AN: I don't own H50, or any of the characters. I wish I did. Please keep in mind that I have no experience in the medical field, and have zero experience or knowledge concerning helicopters, Navy operations, or anything of the sort. Writing is my hobby, and I'm addicted to H50. This tag is really long (REALLY LONG) but I hope you all enjoy it. I'm open to suggestions and corrections, but please be nice. :)

"Hey Steve! I got Steve! He's alive!" Danny shouted. He nearly collapsed in relief as he saw his partner's eyes open slowly, blinking against the sudden light. Danny's eyes quickly took in the beaten form of his partner; he looked horrible. Worse than Danny had ever seen him before.

Jumping up in the back of the truck, he hurried towards Mcgarrett, his movements jerky and quick in his concern and haste. Dang. Steve looked like he'd been beaten within an inch of his life. The Ex-SEAL's face was bruised black and blue, and there were dark circles under his eyes, augmented even more by the pallor of his face. Bending down, Danny hurriedly began untying the restraints that bound the wrists Steve held up to him, the movement voluntary.

"Danny," he murmured. In his eyes, Danny could see the slightly stunned look of shell-shock that he had seen in the eyes of children who lived in war zones on TV. His pupils were wide, and with concern, he quickly noted that they weren't the same size. "Where's Wo Fat?" He spat the words out from between bloody lips as Danny hurriedly worked at the bindings.

"Just shut up, would you?" Danny barked, his eyes resting on his friend's beaten face before looking back to his frantic fingers, still fumbling with the ropes. Heck, they were tight. The flap of fabric covering the back of the truck was pulled away, and Chin and Joe's faces appeared, their faces sweaty, but relief as well as concern was reflected in their eyes. They looked slightly stunned.

"Joe. Chin." Steve's eyes reflected surprise. "You guys came for me."

"Of course we did, you idiot," Danny retorted, trying to ignore the bile that rose in his throat at the sight of Steve's bloody face. "You think we would just leave you here?"

"Danny, Jenna's…"

"I know. We saw her."

"She's dead."

Danny raised his eyes to Mcgarrett's face, and saw the hardness reflected in his eyes. "Yes." He spoke gently, still fumbling with the ropes. Whoever tied them was an expert.

"Wo Fat killed her, Danny. We gotta get her body, we can't leave her here, we gotta-" He spoke quickly, his breathing quickening.

"Hey, hey, hey, calm down. Listen to me." Danny raised his eyes from the ropes, and looked deep into his friend's eyes. "Jenna is dead, okay? We can't risk going back for her. I mean, as much as I would like to go back for the person who betra-"

"Danny." Steve shook his head. His eyes were serious; pained, weary, and his tone exuded exhaustion.

"Okay, okay, fine."

As much as Danny hated to admit it, he was angry. At Wo Fat, at Steve, but especially at Jenna. He knew he shouldn't be; she was dead, and anger was not going to help Mcgarrett, or any of them right now. But the many different emotions he saw in Steve's eye made his blood boil. Guilt. Betrayal. Weariness. Pain. How could she? Betray all of them? Betray Steve, after he had risked his life to save her fiance; coming to Korea to help her. Steve's friend. Their friend. He ground his teeth, and focused on the restraints that bound Mcgarrett.

"Josh?" Danny knew he had to ask.

Steve shook his head. "No. He'd been dead for days. Wo Fat's too good to leave loose ends."

Danny muttered darkly under his breath.

"You shouldn't have come, you know that? Why didn't you listen to us? We tried to tell you, and now look what happened!"

"I… I trusted her. I would have done the same thing for any of you, Danno. You know that. I told you that before I left. I couldn't have done anything less."

"Yeah, yeah, always the hero, Steven. Just promise me, next time, when you go to help someone, it won't be someone who is gonna betray you, and turn you over to Wo Fat to be -" Danny stopped, and cleared his throat. Mcgarrett didn't respond. He remembered Steve's pleading look a moment before when he had spoken of Jenna's betrayal, and he knew it wasn't doing any good to talk about it.

Finally the bindings well away, and Danny's eyes fell on Steve's chest and stomach. "Dang, Steve." The words seemed loud in the now eery silence that surrounded the convoy. The shooting had stopped; Wo Fat's men must be dead. Mcgarrett's entire torso was bruised, and covered with burn marks, and there were harsh lines around his neck - from a rope, it looked like. His ribs looked unnaturally prominent, and his abdomen was rigid. Mcgarrett had a strong upper-body, but with him slumped against the back of the truck, his stomach shouldn't look like that. "What did they do to you, babe?" He muttered, not looking for an answer. "Can you stand?"

"They invited me to sit down, and offered me tea, Danny, while we exchanged pleasantries," Mcgarrett said, his face set as if behind a mask, but he groaned as Danny gently tugged on his arm. Jumping up into the truck with a fluid movement, Chin hurried to his boss' side, and gently helped Danny pull Steve to his feet. Mcgarrett's lips tightened, his face turning ghastly pale, and he would have collapsed, but for his friends support, and he gripped their shoulders tightly, his breath coming in panting gasps.

"Steve, Steve, you okay?"

"I-I'm fine." Mcgarrett's voice was rough from lack of water, and it shuddered with exhaustion and pain when he spoke. Danny felt Steve's grip on his arm tighten, and felt the tenseness throughout his whole body. God, who knows what he had gone through in the past hours. He was holding on to his friends as if he was a drowning man, clinging to a piece of driftwood; as if they were his last hope.

"It's good to see you, boss," Chin said, keeping a firm hold on the injured man's arm. Steve looked like he was ready to pass out.

"You too, Chin," Steve took a deep breath, his words coming between his sharp intakes of breath, as if the slight exertion had used up his little remaining strength. Danny saw the exhaustion and pain in the SEAL's eyes, and knew he was fighting to keep his face blank. Gosh dangit Ninja-Super-SEAL-Mcgarrett, Danny grunted, his annoyance overcome with concern. Dangit, Steve Mcgarrett thought he was Superman - he didn't allow pain to show, and he was carelessly reckless with his own safety.

Danny had grown fond of the man he had once hated; he was his best friend. An adopted uncle to Gracie. Steve always wondered why Danny got so angry when Steve threw himself into the crossfire, and Danny didn't know how to tell him that Steve's recklessness was the cause of much worry for everyone on the 5-0 team. It wasn't just his life that he would be throwing away, it would be the love and friendship of everyone he had come to know over the past 2 years. And this time, he had nearly succeeded.

Danny felt Steve flinch as they held onto his biceps, and helped him towards the edge of the truck - his legs didn't seem to be working too well - where Joe grasped his arms, and helped him to the ground. Mcgarrett groaned as his beaten body bent as he moved out of the truck. Only then did Danny notice that his friend's feet were bare, and bleeding.

Mcgarrett leaned heavily against the edge of the truck, spitting blood out of his mouth, his face pale, as Danny and Chin emerged from beneath the cloth that covered the truck's back, and stopped by his side. Danny gripped Steve's arm as he wavered. "Whoa, easy there, babe."

Steve nodded his thanks at Danny, then turned to Joe, who was standing before him, his strong hands gripping a gun with the ease of practice and experience.


"Hey, son. We thought you could use a lift."

Steve chuckled, keeping his face blank. "Nice of you to think of me." Joe smiled, then his eyes carefully took in Steve's appearance, stashing away his observations in his mind.

"We brought some friends along," Joe grinned, but his eyes flicked through the surrounding bushes, his face tight, eyes wary.

2 members of SEAL team 9, and Commander Wade Gutches, appeared from around the corner, guns in hand, and Steve's eyes widened in surprise.

"Commander, it's good to see you in one piece," Gutches said, his face relaxing into an easy grin when he saw Steve.

"You too, sir. What did you do, bring out the whole SEAL team?" Mcgarrett smiled slightly as Wade clapped him on the shoulder. Danny winced. That looked painful, even without having been beaten and tortured by a crazy man for hours. He saw the corner of Steve's eye twitch, but besides that, he gave no hint of the pain he was suffering.

"Something like that," Wade boomed, his broad face widening in a smile. "We heard a buddy needed help. Besides, we had some vacation coming our way anyway."

"Some way to spend your vacation," Danny muttered under his breath. His hand was still on Steve's arm, and he felt rather than heard Steve chuckle, then winced as Mcgarrett stiffened as pain shot through his body, his face contorting as he gasped. White and the Wade exchanged glances, and a moment later, Steve relaxed, sighing, his head leaning back against the side of the truck, his eyes clenched tightly shut.

Bradley Jacks came around the corner of the truck, and spoke to Gutches. "Area clear, sir. No sign of Wo Fat."

Joe swore under his breath. That man was more slippery than an eel.

Steve opened his eyes at the sound of the man's voice. "Jacks. Good to see you, sir."

"You too, Commander."

"Decided to take a few days off, huh?"

"Something like that," Bradley smiled, but his face was tense. "Last time I checked, there was a favor that needed to be repaid - something about a mid-air rescue." Commander Bradley Jacks would never forget how Mcgarrett saved his life, only a few short weeks ago, when he had been drugged, and thrown out of an airplane. His death would have been the 3rd 'accident' to claim the lives of Navy officers from SEAL team 9, but the mastermind had been caught by Mcgarrett, Chin and Danny with the assistance of Lori, putting Team 9 in the 5-0 teams' debt.

Steve looked at Jacks for a moment, before nodding, and closing his eyes again. "Just doing my job, Commander."

"Likewise, sir."

"Steve, you okay?" Danny felt stupid for asking the question; he knew Steve was anything but okay, but he needed Steve's false words to reassure him.

"Fine." Mcgarrett's voice was breathless, but he opened his eyes, and looked around, searching the surrounding area with a cautious, sweeping gaze. "Hey, where's Kono?"

"She's on the ground, back at base. Someone had to use the computer." Chin answered. "She's the one who found your convoy." Steve's face relaxed, and he nodded slightly.

"Good. And Lori?"

"You'll see her in a minute."

Wade and Joe exchanged a few terse words, then White turned to face Mcgarrett. "We need to go. We've got a ride, but we're gonna have to get there first. You up to it?"

Does he have a choice? Danny thought, wryly.

"Yeah." Steve nodded. "I'm good." Wade and Joe glanced at each other, but finally Joe shrugged.

"Let's move it, ladies." Wade boomed.

"Right. Let's move out." Joe snapped to attention, gripped his gun more securely, and waited while Danny and Chin pulled Steve up, still holding on to him. "Can you walk, son?"

"Yes, sir." Steve painfully stood up straighter, but his knees buckled, and he would have collapsed, if Chin and Danny hadn't been supporting him.

"Forget it, babe. We'll help you." Before he could protest, Danny and Chin slipped under his arms, taking most of his weight on their shoulders. As soon as Steve was situated, Danny felt him slump slightly, his chin dropping to his chest for a moment, requiring his friends to support almost his full body weight.

"Hey, hey, son, take it easy." Joe stepped forward quickly, but paused when Chin waved his hand at him.

"We got him."

