

He wiped his eyes as fatigue-induced hysteria threatened to take over. It was just a damn piece of paper. He could handle this.

"Ribs hurt. Back hurts. Head hurts…" Those words rolled over and over in Danny's head as he sat in the darkened hospital room, waiting for his partner to wake. He knew the SEAL had a high tolerance for pain. He also knew that Steve didn't hide his injuries when doing so could put others at risk. So that admission half a world ago had shaken Danny.

The doctor had finally spoken to him, assured him that the concussion was mild and Steve's protracted unconsciousness was as much due to exhaustion as the head injury. Along with the other injuries, the SEAL's body needed the rest. The doctor was confident that McGarrett would regain consciousness soon. And so Danny waited.

The tally of injuries joined the mantra and Danny couldn't help the downward spiral of thoughts about how sideways this whole thing had gone.

"Christ, Steven," he spoke quietly into the darkness, "never, never, again do you get to utter the words 'What could go wrong.'" He drew his hand down his face, gesturing at the sleeping man.

"I believed you'd be ok, you know? After watching that mission SEAL Team 9 ran – seeing the things you may or may not have done, I really believed you'd be ok. Knowing you, the stunts you pull, your specialized training, I thought this would be a walk down the beach," Danny paused. Realization dawned on him. "I didn't take into account you wouldn't have anyone to watch your back…"

It was so soft he almost didn't hear it.

"Had… you…Danno."

Danny jumped to his feet. The head rush nearly buckled his knees, giving him yet another reminder of the fumes he was running on.

"You're awake? Finally! Do you have any idea what your sleeping beauty act has put everyone through?" he reached for the call button to summon the doctor. His hand was blocked mid-way by Steve's own.

"No… not yet," the SEAL's eyes met his. Danny read the need there, the desire to not face more strangers and answer unwanted questions; the need to just be on familiar territory if only for a little while.

Danny pulled his hand away from the call button.

"You had my back, Danny," Steve repeated.

"I nearly didn't," Danny snapped back, sharper than he intended, "Jesus, Steven. If Jenna hadn't called, we'd still be hunting for you."

He watched Steve swallow hard. Dammit, he didn't want to be having this conversation now.

"Jenna… called?" it was a whisper. Thick with emotion, it conveyed so much to Danny about his suspicions on what happened.

"Yeah," he replied softly, "Yeah she did. It was enough to clue us in that things really had gone south and give us your general location. If we hadn't had that call, Joe's intel about the bunker would have been nothing more than a shot in the dark, it corroborated the intel…"

Steve suddenly started looking around, patted his body with his free hand. His expression shifted almost to frantic as he asked, "Where is it? Where did it go?"

"Steve. Steven! What? Wait," Danny reached into his pocket. "This?" he grasped Steve's hand and curled his fingers around the small gold cross. "It's right here. I got it for you."

The relief in Steve's eyes was immediately evident. A moment later he closed them and for a brief second, Danny thought his partner had slipped back into unconsciousness.

"You know," Steve rasped out roughly, "she coulda just told me the truth and I'd have gone anyway."

Danny's veins chilled at that admission. He blamed the drugs he knew Steve had to be on for his partner to even reveal those thoughts. The ice in his veins wasn't there because he believed his crazy SEAL partner - he'd known that Steve would've done this regardless of what Jenna said. But the statement confirmed to Danny just how badly the ex-CIA analyst had betrayed Steve - betrayed all of them, actually.

"I know, Steve," because that's just who his partner was. How differently could it have all turned out? He watched his friend frown, brow furrowing as he waged some internal battle.

"Shit," Steve exhaled.

"Yeah, man. Ain't that the truth," Danny agreed.

There was a shift in Steve's breathing and the detective knew the SEAL was on his way back to sleep. He reached over the rail and grasped Steve's forearm, avoiding the gauze-wrapped wrists. "You're safe. I've got you covered."

A long moment passed and Steve's breathing finally evened out. Danny dropped back into the seat as his friend drifted into an uneasy sleep. The detective knew this wasn't going to be the last conversation about what happened. And he knew he'd be fighting to get half as far the next time around, but damn he was grateful he had the opportunity.

