A/N Well, this is it. This little journey comes to an end. I was hoping to finish a bit earlier than I did, but I was having some trouble with the final scene. Hope it came out to your satisfaction.
Many of you wondered about the change in the weather at the end of the last chapter. Was it meaningful? Absolutely! The garden and the Guardians reacted to Danny's presence with hostility, as it was unwilling to accept his intrusion. Hence the rain and the wind and the falling temperatures. But then, when Danny said what was in his heart, the way Grace had told him to do it, the reaction of the elements changed. Whether or not Danny's words had the ultimate impact... You are about to find out :)
A big, huge THANK YOU to all of you who commented on this story (especially the guest reviewers, whom I cannot thank personally), followed it, even through the long absences, favorited it. I am so-so grateful for your support! Thank you!
Hope you enjoy this last chapter. And, as always, I welcome your comments (hint, hint :-))
"So, remember this case about a dead fisherman that you, guys, found on a cliff? ...Danny?"
"Huh?" the blond responded absent-mindedly, his gaze riveted to the motionless figure lying in bed before them.
Lips pressed into a tight line of worry, Kono shifted in her chair, leaning closer to the blond detective. "He's doing good, Danny," she whispered, her hand curling around the detective's wrist. "Look at him. He's breathing on his own. His vitals are improving. He–"
"Why hasn't he woken up then?" The desperate plea in the pale blue eyes was almost her undoing, and she swallowed thickly before continuing.
"It's only been two days," she reminded him gently. "Two days ago he was dying, Danny. And now he's in recovery. It's a miracle, brah. Whatever you did, you pulled him from the brink. And that's huge! Huge!"
"Yeah," Danny nodded absently, his gaze once again returning to his still unconscious partner. Then shaking his head as if to tear himself awake from a bad dream, he turned toward the young woman, murmuring distractedly, "You were saying something about a case?"
Kono squeezed his wrist tighter, giving him an encouraging smile. "The dead fisherman that you and Steve found up in the mountains a couple of years back," she nodded. "Remember?"
"Is that when the Super SEAL managed to crack his head open on a rock?"
"I believe it was just his arm, brah," Kono objected, swallowing down a grin.
"A matter of perspective, Kalakaua," Danny countered, unperturbed. "But why are you bringing this up now?"
"Right," the rookie smiled again, relieved to see him distracted enough to almost be back to his old self. "Anyway, it turns out that our mechanic James Martin was approached a few weeks ago by a former client of his, who offered him $50,000 to mess up the breaks on your car."
The pale blue eyes narrowed at that, Danny's posture stiffening. "Who?" he asked sharply, all of his attention now laser-focused on the young woman's face.
"A Franklin Rutherford."
She nodded. "And, before you ask, yes, he is related to the other Rutherford - the one that shot that poor fisherman."
"To keep his son's escape a secret," Danny murmured, remembering.
"Exactly. Donald Rutherford is his brother."
"So this was, what, revenge?" A small shrug of confirmation was his response, and the Jersey native frowned, his mouth twisting into an angry scowl at the thought of what that one act of revenge had cost their small tight-knit family, of what it might still cost – since Steve wasn't completely out of the woods yet.
"Why now?" he whispered finally, turning his gaze back to the man in bed. "Why wait two years?"
Kono let out a short sigh, knowing the answer would not make accepting what happened any easier. "Jordan Rutherford was shanked in prison three weeks ago," she supplied finally, letting the sentence hang a while, before adding, "His dad tried to commit suicide after that. He's been locked in prison psych ward ever since."
"Uh-huh," Danny nodded absently, his hands gripping the bed railing so hard that his knuckles turned a blinding shade of white. His voice, when he spoke next, was shaking with barely restrained anger. "So, let me get this straight. His murderer nephew gets killed off in prison. His murderer brother goes insane. And he decides that the best way to react is by attempting to kill myself, my little girl and my p...partner?"
"That about sums it up," Kono breathed out, once again settling her hand on his shoulder.
The blond whipped his head toward her, his eyes blazing with fury. "I want a few minutes with him," he ground out finally, his voice brooking no objections.
He growled then, a low, feral rumble coming from somewhere deep in his throat. "A few minutes, Kono. I just wanna talk to the bastard. I promise I'll-"
The rookie gave him a strange look of helplessness and compassion. "He's dead, Danny," she said quietly, her words – a proverbial bucket of ice-cold water on his raging fury. "Chin and I found him hanging in the bathroom at his home. Along with a suicide note."