Danny saw the marks of manacles on his friend's wrists, and remembered the hook hanging from the ceiling in the room where they had found Jenna, and horror swept over him in a cold wave as he realized what it meant. Now he understood Steve's pain whenever his arms were raised higher than chest height. Who knows how long he hung there? Danny gritted his teeth in thinly disguised fury, and tried to push the image of Jenna's body out of his mind. She was dead. But Steve was alive. And right now, they needed to focus on escaping.

"I'm...fine." Steve tried to stand up straighter, but gave up after a moment, panting breathlessly. "Where's our ride?" Steve grunted, raising his head and looking around.

Danny glared at Mcgarrett."Oh, come on. Really? Would it kill you to admit that for once, you are not in fact fine?" Danny snapped, ignoring the question. "You could be standing there with your leg chopped off, and you would still insist you were fine."

"Danny, I told you, I'm good. We need to go."

"Fine, fine. You're always fine! One of these days you're going to have realize you're not superman. Dangit, Steven, you're gonna get yourself killed!" Danny glared at the side of Steve's face.

"Danny." The blond detective stopped his ranting, and directed his glare at Kelly. "Are you done?" Chin asked, his usually calm voice betraying impatience, and agitation. "We need to get moving."

Silence. Then, "Yeah. We're done." Steve's voice had sunk in volume, his gaze focused on the ground. The pain in Mcgarrett's voice was evident, and for a moment, nobody spoke. Steve then raised his head, and looked questioningly at Danny.

"Danny?" Joe raised his eyebrow at the Jersey native, concern making his voice sharp. "Are you done?"

Joe waited for a moment, then looked around at the group."I'll take that as a yes. Our ride is about a 20 minute walk to the East. Let's move out." His voice was commanding, and he stepped forward, his feet moving over the damp ground with an almost surreal softness.

"You know he's right, though," Chin said softly, his voice tired. "You're gonna get yourself killed one of these days, Steve." Mcgarrett didn't respond, but his grunt of acknowledgement was heard by all those around. Chin didn't speak again.

The team moved silently; Commander Gutches and the two SEALs flanked the small group, their sharp eyes searching the rough territory for any sign of Wo Fat, or wild animals. Joe brought up the rear, while Chin and Danny lead the way, supporting Steve. Every now and then, Jacks would look at Mcgarrett, and then turn back to his scouting, but it was an unspoken agreement among every member of the team to keep an eye on the injured man. They all knew Mcgarrett would never reveal his pain, or communicate what he was feeling, so they had to read between the lines - in other words, read Steve's eyes - to discover the truth.

It was tedious work - branches grabbed loose clothing, and vines that snaked across the path caught Steve's feet. The sun was hidden behind the dark branches of the jungle, and at times the foliage was so thick, they could scarcely see. Finally, they cleared the jungle, and emerged in a field of thick yellow grass. The sound of a helicopter filled the air, and the 'Tangerine' landed with a thud, the wind from the blades stirring the grasses, and whipping the tree branches that were growing close by.

By now, Steve was leaning heavily on the shoulders of his friends, and everyone could see that he had nearly reached the limit of his strength; his breathing was labored, and unnaturally rapid, and he made no attempt to hide the pain revealed in his expressive eyes, and in the lines around his lips. His face was calm, though; calculating, and aware. The last few hundred yards between them and the helicopter - between them, and safety - was covered swiftly, but it seemed to take hours.

As they approached, the door of the chopper flew open, and Lori jumped out, nearly tripping in her haste. She paused, and then her gaze fell on Steve. Relief was evident in her eyes, but there was also concern and horror reflected there as she took in his bent form, and bloody face. Breathlessly, she flung her arms around Steve's neck, and held on. Mcgarrett stiffened, but his arm fell from Danny's shoulder, and he gingerly wrapped his arm around her. Blood from Steve's face smeared onto Lori's cheek, but she held on, as if she would never let him go again.

"Hey, hate to break up this little family reunion, but we gotta go now!" Wade's voice rose above the whirring of the helicopter's blades, and before he had even finished his sentence, Lori had released her hold on Mcgarrett, but Steve's arm lingered for a moment on her arm before falling heavily to his side. Jumping into the helicopter with a smooth movement, Joe pulled Steve up, grasping under his arms, and settling him on the floor, his back leaning against the seat of the chopper, his shoulders between Joe's knees.

Mcgarrett's face contorted in pain and his breathing quickened, and caught in his chest, but as soon as he was settled, he grasped the nearest gun, and immediately chambered a round, holding it between hands that didn't even shake, his face taught, but determined. How does he do that? Danny wondered, briefly, as the rest of the men piled in, and the helicopter slowly rose off the ground, like a giant bee taking off.

Bloody Navy SEAL. Danny's own hands were trembling like a leaf in a hurricane, and the rush of relief was so intense it almost made him physically ill. They were all safe. They had made it. In the back of his mind, he knew that wasn't completely true. Jenna was dead. Steve was injured. And they were still in enemy territory in a helicopter that should have been in a museum years ago.

But they had Steve, he was alive, and that was all that mattered for the moment. Suddenly the reality of his actions swept over him, and he closed his eyes for a moment. He could have been killed. Killed in a foreign country, hundreds of miles from home. Hundreds of miles away from Gracie. What would have happened to her if he had died?

Shaking his head, he pushed the thoughts away. You're fine, he told himself, over and over. But the haunted look in Steve's eyes, and the painful way he carried himself was fresh in his mind, and he knew it would be a long time before he - or anyone else in this hellhole- was truly 'fine'.

The SEALs grinned, and clapped each other on the shoulder with sharp slaps that sounded painful, while Wade and Joe clasped arms, smiling. Steve exhaled a deep breath, and looked down at his hands, closing his eyes in relief, as Chin sighed, and Danny rubbed his eyes with his hand. Steve was alive. But he did not come back unscarred. He was looking a little stunned, his gaze directed out the open side of the helicopter, but suddenly, his neck turned, and Danny's eyes met Steve's; his gaze was sharp, and alert, and there was something reflected in his eyes that he had never seen before.

Thankfulness. Steve wasn't one who said "thank you" very much. He hated being vulnerable. He hated feeling indebted to anyone. But he hoped Danny knew that he was truly thankful for what his team - his friends - had done. And Danny had no idea how close Steve had been to breaking. It wasn't the torture, the pain, the anxiety. It wasn't even Jenna's betrayal, and then brutal death. It was after he'd escaped; after he'd allowed himself to hope. After Wo Fat had captured him again, then, he had known despair.

There is no greater incapacitating force than having hope handed to you - or reaching out and taking it with determination - and then having it snatched away before you can fully grasp it. He felt Joe's hands on his shoulders, saw the concern in Lori and Chin's eyes as they watched him furtively, and hoped that there was a way he could express how thankful he was. But he knew there were no words that would do his feelings justice.

The chopper was silent - It was as if everyone in the chopper had released some pressure that had been building, and the result was relief that stretched beyond words. Steve turned his head, the simply movement causing sharp stabs of pain to run down his neck, and saw that the only people who seemed unaffected by the high-strung emotions were the SEALs. Like him, they were trained to ignore feelings, to push past pain, and to get the job done. Steve grasped his gun tighter, and directed his gaze towards Danny. Their eyes met, but speaking was too much effort. So he said nothing.

"Ah, don't - you can… you can thank me when we get back to Oahu," Danny said, waving his hand before his face, as if he was shooing away a fly, his voice kept under tight control. Joe grinned, and Chin chuckled slightly. It was painfully apparent that Steve needed medical attention, pronto. What he did not need was to be jounced around in an ancient helicopter for hours.

However, everyone knew that the SEAL hated being pampered, so no one said anything about the pain that was becoming more evident in the Commander's eyes with every passing moment. His eyes were dark with unspoken agony, his face pale under the canvas of bruises, blood and sweat, and he was fighting to keep it hidden under a mask, but the look in his eyes spoke volumes.

Steve's lips stretched as he smiled, cracking his lips again, his teeth white against his bruised face, as he turned away, and looked out the side of the helicopter.

"You can thank me by being the best man at my wedding. I'm getting married!"

There was a moment of surprised silence, and all eyes turned to Chin, then Danny shouted over the noise of the helicopter, "No, don't do it!"

"Thank you, I appreciate the support!" Chin's response was playfully sarcastic.

"Seriously, don't get married," Danny said, grinning, "Just find a woman you really hate," he paused, and all the voices of the men in the small space joined together as they boomed,

"And buy her a house!"

The helicopter seemed to shake with the force of laughter that followed; even Steve laughed, the lines of pain smoothing out for a moment, as the team relaxed for the first time in hours. Joe chuckled, his hand resting on Steve's shoulder as Chin and Danny clasped hands, and fistbumped, still chuckling.

"Nice, nice," Chin said, still chuckling.

"I got you," Danny patted Chin's arm, his eyes amused, but supportive.

Lori was laughing, but as her eyes caught Steve's, her smile dimmed a little. The man looked broken. Exhausted.

The helicopter grew silent after a few moments - Steve still had not spoken. Blood was still running down his forehead, and dripping off the side of his face, and there was blood on his lips, and staining his teeth. He was sitting quietly, his posture exuding weariness, and defeat, as he fought a losing battle with his weakening body, but his hands gripped the gun firmly, as if that piece of familiarity was the only thing keeping him together.

There was a moment of silence; Chin leaned back and exhaled loudly, while Danny rubbed his hands over his face, as if wishing he could forget everything he'd seen that day. Wade and Jacks stopped their bantering, and grew silent, their faces blank; relaxed; while Joe leaned back, his hands still on Steve's shoulders, supporting and comforting him.

Wade handed Mcgarrett a bottle of water, and he drank, gratefully, gulping down the liquid with desperate haste, a few drops escaping out of the corner of his mouth, and mixing with blood and sweat, and disappearing into the collar of his open shirt. He kept one hand on the gun that sat in his lap. It had been hours since he'd had anything to eat, or drink, and the tramp in the jungle, the beating, the pain, and the emotional trauma was taking it's toll. When the bottle was empty, Steve leaned back with a shallow sigh, and once again, silence wrapped around the group like a smothering, but comfortable blanket.

"By the way, Frank, this is Steve Mcgarrett." Joe spoke suddenly, nodding towards the pilot, then glancing at Steve. "Steve, my old friend, Frank. This is his bird we're flying."

"Good to meet you, sir," It was the first time he'd spoken since they'd left the convoy behind; his voice was calm, professional. "Joe has spoke of you often."

"Likewise! Joe has told me a lot about you." Frank glanced backwards at Steve, and nodded, grinning. "Too bad we couldn't have met for a drink under more… pleasant circumstances, but it is an honor to meet you. This old dog speaks very highly of you." The pilot grinned at Joe.

"Thank you sir."

Frank nodded, and focused on his controls.

"How'd you manage this?" Steve was talking about the helicopter.

"Frank here owed me a favor. I collected on it." Joe chuckled quietly, patted Steve's shoulder firmly, and Mcgarrett nodded. Navy favors carried over for generations - sometimes grandchildren would collect on favors that their family members had exchanged years before.

A few moments later, Steve spoke again. "How did you find me?" His voice was quiet; thoughtful; controlled and monitored, keeping his pain hidden behind his words.