It was the smell of coffee that woke him.

Chin, Kono and Lori quietly stepped into the room - Chin holding a paper bag that Danny hoped to God contained malasadas and Kono bearing a carrier with four cups of fresh brew. He dropped his feet from where he had propped them on the bed rail and raked his hands through his hair. He glanced at the clock on the wall. Six hours. He had slept six hours.

He called the team not long after Steve had gone back to sleep to let them know their leader had finally woken. Kono had tried to convince him he should go home and sleep also. Danny couldn't bring himself to do it though. He had to watch his partner's back.

"Morning, brah," Kono whispered.

"Hey," Chin greeted in his ever-economic way.

Lori nodded her greeting awkwardly.

Danny stood, knees popping and gestured for the cousins to hand over the goods. His stomach growled loudly in anticipation and Kono couldn't stifle the giggle. Danny smiled as he snatched a malasada out of the bag and started to herd the team back out the door.

They all stopped when the patient cleared his throat. "Don't have… to go."

Kono's smile lit up the room. "Aww, we just wanted to let you get your beauty sleep, boss."

She passed the coffee around before dropping into the chair Danny had vacated. Danny took a sip, then a long swallow of the coffee when he discovered the temperature was perfect. He regarded his partner's expression: it was guarded, but content. He watched how the SEAL's gaze lingered on each member of the team, drinking in their existence. Steve licked his lips, opened his mouth preparing to say something…

Right as the door opened, admitting Steve's doctor and nurse. The physician was the same man Danny had spoken with yesterday evening. He reminded Danny of the guy who played John Coffey in The Green Mile. His voice even sounded the same. "Ah, good to see you've awakened Commander McGarrett," he began affably. The doctor looked pointedly at the visitors. "If you could give us a few minutes, I have some things to discuss with my patient."

Danny watched as Steve's expression changed half a dozen times in about two seconds as he scanned the room again. He saw the flash of doubt in his partner's eyes as they settled on Lori, then the moment of guilt and he knew it was because the SEAL felt bad he was uncertain about their newest team member. He sighed. His partner was such an open book. So he took the decision out of Steve's hands. He already knew what the doctor was going to say to McGarrett anyway. "C'mon, out. Let the man keep a shred of dignity."

They walked down to the waiting area, Danny consuming the rest of his malasada on the way. The team sat in the functional but not quite comfortable chairs. Danny was mid-swallow in his latest gulp of coffee when Chin asked, "So how's he doing?"

The cousins and Lori had the basic rundown of Steve's condition, having stayed long enough to know their boss was out of danger before heading back to the palace to start damage control. Danny had gotten the final assessment a couple hours after they had left.

"He's doing OK, all things considered. It sure as hell could have been a lot worse." Danny leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling tiles. "The concussion is minor; he's got some cracked and bruised ribs. They want to keep an eye on him for another day because they want to monitor his kidneys, something about bruising."

He had to pause for a minute; the anger was starting to bubble up again. He sighed, "He's on soft foods until his 4 loosened teeth heal. There's enough thread in him to make Frankenstein's monster jealous, he's got a dozen or so second degree burns on his stomach. "

Danny rose to his feet and stalked to the window, trying to wipe the mental images away that went along with the litany of injuries. "His larynx was bruised, presumably by a rope and he's got torn muscles in both shoulders."

He clenched his fists, anger at Jenna, anger at Wo Fat rising white hot. Thoughts of vengeance rolled darkly through his brain. If he could get his hands on a genie, his first wish would be to pluck Wo Fat from whatever rock he had crawled under and drop the criminal right in front of him. His second wish would be used to revive Wo Fat after he killed him. Slowly. His third wish, well…

He started when Chin placed a hand on his shoulder and said steadily with deadly promise, "We'll get him, brah. We'll get him."

Kono stepped up to Danny's other shoulder and leaned in adding her own silent support to Chin's promise. A moment later, Danny felt a cool hand against his shoulder blade as Lori announced, "The doctor's leaving."

The team re-entered Steve's room. Danny noted the glower on McGarrett's face. Steve evidently was not happy about the recommended stay. The SEAL started to open his mouth and Danny cut him off. "No, you are not fine. You are not OK. After all the effort we went through to rescue your sorry butt, you are going to stay here for the expected amount of time to ensure that you do not undo the saving of your life."

