A/N: Here's the last and the longest but there's an epilogue in here too. Thank you for sticking with me.

Summary: "Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are." Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha.

Chapter 12

A television screen flickered quietly in the corner of the large waiting area. The local station had caught every angle of every official event during the President's busy day in Hawaii and the presenters gushed with enthusiasm for it, their pride clear even though the sound had been turned down low. Bands had played, crowds had cheered, hulas had been danced and, by late afternoon, a memorial had been proudly unveiled in bright sunshine. Steve had hardly taken in any of the other footage being shown but those clear blue skies behind those beaming veterans' faces eventually drew his attention.

The weather had finally cleared in time to mark the sacrifice of so many in the past...Great. Why the hell couldn't it have done that in time to save just one today?

Steve's head was full of bitter 'what-ifs' and 'if-onlys' as he went over and over the circumstances that had conspired to end with him sitting here now waiting to hear if his partner, his closest friend, would survive. Seeing so many people smiling joyously on the screen made him sick and he turned away to pick once more at the flakes of dried blood that he alone could still see stuck in his nail beds, despite the fact he'd scrubbed them clean. Danno's blood on my hands...

Once Danny had been torn away from him to be taken straight into surgery, Steve had numbly succumbed to his own treatment. It filled the time and while the cleaning and stitching of the bullet wound to his arm was painful, he wouldn't allow himself to even acknowledge it. His thoughts were drawn unrelentingly to treatments, medications and life-saving procedures that were happening elsewhere... It's all out of your hands now, he told himself as he clenched at his fingers. And that seemed ironic too.

Steve hated this feeling of helplessness... "You,my friend, are a control freak"...He could hear Danny's voice in his head even when he wasn't there. If he had been, Steve wouldn't have been able to deny it, and that was what was driving him so crazy. This whole mess had flown out of control so damned fast and Danny had paid the price.

"None of this is your fault, you know that right?"

Chin's quiet voice interrupted his thoughts. Kono's eyes were on him too, but Steve could only shake his head wearily by way of an answer. He just didn't have the words to voice what he was really feeling. How could he ever explain the weight of responsibility he felt, or the heavy dread of any further loss in his life, of this loss. He had come to rely on Danny for so much, he simply couldn't face the possibility of life without him. The thought left him shaky and weak, more so even than his own exhaustion and injury.

It was close to midnight before a doctor eventually approached them. The waiting room had emptied through the evening and now they stood up together in a hush of anticipation. He shook hands with Steve and introduced himself as David Tyler, the surgeon who had just spent nearly nine hours working on Danny in the operating theater.

"Detective Williams is out of surgery and being transferred to the ICU," he said, looking around the three faces before him. He knew who these three were and knew they dealt with crises everyday but this was their friend, this was personal, especially it seemed for the commander of this team. Steve McGarrett looked stricken with something beyond fear over what he was about to hear, so David Tyler gave it to them straight.

"I'm afraid his condition is still extremely serious. We were was able to remove the bullet. It had traveled through the tissue and lodged against the lower part of his lung. It was rather tricky to patch. We also traced and removed the fragments of bone from the ribs it fractured when he was hit." Tyler ran a hand back through his graying hair and adjusted his glasses. It had already been a long evening and it wasn't over.

"I think you are probably aware that a serious infection had already taken hold before we got Detective Williams into surgery. Considering the conditions as I understand them, it's not surprising." He could see from their eyes that they did indeed know the critical nature of the threat.

"Well, it was a lengthy process to remove the debris from his various wounds...a difficult job...a lot of glass and other materials, organisms and such. It was an intricate procedure with so many injuries and with so much time having passed before you could get him to us." Tyler was aware that his words might sound accusatory and didn't mean them to, so he hurried on.

"I believe we have successfully cleaned out all the alien material but his body is still under attack and he is extremely weak. We are pushing strong antibiotics into him but these things can take a while to work. It's not clear how well he's responding yet. At this point I really can't give you any sort of prognosis, I'm afraid."

A silence fell as Steve, Chin and Kono digested the news. It was Steve who broke it.

"Can we see him?"

They were led to the ICU but were not allowed beyond the glass wall of the small room where Danny lay surrounded by the machines that were the only things keeping him breathing, keeping his organs functioning, keeping him alive.

Nurses moved around him in a well practiced ballet of precise checks and adjustments. Laid out flat on his back, it was difficult to even see his face beneath an oxygen mask and all the tubing and wires. More were attached to, or trailed over his bare chest and disappeared beneath the starkly white bandages around his torso. Above his head, a monitor showed the worryingly unreliable rhythms of his body.

"His temperature hasn't yet stabilized, and we're having trouble with his blood pressure and heart beat, both are still rather erratic," Tyler explained. "I'm sure you want to be with him but we need to be monitoring his condition extremely closely. I'm sorry, we can't allow you to stay here now, you would be in the way of his treatment."