"Kaye called after she found out that her fiance was dead; she told us your general location." White explained.

"She called you…" Steve's voice registered recognition. "That is why Wo Fat killed her. At least, that is the excuse he used to justify it. I heard them say something about a phone. Then he shot her."

"You were there, Steve?" Lori was horrified. Seeing someone die was horrible enough, but when it is someone you knew, trusted, worked with, it is even worse.

"Yeah. Point blank range, twice in the chest." Steve looked out the open side of the helicopter.

"Did Wo Fat do this…" Lori motioned towards Steve's collection of bruises, "to you?"

Steve grunted humorlessly, and painfully tried to straighten his body. He gave up after a moment, leaning backwards, exhaling sharply. "Yeah, and before him, his men had a little fun."

Lori and Joe looked at each other, their faces pinched and stunned. "Did Jenna know what he was going to do?" Danny's voice was quiet. Deadly.

Steve immediately shook his head. "No. She apologized, over and over. I can't blame her for what she did," His voice was quiet, the look in his eyes mirrored pure exhaustion. "She only did what anyone would have done to save the one she loved." He shifted his head restlessly. "Wo Fat is an expert at manipulating peoples' emotions to accomplish his goals. Jenna is proof of that."

Danny shook his head. "That son-of-a…"

"'It wasn't for nothing.'" Everyone looked up, surprised, as Steve interrupted Danny's exclamation.

"What was that?" Joe asked, leaning forward, keeping the palms of his hands on Steve's shoulders. The ex-SEAL's muscles were more lean, than bulky, but right now his shoulders were knotted and tense with tension, his back stiff and straight.

"'It wasn't for nothing.' That's what Jenna said to me, right before she was killed." Steve fumbled in the pocket of his filthy cargo pants, his hand shaking slightly, and pulled out a small pin, holding it out on his palm for everyone to see. The silence was so heavy, Danny almost wondered if it had doubled or tripled the weight of the helicopter. "'It wasn't for nothing.' She saved my life; that phone call, and this pin. I would never have been able to escape, if it wasn't for her."

"You never would have been captured, if it wasn't for her," Lori pointed out, her voice bitter. All eyes had come to rest on the small sliver of metal, but no one said anything else for a few minutes, and Steve shut his eyes, and lowered his head, his brow wrinkled as memories of the past hours flashed through his mind; his hand closed around the pin, and fell to his side.

A moment later, he raised his head painfully, and spoke. "You're right, Lori. But she's dead now. And I'm alive. I'd say she should get some credit for that."

Trying to lighten the atmosphere, Chin smiled gently. Mcgarrett was pale, and trembling slightly. "You're right. You are alive. And we intend to keep it that way for another 50 or 60 years."

Even Lori's face softened, and she smiled. "That's right." Her eyes held Steve's gaze. "You're gonna be just fine - thanks to her."

"Oh, that's right, we had nothing to do with it," Danny nodded in mock agreement. "I'm sorry, but if you ask me, I would say your sorry butt would still be stuck in that truck if it wasn't for us. But that's just me, okay..." He raised his hands, and shrugged.

Laughter rippled through the group, and Steve nodded his agreement, grinning at Danny, but the action seemed forced.

"That's right, buddy. Couldn't have done it without you. I still can't believe you all came all the way out here." At Steve's words, Danny's frown disappeared, and one corner of his mouth twitched upwards in a half-relenting smile.

"Leave no man behind, Steve." Joe said, firmly. "I believe in that motto."

"Yeah, well, see, here's where it's messed up," Danny said, "You're the one who left us, Steven. You know what, next time you decide to go on a crazy mission halfway around the world, you are going to have to take us with you."

"All of you, Danno?" Steve's voice was tired, but he grinned slightly.

"Yeah, all of us. Why, don't you want Chin coming along?" Danny glanced at Kelly out of the corner of his eye. The man's face was stoic, his expression calm; as if he didn't even hear Danny speak.

"Oh, no, Chin's fine." Steve winced, winking at Kelly, then sighed wearily. "It's just, I don't know if I can put up with your complaining, Danno." He chuckled, as Chin whistled.

"Ooooh," The team laughed. "Do you need some ice for that burn, Danno?" Lori grinned.

"No, thank you. But if you have some ice, I would love some. For some reason, I'm sweating like a dog." Danny raised his arm, and pointed to the moisture staining the fabric. "Oh, it can't be the obscene amount of humidity in this place, could it?"

Steve grinned, shaking his head; his chest was rising and falling rapidly, and he seemed to be having a hard time getting enough oxygen.

His smile faded almost immediately, and was replaced with a haggard, worn look that seemed to envelope his face in an instant, and he shifted his body slightly, grunting in pain.

The laughter died down quickly, and Wade and Joe exchanged glances. There wasn't a doctor among them, but they all knew enough about injuries from years fighting - both on the battlefield, and off - to know that right now, internal bleeding was a serious concern, and the blood on Steve's lips didn't seem to be drying. Maybe it was just from his mouth, which was raw from the punches he had taken to his face. Maybe. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing - this was more serious than Steve had let on.

The men grew quiet, and Chin had leaned back with his eyes focused on the ceiling. Joe's hands still rested on the Commander's shoulders. Steve's legs were stretched out in the small space between the pilot seat, and the seat Joe was sitting on, but his entire body was still rigid with pain, and adrenaline, and his eyes shifted nervously around, as though the previous conversation had done nothing to relax him. His back was straight, his jaw set, locked tightly, as if he was trying to focus on something. Anything but the pain, and the memories.

He was still gripping the gun, his hands steady, although the rest of his body was trembling in pain, and fatigue.

"Steve," Joe's voice was quiet, but everyone heard it clearly. "You can put the gun down now."

Steve turned his head slightly, but his expression didn't change. His eyes were hard, calculating, but there was a deep abiding weariness hidden beneath the surface. Determination was written all over his face; he was still on edge - still waiting for something to happen. His grip tightened on the rifle, and he held it firmly, keeping his body straight, and his neck firm, one finger resting near the trigger of the weapon. White exchanged glances with the 5-0 team.

"Steve, did you hear me? You're safe now. You can put the gun down."

Chin and Danny exchanged glances, and at an unspoken request, Chin knelt down next to the ex-SEAL, and spoke softly.

"Mcgarrett. Let me take the gun. You don't need it now."

Steve didn't release the weapon. His eyelashes brushed his cheek gently; they were shiny with sweat, and his face was tense. His eyes lifted to Chin's face, and for a moment, they stared at each other; Steve's eyes wide, dark with pain, and alert, Chin's were quiet, reassuring, comforting.

"Steve. Give me the gun, brah," Grasping the gun gently, Chin gently removed it from Mcgarrett's hands, and laid it under a nearby seat, after flicking the safety on. For a moment after Steve released the gun, he stayed upright, his body still stiff and rigid, his eyes focused on Chin's face, but a moment later, it was as if something holding Steve together released it's grip on him, and he nodded, slumping backwards weakly, his head leaning back on Joe's knee, while he drew in a deep, ragged breath; his hand falling limply at his side. As if that weapon; that little bit of security and control was the only thing that was keeping Steve upright. His eyes were still open, and alert, but his face was lined with pain, and weariness.

"How long?" Chin asked, glancing at Joe out of the corner of his eye, as he positioned himself on the floor, across from Mcgarrett; Jacks was sitting on his right, one leg hanging carelessly out of the helicopter. Everyones eyes were fixed on Steve; it wasn't often that Steve truly needed help, but now that he did, seeing him in such pain - although he was hiding it well - was disconcerting.

"Not long," Frank answered without even turning his head. "We should be landing at the base in 10 minutes max." Joe nodded, confirming the information, his mouth grim.

The remaining few minutes seemed an eternity, but when Frank finally announced their arrival, it seemed as if no time had passed at all; the sun was illuminating the forest, highlighting the many different shades of greens, and the birds scolded shrilly in the surrounding trees, flying away in flocks as the helicopter disturbed their resting place.

"Here we are!" The pilot's voice was cheerful. "Touchdown in 10 seconds," he announced over his shoulder, grappling with the controls. "Hold on - landing might be a little rough." He glanced backwards for a moment, and looked at Steve, before directing his gaze to Joe. "It'll be rough on him; better try to hold him still." He jerked his head at Mcgarrett. With those terse words, he faced the front again, and his face became stern as he focused on landing the ancient bird. With a nod at the SEAL sitting next to him, Joe took hold of Steve's left arm, while Wade grabbed his right and they held him tightly in their powerful grasps. Steve raised his chin, looking straight ahead determinedly, bracing himself for the impact.

"Hang on, Steve," Chin shouted, as the wind buffeted the chopper sideways, causing the soldiers sitting on the edge to grab onto the frame to keep from being thrown out and forcing Danny to wrap one arm around the metal frame of the helicopter, and the other around the back of the seat.

A little rough? Danny grumbled silently, keeping his eyes focused on the seat in front of him. This is a little rough? I hope it doesn't get any worse.

The ancient 'bird' choked and gasped as it slowly approached the ground, and finally landed with a violent thump, knocking Danny off his seat, and throwing Chin backwards against the controls of the dashboard. Steve was thrown sideways, despite Joe and Wade's restraining hands, and his ribs connecting with Wade's knee; he cried out in agony, as he fell boneless to the floor in a crumpled up heap. Danny could have sworn he heard a cracking sound.

The whirring of the helicopter blades diminished, the noise of the jungle quickly overtaking the sound of machinery, and the pilot glanced back at his passengers, shaking his head and wincing in pain. A thin line of blood ran down his face where he had collided with the controls.

"Steve!" Danny cried, painfully pushing himself up off the floor, and landing on his knees next to the collapsed man. Everyone was pulling themselves to their feet, all eyes focused on the man who lay unconscious on the floor of the chopper, his dark hair sweaty, his bruised chest rising and falling rapidly.

Moving carefully, but swiftly, Joe knelt down next to Mcgarrett, and placed his ear on the injured man's chest, listening intently, before raising his head. A worried frown creased his face. "If his ribs were cracked before, they're definitely broken now," he said, his voice tense. "I don't think they hit a lung, though, because his airway sounds clear."

"Why is he knocked out?" Danny gestured frantically, his voice rising in panic. "That impact wasn't hard enough to knock someone unconscious! We're still awake, I mean why…"

"It's just the pain, Danny," Chin said softly, pulling himself to his feet with a grimace, and bending down over the fallen man. "I heard his ribs crack; that must have been enough to make him pass out."

"Good thing," Joe said, grimly. "Now we can move him inside without him feeling a thing."

Wade and Jacks quickly moved to Mcgarrett, and as Chin, Danny and Lori gathered around, on Joe's command, they picked him up, their combined strength and the multiple hands keeping him lying almost flat in their arms. "Come on, come on, let's move it!"

As they approached the small hut, Kono burst out the door, her hair flying behind her, her face sweaty and smudged with dirt. Everyone saw the concern evident on her face as she ran towards the group carrying Steve.

"Is he okay?" She panted, her brown eyes looking with dismay at the bruised body of her friend, then flicking around the group, until her gaze rested on Joe.