Steve's eyes narrowed. He took in another breath, preparing to try another approach when Danny beat him to it again. "You will not rest better at home away from the good drugs. Four cracked ribs, Steven. Four! Not to mention the scrambled brains. No, you're safer here away from the temptation of swimming ten miles with torn-up shoulders."

The two men stared at each other for an interminable moment. The corner of Steve's mouth quirked, he tried to rein it in but lost the battle and broke out into a full-blown grin.

For the first time since they had met in Steve's office all those crazy hours ago, Danny felt like things were going to be OK.

"Fine," Steve agreed.

"Good. Because you didn't have a choice. If you argued I was going to find Kamekona and have him sit on you."

Steve just blinked. Kono laughed. Danny heard Lori stifle a snicker and he could see Chin shaking his head out of the corner of his eyes. Yes, things were going to be OK.

The SEAL closed his eyes and they fell into companionable silence for a short while.

"I didn't get to say it before I checked out back there," Steve opened his eyes and broke the silence quietly, "but thanks for coming after me." He looked away from his team, away from Danny.

Danny didn't let Steve withdraw. He walked around to the other side of the hospital bed and dropped heavily into the chair to meet his partner's gaze. "First, you did thank me right before you 'checked out'. And second, you do not get to corner the market on insane rescue missions. We've learned a thing or two from you, my friend. Matter of fact, I think we one-upped your insanity on this one…."

Steve managed to put on one of his faces. Danny wasn't sure which one his partner was going for and was pretty sure Steve didn't really know either. He blamed the morphine. "What, is this a competition now, Danny?"

"Everything's a competition with you," Danny replied matter-of-factly.

Steve sighed in exasperation the effect lost when his breath hitched from the pain that flared in his injured ribs. "Let's hope we don't have to top this one then, huh?"

Danny kicked back and smiled, "Oh, I don't think we could top this one. Vietnam-era helicopters, civilians and SEALs working side by side in a covert, unsanctioned, could-provoke-an-international-incident-of-historic-proportions and possibly-get-us-all-arrested-for-treason rescue op. Did I mention Lori got to fire an RPG? Seriously, this is one for the record books. "

Steve looked appreciatively over at Lori, "RPG? Really? That explosion was you?"

Lori bit her lip and actually blushed.

"Nice," the head of Five-0 smiled.

"And thirdly," Danny interjected, "You told me that you would have done this for any one of us. That door swings both ways my crazy, ninja, Super-SEAL friend."

Steve held Danny's gaze, expressive eyes telling the detective all he needed to know that his partner had heard him and understood.

The team talked on for hours covering topics ranging from Grace's latest school project to football. They took comfort in the normalcy that they were home, back in the real world. Eventually their leader lost his battle with the meds and the rest his body so desperately needed and he drifted off mid-story.

"I didn't know he played football at Annapolis," Danny remarked.

"He only played his first year," Chin commented softly. The detective turned and regarded Chin as he continued, "John told me Steve had to drop football because of his class load."

They sobered at the mention of Steve's father and the reminder of what had created the Five-0 team in the first place. The silence stretched into minutes. Danny pushed himself away from where he had been leaning against the wall to move into the chair.

Kono sniffed and wrinkled her nose. She leaned over and propelled Danny towards the door instead. "Sorry, brah but you're being kicked out. You need a shower. Badly. You stay here much longer and you're gonna become a health hazard to all of us."

The Jersey detective hesitated, not in the least offended by Kono's remark. He knew he had to stink at this point. He looked around the room, uncertain and then settled his gaze on his dozing partner. Kono smiled. "Don't worry, we've got the boss."

Danny paused a moment longer then nodded. He knew Steve was in good hands. He lifted his arm and sniffed theatrically, and instantly regretted it. He really did need a shower. Suddenly all he could think about was how long he had been in those clothes. Was it really going on two days? Maybe he wouldn't bother washing them. He'd burn them.


He was going to go home, shower and then burn those clothes - and with them, hopefully some of the bad memories.