Chin and Kono looked towards Steve and expected a growl of denial. His eyes hadn't left Danny but they narrowed and blinked fast at the surgeon's words. His whole face twitched with emotions he was trying to keep in check but eventually he gave a short nod. His weariness made it difficult to even move that much.

The case that had brought them here was complicated, international and far reaching. Despite the hour, as Commander of the Five-0 task force, Steve still had responsibilities, still needed to complete provisional reports and prepare briefings – they would not be able to keep it quiet for long. Although he hated the thought of leaving he knew that, more than anything else, right now Danny needed this expert medical help and he had to accept what they were being told.

Chin saw Steve was struggling and spoke up for him. "You'll let us know if his condition changes. Anything. You let us know." It wasn't a request and David Tyler nodded.

Steve found his own voice. "I'll be back." It was croaky and barely there but to the others, its tone and the look on his face was easily recognizable. For now, Steve would give ground to hold ground, but then, they knew, there would be no shifting him.

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The White House press corps works like a pack of wolves. Within its hierarchy, there are elders to be respected and ambitious young pretenders vying for attention and opportunity. Those who survive and thrive are journalists with as much love for the cut and thrust of politics as those they follow. Amongst their envious colleagues they're seen as a breed apart – talented, quick, brutal and privileged. Nobody gets to travel as much as the White House Press Corps and it's usually in pretty nice conditions. They're looked after, and the trip to Hawaii had fallen very nicely for them.

Having filed all their reports and their copy, having seen Air Force One take off, and safe in the knowledge that the Washington news calendar held no further important events until after the weekend, most of the pack had opted to stay on and enjoy the islands for a couple of extra days. The Hilton's Pool Bar rang to the party atmosphere of a job well done, as top buttons were loosened and ties gave way to leis.

The cocktails were already flowing when the raucous exchange of political war stories and in-gags began to be interrupted by the beeping chorus of cell phones. A tinny two-tone here, a sharp single note there. Even a witty recording of a bird call, cut off in its prime as though the subject had fallen of its perch. Text messages arrived on the screens of journalist after journalist and the party was over, the place began to empty.

News editors of the country's best known newspapers and stations had got wind of another great story and were leaping at the chance to put their usually stuck-up specialists to the test. Through agencies and stringers, word was filtering to the mainland of a huge case right under their normally rather superior noses. It involved Russian mobsters, gruesome murders, drugs, guns, computer fraud, girls, an heroic fight for survival, and all in the most perfect of exotic settings.

Top political correspondents suddenly found themselves being asked to become crime correspondents. Seeing it as an opportunity to prove their broader credentials, they put aside their flowers, their colorful drinks and their plans for relaxation and, as one, they rose to the occasion.

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Rosalie Hagino became an overnight sensation. In the days after her rescue, while still bearing the brutal evidence of her ordeal, she became the story teller everyone wanted to hear and see. Her pregnant daughter helped her with her hair, placing a beautiful white hibiscus bloom behind her ear, and together, they chose a bright red dress and matching lipstick that looked fresh and pretty against the cool plants of the lanai where she held court from a throne-sized wicker chair. The journalists and crews filed up her garden path and she made them all welcome with a warm smile, fresh lemonade and iced tea. All except one.

Kono appointed herself as Rosalie's handler to ensure nothing slipped through that could prejudice any future case arising from the investigations still going on. It wasn't too hard. Most of the reporters simply wanted the emotional details of her personal experience and understood the restrictions. Rosalie told it so well. With her bravery and fear still evident, and the bruises and cuts still livid, the cameras focused in close, as tears welled in her eyes when she spoke of how she had thought she would die and how she was saved.

Inevitably, Kono ended up attracting plenty of attention herself. The mainland reporters quickly became fascinated with the whole back-story of a beautiful former professional surfing champion becoming a cop. On the internet, there was a sudden flurry of interest in old competition photos of her riding Pipeline in tiny bikinis.

After too many questions about her change of career and how the rush of a one-eighty spin compared with the rush of a sniper shot, Kono made her excuses and slid inside the Hagino home to listen through the closed shutters. The press were left ranged at Rosalie's scarred feet, like children gathered there for a bedtime story.

The Governor's own press office and the HPD were more than helpful with the specifics of the identities of the assassins and their hit squad. The FBI also stepped up with information on what they knew of the Russian Mob and its influences. It spawned much interest and many follow up reports on the growing power of the criminal gangs. More arrests would follow but for now, for all, the good publicity was welcome.

One particular journalist, however, was not.

The Island Sun was shut out of every press conference, and every interview. Press releases never made it to the newspaper's inbox. Donald Stuart was reduced to rehashing what he could crib from other peoples' copy, whining around the edges of the reporter packs like a stray with scabies. When he, like every other journalist on the story, requested updates on Detective Danny Williams' condition, every cop, nurse and press officer simply put the phone down on him. He knew he was beaten and didn't even try to approach Kono or Chin. Steve McGarrett was unavailable to everyone.

