Here comes the final chapter – thank you very much for sticking around until the end, for all your wonderful reviews and for all the favorites and alerts. Thank you, you are the best! :-) Enjoy the final chapter!
And once again a great, big thank-you to JazzieG for betaing my story despite the severe lack of Danny whump ;-)
The promising results of another CAT scan in the middle of the night had brought Dr. Pierson to also cut back the blood pressure medication a little bit. Steve's headache had retreated even more and despite the fact that he was still dizzy and shivering violently with cold he looked and felt much better than before.
After a few hours of restless sleep the latest scan in the early morning hours finally showed the results Dr. Pierson had been hoping for and thanks to that huge improvement the medication had been totally stopped and Steve had been transferred back to a private room even before breakfast.
After a long and heated discussion, the doctor had grudgingly agreed to also remove the Foley but only after he'd managed to screw the promise out of Steve that he would not try to get up without help. Grinning smugly after having won the argument, Steve leaned his head back onto the pillow, happy but nevertheless totally exhausted from that little dispute.
During the whole conversation Danny had remained seated in his chair at Steve's bedside, silently watching the two men in front of him. Now and then he'd almost intervened, feeling the strong need to support his injured friend but then he'd leaned back, folded his arms in front of his chest and simply enjoyed the show. Watching how Steve changed his tactic from asking nicely over to trying to order to finally pathetically pleading was actually pretty hilarious and almost as much fun as ranting himself.
Breakfast was served and the meal together with some more rest helped a lot to further improve Steve's condition surprisingly fast over the course of the morning. As was to be expected McGarrett grew more and more impatient and antsy with every passing minute he had to spend in that hated hospital bed.
It was already shortly after noon when Chin and Kono finally arrived at the hospital. Their visit had been originally planned for earlier that day but an urgent call from the Governor had postponed their schedule. Governor Denning had requested a detailed report about McGarrett's disappearance and the death of Claire Sacotte and so the two remaining members of Five-0 had spent their morning doing paperwork to satisfy their employer.
Walking along the corridor toward Steve's room, Chin and Kono looked at each other and started to grin broadly when they heard their two teammates, Steve's and Danny's voices easily penetrating the closed door. As usual they were arguing heatedly about something, fighting like the old married couple everyone thought they were.
Quietly opening the door, the cousins sneaked into the room, not the slightest bit surprised that neither Steve nor Danny noticed their entrance.
"Okay fine, go ahead, jackass," Danny just said, agitatedly waving his hands through the air, totally unaware of the two people behind his back. "Obviously that last hit to your head was finally hard enough to blow away the last of your brain cells. But if you insist, go ahead; I won't stand in your way." Putting his arms akimbo, Danny cocked his head a little bit to the right as he made a small step backwards. "Do you want me to call the nurse now or should I wait until you've performed a nice faceplant on your way to the bathroom?"
Now that Danny had stepped away, Chin and Kono had a clear view of their leader. Steve sat on the edge of the bed, obviously ready to stand up, his expression a mixture of amusement and anger as he listened to Danny's tirade. He was a little paler than usual and the wound on his left temple still looked pretty nasty. He cradled his broken wrist in his lap while he supported himself with the other hand on the mattress behind him.
"You're not going to believe this, Danny," he replied in exasperation, never taking his eyes from his partner. "But I'm perfectly capable to go the bathroom without help. I've done that for the last thirty years and I certainly don't need your help now."
"You're such a pighead, McGarrett," Williams said, shaking his head in frustration. "You know that they almost had to drill a hole in your skull, right, Steven?" Flicking his right hand in a dismissive gesture he added pensively, "Well, if I think about it, I'm sure that already happened to you because no one is as crazy as you are by birth."
"Hey brah, be nice to the boss, he's injured," Kono interrupted him, her grin broadening when her voice made the two men gape at her in surprise.
Steve was the first who recovered himself from the shock, flashing a smile at Kono before he turned back to his partner. "Yeah, be nice, Danno," he said cheekily.
"And you," Kono scowled at her boss as she punched him gently on the arm. "We were worried about you, so be a good guy and accept our concern and help."
Throwing Chin a quizzical look, Steve raised his eyebrows when the older man just shrugged his shoulders, knowing better than to mess with his cousin.