Danny turned away from her then, leaning forward on his elbows. "How long ago?" he murmured, staring dully at the floor before him.
"At least a couple of days," Kono replied, knowing instinctively what he was referring to. "We're still waiting on Max to give us the exact T.O.D."
Hands curled into tight fists, Danny raised his head again, his gaze – smoldering remnants of the angry inferno, and spoke slowly, venomously. "So he waits to hear that Martin finished the job, and then offs himself to avoid facing the consequences."
"Look, I would have loved to get my hands on that guy. So would Chin. But, Danny-" She reached for him again, but the blond bolted out of the chair, all but pushing her hand aside.
"The son of a bitch got off easy!" he bit out sharply, stalking over to the window, his whole body shaking with the overpowering urge to do something - anything, but to stand there and accept the fact that the person responsible for getting them into this mess was no longer within his reach. He glanced numbly at the white-knuckled fist that was his right hand, frowned, as if only now becoming aware of the painful crush of its fingers, and suddenly, swiftly drove that same fist into the wall.
Kono jumped, as the sharp bone-crunching crack reverberated across the room, startling her out of her own dark thoughts. She was about to go to him, when a movement from the bed caught her attention, and she all but squealed in excitement upon seeing a sluggish, bleary-eyed, but definitely awake McGarrett struggle to pull himself up into a semi-sitting position.
"Boss," she breathed out, her face breaking into a grin wide enough to make her jaws ache with the tension.
His injured hand cradled against his chest, Danny twisted back around at her quiet exclamation and gaped bewilderedly at the scene before him for all of two seconds before bellowing out a horrified "What the hell do you think you're doing, Steven? Get yourself back down this minute!"
McGarrett turned his head toward at him, wincing slightly. "Lower the volume... Danno," he gasped, his voice hoarse from unuse. "My head's killing me."
"Your... your head?" Forgetting momentarily about his recent injury, Danny threw both hands up in the air, sputtering indignantly. "His head is killing him," he repeated hotly, throwing Kono a look of angry disbelief, to which she responded with an awkward shrug. "Do you believe this guy?" Turning his attention back to the man in bed, he snapped off an irate, "You're lucky you even have a head that hurts, you crazy son of a bitch."
Steve blinked slowly at that, giving him his best aneurysm face under the circumstances. "I don't understand..." he mumbled, switching his gaze to Kono, who merely shrugged in response, grinning from ear to ear.
"I'll go get the doctor... for both of you," she nodded pointedly at Danny's hand and ducked out of the room, leaving her confused boss to experience the full brunt of a relieved rant from his equal parts overjoyed and irate partner.
Danny brought Grace to see him the next day. The little girl walked cautiously into the room, following her father, throwing a hopeful yet hesitant look at the bedridden man.
"Hey, Gracie," the SEAL's warm, welcoming smile was all the encouragement she needed, and she dashed toward him, leaping onto his bed with the agility of an African gazelle and wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.
Steve went sheet-pale at her enthusiastic greeting, eyes slamming shut at the unexpected onslaught of pain. Yet he still managed to put up a hand to forestall his partner's worried attempt to pull Grace away, wrapping his other arm around her body instead.
"S'alright, Danny... m'alright..." he gasped out, fighting to catch his breath.
But Danny wasn't convinced. Setting himself carefully down on the bed behind his daughter, he placed a hand on her shoulder, gently pulling her back. "Let's give your Uncle Steve a bit more room to breathe, hey, Monkey?"
Grace pulled back almost instantly, her worried gaze searching Steve's face. "Uncle Steve?"
The former SEAL smiled tightly, hoping it looked reassuring enough. "I'm good, Gracie. Promise. And I'm really glad to see you."
She returned his smile, her face lighting up like dew-covered meadow on a bright summer morning. "I'm glad, too, Uncle Steve. I was so worried that you would be stuck in the garden forever. I'm glad Danno brought you back."
"What?" His forehead creased in confusion, Steve shifted his questioning gaze to the girl's father. "Danny?"
"Yeah, well," the blond shrugged evasively, "there was this dream I had, when I was unconscious in the car that my maniac of a partner drove into a tree..."
"I was trying to avoid the bus," McGarrett objected automatically, trying to suppress a shudder that ran through him as he remembered the scene.
Danny wasn't listening, though. Hand raised in warning, he snapped off a good-natured "Zip it, Steven," before continuing with his previous train of thought. "Anyway, in the dream my annoyingly self-sacrificing partner gives himself up to a bunch of weird-eyed ghosties to let me and my little girl escape."