"Broken ribs, bruised lungs, concussion, possible internal bleeding," Lori said, struggling to keep Mcgarrett's head steady. His eyes were closed, his face ghastly pale, and his hands were open, hanging limply.

"Did Wo Fat do this?" Kono demanded, unable to tear her eyes away from Steve's face.

"Yeah." Danny spoke shortly.

Kono turned pale, and tears of indignation, anger and concern filled her eyes. She wiped away the drops fiercely. "Jenna?" She looked from Chin, to Danny, searching their eyes for the answer.

Chin shook his head.

"That son of -"

Steve groaned, and his eyelids fluttered.

"Hey, he's waking up."

"We need to get him inside!"

"Steady! Careful, careful!"

"Steve, hey, hey, babe, you with us?" Danny bent over the man, trying to keep from tripping as they moved swiftly over the rough ground. Kono had positioned herself on the other side, and Steve's hand was now enveloped in hers. His face was pale, his eyes roaming restlessly across the faces of those carrying him, his lips tight with agony.

"Y-yeah, I-I'm… still… here." His words were broken, his voice strained. The team worked in sync, walking carefully, but swiftly; they were focused on each other, moving in harmony, trying to keep him as steady as possible. Wade and Jacks kept their eyes focused on Mcgarrett's face, concern written all over their features.

"Dang," Danny panted, "You sure are heavy for being so thin."

"Sorry, Danno." He chuckled, then coughed, his breath coming in heaves.

"Shut up, just shut up, okay, and breath. Focus on breathing. Breathing is important."

"...I am…breathing."

"Good. Now try the 'shutting up' part."

Joe reached the door first, and he threw it open, and stood out of the way, while the group swept inside, Mcgarrett in the midst of them; teeth clenched, hands in fists. The door swung shut behind them with a quiet bang.

"The couch," Wade grunted, motioning with his head towards a broken down sofa that sat in the pale gleam of light that shone through the grimy window.

"Wait," Kono cried, hurrying forward with a sheet from the sparse medical supplies they had taken from the plane, and laying it over the dirty material. "Don't want his cuts to get infected."

Wade rolled his eyes; after being beaten in a dirty, damp bunker, bounced around in the back of a truck, and having walked a good distance on bleeding, bare feet, it wasn't really going to make much of a difference, but Kono was just trying to help. "Okay, gently, gently." He snapped, as they lowered Steve down onto the cushions. He cried out in pain, and then leaned his head back against the armrest with a pained grunt, but his eyes were fixed on his team as he tried to regulate his breathing, taking shallow, panting breaths. Anything more than that hurt too much.

Frank came in, and stood with his back leaning against the doorframe, his eyes carefully following the movement of the team. Whoever this man Mcgarrett was, he was quite a guy, for so many people to risk their lives to save his. The Commander didn't look good, though, and he wondered if all this was in vain.

The members of 5-0 watched wordlessly as the 3 SEALs, Wade and Joe moved with quiet efficiency; taking Steve's temperature, attaching a cuff to his arm, and checking his blood pressure. Bradley, who was an ex-medic, expertly slipped a needle into Steve's vein, and attached an IV. Joe turned to face Steve's friends, and said quietly; "Why don't you guys wait outside. We'll get Steve fixed up, and then we're gonna have to move out again."

Danny opened his mouth to protest, but Chin smacked him across the chest as he turned towards the door, and the look in Kono's eyes begged him to stay silent, so he bit his lip and followed Lori out of the hut.

Kono began pacing, back and forth, back and forth, her dusty shoes slapping imprints on the worn wood of the collapsing porch. "Is he going to be okay?" Kono asked, suddenly, turning towards her cousin, her eyes tortured and haunted.

"I don't know, cuz. But it's Steve - Superman. He always pulls through." Chin didn't want to say how worried he actually was - but right now, infection and internal bleeding were the greatest concerns.

"Yeah, but even Superman has a weakness," Kono murmured, her chin trembling. "Chin, if he…"

"Hey, hey." Chin pulled her towards him, and wrapped his arms around her, one hand smoothing her hair, the other patting her back. "He'll be alright. Okay? Steve always pulls through - he's a fighter. Besides, Wo Fat has pissed off the wrong person. Steve isn't going to rest until he brings him down."

"He darn well better rest!" Danny exclaimed, taking an active part in the conversation to distract himself. "He is going to stay in bed until there isn't a bruise left, or a spot on his body that is sore. Even if we have to tie him to the hospital bed."

Kono nodded, lifting her head, and wiping her eyes. She smiled weakly, turning away slightly, and gazed off into the distance. "Steve will never go for that, Danny." She sniffed, then turned back to Chin, her eyes steely. "Wo Fat has pissed off the wrong team." Her jaw tightened. "After what he did to Steve, there is no way we will ever stop hunting him. And when we catch him, he will pay." The look in Danny's eyes was murderous, and Lori and Chin's silent nods confirmed her statement.

Kono turned away, blowing out a breath between her teeth, and looked at the sky. It was blue; a few fleecy clouds slowly worked their way across the horizon, skittering away as if they were frightened. The sky never changed - people change, circumstances change, life changes. How can something so big be so unchanging? She shook her head. Stay focused, she told herself. Stay focused on getting Steve home.

Inside the hut, Steve cried out; the sound was the depiction of pure agony, and then the murmur of voices heightened. Danny gritted his teeth, and turned on his heel, muttering under his breath. "God, why can't we be in there?" He knew the answer. But everyone asks questions they know the answer to when they're frightened.

"Joe will handle it." Lori spoke for the first time in almost 30 minutes; her voice was calm, but slightly shaken. "There is some pain you don't want your loved ones to witness." Kono looked up quickly at the quiet statement, and their eyes met.

Danny stared at her for a minute, his face blank; finally he nodded, and sat down on the edge of the rotting porch with a groan, lowering his head into his hands, and smoothing back his hair with shaking hands. A moment later, Kono was seated next to him. Placing her hand on his arm, she said, "Steve will be okay. He'll pull through."

A small smile flickered around the corner of Danny's lips, despite the stress and worry of the current situation. Kono wasn't against showing weakness; she knew fear was something to overcome, not something to run from. She had been afraid, Chin had comforted her. Now, it was her turn to comfort someone else. That's just the way she was.

Reaching out, he patted her hand. "Thanks, Kono. Steve will be out kicking-butt before we know it, right?"

Kono nodded firmly, swallowing the lump in her throat. "That's right. Watch out, Hawaii." She chuckled, but it sounded choked.

"Watch out, Wo Fat," Danny growled.

15 minutes passed, then 20. Every now and then, they heard Steve's voice rise as he cried out, and every time, the team outside tensed unconsciously, their eyes seeking the sky as if searching for answers. Finally, Danny exclaimed, "I can't take this any longer. Aren't they done yet?"

Just then, the door opened, and Joe walked out. His face was sweaty, and there were dark lines under his eyes, but he smiled tightly, and his shoulders were straight, his posture perfect. Compliments of the military. Danny thought wryly. Steve was one tough son of a [-], and this man who stood before him was made of steel, and had forced Steve into that same mold. Right now, as annoying as Steve's 'hero complex' and 'super SEAL' actions were, he was glad that Steve had been trained and prepared for the abuse he had received.

"We got him taken care of, for now. We need to get him back to Hawaii, and to a hospital as soon as possible, though. He's dehydrated, utterly exhausted, may have a concussion from all the times he got punched in the face, and he's lost a lot of blood, not to mention having at least 4 broken ribs. But he'll be okay, eventually, as long as those ribs don't puncture a lung. Which is a possibility, the more he is moved. Steve is tough," White looked around at the anxious faces, "but he has never actually been put through circumstances like this before - even training can't truly prepare anyone for the actual experience."

"Oh, oh, that's just great," Danny's voice was calm, but anger was evident in his tone. "So, you didn't train him for things like this? What exactly did you train him for? To sacrifice himself? To throw his life away for someone who would betray him?" His voice rose, teetering on shouting. "Steve could have died, Joe, okay, died." He knew he was shouting at the wrong person, but his anger needed to be expressed, and he had held back from venting his frustration with Joe before; now it all came out in a flood.

Joe's jaw tightened, and his eyes flashed dangerously. "Steve understands, even if you don't. In fact, I don't expect you to understand our methods, Williams."

"Oh, oh, good. You know what," Danny pointed a finger at Joe, "because I don't. I don't understand why Steve thinks he needs to save the world, or why every time someone is shooting at him - and at me! - he throws himself into the line of fire." Danny's eyes flashed. "Does he find it exhilarating, or something? I don't understand the rush he gets from almost getting himself killed!"

"Danny," Lori laid a hand on his arm. She didn't say anything else, but he drew in a deep breath and turned away, his chest heaving, eyes sparking blue fire, as he ran his hands over his hair. After a moment, he turned to face Joe; his shoulders had slumped, and he looked exhausted.

"I'm sorry, Joe. I just…" He stopped, not trusting his voice.

Joe held up his hand, immediately relenting his harsh tones."No apology is necessary. I understand." He nodded once, crossing his arms. "That is just who Steve is, Danny. Ever since his father died, justice has been his personal mission. You know there is nothing he wouldn't do for his friends; Jenna knew that too." Joe paused, and cleared his throat, remorse written all over his face. "Steve was trained for these situations - but the harder the emotional circumstances become, the harder it is to ignore the physical trauma. I am just as worried as you are. But Steve is a fighter. I'm sure he'll pull through." Joe nodded again, the lines around his eyes softening slightly.

"Can we go in and see him?" Chin enquired, placing a hand on Kono's shoulder as he leaned forward. The team anxiously awaited his answer. White was not their commanding officer, but they knew Steve would never go against his wishes; Steve respected and admired him, and that was enough for them. But if he says we can't see him, I don't care how much Steve respects him, Chin thought to himself. Steve was the heart and soul of the whole team - the calm in the storm, the dry humor in tough situations, the determination when all hope seemed lost. They needed to see him; to see that he was alright with their own eyes; only then, could they be alright.

"Sure. He wants to see you anyway. We need to be leaving soon, though. The sooner we're out of here, the better." Joe motioned towards the door, nodding his head in quick, bird-like jerks.

Danny nodded, and sidestepped past Joe, and into the hut. Mcgarrett was lying with his face towards the door, eyes closed, his hand hanging limply, fingers brushing the floor, and his bare chest - now bound tightly with white bandages - was rising and falling slowly. He could see his body was shaking slightly, shudder after shudder wracking his body, and Danny realized he was still trying to move past the pain and exhaustion of the previous half hour.

"Oh, god." Danny ran his hands through his hair, and pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand. Turning around, he placed his palms together, and touched his lips with the tips of his fingers, almost as if he was praying. In a way, he was. Silently, constantly. Seeing Steve like this was harder than he liked to admit. Steve was Superman. He never got hurt. Gunshot wound? He got right back up and finished the job. Even after he'd been stabbed by Victor Hesse, he had managed to hold himself together long enough to escape, and then jump onto a moving speedboat. Stupid, fearless, utterly selfless, stupid. Oh, and stupid. Had he already said that?