"And wipe the smirk off your faces – that goes for all three of you," Kono said sternly, letting her gaze travel over her three teammates.
Danny and Chin involuntarily moved closer to Steve's side, staring silently and a bit warily at the young woman. Inwardly grinning, Kono kept a straight face and waited until the three men started to fidget nervously in front of her. It was never easy to coax Steve to admit that he needed help but this time it seemed to be much easier than expected and Kono congratulated herself on her spontaneous idea.
She waited another few seconds before she locked eyes with her boss and asked quietly, "So, you need to go to the bathroom? Do you want me to call the nurse or are you going to allow Chin and Danny to help you?"
"No nurse," Steve croaked out after a short moment of contemplation, slightly intimidated by Kono's sudden aura of authority.
"Good choice, boss," Kono replied in a friendly tone, nodding her head in approval.
Steve gave her a wry smile before he laboriously stood up, allowing Danny and Chin to support him on his way to the bathroom. To be honest he highly appreciated their help, his legs felt like jelly and the dizziness he was still suffering from increased with every step he made – not that he ever admitted that.
"Bossy little girl," he heard Danny mumbling under his breath, and he couldn't suppress the grin that spread across his face.
"Sounds about right," Steve agreed in a loud whisper, grinning even broader when Kono raised her eyebrows and shot him a look out of glistening dark eyes.
Waiting until the three men had disappeared behind the bathroom door, Kono smiled as she dropped down in one of the chairs at Steve's bedside and thought about her teammates. Both, Steve and Danny, looked much better than the day before. Especially Danny who had been a shadow of his former self since Steve's disappearance and she was glad that all the sorrow of those last two days was obviously forgotten. She had seen this phenomenon before with the two men – when one of them was injured, experiencing any bodily harm, the other one seemed to suffer vicariously with him on a mental level.
When the three men returned almost ten minutes later, Steve was a lot paler than before, his legs trembling visibly and a cold sweat standing up on his brow. Chin and Danny managed, just barely, to tuck him back in and as soon as Steve's head touched the pillow he heaved a deep sigh of relief and closed his eyes.
"Do we actually bore you or are you going to pass out on us again?" Danny asked worriedly, closely eyeing his partner as he kept his hand on Steve's shoulder.
Briefly opening one eye, Steve glared tiredly at his friend. "Not passing out," he mumbled not very convincingly, pinching the bridge of his nose with trembling fingers. "Dizzy… just gimme a minute."
Steve inhaled and exhaled slowly and deeply and with every breath he took the dizziness receded more and more. The doctor had told him that his blood pressure would still be a bit lower than normal for at least another day but now that he was back in bed he should soon feel better.
After a few minutes he finally took a particular deep breath and opened his eyes, not really surprised to be greeted by three equally worried faces. Steve smiled genuinely at his friends and said quietly, "I'm okay, really."
Furrowing his brow he suddenly remembered their conversation from the day before. "I'm still not sure what actually happened after I had been locked inside that damned box," he said, his voice a lot stronger than before.
"Are you sure you're up to that story, brah?" Chin asked, beating Danny to ask the very same question.
Nodding forcefully, Steve let his gaze travel over the three people around his bed. "I'm fine, the dizziness is almost gone," he said faithfully. "Trust me; I'm not eager to repeat yesterday's events." He locked eyes with Danny and repeated solemnly, "Really Danny, I'm fine."
Seeing the sincerity in his partner's eyes, Williams nodded slowly. Steve's complexion was no longer deathly pale and his fingers had stopped trembling a little while ago, so Danny was willing to believe that Steve really told the truth. "Okay buddy, what exactly do you want to know?" he asked with a little grin.
"How did you guys find me?" McGarrett asked immediately.
"I'm glad you asked," Danny replied as he animatedly waved his hands through the air, the grin on his face quickly changing into a beaming smile. "I don't want to boast, but finding you was truly an investigative masterpiece, a combination of skills and speculations, a display of great team effort, a rescue mission worthy of Hawaii's finest task force."
"I hate to bring you back down to earth, brah, but you know that we're Hawaii's only task force, right?" Chin chuckled about Danny's gush of words.
