So I made the mistake of rewatching the series finale and got angry all over again about the ending. And though I vowed to avoid writing anything for the finale, my muses refused to shut up about a certain scenario that could happen when Steve returned to the island. Next thing I know I've got a first chapter on paper. Really excited to see where this goes, and maybe it heals some wounds still left over from that painful finale. This does not fall into my Scars AU, but you can read it that way if you'd like. Anyway, on with the story!
There it was.
Steve McGarrett stared out the tiny window of the airplane totally enthralled with the image thousands of miles below his feet. After nearly 3 months traipsing around the world, nothing he'd seen ever topped the sight of the island of Oahu from the air. It seemed smaller from his view in the plane - just a rock in the middle of the vast ocean - but colors sprang from the island in a vivid chorus offering aloha to all who laid eyes on it.
Deep forest greens, rich browns, sparkling white sand, cobalt blue ocean gradually giving way to turquoise… it was so much more than a tapestry of paradise.
It was home.
Every time he saw this view, it took him back to that day when he'd flown into Hickam to bury his father. That entire series of events - a trip that was meant to be no more than a couple days before returning to duty - changed his life forever. He hadn't even realized that he'd begun to associate that first spot of green beneath the clouds with a funny twist in his gut that traced directly back to that first journey home.
As that feeling rose within him once more, Steve toyed with it for a moment and examined it from all angles. He couldn't call it 'nostalgia' or 'longing.' It certainly wasn't anything like joy, nerves, peace, dread, or fulfillment. No, this thing was persistently present each time he glimpsed the island - even when returning from the worst moments life threw at him.
Catherine in Afghanistan.
Danny's imprisonment in Columbia. Chin in Mexico.
Joe's death, Doris's death.
That was just a taste of the laundry list of horrors.
Closing his eyes for a moment, he breathed in deeply through his nose and steadily pushed the air through his lips before inhaling once more - just as his therapist taught him. He'd worked up the nerve to talk to someone - a professional that Sam Hanna recommended - about the nightmares and the spells and the fear. The word 'PTSD' had been thrown around a couple times, but for once, Steve didn't resist the hypothesis. He refused to run from his problems any longer - his friends deserved better. If he was truly going to find peace, he wasn't going to settle for some cheap imitation.
Peace, he'd learned, was only won through the painful battle of healing. And he was nowhere near that yet, but he was trying. However, a key element was missing and he briefly wondered if Hawaii was that missing piece.
Well, that was why he was here, sitting on a plane staring down at the island he still called home. Only, it didn't entirely feel like home anymore; the thought reminding him of that strange clenching sensation in his chest.
It wasn't home, it was… hope.
Not that Steve had flown home to bury his father with anything resembling hope. But that moment in the cockpit staring at the great expanse of his childhood home was the moment when everything changed, when his life was set on a course of greatness.
After all, he'd been at rock bottom in that moment - mourning his father and Freddy, furious with his sister for her apathy towards becoming an orphan, and chasing after the only thing that seemed to mean anything anymore.
But being home sparked something inside him, and that flicker swelled to a flame when Detective Danny Williams pulled a gun on him in his own garage. And that flame grew to a roaring bonfire when Chin rose from the table to follow Danny and himself outside, when Kono decked that idiot wannabe surfer. Hope for a future that was more than completing missions to wipe out the worst of humanity (and losing himself bit by bit to it each day) replaced vengeance.
Each time he saw the island from the air after that, that hope evolved to match the situation… but stubbornly stuck with him. No matter how bleak the circumstances, hope still burned bright.
It was enough for tears to prickle his weary eyes, blurring the sight of Hawaii drawing closer and closer.
Trying to distract himself before he broke down in tears on an airplane full of tourists, he sucked in another breath and glanced over at the familiar figure in the seat next to him. She too seemed utterly enamored with the sight of the approaching island, stretching across the seat to catch a glimpse out the window.
"Y'know, you could've just told me you wanted the window seat," he joked. "But no, you insisted on taking the aisle seat because you 'care more about the legroom than the view.'"