"Danny." Steve's voice broke the silence; the single spoken word was said quietly, but Mcgarrett's voice was steady.

Danny's eyes shot open, and he turned around, creating a half circle in the dust on the floor with his shoes. "Hey, hey, babe." He hurried forward, and knelt down, his eyes never leaving his friend's face. He touched Steve's shoulder gently, and nearly jerked back in surprise. Mcgarrett's skin was damp, but burning hot to the touch. He bit his lip, and turned his head to look at the rest of the 5-0 team.

They were standing right behind him, watching him closely, and at the concern in his eyes, their lips tightened, and they exchanged glances. This was not good. No, this was not good at all. He forced his lips upward, and faced Steve again. He knew it was probably a gruesome attempt at a smile. His lips felt stretched over his teeth unnaturally. "How do you feel?"

"Like I was used as a punching bag for a ninja." Mcgarrett's voice caught in his throat, and he coughed, wheezing. Exhaling shakily, once the coughing fit had ended, he carefully raised his arm, and rubbed his hand over his bruised face. His breathing was strained, and every breath was a pained.

Danny's chest constricted. "Well, you're the only ninja I know, Steven."


"You look a little better, brah- you don't seem to be in as much pain," Chin remarked, lying through his teeth, and Steve's eyes flicked upwards, carefully taking in Chin's expression. He knew he was lying. He smiled slightly at Kono, and Lori, his eyes blank, before answering Chin, the lines around his eyes relaxing for a moment as his lips quivered in mirth.

"Hmm." He grunted. "Morphine." He motioned, wincing, towards an IV that was attached in the crook of his arm. "Saline, and morphine. Good combination."

"Doesn't seem to be doing much, babe." Danny stated, raising his eyebrows. Everyone ignored him. Steve's condition had deteriorated rapidly in the past half an hour. The circles under his eyes were dark grey, and his face was mottled with bruises that stood out in sharp contrast against his ashen skin. His face was gaunt, and strained, his breathing shallow. It was almost as if tending to his injuries had affected him more than the actual injuries themselves. Before, he was strong; determined, fighting. Now that he had been tended to, he seemed weak; in pain. Fragile was the word that flicked through Danny's mind.. The past half hour had been extremely painful, and the pain and exhaustion had taken their toll.

Kono glanced at Chin. "Morphine? Is that a good idea right now?"

Chin lowered his voice, and spoke softly to Kono, but Danny's ears caught his words as he bent forward to speak softly in her ear. "No, but moving him over these back roads without proper equipment without it is impossible. Even with his high pain tolerance, he wouldn't be able to handle it. You know how these roads are." Kono nodded, her face grim. She turned her head as the door squeaked open noisily.

Joe and the two SEALs entered the room. "We're ready to leave," he announced, his eyes flicking over the faces of the 5-0 team before coming to rest on Steve. "You ready to go home?"

Steve nodded. "Yes, sir." His voice was quiet, his face pale, and flushed. Even his lips looked unnaturally white. Danny shook his head. That morphine definitely wasn't doing much. The sooner they got back to Hawaii, the better. Just hold on, Steve.

"Let's move out."

They had said a hasty farewell to Frank, standing amongst the piles of junk that surrounded the place where he had put 'Tangerine' down; Joe and the rough man embraced, and then Steve thanked him in a voice that was perfectly steady and calm.

"Don't thank me," the man had replied, "Joe's the one who dragged me into it." He nodded at Joe, and then shook the hand Steve held out to him. "You're a good man, Mcgarrett. Lucky to have such good friends." With a backward wave, he shouted over his shoulder as he disappeared in the thick brush that had grown up around the Tangerine in it's years of retirement, "You come back one day, and we'll have a talk over beer. I'm sure you have stories worth hearing."

Mcgarrett exchanged glances with Joe, his face lined, and pale. "Where did you meet him?"

Joe had winked, but he was barely hiding his concern. "It's a long story. I'll tell you later."

The trip to the small airport had been agony for the 5-0 leader - in the back of the truck, being supported by Lori and Danny, as the light filtered through the green fabric that protected them from the harsh sun, they had bounced over backroads, through puddles of murky water, and patches of thick brush. Steve's incessant pain hadn't even been dented by the morphine Wade had given him, and at length, Mcgarrett had sucumbed to unconsciousness, not awakening until he was being loaded on the plane; he had been situated on a medical stretcher from the supplies they had brought. Wade grinned at him, when he saw Mcgarrett's eyes flicker open. Steve squinted at the bright light, wrinkling his nose.

"Back with us, eh, Commander?"

"... never….left, sir."

"Oh, you didn't? Because it sure seemed like you left us for a while," Danny said. Steve turned his head, and saw Danny walking beside him, his posture protective, as if he would fight anyone who dared threaten his friend's safety. Mcgarrett's lips twitched, his nose wrinkling slightly like it always did when he did that funny half-smile, usually accompanied by the words "Book 'em, Danno". Danny's eyes were worried. "And don't you ever, ever think of leaving, ya hear me? We didn't come all this way to have you leave us again."

Steve chuckled slightly, his eyelids lowering as he grunted in amusement. "Don't plan on leaving anytime soon, Danno."

"Good. You know, Gracie threatened to disown me if I came back without you. She's stubborn, you know; she got that determination from her mother. Most stubborn woman I've ever seen; good stubborn, but still, darn stubborn. They do exactly what they set their minds to, ignoring what anyone else says." He glanced meaningfully at Mcgarrett, walking next to the procession.

"You're pretty stubborn yourself, Danno." Steve lips curved upward slightly, but he winced as he spoke. He was being carried between Wade, and Jacks, and the movement jostled his ribs painfully.

"Who, me? I'm not stubborn, but you," Danny huffed, "You on the other hand, you just had to run off to Korea, didn't you, despite everything we said. I'm really glad we didn't have to come back without you. Gracie definitely would have made good on her promise."

Steve's utter exhaustion was evident; his eyelids fluttered weakly, but his jaw was working up and down and every now and then his breath hitched in his chest painfully. "Gracie," he muttered, smiling slightly. "Good thing… you won't have to." His dark lashes fluttered once more, and then came to rest on his pale cheek, and he lost consciousness, his head falling limply against the side of the stretcher.

"He awake?" Joe hurried towards them from the rear of the plane where he had been unloading the supplies, his lean body showing no sign of the past physical exertion. They had taken enough supplies to last the surrounding villages for months, so they might as well leave them where they would do some good. Another team was coming by to pick them up in a few hours.

"No," Danny sighed. "He was, for a minute. He's out again."

"It's just as well. Take off in a plane this size is gonna be rough, and I don't want to give him any more morphine until we get going."

Wade and Jennings loaded Steve into the back of the plane, securing the bed to the floor with hooks designed especially for that. Carefully, they crossed straps over his legs, and chest, after laying a small blanket over him, and tightened them as snugly as they dared, leaving the straps over his torso looser. Once everyone was loaded, the plane's engine started with a whine, and began moving down the runway.

Home. The word was being repeated in the minds of all those present; this rescue mission was successful. They had gotten Steve back alive. They were heading home. But the lasting effects of the past few days would stay in everyones minds for years; and Mcgarrett's body and soul would always bear the marks of the past.

The plane was silent; Danny was sitting beside Steve's cot,on a small chair, his head resting on his arms, struggling to stay awake, but the weight on his eyelids was becoming heavier, and he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to stay awake much longer. The ex-SEAL was either sleeping or unconscious, secured by straps that held him in place, to keep him from rolling onto the floor by the motion of the small plane.

Everyone else was dozing; Joe, Gutches and Jacks, even Chin was curled up on the floor, his head pillowed on his arm, dead to the world. The flight back to Hawaii was taking longer than expected, due to some heavy headwinds, and all Danny wanted to do was kiss Gracie goodnight, fall into his own bed, and sleep for a week.

Footsteps echoed on the floor the plane, and Wade walked up to Mcgarrett's cot, rubbing his eyes wearily. The burly Commander had circles under his eyes, and his face was streaked with dirt and sweat. "How's he doing?"

Danny jerked his head around, surprised, then turned back to Steve. "He's still asleep."

", I'm not…" Mcgarrett's voice was raspy, and he opened his eyes wearily.

"Steve! How're you feeling, babe?" Danny sat up straighter, and leaned on the edge of the cot. Gutches raised his eyebrows and squatted down on his heels next to the Commander, smiling slightly. The burly man had a gentle side that few people ever got to see - but Steve and Gutches had hit it off from the moment they'd met; they both had something in common - the SEAL training, background and mindset, and now he looked fondly at the younger man, remembering how the painful circumstances under which they had first met had ended well, forming a bond of friendship between the two kick-ass SEALs.

"Like...hell, Danny." His face twitched, and he turned away as his face twisted in pain, his entire body tense. A moment passed, and he relaxed again, his breath coming in gasping pants, his eyes shut as he tried to breathe more slowly. "You?"

"M-me? Really? You're lying here, practically in pieces, and you're asking how I am? Oh, I'm fine, just fine. Ya know. Nice hike through the jungles, friendly fire-fight, rescued some idiot from a crazy man, and now heading back home? Nothing out of the usual." Danny sniffed, and rubbed his nose.

Steve smiled, his eyes half closed. "You should be… used…. to this kinda stuff by now… Danno." He grunted, as the plane encountered some turbulence.

Without a word, Gutches stood with a grunt, and fumbled around in the medical kit for a moment, before pulling out a syringe of morphine. At that moment, Bradley Jacks stood up from where he was sitting, and walked back to where Mcgarrett was, with solid, sure steps. His face was calm, but worried. He spoke in an undertone to Wade, and Danny turned his attention back to Steve.

"What, oh, I'm used to it. You've dragged me along on enough crazy adventures, except you are the one always getting hurt - like the time you broke your arm? I saved your… hey, is that a good idea?" Danny asked Wade as he saw what the other man was doing, keeping his voice low, as Gutches pulled the cap off with his teeth, and tapped the tube to release any air bubbles. God, all he wanted was to pump a full syringe of morphine through the man who lay suffering before him, but he wondered at the wisdom of giving him so much.

"Probably not. But there's not much we can do from here," The hulking SEAL kept his face blank, but worry flickered behind his eyes. "The most we can do right now is keep him comfortable until we get back to Hawaii, and get him to a hospital." Moving forward, he stabbed the needle into Steve's upper arm, and pressed the plunger. Steve didn't even react.

"Next time… you should let Danny stab me," Mcgarrett muttered, opening his eyes for a minute, his face pale. "He's always wanted to shoot me himself… now's… the perfect time."

Bradley grinned, then turned to Danny. "Aren't there enough people shooting at him?"

"Enough -" Williams grunted in wry amusement. "Oh, yes. More than enough people shooting at him, stabbing him, trying to kill him. This is nothing out of the ordinary in the life of super-SEAL-ninja Steven Mcgarrett."

Steve's eyebrow twitched, and his eyes drifted shut again. "Hmm."

