I do not own Hawaii Five-0 or any characters. No copyright infringement intended.

Notes: one of my nephews is a Doctor/Major in the Army. So some info is from him and some other bits is from various Corps paperwork. Some of this information has been modified to fit – but mostly it is very correct.

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Chapter 23

Tara sat on the plane slouched down in her seat and with her eyes closed as they approached Honolulu International Airport. Before leaving the hotel, she had changed into her faded jeans and a red t-shirt dressed up with a fancy scarf and lightweight sweater. She was also barefoot in an older pair of running sneakers. To an outsider she looked as if she were sleeping contentedly, but the truth was far from that. She hadn't slept since receiving the special overnight package just before departing the seminar. It had been delayed and arrived to her late with the hotel manager practically chasing her down across the lobby as she called for a taxi.

She had opened the envelope in the back seat of the cab and her heart had simultaneously soared and then plummeted. The official letter was now crumpled in her hand and looked well worn. Reading and rereading it as the miles flew by, she had memorized the words by heart. It was what she had always wanted in terms of her medical career, but now she was confused and completely torn since the ramifications were enormous.

And the closer she got home to Honoulu, to her office at TAMC, Doctor Ramirez, and to Danny, the more the lump in her throat began to feel as if it might possibly choke her. She would now have only ten days to make a drastic decision about her professional future. A month ago she wouldn't have needed that time at all. But today was a different story as she mulled over the offer again and again in her mind. She started in surprise when the announcement to prepare for landing interrupted her churning thoughts and Tara blearily opened her eyes to blink away tears that were once more on the surface.

With her forehead resting against the panes of the airplane window, she blindly watched the Pacific Ocean approach and realized blandly that the day was going to be beautiful as the morning sun peaked on the horizon.

After landing and with a heart that became heavier with every step, she gathered her things and went to her car which she had left in long-term parking. She sat quietly to collect her thoughts and then sent a quick text message to Danny.

"Hey, I'm back! I'd like to see u!"

She was happily surprised when Danny's reply came before she had even left the lot. It was early; only 6 a.m. but he was already up and evidently anxious to see her too.

"Early! How about now?" An address followed on the heels of the text and she punched it into her GPS. With a side trip to the coffee shop and bakery, Tara could be there within thirty minutes and she had the whole day.

She couldn't hide her small grin as she sent back a short reply, "C U in 30." With distinct effort, she tabled her anxiety-ridden decision for another time .. for another day. Her first priority would be getting to the bottom of Danny's intensive weekend.

"Later." She mumbled to herself as she whipped her hair into a sloppy pony tail with a spare rubber band that she'd dug out of her car's center console. "Definitely later."

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Assuming that wherever Danny was the rest of the team might be, Tara splurged at the bakery. Two large bags of malasadas, coco puffs and pastries weighed both hands down as she returned to her car. But a sharp ping indicated another text message had come in and she hastily stowed them on the back seat in order to check her phone.

"Others r sleeping. Come round back. Meet on beach." A quick "OK" and she was on her way to Steve's house; parking quietly on the road and walking around the side of the house to leave her breakfast offerings on the lanai. The house was peaceful and rambling; it felt comfortable and she appreciated the shady tree lined property which opened unexpectedly to a large expanse of private beach.

In the distance, she could see Danny's silhouette down by the shoreline. Hands stuffed deeply in his pockets as he slowly wandered a short distance away. And since it was a Monday morning, he was virtually the only one enjoying the early morning sun.

Kicking her sneakers off and shedding the now too hot sweater, Tara jogged down barefoot through the sand and he turned just as she got within a few feet of him. Danny immediately laughed when he saw the faded jeans and very casual t-shirt. The scarf was dressy but her hair was already coming out of the rubber banded ponytail. The doctor he had only seen in an office setting now looked like a carefree college kid and he grinned in total approval.

"I like this side of Doctor Desai." Danny said happily as she gave him a quick hug which he returned with enthusiasm. Refusing then to let her go as he wrapped both his arms around her waist. Her feet got wet as a small wave rushed in and then soaked the first few inches of her jeans. But she laughed at the coolness of the water which brought her back down to earth.