Despite her awkward position, Kono Kalakaua still managed to punch him hard enough to leave a bruise on his arm. He yelped appropriately, rubbing his arm as she leaned even further across his seat. "This is what I get for being a gentleman," he grumbled, earning another punch from Kono. "Ow, what the hell, Kono!"
"That's for ruining the moment!" she scolded, craning her head to see out the window. "Danny's right, you're definitely a neanderthal. I've met teenagers with better manners than you."
"I let you choose what seat you wanted!" Steve protested. "I mean, if anyone should get the aisle seat, it should be me. My legs are longer than yours."
Rolling her eyes, Kono pinned him with her patented perp stare. "Okay, if you're gonna be a child about it, let's switch. C'mon." Unbuckling her seatbelt, she gestured for him to do the same.
Steve didn't move, barricading himself in front of the window. "No, we can't switch."
Steve threw up his hands and began ticking off reasons on his fingers. "First, you picked that seat so you gotta deal with the consequences. Second, I'm comfortable and I don't want to move. Third, the seatbelt light is on, so we're technically supposed to stay in our seats with our seatbelts on."
Kono's jaw dropped. Staring at Steve with a half-incredulous, half-amused expression, she let loose a laugh that relaxed a tension Steve didn't realize he carried. "Seriously? You're quoting rules at me right now?"
"Why not?" Steve stubbornly insisted, refusing to admit that he'd accidentally shown his hand. "They exist for a reason."
"Yeah, and your reason for their existence is typically for you to break them." She elbowed him sharply in the ribs, then moved back to her own seat. "I guess Danny finally got to you, boss, or there's something you're not telling me."
Steve shrugged, a wave of nostalgia hitting him out of nowhere. "Not technically your boss anymore," he pointed out. "Pretty sure the only person you answer to nowadays is named Kono Kalakaua."
Something in Kono's playful smile softened. Steve studied her expression, noting the lines of experience gracing the still-youthful face. No, Kono certainly wasn't the fresh-faced rookie who called him 'boss' ten years ago.
She'd grown up, and Steve couldn't be more proud.
"You'll always be my boss," Kono said gently, as though she could read his mind. "Some things never change."
"Except when everything changes."
Kono tilted her head, humming a neutral tone as she considered his tone. "Maybe," she decided after a while, "but things change out of necessity. They change because they have to, and we're better for it. But the important stuff - the core of who we are and how we relate to other people - that stuff doesn't change. It just gets… refined."
Steve considered this for a moment, turning the statement over in his head and looking at all the angles. "When did you get so wise?"
"So when I was younger, I joined this incredible team of supercops who fought crime in this tropical paradise called Hawaii," she joked, though her eyes conveyed the truth of every word she spoke. "There were three guys on the team - plus me - and other people came and went. Those dudes, despite smelling absolutely awful 90% of the time and throwing around testosterone like it was candy at a parade, taught me everything I know."
Steve raised an eyebrow. "Really?" he asked, his tone falling well short of sarcasm. No, it sounded more like a plea.
But Kono didn't call him out on it, more than willing to bolster his ego on this topic. "Yeah, really. One guy taught me wisdom through compassion, another taught me wisdom through sacrifice, and the last one taught me wisdom through courage. And though we've all changed over the years, that ohana will never change. Grow, certainly, but not change."
Swallowing hard, Steve broke eye contact and stared unseeingly out the window. After a moment, he dared to look back and say, "I don't know about that. I might've broken it, y'know, by leaving. I should've waited, but I didn't realize that until it was too late. Going back would've just made it worse."
"You're referring to Danny." Kono studied him, reading all the lines on his face like an open book. "Have you talked to him?"
Damn, that woman was perceptive.
Steve chewed his bottom lip, weighing his words with more care than he handled most grenades. "Yeah, but some things can't be said over the phone, y'know? He can be pretty secretive when he wants to be, and he wasn't exactly forthcoming when I asked about his health. I know that's partly because I left, just like everyone else in his life. And our last phone call wasn't exactly cordial."