"Shush," Danny interrupted him yet again, earning himself a mildly annoyed glare from his partner, "not done talking here. So then I wake up and I am told that my partner is in a coma and is not likely to wake up, seeing how he had virtually impaled himself on the dashboard of my very own car." He scowled at Steve, who dared to roll his eyes at his yet another heated interpretation of the crash (as if he hadn't chastised him enough yesterday). "Then," the blond intoned, glaring daggers at the SEAL, daring him to interject once more, "my bright girl comes to me and tells me, 'The garden was real, Danno. You have to go back for Uncle Steve.' So I convinced the good doc to put me in a temporary coma and off I went to rescue your sorry ass from the poltergeist land."
"Poltergeist land, huh...," the dark-haired man murmured, his eyes getting a lost, faraway look. "I thought it was just a bad dream..."
Danny pursed his lips in sympathy, his hand hovering briefly above the SEAL's thigh, before patting it gently in silent comfort. "Whatever it was... was real enough. For all three of us, apparently."
Steve nodded, swallowing harshly, his mind churning over Danny's words, trying to reconcile them with the all-too-vivid images from his supposed dream: the Guardians, his desperate last-minute bargain for Danny and Grace, the cold sharp steel that tore through his body, stealing his breath.
"And you... you went into a coma? For me?"
He sounded unsure and so awed that Danny once again felt the urge to squeeze his friend's leg in a gesture of reassurance. Instead he licked his lips, shrugging awkwardly. "It was Grace's idea. She said the whole thing reminded her of the Beauty and the Beast story she was reading."
"I don't understand." The confused look was back – a full-blown aneurysm face, and Danny sighed dramatically, launching into a more detailed explanation.
"The garden, the flower that Grace picked, you dying when we left," he ticked off his fingers in front of Steve's face. "Use your imagination, McGarrett."
"Riiiight. So that makes Grace the dad, me the Beast, and you, what, Beauty?" Steve chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief, but stopped short, puzzled by their matching no-nonsense expressions. "You're serious about this," he said finally, not even bothering to hide his astonishment.
"Yes, I am serious, you jerk," the smaller man snapped, slapping him lightly on the knee. "And, for the record, I resent the fact that I had to be the one to play the princess in this excuse for a fairy tale."
"Beauty wasn't really a princess, Danno," Grace chimed in suddenly, drawing their attention toward her. "Not until she..." she trailed off, hesitant, giving him and Steve a strange look.
"Not until she what?" Danny frowned, not receiving an answer. "Grace?"
Her head lowered impossibly, face hidden behind her pigtails, she whispered, "Not until she... married the Beast."
Danny froze at that, his mouth hanging open, until he heard an odd strangled sound coming from the bed. Turning to Steve, he was mortified to find the latter rapidly turning red with the effort of holding in laughter. "If you say one word, Steven, I swear I'm putting your ass right back into a coma."
"I.. uh... I don't know, Danno," the former SEAL gasped out, shaking and huffing with laughter and clearly unintimidated by Danny's death glare. "Think of the benefits: shared income, spousal support. B'sides... I think you'd look pretty good in a tiara."
"I'm warning you, McGarrett." But Danny's growl lost all of its threatening momentum, as Grace's delighted giggle joined in with his partner's snorts of amusement.
"I hate you, Steven," the Jersey native muttered in feigned fury. "I hate you so much."
Steve opened his mouth to reply, but it was Grace, who intervened on his behalf. "You can't take it back, Danno," she objected sternly, shaking her finger at her father.
"Take what back?" the blond frowned, uncertain.
"Didn't you tell Uncle Steve you loved him, when you went back to the garden?" the nine-year-old countered with an exaggerated sigh of annoyance. "You had to, Danno," she insisted, her lips curling into a pout, "otherwise, it wouldn't have worked. And if you said it, you can't take it back."
And all Danny could do was gulp in pitiful helplessness, as his partner, drained from tear-spurting laughter, flopped back onto his pillow with a wheezed out "No worries, my dear Beauty. ...The feeling's mu-...mutual."
"That's the last time I'm ever sticking my neck out for you, McGarrett," the blond grumbled in exasperation, even as his own lips twitched into an unwilling smile . "Next time a bunch of transparent ghouls hold your no-good sorry soul hostage, you're ON. YOUR. OWN."
:) And they lived happily ever after