Danny bit his lip, turned jerkily away and shut his eyes, as he rubbed his hands over his face, scratchy with stubble. "Dang it, Steve," he murmured, turning back to his friend. Mcgarrett's eyes were still shut, but his jaw was tense, and his hands were clenched shut tightly, while beads of sweat formed on his forehead. "Just hold on, babe. Just wait a few minutes."

Once the morphine took effect - and Danny could see the relief that washed over the Commander's face after a few minutes - he drifted off, his hand falling limply along the side of the stretcher. Wade sighed, and lumbered back to his seat with heavy footsteps, while Jacks situated himself on the floor nearby, leaning against the back of a crate. Danny wasn't sure how long he had sat by Steve's side, and finally his head sank down onto his knees, and he fell asleep.

It might have been minutes, it might have been hours, but he was awakened by a sharp blow to his arm, and sitting up, looking around blurrily, he saw Steve looking at him.

"Danny." Steve's voice was breathless, agonized, but very much aware. "Danny, wake up."

"Mm, I'm awake." Danny shook his head to clear the cobwebs from his brain, and rubbing his eyes, looked at his partner. The plane was still silent; everyone else was still sleeping. Mcgarrett was lying quietly, but his skin was pale and damp, and his whole body was trembling slightly; Danny could feel the heat radiating off his skin when he placed his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Whoa, you okay, babe? You're burning up, brah… Steve?" His eyes took in the shudders that ran over Steve's body, and he knew some amount of time must have passed, because the morphine had worn off, almost completely.

"Couldn't…. sleep… anymore. Besides, I think..." The words that were spat out from between clenched teeth suddenly ceased. Mcgarrett's eyelids flickered, and he turned away, his head rolling restlessly on the pillow, his dark hair sticking to his forehead, as his brow tightened in pain.

"You think what, babe?" Danny waited for a reply, but none came. "Don't worry, we're gonna be there soon." In truth, Danny had no idea how far out they were, but right now, he would have promised Steve the moon if it would have helped. Danny was sure seeing someone - a friend, and brother; someone you care about - in pain and being unable to help had to be one of the most agonizing feelings in the world, and a feeling of helplessness crept over him. Like he was pinned pinned to the ground, unable to move.

"We're here," White's voice sounded right behind Danny, and he jumped, startled.

White's face was lined, his brow creased with worry, and as Danny turned to look at the man, he saw the exhaustion on the man's lined face; Joe was physically and mentally exhausted. But then, they all were. "What did you say?"

Joe rubbed his hand wearily over his face. "We're here. We'll be landing in a few minutes. Better get in your seat. I called ahead; there should be an ambulance waiting right outside." His eyes flicked across Steve's trembling body with undisguised concern. "You doing okay, son?"

"... fine," Steve answered, after a slight pause. He cleared his throat. " I don't need… an ambulance, Danno."

Danny rolled his eyes towards the ceiling in frustration, and placed his hands on his hips. His worry and fear made his voice sharper than he intended. "What is it with you, and medical help? Are you allergic to it, or something? Because, see, that is where you are mistaken, Steven. If anyone in Hawaii needs an ambulance right now, it is you. I know," He ignored Steve's weak attempts to interrupt him, "you're just fine," he rolled his eyes, "but humor us, okay, babe?"

"You don't have to… shout at me." Steve spoke haltingly, but there was a slightly teasing edge to his tone.

"Okay, firstly," Danny steepled his fingers, "I was not shouting. I was expressing my opinion in an animated way. Not shouting. There is a difference, Steven; a very big difference, actually."

He was expecting Steve's usual witty reply; the man seemed to be an endless encyclopedia for smart-ass comments, but to his concern, he merely rolled his eyes, and then his eyelids dropped wearily, as if he was unable to keep his eyes open, his breathing unnaturally ragged. Danny turned to look at Joe, frowning.

A moment later, Steve gasped, shifted, and tried to push himself up into a sitting position. "Whoa, whoa, take it easy, son." Joe laid a firm hand on Steve's shoulder, forcing him gently down. "Don't sit up."

"...Danny…" Steve licked his lips, his jaw working as he tried to speak, but Danny shushed him.

"Stop talking, okay? Just shut up. You don't have to talk all the time, do you?"

Mcgarrett's eyes drifted open. "Danny," he said, his voice strangled, "Danny… I can't… breathe… need to… sit...up."

Immediately, Joe laid his head on Steve's chest. "Dang," he muttered, jumping into action. The cot Steve was lying on was much like a stretcher used by medics; it had the ability to fold in half, allowing the patient to recline, or sit upright. "I think he's got a punctured lung; it might just be nicked, but it's not good." He spoke quietly, as he began slowly cranking up the head of the bed.

Mcgarrett's face was taut and strained, his breaths gasping, while sweat poured off his face and neck in a river. When he was finally upright, he relaxed slightly, sucking in sweet gulps of air, leaning his head back against the small pillow, exhausted. His breathing was still ragged, but it didn't seem to be as hard to get air into his lungs, now.

"Why didn't you say so?" Danny demanded, rubbing his hands through his hair in exasperation.

"Better?" Joe asked, patting Steve's shoulder. Mcgarrett didn't answer, but his breathing was more relaxed; definitely better, although still too shallow and rapid.

"Don't we have any oxygen?"

White shook his head. "Couldn't get any on such short notice."

Joe was concerned; the Commander's eyes seemed to bore holes in Danny's with a fiery gaze. "You'd better get to your seat, Williams. I'll stay here with Mcgarrett. Don't worry - I'll make sure he's as comfortable as possible for the landing."

Danny nodded reluctantly, before taking a seat next to Kono. She was now awake, and staring out the window to her right with a tense expression on her face. Everyone was beginning to wake up; after working in harmony under such tense circumstances, they had a common goal, and the mental connection was strong. They also shared a common expression; tense, weary, worried. Danny thought, if things didn't calm down soon, all of their faces might be permanently fixed in 'tense' expressions. He chuckled wearily at the thought.

A few minutes later, the plane began its descent, and every time the small 'bird' encountered turbulence, silent looks were exchanged; everyone knew that every bump must be agony for Steve. He cried out once; his arms were wrapped around his chest, his brow wrinkling with every bump, but besides that, he was perfectly silent.

They had all broken bones before; Kono had broken her ankle when she took a dare regarding skateboarding down a stairway railing, Chin had broken his collarbone in a motorcycle accident, and Danny had cracked a rib when he was 16 - it had been a stupid bicycle accident - but his side had been sore and swollen for weeks afterwards, and he had walked gingerly for a month. He couldn't imagine what 4 or 5 broken ribs would feel like, not to mention the combination of bruises, abrasions and burns.

As soon as the ramp lowered, Jacks and Wade carried Mcgarrett off the plane, with Joe leading the way, out into the warmth of the hawaiian air. A tall SEAL ran up to Gutches, saluted, and then glanced at Mcgarrett, his eyes widening in surprise. Martin Cooper had only heard of Mcgarrett's work with the 5-0 task force, but he knew that the man had personally saved Bradley Jacks life, when the madman had been targeting members of SEAL team 9.

Steve was conscious, but pale; his breathing was rapid, and shallow, and his head was slumped sideways, his eyes closed. Sweat covered his forehead, and his face was flushed with fever. His bare chest was slightly covered by a blanket, but Cooper saw the bruises and Mcgarrett's beaten body, and for a moment, he couldn't speak.

"Report, Martin." Gutches growled, shifting impatiently. Mcgarrett was lean, and strong; he didn't have an ounce of fat on his body, but the man was tall, and strongly built, and dangit, he was heavy.

"Sorry, sir. You have been asked to give a full report of your…" He paused, coughed, and shifted from foot to foot, "'humanitarian' mission as soon as you returned." Martin had heard the full details of the mission from Joe, under the strictest confidence, and had wanted to join, but hadn't been able to.

"Sorry, Commander, I will be unable to obey those orders," Gutches steeled his jaw, and glowered, glancing around at the other members of the team, daring anyone to speak. "There was an unexpected complication - I will give my report as soon as my team is cared for."

Cooper's eyes flicked down to Mcgarrett, then back to Wade's face. "Roger that, sir. I counted on unexpected problems, and told the CO that you would not return until tomorrow at 0900 hours." By now, the entire group had gathered around Steve; the members of 5-0 were looking impatiently at Martin, wondering what the hold-up was.

"Wait, wait a minute," Danny cut in, raising a hand and stepping between the two men. "You lied to your commanding officer?"

Cooper turned to Danny, his face suddenly stiff, then looked back to Wade, awaiting his reply, apprehension visible on his face. Gutches' face was stormy, but suddenly he smiled, and clapped the man on the shoulder. "Well done, Commander. 0900 hours. Roger that."

"So, let me get this straight, you said we wouldn't be back until tomorrow, at 9:00 AM?"

"That's exactly what he said… you're… catching on… Danno" Everyone looked down in surprise as Steve spoke. He turned his head, and looked up, raising his head, as he squinted against the harsh sunlight. His eyes were open and alert, and he sucked in a deep breath, gritting his teeth.

"Commander Mcgarrett, I am relieved to see you. I've heard much about you." Cooper grasped Steve's offered hand, and was surprised to find his grip strong, and steady.

"You too, sir," Mcgarrett nodded. The muscles in his neck were tight, his shoulders tense. "Jacks wished you could have been with us on this… adventure. He speaks very highly of you." He laid his head back with a grunt, and shut his eyes for a minute, his dark eyelashes vivid against his pale skin. His brow was wrinkled, and his breathing sounded ragged.

Cooper's eyes followed his movements with a worried gaze. "Thank you, sir. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to come along."

Danny huffed impatiently. These Navy men. For goodness sake. Why didn't they just come out and say 'thank you' and 'you're welcome', and 'I'm glad you're safe'? Instead they pranced around words, keeping everything strictly professional, and work related.

"Hey, where's the ambulance?" Kono asked, looking around. The small airport was practically empty, and the afternoon sun was casting long shadows.

"Not here yet," Cooper glanced at Kono, then turned back to Gutches. "There was a major accident on the interstate earlier. All medical teams were directed there." It was clear that Steve was in pain, and even though he was sitting up, it was getting harder for him to breathe.

"What, so, we're just expected to wait here until one becomes available?" Danny bent forward at the waist, crossing his arms, and asked the question in the tone so common for him - annoyance. "We need an ambulance here. Now."

"My truck." Steve opened his eyes. "My truck is here."

"Steven, we are not transporting you to the hospital in the back of a truck."

"Danny, I don't see as we have a choice. We can't afford to wait," Chin leaned forward, always the voice of reason. He lowered his voice. "Mcgarrett is getting worse; he needs to get to the hospital, and this is going to be the fastest way to get him there."

Lori nodded, pursing her lips. "He's right."

"But we can't give him any more morphine, and the roads are horrible…" Danny trailed off. He knew that there would be no difference in the roads, whether they were driving a truck, or an ambulance, but at least in an ambulance, it would almost be as if Steve was in a hospital, with medics, and medical supplies. And morphine.

In the back of a pickup truck…

"Don't worry about me, Danno." Steve's voice was quiet, and he lifted his head again, the motion pulling on his ribs. He hissed in pain, then looked at the group surrounding him. "I'm fine."