It was rather vague, but based on how her expression relaxed, Kono had no problem translating the unsaids. "You guys have the strongest friendship I've ever seen, and I have no doubt you'll weather this storm just as you have all the others. Brothers fight, but in the end, they're still brothers. It's gonna take work, but it'll all work out if you're willing to put in the work."
"It's a two-way street, Kono."
"Yeah," the former surfer shrugged and grinned, "but despite all his grumbling, Danny really missed you. He'll give you a hard time, but he'll come around. He always has before."
Only this wasn't like before. Danny hadn't been tortured and used as leverage by Steve's enemies before. Steve hadn't abandoned a basically-incapacitated Danny before. Danny had never been so upset that he couldn't look Steve in the eyes as he bit off an insincere 'Love you too' before. This situation was so much more complicated than Steve forgetting to thank Danny for donating his liver or Danny making light of Steve's very real trauma.
But that wasn't a problem for now. Instead, he offered his former teammate a smile and gestured out the window. "You ever get tired of seeing the island from up here? This view might be one of my all-time favorite views."
And just like that, Kono was leaning across his lap again with her elbow digging into his stomach to get a good look at the approaching island. "It's beautiful," she breathed, then wrinkled her nose. "It's kinda weird, though. Seeing this always used to mean I was coming home, like this was the finish line. This time, I'm only visiting… it's not home anymore."
"I know the feeling."
"And I'm not saying Hawaii isn't still my home, but it's not my current home, y'know? This is the first time I've come back in three years, and I'm not sure what scares me more: how things have changed, or how things are the same." She paused, straightening in her seat. "But the weirdest thing might be the fact that I'm not staying."
Yeah, me too.
Tearing his eyes away from the windows, Steve smiled at Kono. "I'm really glad I got to spend this time with you. I mean, I missed you and Chin ever since you both left, but I didn't realize how much I missed you until I saw you."
"Awwwww, boss," Kono cooed. "I missed you too. This was perfect."
She opened her arms for a hug and Steve gladly accepted, enjoying every moment spent with his younger teammate before they separated once more. After her cousin's wedding (someone on the Kalakaua side, she'd explained, which is why Chin wasn't attending), she'd be off in the wind once more chasing bad guys like the badass she was. And he was…
Well, whatever the next step in his journey happened to be, he was looking forward to it.
"Three years, huh?" he said when they pulled away from each other. "Your family is gonna roll out the red carpet. Should I prepare for the paparazzi?"
"You definitely should, but they won't be there for me." Kono cackled evilly. "Lou called to ask me when the plane was gonna land, and knowing the fine Five-0 ohana, they've probably got a full-blown 'Welcome Back' barbeque planned… maybe a parade too."
Groaning, Steve barely resisted the urge to facepalm. "Damnit, you're right. All I wanna do is sleep right now. I don't even know what timezone my body is adjusted to right now, but it definitely feels more like midnight than 2 in the afternoon."
"Well, you better get ready, boss. I kinda get the feeling you're gonna be up shaking hands for quite some time."
As they leveled with Diamond Head, Steve discovered that he was strangely looking forward to it. Home or not home, his ohana was here and he'd missed them more than… well, more than words could possibly say.
Be it paparazzi or difficult conversations, Steve was more than ready.
"Williams, where the hell are you? McGarrett's plane is supposed to land in less than an hour!"
Rolling his eyes at Lou's anxiousness (and people had the nerve to say that Danny was the mother hen in Five-0), Danny focused on weaving through traffic. "Relax, Lou, I'm gonna make it. I just had to finish some stuff at the office. Believe it or not, you don't gotta be six hours early for everything, buddy."
Lou ignored his jab and predictably fixated on the completely inconsequential part of the sentence. "You were still working? Danny, I know the doc cleared you for desk duty, but I believe the work 'light' was in there somewhere too. You're not even supposed to be working half days yet!"
"What are you, my mom? I'm fine."
Lou's exasperated sigh almost made Danny smile. "C'mon, man, you know I'm not tryin' to nag you. But your recovery - -"
"- - is taking a little longer than expected," Danny interrupted, honking at a driver who swerved in his lane. "So what? I'm old now, Lou. I don't rebound as quick as I used to. You of all people should know that age slows you down."