On the first day, Steve appeared alongside the Governor, looking exhausted and drawn but every inch the hero the press wanted, but he was determined to lay that mantel where it belonged. He was going to right some wrongs. The Chief of Police chose not to be present.

Chin had forced him to throw a clean shirt over his blood stained vest but otherwise, Steve was still in the clothes he'd worn for the past two days. With his tattooed arm in a sling and a dark shadow of stubble across his square jaw line, he stood tall and, in military fashion, succinctly outlined the basics of how the Five-0 investigation had developed and ended.

In the hush that followed his delivery, despite his weariness, Steve drew himself even more upright and cast his hard gaze around the room.

"I am extremely proud of the work of the Five-0 task force. Of my team. Not even a week ago we were being vilified by some members of the press, members who, I should point out, are not here today. One of my team in particular was unfairly singled out as the subject of attack, despite the great work he has always done for the State of Hawaii. I want to make it clear, that it is only through the efforts and bravery of Detective Danny Williams that this case has reached this successful conclusion and that no more innocent people were killed. As you've heard, Danny Williams is currently lying in hospital fighting for his own life." Steve turned slightly to address the Governor, as well as the rest of the audience. "If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to go be with him."

With a nod of permission from the Governor, Steve stepped away before the reporters could call out their questions. He had remained unreachable since then, except to a select few.

"Uncle Steve?"

"Hey Gracie."

"Did he wake up yet?"

The question broke him up a little more each time he heard it. Even though she had asked it every day for the past four days, it was still as timid as the first time, as though Grace was afraid of the answer, afraid to hear that her dad would never wake up again.

Steve crouched down and wrapped her in long hug and then allowed her to take up the position he'd adopted as his own, just as soon as the doctors had allowed him the access he'd so badly needed.

From the low chair at Danny's bedside, Grace leaned over to kiss his cheek, then rested her head gently against his face, brushing across the dressings on his ear and neck. She slipped her arm over his chest, taking great care not to dislodge any of the monitoring wires still attached there or the criss-cross patterns of ugly, dark threaded sutures. Her tanned healthy skin lying against the mottled blacks and blues of his contusions looked so wrong.

Steve stood back and watched as she lifted a cloth from a bowl next to the bed, squeezed out the chilled water and gently pressed it against Danny's clammy brow, just as the nurses had shown her how. Everyone realized the young girl needed to feel she was helping too, but so far, even her childish efforts had not succeeded.

Danny remained gripped in the hold of the infection still wreaking havoc on his body. Steve had looked on helplessly as the fever seethed and rolled beneath his skin. Three terrifying seizures had set alarms ringing and medical staff running but luckily, Grace had not been there to witness them.

Given the doctors' warnings, Rachel only brought her for short visits. She was terrified that their daughter would be present when the bouncing line on the screen over Danny's bed, flattened. Grace didn't fully understand just how sick he was, and everyone who saw them together tried, for her sake, to mirror the hope she exhibited.

"There you go, Danno," Grace said as she dabbed at Danny's face and hairline. "That should cool you down some more. And when you get cooler, you'll wake up properly again, see. And you should too, 'cause I have lots to tell you about from school, and I need you to help me build something for my science project. I won a merit for that story I told you about and I want to read it to you 'cause I put in a really funny thing about you, but first of all you have to get better..." She continued her concerned chatter as she wet the cloth and began again.

Rachel sniffed and Steve turned to see her quickly swiping at her eyes.

"He's fighting," he reassured her quietly. "Danny's a fighter."

It was the same line that had been rolling through his head during the many hours he had spent here, sitting and doing just what Gracie was doing now.

The nursing staff were doing all they could, monitoring and varying the combinations of drugs and treatments, constantly trying to find what would work. Cooling pads had been placed around Danny's shuddering body and the room temperature was kept purposefully low, to the point that any visitors needed to wear extra layers if they stayed any length of time. Chin and Kono had brought Steve a couple of extra sweat shirts when they delivered his own change of clothes and toiletries. He had not yet been home, preferring to sleep and shower at the hospital until Danny woke...He's going to wake up...he has to wake up...

At times it seemed as though the antibiotics dripping into Danny's arm might be having an affect. Nurses noted down figures and sent encouraging smiles Steve's way but, each time, the heat rolled in again like an unstoppable tide, lapping up his body and soaking him in perspiration. Dehydration was a serious concern. His chest rose only a fraction with each panting breath, his lips parted and moved beneath the cannula. He was not conscious but he was not exactly still. Tiny jerky movements and gasps attested to the battle he was fighting. His head tossed a little and his lashes flickered as his closed eyes darted frantically.

Steve had watched it all until he couldn't stay upright any longer and fell asleep with his head on the bed and his hand on Danny's arm. He woke with a start when another alarm whistled and he was left to pace back and forth, his trembling hands running over his face and neck, until the staff got his partner's racing heart back under control. Only then did his own settle.