"Danny," Kono spoke gently, laying her hand on his arm. "We don't have a choice."

Danny glowered. "Fine." He turned to Mcgarrett, who was watching him with a slightly amused expression in his eyes. "But you, Steven, are going to the hospital, and staying there until you're better. All those hot nurses, and good food, and plenty of time to rest…"

"...last time I checked… hospital food wasn't that great, Danno…"

"Well, maybe it's improved since then. Besides. The nurses are hot."

Kono and Chin exchanged glances. Only Danny.

Steve smiled, his lips quirking in amusement, then his face crumpled in pain, and he gasped. "Ahhh!"

"Okay, that's it. We're going. Right now."

Danny started moving towards the parking area, and the group of men followed, Martin's eyes still on Mcgarrett's bruised face. He positioned himself so he was walking next to Chin, and leaning towards him, whispered, "What the hell happened over there?"

"He was betrayed by someone we all trusted. Wo Fat tortured him for information." Chin's voice was clipped. He was too worried and exhausted to go into a full recap of the past 24 hours. None of them had had any sleep in almost 48 - Steve, even longer.

Cooper's eyes hardened. "Whew. I've heard stories of Mcgarrett from Commander Gutches, and Commander White, and he proved his courage to me when he saved Lieutenant Jacks' life, but remaining unbroken by Wo Fat's interrogation requires incredible strength."

Kelly's jaw tightened. "He didn't just survive, Commander." There were so many 'Commanders' around, Chin was getting a little confused concerning who was actually in charge around here. "He didn't give away any information and actually escaped before being recaptured."

Martin just shook his head, and the team hurried towards the blue truck that sat in a solitary corner, many hands supporting Mcgarrett. They were home at last, but was Steve any safer here? Wo Fat's fingers of power extended in many branches of the government, and across the world.

They had only one consolation; one bit of comfort. If Wo Fat had wanted Steve dead, he would have been.

"Joe." Steve's voice was barely audible above the rush of the wind over the top of the truck as Danny drove as fast as he dared, headed towards the hospital. He sounded relaxed, calm, almost, but the harsh sound of his labored breathing shattered the illusion of comfort. The stretcher hadn't fit in the back of the blue pick-up, so he was sitting on the floor of the truck bed, leaning against a pile of blankets that had been hastily thrown down for that purpose, surrounded by men in uniform; Joe and Wade sat on either side of him, supporting his weight, and trying to keep him as comfortable as possible, while Bradley Jacks sat nearby, his eyes completely focused on Steve's face. Mcgarrett was strong, but he was rapidly reaching the limit of his strength. It was only a matter of time.

Kono, Chin and Lori were sitting inside the truck, on Joe's request; he had used the excuse that he was sure they needed some time to talk, and besides, there wouldn't be enough room for all the SEALs if they sat in the back, but he had a feeling there was something Mcgarrett wanted to tell say, and Joe wasn't sure if he wanted the 5-0 team to hear it just yet. He wasn't sure if he wanted to hear it just yet.

"Don't speak, son. We're almost there. You're gonna be just fine."

Truth be told, White was worried. Steve's breathing was irregular, and strained, and his current position was making it even more difficult for him to suck in enough oxygen to sustain him - it was a nearly impossible task for him to stay awake, but he was keeping himself conscious, displaying an incredible inner strength that Joe hadn't witnessed in anyone else he had ever trained. Steve was different; his drive was unparalleled by anyone else Joe knew ; his physical and mental prowess and stamina were uncomparable. He completed each case with the meticulous perfection of a military operation, but his kindness, understanding and courage was something many people never acquire. He never gave up. He was reaching the end of his rope, though, and his face was ghastly, his angular jaw tense, his shoulders stiff, and sweat poured off his face, while his breath came in slow, gasping heaves.

"Wo Fat… wanted to know… about… Shelburne."

Joe's face tightened, and Wade and Jacks exchanged glances over Steve's head.

"Shelburne?" Joe seemed to forget his previous order, and he leaned forward, his expression cautious.

"Yeah. Shelburne. That… name keeps coming… up, Joe." Mcgarrett's voice was raspy, his eyes dead. The circles under his eyes were even darker, and his cheekbones jutted out sharply, augmented by the bruises gathered on his jawbone, and around his eyes.

White leaned back, and shook his head, his face suddenly blank. "I know," was all he said.

Mcgarrett looked at him out of the corner of his eye, then nodded. He was in pain, and he could scarcely in a breath without agony stabbing his side; in fact, it was getting hard to breathe at all. Pressure was building in his head, and it felt like it was about to explode. Just hold on, he told himself. Just hold on. It wasn't for nothing. If all this brought him closer to understanding his family's mysterious past, the connection to Wo Fat, and capturing him, it was worth it.

Just hold on.

The waiting room was silent; the smell of cleaner, alcohol and disinfectant filled the entire hospital from the floor to the ceiling, reminding Joe of the time he had been brought back from Afghanistan, injured. Mcgarrett had sat for hours in the waiting room - those rooms were appropriately named. People waited. For good news. For bad news. For life. For death. For news of any kind. Steve had visited him every day during his recovery; he had found favor with of many of the nurses; his chivalry, politeness and kindness - to say nothing about his handsome face - had made him a favorite. It was strange how things went around. Now Steve was in surgery, and they were sitting here. Waiting. For news. For anything. Joe leaned back, rested his head against the wall, and sighed.

Steve's face was still burned in the minds of everyone in the waiting room; even those asleep. He had lost consciousness two minutes from the hospital, his body slumping limply backwards, forcing Joe and Wade to hold him steady as Danny bumped over the rough asphalt and ridiculously high curbs Hawaii was fond of. When they had arrived at the hospital, Steve had been rushed away immediately on a gurney, the nurses shouting orders; his face had been almost as white as the sheets he was laying upon except for the black and blue bruises, and the blood still on his face; his tall, strong body limp, and broken.

That had been 4 hours ago.

The sun had set, and a chilling rain had started to fall as twilight had set in.

Still no news.

The waiting room was empty, except for the SEALs, and Chin, Danny, Lori and Kono. Everyone was asleep; even Wade's head was leaning against the wall, and he was snoring quietly.

Wo Fat wants to know about Shelburne. Joe shook his head. Why wouldn't the brilliant, resourceful criminal already know everything there was to know about Shelburne? And Steve… he was getting too close. These were dangerous waters; it was best not to churn the surface when sharks were present, and right now, the sharks were circling with vicious intent.

Joe sighed, and rubbed his face wearily. All he wanted to do was sleep; to slip away to the land of dreams, and join his comrades and friends in sweet oblivion. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake.

His head dropped forward, until his chin rested on his chest, and he fell asleep.

"Family of Steve Mcgarrett?" The sweet voice rang out like a bell in the silent waiting room, as the nurse entered through the doorway, and paused. There were 8-10 people sprawled out in the waiting room, sound asleep - the majority in Navy uniforms, but 4 of them looked like civilians, and they all looked exhausted. "Sir?" The nurse walked over to Joe, and gently shook his shoulder.

Joe opened his eyes, and jumped to his feet. "Yes, what?" His eyes were sleepy, his voice rough from disuse, but he was instantly aware of his surroundings, and what was happening.

"I'm sorry, sir." The nurse apologized, looking embarrassed. "Are you the family of Steven Mcgarrett?"

By now, Danny and Chin had woken up, and the SEALs were stirring, opening their eyes with groans of displeasure at the stiffness in their necks from sleeping in chairs.

"Whoa, Steve?" Danny stood up, and walked towards the nurse - Susan, he saw was her name. "Yeah, we're family."

"How is he?" Chin walked up behind Danny, Lori, Kono and the SEALs directly behind him.

"He is out of surgery, and is recovering. He has extensive bruising on his abdomen, and shoulders, as well as his face, a slight concussion, 3 broken ribs, 2 cracked. His right lung was punctured by one of the broken ribs and is bruised, and he has a dislocated shoulder." Her face grew sober. "We actually almost lost him a few times on the table. The punctured lung would have caused some major problems if he hadn't gotten here when he did; he was in extreme respiratory distress, and his blood pressure was dangerously low. We've got him stabilized, and he should be waking up in a few hours. Right now, our most serious concern is infection; he has a fever, but we're using antibiotics to bring it down."

"When can we see him?"

"We've got him heavily sedated, but I'd say as soon as he wakes up. Only a few of you, though," Her eyes drifted around the room at the many faces looking anxiously at her. "I take it you're not all family?"

Danny cleared his throat. "Well, no, actually, but we are his very best friends, and we would appreciate it if we could all see him - only for a moment. We understand if it's not possible, but could you please just ask… Susan?" He pasted the most charming smile on his face, and spoke in gentle, respectful tones. His blue eyes looked deep in the nurse's, and she blushed as he said her name.

"Well, I'll see what I can do." She smiled, shyly, then turned away, speaking over her shoulder. "Just a moment." Her retreating footsteps echoed down the hallway.

Chin grinned, and shook his head, as he rubbed a grimy hand over his face. Only Danny.

"What?" Danny felt the eyes of his friends on him.


A few minutes later, the nurse appeared again. "The Doctor says you may all go in and wait until he wakes up, but once he is conscious, you can only stay for a few minutes. He's weak, exhausted, and is on a lot of medication for the pain, so don't expect too much from him."

"Thank you," Danny nodded. The team followed the nurse through the winding hallways; Lori wrinkled her nose at the smell of medicine, disinfectant and iron. She had never liked hospitals, and she understood Mcgarrett's aversion to them. But right now, she was thankful for the services they offered; Steve would probably be dead if it wasn't for the doctors and nurses who had worked on him just a few short hours before.

"In here," Susan paused next to door 146, and motioned the team in. "Remember, he's weak, and will probably still be in a bit of pain; call me if he is too uncomfortable." She smiled, her eyes lingering on Danny for a moment, before she turned away, and gently shut the door behind her. Danny rolled his eyes as Kono and Lori exchanged amused glances, they looked at the man lying on the bed in the corner of the white, sterile room.

Steve lay to their left around the corner in a slightly elevated hospital bed; a wooden table sat next to the bed, and on the other side of the small room, a stuffed chair sat next to the window, that was letting in bright sunlight. Two cheap, plastic chairs sat closer to the bed, awaiting visitors.

Steve was motionless, slightly propped up, his breathing shallow, but steady; his upper body was bare, and his legs were covered with a light blanket. His abdomen was wrapped tightly in white gauze, while bandages covered the burns from the cattle prod, and his face was pale; the bruises stood out sharply against the wide sheets, but he looked peaceful. An oxygen mask was positioned over his face, his shoulders were discolored and blotchy, and and his left arm was in a sling. Everyone could see the sheen of sweat that covered his body.

"Dangit, Steve," Danny muttered, turning away, and rubbing his hands over his hair. Everyone was silent; their eyes betraying the emotion they were all feeling - even the SEALs. Without a word, Lori sat down next to Steve's bed, and gently took his left hand in hers, while Chin gently pushed Kono towards the other chair. The SEALs were positioned around the room - standing, leaning against the wall, while Chin and Danny sat on the floor, their heads leaned against the smooth wallpaper, eyes focused on the empty air in front of them. Joe finally lowered himself into the stuffed chair, when he saw no one else was going to occupy it.