"And that means we're also the best," Williams retorted with undeniable logic and just like that he turned his attention back toward Steve. "Okay, listen, about that woman… You were right, her name was indeed Claire…"
"Was?" Steve asked curiously, narrowing his eyes when he noticed the slight change of mood in the room. "What happened?" he wanted to know as he raised his eyebrows, the strange emphasis that Danny had put on the word 'was' hadn't slipped his attention.
"She's dead," Kono said quietly only to be interrupted by Danny.
"Can we save that story for later?" he asked with a sharp movement of his hand. "Let's just talk about her supposed relationship to our fearless leader here." Briefly sucking on his lower lip, Danny kept silent for a moment before he addressed his partner, "The woman's name was Claire Sacotte, does that name ring a bell?"
"We think you probably might have known her son…" Chin said, but he wasn't able to finish his sentence because Steve sharply drew in a hissing breath, bolting upright in his bed.
"Roger," Steve exclaimed breathlessly. "Roger Sacotte, of course! That's why she looked so familiar." Sagging back into his pillows he squeezed his eyes shut when the sudden movement sent a new wave of dizziness through his head.
"Steve, you alright?" Danny asked worriedly, quickly placing a hand on Steve's shoulder.
"Yeah," Steve replied hoarsely. "That move was probably not the most clever one," he admitted sheepishly, breathing deeply in and out until the room stopped swirling around him.
"Roger Sacotte," he repeated quietly after a while as if that name would explain everything.
"So, you really knew him?" Danny asked, exchanging a quick glance with Chin and Kono. Their assumption obviously proved to be correct and now they were curious about the detailed circumstances of Roger Sacotte's death and Steve's share in it.
Slowly nodding, Steve opened his eyes as he started to explain, "Rogue… that was Roger's nickname… he was a SEAL like me. We served together… he died maybe nine, ten years ago…"
"Ten years to the day, the day you disappeared," Danny specified, remembering what they had found out about Claire Sacotte's son.
"Can you tell us what's happened to him?" Kono asked gently. "We tried to pull his file but it came up as classi…"
"Don't say it, please," Danny begged exasperatedly. "I really hate that damn word."
"His file is classified?" Steve asked in surprise, ignoring the groan from his partner and the annoyed roll of his eyes. "Really?"
"Yes it is," Danny replied angrily, waving his finger in front of Steve's face. "And you probably have to kill us if you tell us anything at all so why don't we just move on?"
"Actually I don't know why there should be any reason not to tell you about Roger's death," Steve said matter-of-factly, gleefully pushing away Danny's hand.
"Really?" Williams asked in complete bewilderment, staring at his partner with mouth agape.
"Yes," Steve answered, grinning at the dumbfounded expression on Danny's face. "That look suits you, Danno," he teased his partner. "Just make sure that you don't swallow a fly or something similar."
Snapping his mouth shut Danny narrowed his eyes as he said dryly, "Very funny Steven." Folding his arms in front of his chest he asked defiantly, "Are you going to tell the story now or was it just an idle threat?"
Keeping silent for a few more seconds just to irritate his friend, Steve finally began to talk, "You can probably imagine that Roger didn't earn his nickname by chance. We called him Rogue because he was always a bit reckless, he always pushed a little past his limits but never to the point where he endangered the others. But then one day during a training mission he obviously overestimated his skills…" Sighing wearily, McGarrett fiddled with the sheets as he continued his explanation, his gaze fixed to an invisible point at the opposite wall. "He and two other men died, five more including me, were injured," Steve said flatly, briefly closing his eyes before he looked at his friends. "I was in command that day, it was my team. I was responsible, I should have been able to prevent the events but I just didn't see it coming…" His voice trailed off as he tried to choke back the unwelcome emotions that came with those memories. Turning to the left he awkwardly reached for the glass of water on the bedstand and after a few small sips he had regained his composure. "I tried to talk to Rogue's mother but she refused to meet me. I never had the chance to explain what really happened."
Blinking rapidly, he heaved a deep sigh. Slowly placing the empty glass back on the bedstand, he let his gaze travel over his friends' faces, a sad little smile playing around his lips.