As a military commander, Steve had seen men injured before, comrades and friends. Some hadn't made it. Steve had dealt with every loss and injury as he had to, as any senior officer must, but this, this he was finding harder to deal with and he feared it might just break him - the possibility was a persistent and viciously taunting voice that he had to silence in order to function at all. While it was Danny who always claimed to feel the odd man out, to be a fish out of water in the islands, Steve knew now that the only reason he had himself been able to settle into a life back in Hawaii once more was the circle of people he'd gathered around him, those he'd allowed to become close. None more so than Danny.

Doctors made warning noises about the possible long term damage such a sustained temperature could have, especially on the brain as a result of the seizures. When Danny's body twisted and bucked with the cruel contortions, Steve leaned in and held onto his hand but the grip that was returned was simply the result of cording, knotting muscles. Steve was told it was unlikely that Danny knew anything that was happening to him.

Now, as he watched Grace hugging her father, Steve was inclined to agree. Nothing else was likely to give Danny a stronger incentive to wake, but he remained in the same state of semi-consciousness, pasty and pale. Unresponsive. Lost to them.

"But he's got to want to fight. What if he doesn't want to..."

Steve glanced at Rachel again. Her eyes were still glistening with tears as she stared at Danny.

"I always thought he was...a fighter, like you said," she went on, keeping her voice low so Grace couldn't hear. "In his job, in our marriage...and after." She looked up at Steve and knew he understood what she was talking about. She knew if Danny had confided in anyone about their renewed, then disastrously failed-again relationship, it was him. "But Steve, that picture from before, that story, when he told that stupid, drugged up idiot to shoot him...I know him, but that didn't look like him, not the fighter I knew. That looked like he was...like he didn't want to..."

"He was hurting that day," Steve interrupted her.

Rachel looked blank and Steve suddenly wanted to reveal everything he knew, to explain and defend his friend.

"He saw you."

Danny hadn't told her but it was important, imperative, to Steve that now Rachel should know what had set him on a downward spiral that he'd hardly had a chance to recover from before finding himself in the subsequent trauma and present crisis.

"You and Stan. The baby. Grace. He saw you all that day, saw what he'd lost."

He could forgive her lack of imagination before. A new baby, a new start - she was't heartless, just preoccupied but now he saw the second the realization hit her. With the sudden shock of understanding, Rachel's dark eyes widened and her tears escaped. "Oh my God!" She gasped as though she had taken a blow and Steve was instantly reminded of that moment back on the quayside and of Danny's own reaction. These two knew each other so well.

Grace heard her and turned to see the stark horror on her mother's face. She hadn't heard what was said and misread the signs.

"It's okay, Mommy," she cried, leaping off the bed to hug her. "Danno's gonna be okay, 'cause he's a fighter, just like Uncle Steve says...you'll see."

Steve had wanted, needed, Rachel to fully understand but he didn't want to hurt her. He could clearly see the love she still held for his partner. He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder and pressed the other against the back of Grace's dark hair.

"It's true," he said, conviction reverberating in his tone. "What he did on that island, how he survived there, that proves it. He couldn't have done it if he really didn't want to live, if he didn't know deep down that he has plenty to live for, to fight for. Danny's strong. He'll beat this too."

Rachel nodded silently and took in some long breaths to steady herself before attempting a tremulous smile of agreement. For their daughter she would try to believe it was true. When her eyes met Steve's, they showed deep regret but also thanks. She pressed Grace against herself, then steered her out, the pair walking slowly away down the corridor with their arms held protectively around each other.

Steve resumed his place and leaned over to take a firm grip on Danny's forearm.

"Come on Buddy," he whispered, stroking a thumb absently over his partner's still flushed skin. "Did you hear me bigging you up there? You can do this. There's people here who need you. Come on back to us, Danno. Please..."

Danny turned a corner that night.

His body felt sluggish, heavy, yet strangely hollow, as though his core had been scooped out. He was a husk, delicate and frayed, with no strength to open his eyes even though he could hear voices and feel the persistent presence of people around him.

He knew straight away where he was and was conscious enough to register it as a good sign. He'd survived. Part of him wanted to celebrate, wanted to whoop and punch the air, but it was a tiny part and the rest of him still couldn't quite catch up and resisted as though he was dragging a tonne weight through quicksand when he tried to open his eyes and show the world he was back.

Weakness and weariness was sucking every ounce of strength, squeezing every molecule, and he nearly gave up...Next time, I'll do it next time...

"Oh no, Danny, not again...Come on now, let's be having you..."

Not yet.

"I know you're in there, Buddy."


"Danno. Hey, Danno"

Steve. Only Steve McGarrett would be so annoying.

"Enough of this...come on now..."

Steve. Of course.

Danny's eyes opened and Steve's filled up.

"There you go."