10 minutes passed. Then 20. Half an hour had gone by, when Lori felt Steve's hand twitch, then tighten around hers, squeezing gently. His eyes flickered, and opened; the shadows in his eyes disappeared when he saw her face, but the circles under his eyes were even darker than they had been the previous day. It was as if the rest he'd gotten hadn't really been rest at all.

"Steve, hey," Lori said softly, sitting up straight, and bending over him. "He's awake," She turned half way around, and spoke to the rest of the men in the room; immediately, everyone was on their feet, and approaching the bed.

Joe walked towards the bed, and ran his eyes over the man's face carefully; satisfied with what he saw, he patted Steve's shoulder, relief evident in his voice. "How do you feel, son?"

Steve coughed, shutting his eyes, his right arm wrapping around his ribs. "Just… just… fine, Joe." His voice was raspy, and he lifted his hand to move the oxygen mask, the movement painful. The blood and dirt had been washed away from his face, neck and chest, but the cleanliness only revealed the damage done all the more.

"Hey," Danny stepped forward, and slapped his hand. "Leave it there, Steven. I think the doctors know better than you do."

Steve looked at him for a moment before dropping his hand. "Fine." He coughed again. Although his breathing was regular, every time he drew in a breath, it sounded as if someone was trying to start an old car that hadn't been run in years - every breath caught, and rattled in his chest. His eyes moved around the group clustered around his bed. "It's good to see you all… How long have you guys been here?"

"All night," Chin said, stepping forward, and gently clasping Steve's uninjured shoulder. "We've only been in here, watching you sleep, for about half an hour. Good to see you awake, brah."

Steve nodded, winced, and tried to clear his throat. "Good to be awake… I think."

"Do you want some water, Steve?" Joe asked, wincing at the harsh sounds.


"I'll be right back." With a smile, White disappeared around the corner, and stepped out in the hall.

"Good to see you, Commander," Wade stepped forward on Steve's right, and beamed.

"You too, sir," Mcgarrett nodded, pushing himself up into a more upright position with his right arm; he groaned at the movement, then leaned back, panting.

"Hey, hey, stop that," Danny stepped forward, his brow wrinkled in concern. "Just sit still, for gosh sake. And let's get one thing straight, right now. You are never, ever going to North Korea again, okay? Not ever; because whenever we let you out of our sight, you get into trouble, and we have to come rescue you." Not entirely true. But still. He had a point.

"I think I've had my fill of North Korea for quite a while," Steve smiled, wearily. "But don't exaggerate, Danny. I've gotten into trouble plenty of times when you guys were right next to me."

"Okay, okay. You have a point. But technically, we were behind you, since you always have to lead the way."

"Well, sure. Protecting my team comes first."

"Well, Steven, you won't be able to protect us if you get a bullet in your head after walking into an ambush." Dany pointed out.

Steve glared at Danny in silence as those gathered around the bed chuckled. Danny raised his hands. "What can I say? It's true."

"You know, Danny, you could try saying nothing, huh? Just, imagine that. It'll go down in history; the day when Danny doesn't have something to say." Steve shifted, again grunting.

"Okay, okay, you know what… would you stop moving?" Danny stepped forward threateningly. "No wonder you're never healing properly; you can't sit still long enough to get well! My god, Steven."

"I can't sit in one position for hours, Daniel, without shifting a little," Steve's voice was weary, but teasingly provoking. "Ya know?"

"I'm surprised you can move at all, after that beating you took yesterday," Danny retorted.

Truth be told, Steve could barely move. He was stiff, and every time he even breathed, pain shot through his chest, and neck, like thousands of stabbing needles. His face was sensitive to the touch, and the headache from the concussion just wouldn't go away.

"I see you can move just fine, Danny," Mcgarrett grunted. "You know how I hate being tied down." He winced, and shut his eyes for a moment, leaning his head back.

"Hey, bruddah, I thought you might be hungry," Kamekona's voice broke the awkward silence that had filled the room, and the big man shouldered his way through the crowd, carrying a bucket of KFC's fried chicken. A flustered nurse appeared right behind him, trying to get his attention.

"Sir, sir, I really must ask you to leave - you didn't have permission to…"

Steve raised his head weakly, while his lips twitched with amusement. "It's fine," He rasped, waving dismissively. "He's family."

The nurse's eyes softened, and with a gentle smile, she nodded, and withdrew from the room. Whoever the man in the bed was, he was lucky to have so many people who cared about him. She smiled again, but a frown crossed her face a moment later. Commander Mcgarrett, as she had heard his name was, was in pain, although he was trying to hide it. She'd better fetch Susan.

"Fried chicken, Kamekona?" Chin chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. "Is that hospital food to you?" The large man had brought Danny chicken when he had been in the hospital, after he'd been poisoned during one of 5-0's investigations, and he seemed to think it was the cure for any ailment. Kamekona thought food was the cure for any ailment.

"Fried chicken is everything food, bruddah," Kamekona nodded, looking at the greasy food with affection. "It will make you strong, and healthy. Like me." He nodded again, holding out the bucket to Steve. Everyone chuckled, but Steve shook his head.

"No thanks, brah. Save me some, okay, and I'll eat it later." His voice was steady, but faint.

"You okay, Mcgarrett?" Kamekona seemed to realize for the first time that he was standing in the hospital, and that it was Steve lying in the bed, looking like death warmed over. Super-SEAL-unbeatable-kick-butt-Mcgarrett. He looked like a different man; worn, tired, bruised. "You don't look so good."

"Never better." Steve's eyes were tired. "Thanks for dropping by, brothah. I'll be by in a few days, alright?"

"A few weeks," Chin corrected. "You aren't going anywhere for quite a while. You'd better come see him, Kamekona. He's gonna be stuck here for a long time, and he's going to be bored. You know how Steve hates being tied down."

"Oh, sure… he like a wild tiger in a cage. Watch out, nurses." The big man nodded his head seriously.

Steve shrugged in defeat, while everyone chuckled. Kamekona grinned, and nodded, headed towards the door, still holding his beloved chicken.

"I'll drop by in a while, okay, Mcgarrett? Gotta make sure they're feeding you right." He grinned, then disappeared, taking the bucket of chicken with him.

The men chuckled, and shook their heads, while Kono and Lori laughed. Steve closed his eyes for a minute, exhaustion evident on his face. Danny and Wade exchanged glances. It was definitely going to take some time to get Steve back up to par; he was in rough shape.

A few moments later, Joe appeared in Steve's room, closely followed by Susan.

"Was that Kamekona?" White asked, looking over his shoulder. He wrinkled his nose. "And do I smell… fried chicken?"

"Yeah," Kono grinned, "He brought by some food for Steve. To keep him healthy."

White shook his head, and turned back to Steve; he was pale - his respiration was shallow; every breath left the ghost of condensation on the mask that was positioned over his lips and nose, and his face was gaunt, and tight with pain and exhaustion.

Mr. Mcgarrett, I hear you are in some pain." Susan bustled over to Steve's side and checked his stats, her eyes taking in his outward appearance with a practiced gaze. She wrote something on the clipboard she was carrying, then looked back at the pale face of her patient.

"What?" Steve raised his eyebrows, barely able to keep his voice steady.

"You don't have to pretend with me, Commander." Susan said, firmly. "I've heard from a very reliable source that you are an expert at hiding your discomfort," she glanced at Joe, "but you don't have to do that here. I'm going to give you another dose of morphine, okay? It should help."

Steve glared at the opposite wall, but nodded. Danny's eyes were focused on his friend's face, and it was evident that his ribs were extremely painful, and the injuries were aggravated every time he coughed; Mcgarrett kept his right arm wrapped tightly over his chest, and his face was blank, as if he was trying to hide the pain that would become evident if he allowed any emotion to show on his face.

After delivering the morphine, replacing the oxygen mask with a nasal cannula and giving the 5-0 leader a glass of water to sip, Susan quietly slipped out of the room. The morphine should help with the pain, but in a few minutes, she would have to come in, and shoo Commander Mcgarrett's friends away. He was still physically exhausted, and would need a lot of rest.

"We'd better get out of the way," Joe said, nodding at the SEALs. "They're expecting a report back at base." White looked at Wade, who nodded grimly.

"Joe." Steve's voice stopped White in his tracks, and the SEALs all turned back to the bed; his address seemed to include all of them. Mcgarrett glanced around the room, his eyes resting on each person for a moment. "Thank you. All of you." His words were simple, but they came from the bottom of his heart.

"Don't mention it, son," Joe said, patting Steve's shoulder again. "I would do it for anyone in this room."

"You just concentrate on getting better, Commander Mcgarrett," Wade boomed, clapping Steve's shoulder. Mcgarrett winced, and hissed in pain, his face screwed up in agony. "Oh, sorry," The big man looked embarrassed, as verbal abuse was heaped on him from all corners of the room, accompanied by subtle threats.

Mcgarrett gritted his teeth. "It's fine, sir." He chuckled slightly. "If I could handle Wo Fat, I think I can handle that." Gutches chuckled, and then gently patted Steve's shoulder, being sure to keep his touch soft, before heading out the door, calling out,

"Come on, ladies, we've got work to do." Joe nodded at Steve.

"I'll be by in a while, okay, son?"

Steve nodded, then turned his attention to the SEAL that stood in front of him.

Bradley Jacks paused by Mcgarrett's side; the Commander was pale, but his face was definitely more relaxed now that the morphine had kicked in. "Anytime, you hear?" He grasped the hand Steve held out to him. "Anytime you need a hand, you know where to find me."

Steve nodded, gratitude reflected in his eyes. "Likewise, sir. Thank you again."

"Just returning the favor, Commander."

With a wink, and a friendly smile, Jacks headed out the door, after the retreating forms of his fellow SEALs. Steve's eyes shut wearily, but they opened the next instant as Kono stepped forward and took his hand. "We'd better let you rest, boss," She said softly.

"Don't be a stranger, huh, Kono? It's gonna be as boring as hell around here. And I have a feeling Danny isn't going to let me leave for a month."

"That's right, you big idiot. You're staying here. We'll take care of everything back at HQ, and you don't have to worry about a thing."

"But what about…"

"We'll take care of it." Kono said, firmly. "We managed to plan your rescue and extraction without you, didn't we?"

Steve grinned. "You certainly did."

With a quick, gentle hug, Kono headed towards the door, followed by Chin, and Lori.


The blond detective paused in his trek towards the door, turned around, and faced Mcgarrett.

"Thank you."

"Shut up, Steven."

Grinning, Danny headed towards the door, looking back over his shoulder just as Steve shut his eyes, and slumped backwards, exhaling deeply. Steve was going to be okay. In a few weeks, he would be back at work, joking and teasing, with only a few scars to remind him of the time he'd spent in North Korea. He wasn't invincible, but nobody was, when they're alone. Steve Mcgarrett was surrounded by friends who would gladly sacrifice their lives for him, and the next time he got in trouble, they would be there.

A/N: Thanks for reading, guys! :)