"Rogue's mother… Claire… she blamed me for his death, right?" Steve asked, his voice barely a whisper.
Noticing Steve's distress, Kono stepped closer to the bed and placed her hand once again on Steve's forearm, providing as much comfort as possible.
"Roger was Claire's only son, and as far as we could find out her only living relative," Chin said quietly. "His death must have hit her pretty hard, it's no wonder that she searched for someone she could blame for her loss."
"But you were not responsible for his death," Danny threw in, his face contorted with sympathy. "It was an accident, right? There was probably nothing you could have done."
"No, probably not," Steve admitted hesitantly after a moment of silence. "But that doesn't make it any easier." Locking eyes with his partner, Steve took another deep breath. "You said Claire is dead. What's happened? And how did you find out that she was involved in my disappearance?"
"Well, that's kind of a long story," Danny replied, briefly sucking on his lower lip. "And I think I need to reach back a little bit to make you understand yesterday's events."
"Okay Danno go on, talk," McGarrett interrupted him with the hint of a smile on his face. "You shouldn't have difficulty doing so."
Without responding to Steve's teasing, Williams started to explain, "Yesterday morning at about seven o'clock I got a text message from you, saying that you were going for a run and that you would be late."
Raising his hand when he noticed that Steve wanted to interrupt him, Danny continued quickly, "We later realized that you weren't the one who'd sent the message but at that time there was no reason to think that something was rotten in the state of Denmark."
"Okay," Steve said slowly, grimacing slightly as he shifted his weight a little bit to find a more comfortable position. He really hated being in a hospital and made a mental note to ask Dr. Pierson as soon as possible when he was allowed to go home.
"It was about nine o'clock when Claire suddenly showed up at the office," Danny went on.
"She came to the Palace?" McGarrett asked, staring at his partner in surprise.
Danny nodded a few times before he looked at Chin and Kono for support. "At that time I'd already tried to phone you but obviously you were unable to take the call."
"When Claire came into the office," Chin took over from his teammate, "she immediately started to hold us at gunpoint."
"Yeah, seems like she not only took you by surprise," Danny admitted grudgingly, referring to the fact that Claire had also been able to knock out a SEAL.
"And to crown it all, it was your weapon she wielded, boss," Kono added to the explanation.
"She had my weapon?" Steve asked confused, blinking slowly as he followed his friends' explanations.
"Not only your weapon but also your car key and your cell phone," Kono nodded.
Furrowing his brow in concentration, Steve tried to process what he'd just heard. "So, she was the one who sent you the message?" he asked only a moment later, turning his head to face his partner. "She sent you a message saying I'd be late so you wouldn't miss me instantaneously, right?"
"You're good, Steven," Danny replied, teasingly patting Steve's shoulder. "Perhaps one day you're gonna be a real cop after all, one must never give up hope."
"Well, I have the best teachers," Steve said unusually humbly, throwing his friends a genuine smile.
"That's probably right," Danny agreed with a broad grin.
"What happened then?" Steve asked curiously – the case became more and more complex the more he heard about it.
"You want to know what happened next?" Danny repeated Steve's question, staring at his partner with an unreadable expression. Stuffing his hands deep in his pockets, he explained quietly, "Claire pointed her weapon at us and mumbled some incoherent nonsense. She said something like 'I want him to suffer' and similar things and then…" he interrupted himself briefly, still shocked when he visualized the woman's unforeseeable action. "Then – before anyone of us was able to interfere – she pointed the weapon at her own head and killed herself."
The room was eerily silent after Danny's last words and Steve swallowed a few times, speechless with surprise and horror.
"She killed herself?" he asked hoarsely, that had really been the last thing he'd expected.
"We found your belongings in her backpack," Kono said, still clearly remembering the worry she'd felt at the moment she pulled Steve's iPhone out of Claire's bag. "That was when we realized that she was talking about you, boss."
There was another moment of silence only interrupted by the faint rustling of the sheets when Steve sat up a little straighter. "Okay," he said slowly after he had somewhat recovered from the shocking news he had just heard. "Let me quickly summarize… You just realized that I was missing after she killed herself? You had absolutely no idea of what happened or where I was?" Faintly shaking his head, McGarrett looked at his friends and asked quietly, "But then how on earth were you able to find me?"
