King of the Hill Epilogue

Even before his eyes opened, he knew that something was different. As he gradually came to full awareness, he realised that the pain he had felt before was muted now and somehow he knew that his life was no longer threatened by it. The surface he lay on was not hugely comfortable, but compared to the cold linoleum floor, it was paradise. He was warm and drowsy and felt indefinably safe.

It took some time for him to persuade his eyes to open as he drifted hazily. It was a sound that finally encouraged him to waken up properly. A small sound, almost lost in the sounds he realised he had been hearing, yet not hearing, for some time. The sound was a sigh.

The light in the room was dim, but it still seemed bright to Danny. He squinted against it until his eyes adjusted and there, sitting by his bed, was Steve McGarrett. He was not asleep, although he was stretched out in a plastic chair that was really too small for his tall frame. His head was tilted back and his eyes were closed but he was not asleep. There was far too much coiled energy in his body for anyone to mistake his posture for sleep.

Blinking, Danny whispered, "Steve?"

At once, the tall man moved, sitting up abruptly and peering closely at his injured detective who occupied the hospital bed. "Danno!" The relief in his voice came as something of a surprise to Dan, but he didn't get a chance to ask any questions as Steve carried on speaking. "How are you feeling? You're going to be just fine, Danno."

"What… happened?" Danny asked, his mind still working at a snail's pace.

"You were shot, aikane," Steve replied gently. "And then held hostage."

The memory came back with a rush: the injured Marine grabbing the patrolman's gun and shooting. The pain in his gut and then realising that the Marine was trapped in some hellish nightmare of Vietnam. Danny's heart twisted in pity for the man once again. He had had his chance to shoot Auston with his .22 from his ankle holster, but he had been unable to pull the trigger. Auston had not meant him any harm; in his delirium, he thought he was protecting Danny. The injured man shook his head. "How did… I get… here?" he asked, gesturing weakly to the bed.

"I managed to persuade Auston that I was a corpsman," Steve explained. "I told him you were dead and was able to sedate him."

"I don't… remember that bit," Danny breathed.

"No, you were unconscious by then," Steve told him. He put his hand on Danny's arm and squeezed slightly. "It was touch and go for a while there, but you're going to be fine," he told his friend. "They got the bullet out, but you're going to be here for a while, I'm afraid."

"Bad?" Danny asked. He recognised the fuzziness in his head as a combination of drugs and anaesthesia.

"Bad enough," Steve replied. The bullet had nicked Danny's bowel and lodged against the bone of his pelvis. Miraculously, there had been no fracture of the pelvis, but he was on high doses of antibiotics to guard against septicaemia and would be on strict bed rest for almost a week. His recovery would not be quick. He was extremely weak from blood loss and was the last of the transfusion was going through now. Steve could not remember now if the doctor had used four or five units of blood during the operation. "But you're going to be fine."

Sleepily, Danny nodded. If Steve said so, then it must be true. "Is Auston all right?" he mumbled. His eyes were closed and he was sliding into the warm darkness.

"He's going to be fine, too," Steve promised. He watched as sleep claimed his friend and only when he was sure that the younger man was asleep did he allow himself to cup his friend's cheek with his palm. Many other men, put in the same position as Danny, would not have hesitated to fire their weapon. Most would not have worried about whether the other man was all right.

Relaxing back into the hideously uncomfortable seat, Steve allowed a smile to play over his lips. He had promised to phone Chin and Kono when Danny woke up. He would do that in a minute. But for now, he just had to sit and watch him sleep, relieved that he was safe and well. Steve knew he had lost it that day. He had never before realised how much Danny meant to him, not just as a colleague, but as a friend.

He vowed that he would never take that friendship for granted again.