AN - To our reviewers, whom we can't thank personally, Mary, Nans and Caroline: Your kind comments are very much appreciated :-)
McGarrett studied his sleeping friend, noting the faded bruises and scrapes that marked his face and arms. He could only imagine the far deeper ones that seared his soul. He gently touched Dan's arm and whispered, "Danno."
He tried again, "Danno, open your eyes and look at me!" A command, not a request.
Blue eyes blinked a few times as Dan tried to focus. A blurry figure wavered into shape.
"Steve? Steve! What? Why?" The words tumbled out. "I shot you! I didn't want to. They forced me. They were going to kill you . . ." Tears spilled from the young cop's eyes as he tried to tell the terrible story. "I can't forgive myself. How can you ever forgive me?"
Steve tightened his hold on his agitated friend's arm. "Easy, Danno," he responded, his voice gentle and reassuring. "Chin and Kono told me how they found you. What you did. . . ." He stopped for a second, his voice choked with emotion. "That shot saved my life, saved both of our lives. How you ever found the strength, the courage after what they did to you, the way they tried to break you . . . You never gave up." He looked deep into his friend's, his kaikaina's, eyes, wanting to make certain Danny would understand. "All I can say is thank you for taking that chance. I forgive you, I would forgive you anything. I hope you know that." He felt tense muscles relax under his touch.
"They tried to make me lie, to say I hated you, that I wanted you dead." Dan leaned back into the pillows. "I wouldn't. I couldn't hate you. I felt so lost. Then, when they said I had to kill you, I took the only chance I could. I'm so sorry. I wish there had been another way."
"There wasn't," McGarrett growled as he recognized Dan's self-doubt and tendency toward self-blame begin to surface once more. "You had only one terrible chance to save my life and you took it!" He stopped, allowing his words to penetrate. "And we're both still alive! Thanks to your courage."
"Both . . . ," Danny whispered, his energy fading. "Still friends?" The question needed an answer,
"Always, Danno. Always, my brother."
Danny weakly grasped Steve's hand. "Friends . . .brothers . . . always," he murmured softly as he fell into a deep, healing sleep, safe, forgiven, the chorus of angry accusing voices finally stilled and only the memory of his friend's absolution remained.