"Pfff, piece of cake," Danny said with an impish grin, dismissively throwing his hand in the air as if he wanted to wave away a fly. "You remember that Claire had been in possession of your cell phone and that she had sent that little text message?" Waiting for Steve's affirmative nod, Williams continued sounding almost bored, "Well, a little computer magic by our rookie here, a little luck there and voilà, we found you in your little gift box." Throwing a look at Chin and Kono he added with a wink, "No problem for Hawaii's finest task force, right?"
"Oh, piece of cake? Really? If it was that easy, then why didn't you come a little bit earlier?" Steve asked in faked annoyance, giving his partner a challenging look.
"Earlier?" Danny repeated, still grinning broadly. Now that the whole ordeal had been overcome and Steve was clearly out of the woods, he was able to joke about everything that had happened during the last few days. "We thought you liked it there in your cozy little box."
"Yeah, it was indeed great," Steve replied, the corners of his mouth twitching in amusement when he continued. "And you know what the best thing was, Danno? It was heavenly quiet in there, no partner who constantly complains about the sun, about pineapple on pizza, about my driving, about..."
He was interrupted by a short and firm knock and before any of the four people was able to answer, the door opened and a tall, red-haired man in a flight suit entered the room. "Sorry to interrupt," he said as he closed the door behind him. "But I promised to come by."
"Match," Danny exclaimed happily, beaming with joy as he greeted the man with a strong clasp of hands, deliberately ignoring the expression of utter surprise on Steve's face. "Good to see you."
"Hey Danny," Sergeant Julian Pepper answered with a little nod, shaking hands and slapping Danny on the shoulder as he grinned down at the smaller man. Then he quickly became serious and turning toward Steve he asked politely, "Commander, I heard you had a rough time yesterday, I hope you feel better today?"
"Uhm, yes, thank you," Steve answered hesitantly, clearly confused about the stranger in his room. "I'm sorry Sergeant, but have we met?" he asked after a glance at the insignia on Match's flight suit.
"He's one of the guys that saved your ass," Danny threw in before the other man could give an answer. "The least you could do is say thank you, you uncouth klutz."
"My name is Julian Pepper," Match added with a friendly smile at his former patient. "And there's no thanks necessary, Commander, I just did my job."
Staring at the two men, Steve furrowed his brow as he watched the cordial interaction between his partner and the Army medic. To say that he was surprised at Danny's behavior would be an understatement, his partner normally didn't think too highly of military people.
"What? What's that face?" Williams asked, interrupting Steve's train of thoughts, narrowing his eyes when he noticed Steve's countenance.
"I don't have a face," Steve replied automatically and slightly annoyed, defiantly locking eyes with his friend.
Taking a few steps away from Steve's bed, Chin quietly sat down and leaned back comfortably as he pointed at the empty chair next to him, motioning his cousin to also have a seat. A small grin played around his lips as he crossed his arms in front of his chest, watching the familiar banter between his teammates.
"This is going to be fun," Kono whispered cheerfully as she plopped down at his side. "Do you think we need popcorn?"
"Psst," Chin ordered, nodding his head toward Danny who had stepped a little closer to Steve's bed, silently measuring his partner from head to toe.
"Are you pissed that my new best Army buddy had to save your Navy butt?" Danny finally asked, shaking his head in disbelief.
"New best Army buddy?" McGarrett repeated as he sat up straighter in his bed, mirroring Danny's movements when he also shook his head. His gaze briefly flickered toward Julian Pepper who watched the verbal exchange with open amusement as he slowly closed the distance between himself and the rest of the audience. "Nothing against you, Sergeant, but… I was just wondering, Danny… since when are you best buddy with an Army soldier?"
"Oh that's what it's all about," Danny exclaimed, his hands flying through the air and his eyebrows shooting up when he finally deciphered the look on Steve's face. "Are you jealous? You are jealous, right?"
"Did I say that? I didn't say that," Steve retorted, trying to cross his arms in front of his chest, but with his splinted right wrist and the IV cannula still attached to his left arm the gesture was not very comfortable and he irritably dropped his hands back onto the sheets.