Danny blinked slowly. Once. Twice. His eyelids felt like iron grilles that had to be forced up in a battle of sheer will over sheer exhaustion. The prize was to see Steve's face, lined, unshaven, darkly bruised by worry and tiredness, but smiling.

"Hey," he whispered.

Hey...Danny tried to form the word too, but failed.

"Ha! Don't strain yourself there, Danno." Steve sounded delighted. Everything was a triumph now.

"One step at a time, eh."

Suits me...He tried a smile too but couldn't be sure his face was co-operating. Christ, it hurts...feel like...

Danny's blurry, bloodshot eyes conveyed his feelings even at half mast and Steve could read them easily.

"I know Buddy, I know...but it's going to be okay now. The doctors say you're through the worst. You're going to be okay. It's all going to be fine now."

Danny felt the pressure of Steve's hand on his shoulder, warm and comforting. It stayed there as he withdrew his other from its sling and gripped around his wrist and Danny drew strength from the touch. Even as his partner's eyes drifted closed again, Steve saw the corners of his mouth had lifted slightly. It was a ghost of his normal smile but it was enough.

"You made it Danno. You made it."

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The sand was cool beneath his feet as he flexed his toes and buried them in the darker damp layers below the surface. He leaned back in the lounger and stared out. The last time he'd been on a beach, it was with Sam. He swallowed hard on the bitterness of regret. He'd known her such a short time but her loss was something he was still having to come to terms with. He hadn't been well enough to attend the funeral and he hadn't felt strong enough to visit her grave since. Soon. It was on his to-do list, but it was a long list.

Stay awake for more than two hours at a time; be able to walk more than twenty feet without feeling like it's a marathon; cut back on the pain killers; cut back on the antibiotics; cut back on the grumbling over the inability to do either; eat more; throw up less; stop worrying; get everyone else to stop worrying; get back to work; get back to normal.

A visit to Sam's grave was near the top...next week maybe...but it came only after his number one priority.

Count your blessings and let every one of them know how you feel. It was written large and bold like a headline in Danny's head.

As Grace ran towards him, he grabbed his latest opportunity and opened his arms out wide. She flopped onto his chest and wrapped her wet arms tightly around her father's neck. Danny's still healing skin, pink and shiny with new scars, crusted with shrinking scabs in some places, was sensitive to any touch, but this was a good one...This one is perfect... Her sloppy kiss pressed against his cheek and he returned it with a loud and deliberately slobbery one of his own, mouthing around her ear and blowing raspberries into the salty dampness of her hair.

"Eww!" She squealed but she didn't pull away, instead snuggling up against him, until his t-shirt was soaked with the wetness from her costume. Danny winced at the dull pain it caused in his side but he didn't move her off. He could live with that pain.

Rachel had been dropping Grace off every day to spend as much time as she could with him. As much as his recovery allowed anyway. His ex-wife was caring and tender with him, her eyes always holding a sadness that she tried to hide and he'd noticed her biting at her lip as though holding back on something. He recognised the signs but Danny hadn't yet been able to face the conversation he felt would have to come... Add that to the list then...Strangely, it didn't feel too important to him any more. He'd already had the conversation with himself and that was enough for now. He'd come up with his own answers.

A large towel dropped over them and Kono leaned in as if to tickle Grace too but took her chance to lift her away from Danny's lap and plonk her down, wrapped up like a parcel. Grace giggled and Danny smiled at Kono's insight.

Since his release from hospital eight days ago, his whole team had been hovering around him like concerned aides, quick to step in with encouragements and admonishments, delivering his medications and forcing him to rest. They supported his every move and lingered near whenever he wavered.

He really hadn't been good company. Eager though he had been to get away from doctors and bed baths and catheters, tests, drips and manipulation, it seemed endless rules had been laid down for his continued recovery and he still found himself the center of way to much attention. Steve McGarrett was the worst...Or the best, Danny corrected himself.

He was only ever a grunt of pain away. Even in the night, when Danny couldn't hold back a moan if he shifted or tried to turn or to reach for a drink or a tablet, there he would be. Sometimes wordless, sometimes with quiet talk that dulled the echoes of those fears that still resounded and hovered in the dark. While chivvying and nagging over his treatments, he was also sensitive enough to allow his friend space to build back his reserves, to keep his pride... Who would have thought such a neanderthal animal could have such a feminine side... Danny had mused over the man's extraordinary attentiveness in whatever short breaks of wakefulness he could manage between the many hours of sleep he still seemed to need.

He could barely remember the first few days after coming around and after that, the persistent symptoms left him sick and dizzy and hurting all over. It had been Steve's hand that closed over his as it clutched at the pump of pain relief, holding on silently until the warming effects beat back the worst of it. He'd accompanied him down corridors to never ending scans, waiting for hours to accompany him back to his room, where Danny could only lay limp, washed out and wretched.