"You came back early. How was the conference?" The relief in his eyes was evident and Tara totally forgot about her pending decision.

Just like him, Tara thought as she tried to covertly get a handle on his mood and overall health. "It was excellent, but I wanted to see how you were doing. So I changed to the red eye."

Danny rolled his eyes in mock frustration as she wiggled out of his grip and then held him at arm's length. "So? How do I look Doc?"

Tara frowned and then shook her head in true dismay. "You look tired and pale. Tired and much too thin, still. But you at least seem to be in a good mood." She couldn't help clucking unhappily at the wan face and wondering if he'd fought the sedatives. "Did you sleep enough last night?"

Before he could reply, a near frantic shout of Danny's name echoed down to them from the house and they both quickly looked up. Tara found herself grinning as she logged Danny's successful reaction to Steve's voice. She couldn't wait to get him into the office for a real hearing test and another MRI to compare against the original baseline. But he was definitely very tired and she didn't like the thought that he hadn't truly rested.

"Here comes the infamous Doc McGarrett now." Danny grumbled as Steve shouted his name for a second time and hesitated in confusion on the lanai. It was obvious that he didn't recognize Tara from a distance and had also now seen the discarded sneakers, sweater and bakery bags. But things weren't adding up for him and Steve was worried as he quickly strode out to confront them on the beach.

His anxious posture and annoyed attitude eventually changed when he realized that Tara was with Danny. His pace slowed and a relieved smile stretched across his face as he welcomed her back from the business trip. But he couldn't help reprimanding the wayward convalescent.

"You've got to stop doing that … how did you sneak past me and Kono?" Steve ran his hand through his sleep-mussed hair. Kono was in the shower and Steve had woken to find Danny's bed empty. Cracking the door open to the bathroom, he'd yelled over the sounds of running water to Kono. But she had assumed Danny was still sleeping and hadn't actually checked his bedroom. Kono's voice was alarmed as she hurriedly ended her shower. She didn't know where Chin was and as Steve slammed the door shut, the water was being turned off while she threw clothes on her damp body. Steve had then spent many frantic moments checking each room in the house before spying the two figures down by the waters' edge.

"How do you feel?" He asked worriedly as he logged the pale complexion. "Why are you out here?"

"I'm fine. And I didn't sneak. I went for a walk." Danny had woken hours earlier and had remained in bed dwelling on staying there .. safely hidden under the blankets with a pillow over his head. Even with the sedatives, his night had been filled with anxious dreams where he was once again deafened. The most upsetting dream had woken everyone towards morning with Danny insisting that he needed to save Grace from some undefined danger.

The sedatives had caused him to be in a dream-like waking state and it had taken a long time for Chin and Steve to convince Danny that Grace was safe. But he couldn't hear her voice in his dreams. He could only watch her lips screaming "Danno!" over and over again before she disappeared. And then they had to convince him that he was safe and no one on the team was in any danger. Unable to hear, he'd watched each member of his team slip away into a swirling black storm cloud. And once again, all he could see were their lips moving .. each one calling out his name in a silent agony.

He had finally fallen back asleep comforted by their physical presence and he had stayed that way peacefully enough for the remainder of the night. But when he woke more fully towards dawn, Danny vaguely remembered splintered parts of the dark dreams. Unsettled and jittery with the muddled memories, he was at first angry with Steve for forcing the sedatives on him the day before. But also angry with himself for causing it to happen in the first place. And he did doubt his ability to get through the new day before even putting one foot on the floor.

So Danny had hesitated on getting up in fear of the distant noises he could hear again from the loud gulls to the crashing waves. It had taken him some time to stumble to his feet and gather his courage to even go downstairs. But then Kono had been sleeping on the couch and he'd been uncomfortable loitering and accidentally waking her so early. With some trepidation, Danny had eased the doors open to the lanai and with cell phone in hand had sat quietly very near the door in a lounge chair. Dawn was now rising in earnest and he'd worked easily at calming his breathing and just listening to the simple waking sounds of the day.