"Then what?" Watching his partner closely, Danny snorted when Steve fidgeted around in his bed, intentionally avoiding Danny's gaze. "What the hell is the matter with you, Steven?"
Shaking his head in amusement, Match bent down toward Chin and whispered, "How long have these two actually been married?" Grinning, he shared a knowing look with the cousins.
"Too long, brah, too long," Chin chuckled.
"They always fight like an old couple," Kono nodded in agreement.
Audibly clearing his throat, Match straightened himself and stepped closer to the bed. "I don't want to interrupt your little marital quarrel," he said still grinning broadly, "but I have to go."
Without giving the two men time to react, he nodded toward Steve, "Commander, all the best for you. It was good to see you awake and on the road to recovery."
"Uhm, thank you, Sergeant," Steve answered somewhat perplexed about the sudden interruption.
Turning toward the smaller man, Match gave Danny another slap on the shoulder. "Danny, take care," he said, making a small pause before he added with a conspiratorial wink. "And always remember what I told you about Navy SEALs."
"I will," Danny answered with a laugh, "thanks, Match."
Waving a short goodbye at Chin and Kono, the red-haired medic swiftly left the room and closed the door behind him.
"And another one who thinks we're married," Danny puffed out after a moment of awkward silence, flailing his arms in a defeated gesture. "Great."
"Oh, are you worried what your new Army friend thinks of you?" Steve asked snappishly, waiting until Danny met his gaze before he continued with a smirk. "And what about his name? Sergeant Pepper? Seriously? Why didn't he bring his Lonely Hearts Club Band?"
"Very witty McGarrett, really," Danny said, rolling his eyes in annoyance, but keeping the fact to himself that he'd cracked the exact same joke only two days ago, hoping desperately that Chin and Kono didn't betray him. "Do you think this is funny?"
"Actually yes, I do," McGarrett chuckled, obviously clearly enjoying himself.
"How twisted is that brain of yours actually?" Danny wanted to know, but he couldn't totally prevent that his lips also curled in amusement. "But you know what, Steven?" he added after a moment of silence, pensively staring at his friend. "That name, Sergeant Pepper… it reminds me that you promised to tell us about 'Operation Strawberry Fields'."
Raising his eyebrows, Steve answered promptly, "I'm pretty sure I never promised such a thing, Danno."
"Oh, come on," Danny said, his right hand drawing small circles in the air. "You already told us about Roger's death and that file was also supposed to be classified."
"Wow, Danny, you said the word," Kono threw in, winking at Danny in amazement. "That wasn't too difficult, was it?"
"Sssh, rookie, be quiet," Williams whispered, emphasizing his words by putting his index finger in front of his lips. Winking back at her, he added cheerfully, "Sit back and learn, young one. I almost made him talk." Turning back toward his partner, Danny asked simply, "Steve? 'Operation Strawberry Fields'?"
Looking silently at Danny for almost a minute, Steve finally heaved a deep sigh and nodded slowly. "Alright," he said hoarsely. "But listen very closely, because I'm gonna tell this story exactly once."
An uncomfortable screeching sound suddenly filled the air when Chin and Kono simultaneously jumped from their chairs and hurried to Steve's bed. Their boss telling military stories was something one didn't get to see every day.
"You really want to know about 'Operation Strawberry Fields'?" Steve asked in a conspiratorial whisper, briefly smiling when he saw his three teammates nodding eagerly. "Okay, you won't believe it but 'Operation Strawberry Fields' was the one mission where I had to lead my SEAL team to New Jersey. We had the order to infiltrate the entire pizza industry and to put at least one piece of delicious Hawaiian pineapple on every slice of pizza we could find."
Trying to keep a straight face while Chin and Kono burst into laughter, Steve looked expectantly at his partner, but Danny just stood there, pensively shaking his head. "Well, seems like you haven't been very successful," he stated smugly as he returned Steve's gaze. "Because I can tell you that I've never seen a single piece of pizza that had some pineapple on it."
"I've never said how big the pieces of pineapple had been," Steve retorted, briefly exchanging a look with Chin and Kono before he returned his attention to Danny. "Maybe they had been so small you weren't able to see them. I'm sure you have already eaten thousands of them, Danny."