Within the first week however, physiotherapists had been encouraging Danny to get on his feet. It was a painful, complicated and highly undignified process with various tubes hanging down uncomfortably from beneath his hospital robe. Steve was conscious that his friend may not want him around to witness it and offered to step outside but Danny had nervously shaken his head and instead, he stood back against the wall to watch, his own stiffly braced legs twitching in sympathy with Danny's jerky movements and huffs of effort.

Five steps were all Danny could manage before sweat beads were popping on his brow, he felt his knees begin to buckle and the horribly familiar nausea was building. Steve couldn't help himself and jumped forwards to support him and the therapist allowed it as she reached for a bowl to hold under Danny's chin while he retched. He was left gray and panting.

Steve held him up and carefully manhandled him back towards the bed where Danny slumped defeated and then looked up apologetically.

"We gotta stop doing this arm in arm stuff, people are going to talk," he said weakly.

"Nah, they know I prefer someone who can actually walk upright, doesn't have to pee through a tube, and won't barf every few steps," Steve responded, hitching the pillows back behind Danny's head.

"Ouch," Danny feigned a hurt look.

"What? I was joking. Too early?"

"A little..." Danny muttered, then his eyes grew wide and he doubled over retching loudly again. Steve spun round to grab for another basin from the bedside shelf, knocking over a tray with a plastic jug of water and glasses in the process. They crashed down, soaking his pant leg and rolling about his feet as he swung back to find Danny grinning mischievously up at him, and no longer looking at all as though he might throw up.

"What? I was joking too! You work alone now? I thought we were a double act."

Steve cursed him and the therapist beside them laughed. The following day, to the applause of his team mates, Danny managed ten more slow steps.

Kono and Chin each took their turns but it was Steve who had stayed for most of his time in the hospital, only leaving for gradually longer periods in the second week, once Danny was strong enough to insist with anything like his usual manner. It was as though they had to wean themselves off each other.

"Duty calls, Babe. Hawaii needs you. Besides, you stink and you look worse than I feel. For the sake of everyone here who has a working sense of smell, go home, go to work, go away. Please."

It was a wrench. The first time, Steve had been uncertain and hesitant, his eyes cast down like a little boy. He stood as though he was about to go but instead returned once more to the side of Danny's bed, fiddled absently with the crease of a sheet then sat down on the edge. They contemplated each other for a full minute until Danny eventually raised his eyebrows in frustration.

"You want me to call you a cab?"

"No, no it's just..."

Steve didn't know quite where to begin with what he needed to voice. He looked as serious as Danny had ever seen him. Well, maybe not as serious as when he has a gun in his hand, or a grenade, he observed, but he was showing the strain that had affected them all.

"Danny, it's been...This whole thing... when we couldn't get to you, and you hurt so bad...I was...I just want you to know..."

Danny raised up a hand. A catheter needle was stuck in the back and held in place with tape. The drip tube flapped as his wrist did.

"I do, Babe," he said. "Believe me, I do." He smiled and Steve could see the truth of understanding in his face, even as he rested his head back on the pillow. "And me too."

Another long moment of silence filled the room as their eyes held, their brows quirked, and the grins broadened to mirror each other, open and accepting and totally unembarrassed.

"Right, well, I'm glad we had that little chat," Steve smirked eventually, as he stood up once again, levering himself up with a deliberately hard push against Danny's knee.

"Yeah, your communication skills are improving. Coming on real well. Let's do this more often, y'know, really open the floodgates next time." Danny was waving both hands now. "Let it all out there...care, share..."

"...don't you dare."

"Nice," Danny congratulated him. "Always good to go with poetry when expressing your feelings, Steven."

Steve was at the doorway waving in mock dismissal now. "No thanks. I've got better places to be."

He left, but Danny was still smiling fondly in his direction when, after two seconds, he popped his head back sideways around the door frame. "See you later."

It was a promise he'd kept everyday of Danny's remaining hospital stay and hadn't let up once he was released into his partner's care at his home. Danny had to admit, it was nice but he was so fed up now of feeling so bad.

Even after more than three and a half weeks, Danny was still suffering the effects of his ordeal on the island. The infection was proving to be a stubborn bastard, and had settled in his respiratory tract and kidneys. The doctors wouldn't release him unless he kept an oxygen cylinder and mask nearby and allowed Malia and an agency nurse to keep their expert eye on him between check-ups. He ached and wheezed and barely had enough energy to properly voice his irritation, although, of course, he managed it. He was trying hard to present a healing front but as everyone who knew him could have predicted, Danny was an impatient patient.

Steve shook his head as he watched his friend shifting awkwardly to try to ease into the lounger and pushed a cushion into the small of his back. Danny looked up at him and nodded his thanks, accepting a bottle of iced water too. He sipped it and tried again to relax, lifting his legs up onto the wooden slats of the seat. Steve watched in case he was needed.