When he had received Tara's first unexpected text message. It had bolstered him, given him more confidence, and he'd slowly walked down to the waters' edge to await her arrival. And a Monday morning was nothing like a busy weekend so up until that point, Danny was relieved that he had no issue with calmly acclimating to what was currently reaching his ears.

"Say hello to Tara like a human. She came home early." Danny's arm had strayed comfortably around Tara's waist and Steve huffed out a resigned sigh. Glaring once more at Danny for the unnecessary scare, Steve couldn't help running his hand again through his short hair. His reaction easy enough for Tara to read in between the lines; something had occurred after Chin's phone call.

"We are very glad to have you back Tara. Trust me, you have no idea how glad."

"No, I bet I do." Her easy statement made Danny do a double-take between her and Steve and he grimaced uneasily.

"What does that mean?" He asked a bit more irritably than he intended. And Tara wasn't once to mince words as she began to guide him back to the lanai, with Steve falling in step next to her.

"It means that I already know what's been going on thanks to Chin. And we have a lot to talk about. And this time, you are going to listen to me buster."

Chin had actually left the house minutes before Danny had made the decision to wander from the bedroom. He had the same goal as Tara to bring breakfast back for everyone. So now the table on the lanai overflowed with a varied selection of breads, pastries and donuts. The team welcomed Tara as she settled herself comfortably. And then over breakfast, Tara's displeased lecture was soft but firm. It lasted almost the entire time leaving Danny's team smiling happily as he was made to listen to his doctor's subdued wrath. Her final words reprimanded him for simply trying too hard .. the ongoing theme of his very nature.

But as he watched Tara's beautiful face, Danny was amazed by her ability to be both his best friend and then the very formal, caustic doctor that was in the process of handing his very head to him on an ornate silver platter.

"Well?" Tara demanded as she stared blatantly at Danny's face. He'd begun to sweat and his hand trembled while he sipped his coffee. She picked up immediately on the subtle queues he was giving off as the morning stretched on. And as distant distractions became more obvious, she nodded her head and took up his hand.

His confused and distracted 'what'? had her rising to her feet and motioning to Steve. "Case in point, Danny."

Danny had admitted to being up since 5 a.m. and it was now approaching 11 a.m. After a rough night, he was becoming fatigued and failing to manage certain sounds. Tara had covertly been indicating to Danny's team the subtle changes in his posture and demeanor. The slight tremble in a hand, changes in breathing, and the jittery reaction to a sudden noise which at that moment in time was a thundering motorcycle cruising by Steve's house.

"Time for a break." Tara whispered gently as Steve intervened to practically force Danny into the house.

"I'm fine, what are you talking about?" His almost angry tirade had her raise her eyebrows in warning with an authoritative hand held high. Irritation was another hint of a pending problem and even Danny finally realized it as her hand stayed his rising voice.

"You promised that you would listen. Starting now, I'm calling you on that promise." Tara was still talking softly but was just as defiant as she followed Steve and Danny into the house. Chin and Kono exchanged amused looks as they listened to Danny and Tara argue about his needs. But there was no doubt that the comely doctor was going to win regardless of Danny's loudly voiced objections.

"Two choices. Sit quietly down here or go to the spare bedroom … your body is talking to you .. listen to it, Danny." From her perspective, his body was practically screaming for a break. Tara's expression dared him to contradict her assessment as she rattled off her observations and he couldn't deny any one of them as he spilled the remnants of his coffee when her cell phone trilled unexpectedly with an incoming call. The loud sound jolted nerves that were becoming frayed.

"Don't you have to get that?" Danny mumbled disgustedly in an attempt to change the subject and escape her much too perceptive opinions. "Isn't that your cell phone Tara? It could be important."

Steve chuckled as he kept Danny moving forward. "Nice try D." He whispered softly. "But let's go, we're going to do this."

She was smiling with her hands on her hips but for all intensive purposes was simply staring him down. "Could be. Don't care. And that's why God made voicemail." She was arrogant and demanding as she softly but persistently pushed him into the house.

"I want you to take a break, Danny. At least one hour. Settle and relax. Then we'll compare notes to how you feel compared to what happened yesterday."