"Yuck," Williams exclaimed loudly, making such a disgusted face that his three teammates almost doubled over with laughter. "That's really gross! The thought alone is making me sick. Thanks to you I'll probably never be able to eat pizza without thinking of your terrible story."
"It's your own fault, Danny," Steve replied matter-of-factly, indifferently shrugging his shoulders as he started to chuckle. "You asked, now you have to live with the consequences."
"Just wait and see, Steven, because my revenge will be terrible," Danny said, pointing his finger at Steve's chest. Suddenly a thought crossed his mind and a bright smile colored his features. "I actually think my revenge might already be set up."
"What are you talking about?" Steve asked suspiciously, immediately sobering when he saw the mischievous expression on Danny's face. "What is he talking about?" he almost whined, turning toward Chin and Kono for an answer.
"Well, babe, we might or might not have established a new rule in the office concerning punctuality," Danny explained vaguely, gleefully waving his hand through the air in front of Steve's face.
"Oh dear, you might be in serious trouble, boss," Kono smirked, remembering the huge pile of documents on McGarrett's desk.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Steve repeated, even more anxious now that Kono was also grinning broadly. "What new rule?" His gaze darted from Danny to Kono and then to Chin, the only one who was not laughing yet.
"For every ten minutes one of us is late, he – or she – has to take over some of the others' paperwork," Chin explained calmly, taking pity on Steve.
"And you're definitely late, boss," Kono chuckled sympathetically.
"Yes, Steven, you're definitely late," Danny nodded gloatingly. "And we're talking here about what? 48 hours?"
"And counting," Chin commented dryly. "That means there's a lot of paperwork waiting for you, brah."
Staring wide-eyed at the three grinning people around his bed, Steve slowly shook his head. "You're kidding, right?" he croaked out, there was nothing else he actually hated more than doing paperwork.
"Sorry babe, no kidding here," Danny laughed out loud, slapping his hand on Steve's shoulder. The expression of utter panic on his partner's face was too hilarious to stay serious. Feeling Steve fidgeting under his touch, he furrowed his brow when he noticed that Steve was desperately reaching for the call button. "Hey, you alright? What's wrong?"
"I need to get out of here immediately," Steve replied hectically. "No way you're dumping even more paperwork on my desk."
"Hey, relax partner," Danny said, keeping his hand on Steve's shoulder to prevent him from actually pressing the button. "Right now you're on sick leave; the rule only applies for regular working hours."
"Seriously?" McGarrett made sure, reluctantly leaning back onto the pillow. "You know how much I hate paperwork; you almost gave me a heart attack, Danny."
"Only for regular working hours," Danny repeated, exchanging an amused look with Chin and Kono.
"Yeah boss, that means no additional paperwork for you," Kono affirmed, barely stifling another bout of laughter.
"No additional paperwork," Chin chimed in, and the bright smile on his face made Steve's stomach knot in presentiment. "Except for the few files that already landed on your desk before you were on sick leave."
"Don't worry, Steven, I'm sure you'll be able to finish the files before you retire," Danny nodded good-humoredly before he looked once more at Chin and Kono and all three people burst into laughter.
"Very funny, really guys," Steve huffed out, but after a few moments he wasn't able to remain serious any longer, the laughter of his friends was just too contagious.
Joining in with the general cheerfulness he laughed with his friends, unconsciously thinking about a plan for how he possibly could get rid of the hated paperwork. Maybe a real good puppy-eyed look would convince Kono to take over some of the work. Most of the time that special look brought him nothing but a hearty laugh and an amused, "Really boss, is that your best try?" but sometimes – very rarely – it miraculously worked and Kono actually did what he intended her to do.
And if the puppy-eyed look wasn't successful there was always the possibility to get Danny on board. If Steve acted stupid on purpose, usually Danny got impatient enough to voluntarily take over the work.
Yes, that plan would work, McGarrett thought smugly.
The ringing laughter of the four teammates and friends reverberated through the room; everyone was happy that Steve was alive and supposed to make a full recovery. They all laughed until they had serious trouble catching their breath but Steve had to admit that it was much better to be breathless from laughter than to have trouble breathing because of being locked in an airtight box. That was definitely something he didn't want to experience ever again.