Danny had lost too much weight and muscle mass to his injuries and illness. His body was still rebelling against the medication. Drowsy and nauseous was his new normal and his movements were slow and tortuous at times. He did his best to hide it but, staying at Steve's since his discharge, that had been impossible and his friends worried over his rather stooped posture and shuffling steps. Their Danny was all about movement and energy and noise, this weakened version was wrong in so many ways. In the last few days, however, Steve had seen some improvements - he was staying awake longer, holding himself better, his energy levels were gradually rising. This day was all about moving on.

As Kono led Grace off in search of more shells for her collection, Steve settled himself onto the sand next to Danny, took a swig from his bottle of beer and leaned back on his elbows. They took in the view together.

Chin Ho Kelly was being given the guided tour of the little whitewashed beach house nearby. His latest, violently garish shirt reflected the brightness of the flowers that trailed up the side of the low building and around the wooden fence of the small yard which opened out onto the sand. Rosalie Hagino was happily basking in his appreciation, her warm laugh chuckling across the beach as he begged her to try to find him and Malia a property just as nice.

Grace and Kono were stooping at the water's edge, to examine their latest finds. Danny could hear their laughter too and guessed his daughter was once again cajoling Kono into telling tales. She never seemed to tire of hearing versions of her father's antics. His team knew he would rather not relive it all but believed he deserved to enjoy her hero worship, so they took great delight in finding new ways to distract her from the more gruesome and violent aspects of what had happened.

Grace giggled at the depiction of her Danno's mantrap as something nearer to Harry Potter's Whumping Willow, magically persuaded to lend him a hand. Her favorite aspect though was always the President's involvement and that needed no dramatic adaptation. The day Danny was released from the hospital, a hand written letter arrived from the Oval Office, praising the team's work, expressing pleasure at Danny's recovery and personally wishing him well. There was also a mention of commendations for all of the Five-0 members.

Kono had squealed almost as loudly as Grace when she'd seen it, sub-consciously running her fingers through her loose hair as she danced around the details of her persuasive techniques. Even her team mates hadn't heard the true story of that yet.

Grace had taken the letter in for Show And Tell. Danny wasn't strong enough to be there at the school with her, but later she told him all about how her friend Tommy, the same Tommy who had introduced the words 'death wish' to her all those weeks ago, had been green with envy.

Watching his girl as she splashed about, that all seemed a lifetime ago. He had a whole new perspective now...Fighting for your life will do that, I guess, Danny grinned to himself.

"What you thinking about?" Steve noticed his friend's look.

Danny turned his grin towards him. "Just about how lucky I am."

"Whoah!" Steve feigned wide eyed shock. "Really? Is that an appreciation for Hawaii I'm hearing, Danno? Can't be. Your fever back or something?" he laughed.

"Alright, alright, calm down, I'm just saying..." Danny smiled and nodded his head out to Grace and to the house and beach.

The waves lapped quietly here. The same sea that pounded so annoyingly outside Steve's home just a few miles away, slipped almost noiselessly up the sand in this sheltered place. Rosalie had consulted Danny's friends and taken his New Jersey city-boy sensitivities into account when she had trawled through all the many properties and contacts on her books. She'd pulled strings and done deals and, when she visited Danny, she had brought with her a tenancy agreement that had left him speechless.

Tucked away amongst expensive mansions and tall duplexes, this small beach-side bungalow belonged to an eccentric and reclusive millionaire, who never used it but refused to sell it, despite countless tempting offers from developers. On an island that did not have the sort of urban development that Danny had grown up in, the area adjacent was perhaps the nearest thing to it.

The property was rather incongruously placed between the bustle and noise of Downtown on one side and a small, narrow strip of private, untouched beach on the other. Steve had seen it boarded up for many years but, with the newspaper reports still fresh in islanders' minds, Rosalie had called in favors, contacted the owner and persuaded him to rent it to Danny. A three bed-roomed home, that Steve was already planning would soon become his stopping off point during the longer beach runs from his own, just a little way further along the coast.

"You want to walk?" Steve asked when he noticed Danny shifting again. He leaned over to take his elbow and helped him stand. They drifted slowly away from their shady spot towards the water, moving at Danny's careful pace with Steve at his side, not touching but just there.

"You heard the latest about Jeffrey Trewl?" Steve asked.

"Chin said you'd spoken to the Feds." Danny hadn't had the energy for the details of the results of the case until recently. Steve took it as another sign of definite improvement that he was showing renewed interest now.

"They're still not sure what to charge him with. Looks like they might even offer him a job, put his genius to their own use."

Danny huffed a laugh at that. "Well, he did kinda show them up. Sweet! Maybe they'll help him grow up a bit."

"The charities he siphoned money to are likely to be able to keep it but there are still a few individuals he donated to who haven't come forward. Jeffrey is apparently reluctant to help the Bureau with that."

They looked over at Rosalie Hagino as she showed Malia photos of her newly born grandson. She felt their gaze from a distance and looked up with a wide, warm smile. "Rosie's still waiting to hear what she should do with hers but I think she has her eyes on the North Shore Drop-In Center." They waved back at her.

