AN- This story was originally posted to this site on 10/1/11.
The light was rapidly fading from the day as a mild breeze caused the remnants of the dried up lei that adorned the granite headstone to scatter all around him. He knelt beside the grave and let his fingers trace the etched name that had been carved into the stone, his eyes too misty with unshed tears to read the words engraved there. Even though he couldn't read them, he knew them all by heart. The words honored the man he would always be proud to call his friend and consider as his brother; the man to whom he never got the chance to say the final Aloha.
Swallowing hard, he rose to his feet and looked away, trying to prevent the overwhelming wave of grief from pulling him under. Despite this, it was a lost struggle as unwanted tears began to fall. Emotions rushed to the surface, and he clenched his fists together and tried to push them back down again, back under control. There were just too many regrets and things left unsaid between them. There was so much to say and now, no time to say it. It was never supposed to end like this.
Things had started well, only to disintegrate as time wore on. At some point in time they had begun to drift apart and questions had arisen; ones which could never be answered. There were so many of them, and now the only thing that could be done was let them fall to the wind, like so many of the dried up flowers of the lei on the headstone. When had everything changed? When had their friendship fallen apart? When had they stopped being kaikua'ana and kaikaina? When had the trust between them started to fade?
When had they grown apart?
There was no way to be sure, but he had his suspicions. Was it the first time after that fateful undercover stint that had ended in so much pain for both of them?*
Even after all this time, the memory of that case was still raw and too close to the surface for comfort. The utmost betrayal of trust as lies were told and advice was ignored made the pain of the deception all that much worse. It had been hard to forgive but the apology had been given from the heart and that was that, until promises had been made, only to be broken later. The very words intended to heal the bleeding wounds would eventually become poisoned daggers to rip their friendship apart.**
Was that the start of the end?
The loss of Chin had only made things harder. The emotional walls that had taken so long to come down between them had suddenly slammed back into place. Gone were the nights where they had worked late together, discussing cases and sometimes baring their souls to each other, sharing thoughts that they couldn't, wouldn't give voice to in the light of day. At first he had told himself it was the way they both dealt with grief but looking back, he knew even then that it was much more than that. The closeness between them had seemed to fade as realization of what would happen if one of them died dawned. The other would be unable to move on; they were inseparable, each other's ohana.
Then they faced their greatest challenge during this uncertain time. An icy chill ripped through his soul and he shivered, blinking away the tears as memories of that fateful day at the airport and the brainwashing flooded his mind. There were just too many doubts and insecurities between them; given the other man's propensity to be rather guarded about his emotions he had no idea what to think. Despite the reassurances that they would work through it together, that they would overcome all the obstacles in their path, the dynamics of their friendship changed. The seed of distrust began to grow; the fear of a reprogramming relapse could not be completely extinguished. Lingering fears were left unspoken, echoing the uncertainty of whether the doctor's diagnosis was right, slowly seemed to slowly erode away what was left of their trust. The closeness that they had shared continued to fade as the gaping chasm between them got wider and bigger, to the point they could no longer hear each other across the divide.
The last clandestine undercover case had been the final straw. The solemn promise given just a year before was the poisoned dagger that killed everything, ending it all. The promise shattered the remnants of everything they had left which was their friendship and the bond of trust that had taken over a decade to solidify. One had been left behind as the other one walked away.
A soft sob escaped his throat as he looked back down at the grave. How many times had he sat at his desk during the past year and stared at the phone? How many times had he wondered if the man whom he had always considered to be his closest friend, his ohana, was doing that same? They had let their pride get in the way, but the chance to make things right would always be there.
Until the day he received that fateful call; the one he feared the most and never wished to receive. Even now he could still hear the tremor of grief in Duke's voice as the detective broke the devastating news. It kept playing like a broken record in his mind, on repeat. Steve was dead, killed while working alone undercover. Danny's greatest fear had finally been realized.
He jumped in surprise as a warm hand was laid on his shoulder, before Duke softly spoke, "I'm sorry Danny but we have to go. The Governor and Attorney General are waiting for you and I promised them that you wouldn't be late."
Wiping away the tears, he nodded before he whispered softly, "Are you sure that this is what Steve really wanted?"
The Hawaiian detective smiled gently as he glanced at the headstone before looking back at the devastated man who now stood uncertainly before of him. "Steve always believed that you would be the one who took over Five-O when he was gone. You were always his heir apparent - even after you left." Squeezing the shoulder beneath his hand, the Hawaiian continued in a calm voice, "Steve always regretted breaking his promise to you, Danny. I would often find him sitting late at night in his office staring at the phone. I tried to encourage him to call you..." Duke swallowed hard before he continued softly, his voice catching. "After...after we found him, it was clear that he was dying. His last request to me was to tell you he was sorry and that you were and always will be his kaikaina. He wanted you to take over Hawaii Five-O."
Nodding slowly, Danny turned back turned back to the headstone and carefully removed the dying lei, "I promise that I will not disappoint you again," he whispered as he placed his own lei upon the head stone. "I promise I will not make the same mistakes again."
"Have faith in yourself, Aikane," the familiar voice whisper reassuringly into his ear as a mild breeze blew past him. For the first time in a very long time, he felt the last vestiges of self-blame lift from his shoulders and he was overcome with a pleasant feeling of lightness. Until it was gone, he hadn't realized that the burden was so heavy that it sometimes choked off rational thought. Steve had forgiven him and he had never given up on him. Now that it was gone, another new, yet familiar responsibility settled onto his shoulders, one which he would always be glad for, because in some ways, it was like coming home after a long time adrift at sea.
*Episode- A Short Walk On The Longshore
**Fanfic- The Pain Of Deception, The Agony Of Forgiveness