Please, Danno. It's just an hour." Steve's soft plea caused him to hesitate before voicing one final objection and Danny frowned unhappily since he felt in control. He felt like he could deal with the subtle tremble in his hands but then he felt the sweat pooling on his neck and unconsciously winced when Tara's phone rang a second time. And then he heard the exasperated concern in Steve's own voice. Without another word, Danny finally complied as he allowed Steve to settle him down in the darkened room. Part of him felt foolish, even childish, and he resented the ridiculous demands that Tara was making.

Danny watched as Steve needlessly fixed the already drawn blinds. It was as if Steve was afraid to look at him. His profile had remained tense and stoic the entire time Tara had spoken and dictated instructions.

"Thanks." Danny found himself mumbling before Steve left. The one word caused Steve to linger and eventually sit on the side of the bed. "I messed up yesterday. Big time. So, thank you." It was the closest Danny could get to admitting that he'd needed the sedatives.

"You did mess up." Steve added in a rough whisper. "But Tara's back and we all have a lot to learn." He finally looked at Danny and offered him a small grin. "One hour. Let's give it a try."

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Besides Doctor Ramirez, Tara now worried about what Danny would say .. what he might think and how it would put an utter and complete end to their budding relationship. With the magnitude of the decision rambling through her brain, she was currently waiting for Steve to finish reading the letter she had received from the Army Medical Corps. Always so very independent, Tara's life was in an upheaval. The calls she'd just gotten while pushing Danny to rest were from her father. She'd left him a hasty voicemail about the package and impressive offer she'd received from the Corps. And he was so excited for her, that he'd barely been able to leave a lucid message.

Tara had blurted the news out about the letter shortly after Chin and Kono had left the house. Danny fell asleep within minutes of Steve closing the door for the hour respite. And the entire team was more comfortable now with her arrival and professional assurances that Danny would completely recover. So the cousins had left shortly after to open the Five-0 offices and review the thumb drive full of data received from Duke Lukela regarding the dockside murder. Steve intended to visit with Tara for the remainder of the day.

While pouring more coffee, Steve had blithely asked about the conference and she simply couldn't stop herself from digging the letter out of her bag. While he quietly read the offer, she'd listened to her father's voicemail. "Of course you're accepting? You'd be a lunatic not to, Tara!"

With mixed emotions, she stayed quiet as Steve finished reading. "Geez." He whispered with nothing but admiration in his eyes. "They're jumping you from First Lieutenant to Major with a 9B status?" He had a vague familiarity with the levels of Army officer status but with letter 'A" being the highest attainable, a 'B' ranking would no doubt be a prodigious placement.

Steve watched her face change as she sat in front of him with her legs pulled up to her chest on one of his deck chairs. She was anxious for the opinion of someone nearer her own age and with similar deployment experience but she had tears in her eyes. But Steve couldn't yet tell if she appreciated his comments or if he'd just made it worse.

"I guess I'm a lunatic." She whispered her father's word as she took the letter back from Steve and folded it up neatly. She sighed as she tucked it back into her travel bag. "What do I do?"

Steve exhaled in surprise at the very frank question. Gone was the confident demeanor of the professional doctor with years of experience; it was replaced now with an insecurity and sense of confusion. And the opportunity was so immense, Steve could understand the overwhelming and very conflicted feelings. It wasn't hard for him to guess that both Danny and her role at TAMC held particular value too.

But he echoed what her father had suggested just a few minutes earlier in his voicemail. "I know it's a three year commitment. But Tara .. you need to do this." Steve began softly.

And Tara interjected another con to acceptance. "A three year commitment. And the strong potential for another redeployment plus my work may be mostly administrative."

"Yeah but Tara .. in your field, an audiologist of your caliber is not a dime a dozen. They want you. This really isn't something that you can afford to decline. And this puts you on a fast-track for Lieutenant Colonel." He didn't really know what else to say after that. They were both career military. She was obviously upset and yet he knew that she would regret it for the rest of her life if she walked away.

"You have to take it." Steve said gently. "It's a chance of a life-time." And Tara nodded sadly as she rested her forehead on her knees.

~ to be continued ~