The two men had reached the edge of the waterline. The gently tickling tips of occasional waves drifted up over their feet and a warm breeze flapped their shirts and hair. Steve had noticed that Danny seemed less concerned over his 'style' now, more often than not, forgoing the button downs and the gel. He didn't think it was only due to his convalescent lack of energy, or that he was off work, it seemed altogether deeper somehow.

Steve looked across at him. The longest blond strands were blowing sideways and the soft cotton of his washed out polo-shirt wrapped against his frame, his waistband hung low under hip bones that shouldn't show...Still too thin, Steve worried. His cheekbones were sharper than he liked, the skin drawn tight and the flesh sunken under his blond stubble. But Danny's crinkling laughter lines were back and that was what really mattered. That was what they both needed.

Mother Nature can't simply order the brain to find and fix damage inflicted by fate and circumstance. Sometimes she must bribe it with pleasure and humor. And friendship. Steve and Danny channeled that and, after all they'd been through, not only in the past few weeks and months but since they met, they both knew just how much they relied upon it.

"Seen the Island Sun today?" Danny asked. Steve was surprised that he would want to look at that particular paper and shook his head, wondering where they were going now.

"They've got a new writer on the horoscopes. Some guy who used to do news, I believe. Anyway, I read yours, Babe. You know, the one that defines you as stubborn, aggressive and with a deep psychological paranoia over ever being wrong." He turned to Steve with a wonderfully familiar grin. "Says after a period of turmoil, your current state of boredom and monotony is set to continue..."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, but it says you should definitely not go seeking replacements for anyone missing from your life. Oh, and it says you shouldn't expect things to be brightening up for you for at least another month or so..."

"Uh-huh, is that right?" Steve grinned back. "So, Danno how long was it before the Doc said he'd even consider letting you get back to work? Four more weeks was it?" Danny shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his canvas shorts and laughed.

"Okay, it is kinda quiet in the office without you?" Steve admitted. "But we can live with it. So, tell me, what did yours say?"

"Oh, mine? Mine said I should be prepared for a period of regression, expect to return to the days of my childhood, give up any attempt to be a grown up, and get ready to eat my body weight in baked goods. Which I have to say I will enjoy hugely, after putting up with your hospitality for the past week."

Danny's parents were due to fly in the next day. Now that he had a decent place to live, they could not be dissuaded from coming to take over his care and continued recuperation, so that Steve could return to Five-0 full time without distractions.

"You know, I'm really looking forward to meeting your folks."

"Oh, I'll just bet you are." Danny noted wryly. He was already bracing himself for the merciless teasing that would undoubtedly follow what were bound to be some highly embarrassing stories about his past. "Well, I'll be reminding you of that when you've listened to my mother telling way too many details of my life for hour, after hour, after hour..."

"She where you get your talkative gene from then?"

"My what? My talkative gene?" Danny's hands flew up and spoke of his indignation as loudly as his voice.

"Well, yeah. You're talkative Danno. And you're loud too...What, nobody told you that before? Wait, I believe I've told you that before. Couple of hundred times at least..."

"Ha! You think I'm loud, just wait til my Mom and Pop start up..."

"Actually, I cannot wait," Steve laughed honestly. He patted Danny's shoulder and left his hand there, relishing the fact that they were here, together.

Danny mirrored the move and slung an arm up and over Steve's shoulder, giving it a slap then moving it up to grip the back of his neck and drawing their heads close in a brotherly bump.

"Well, I figure it's about time I introduce my family to ...my family." He let the truth of the words hang there and sink in before moving forwards, pushing Steve along and heading towards the rest of the team. "Just don't say I didn't warn you, okay."

There had been a storm the night before but the day was calm and settled now. Danny felt his partner beside him, their shoulders touching as they splashed through the shallows and breathed in the clean air. He felt like he'd come through a storm himself. All the deadwood had been swept away, cut down to the quick. All that was left was the necessary. The living.

"Look at that." Steve nodded to where Grace and Kono had been joined by Chin and Malia. They were all carefully placing their shells on the ground near the wooden steps of the beach house. The colorful pattern was well above the tide line, the words and sentiment would stay safe and untouched in the sand.

'Welcome Home.'

The group closed in around them and Danny smiled. His body may well have more healing to do but, for the first time in what seemed like a long time, his head and his heart were feeling just fine.


A/N: Well, we're done! Thank you all so much for reading and especially to those who have been leaving reviews and comments. I've loved 'chatting' with you all, your wonderful support has really meant a lot.

For the grammar and punctuation purists out there, I feel I really should apologize for my ridiculous overuse of ellipses and italics which, I imagine, must certainly irritate some. I know I use them incorrectly but they're both so effective for speech, thoughts, breaths and hurt of all sorts, that I just I can't help myself ...I'm addicted...See!...Help!

Otherwise, I simply hope you've enjoyed reading the story as much as I did writing it. Feel free to let me know. :)