"Hey, watch it! You're lucky I love you, or I'd bust your mouth for that little comment. 'Me of all people' my ass." The Chicago native's chuckle, however, took the sting out of his words. "I'll have you know that this old guy can still whoop your pathetic ass all the way back to Jersey."
Danny allowed himself to grin, just a little, at the banter. It reminded him of the good old days. Back then, he would've responded to the challenge instantly with a sarcastic quip of his own. In the ensuing verbal war, both combatants would attack relentlessly with all the love they could muster.
But that was in short supply these days. Recently, it took all of Danny's strength to feel anything at all, to rid himself of the numbness that swallowed his heart whole. So today - like many days recently - he simply allowed the challenge to ebb away like the receding tide.
Of course, Lou saw his reticence for exactly what it was. "You nervous?"
"To pick Steve up from the airport?" Danny managed to bark out a half-convincing laugh. "Pretty sure the only thing I need to worry about is that Neanderthal stealing my car keys, and I'm guessin' he's too jet lagged to even try it."
Lou sighed, something he seemed to be doing an awful lot recently. "C'mon, Danny, you know what I mean. Level with me."
"Really, we're gonna do this now? Seriously, I'm fine."
And Danny was. Sure, Steve left him three months ago sitting in a chair on the beach too weak to get up. And he hadn't been there to battle Danny's demons with the injured man - be it nightmares or those days when leaving the house became far too much for him to bear. And yeah, they hadn't talked at all in those three months outside of some brief phone calls and occasional goofy texts. It was still fine, it didn't matter.
Steve finally took the chance to confront and deal with his own trauma, and Danny couldn't be more proud of the guy. If that came at the cost of his own comfort, so be it. Who was he to hold the man back?
So what if his ribs still ached like someone was breaking them over and over again? Why bother telling anyone about the stabbing feeling often radiating over the bullet wound?
He didn't need anyone fussing over him when he forgot to eat or when the sight of food was enough to send him to kneel before the porcelain throne. No one needed to know that he woke up some nights screaming - for Steve, for Matty, for Meka or Billy or his old partner Grace, or even for his kids sometimes - and that he never fell back asleep after that. Danny managed just fine on his own.
Like he kept telling everyone who asked, he was fine.
He didn't even realize he'd zoned out until a car horn brought him back to the present. Blinking, he tuned back into Lou's rambling rant that centered around the theme of calling Danny out on his 'load of crap.' "- - and I know you missed your boy. It's okay to admit it; no one here judges you for it. Hell, we miss him too!"
Not like I do, he thought.
"I know, Lou," he said.
"And it's okay to be nervous to see him again! There are some conversations you two need to have, but that can wait. Just enjoy getting to see your best friend again."
"My best friend?" Danny scoffed, the smirk on his face bleeding into his voice. "I wouldn't go that far. He's more like a stray dog I made the mistake of feeding and now he thinks I've adopted him or somethin' like that."
The Chicago native chuckled, easing some of the tension in Danny's back as he passed the 2 mile sign for the ramp for the airport. "I'm gonna tell him you said that. Can't tell you how much I've missed my daily free entertainment." He paused, seeming to weigh his words, before blurting out, "I'm sure he's excited to see you too, Danny. All he does is ask questions about you half the time we talk."
Now that welled up a whirlwind of mixed emotions in Danny's gut that the detective promptly shoved back down into the apathetic void. He didn't have the energy for this, not when Steve was so close after so long. For now, he enjoyed the nearly-unbearable anticipation of seeing the man he considered his brother. And later, when the novelty of having Steve back in his life for however long the man deemed to stay, he'd deal with the rest of those not-so-nice emotions.
"Yeah?" Danny smiled, permitting his hopeful elation to swell to the surface. "Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to seeing him, even if it's just a brief stop on his global quest for peace."
Changing lanes, a car ahead of him caught his gaze. It was a white four-door, an older model that had seen better days, but it was utterly unremarkable. Unsure of what drew his attention, the detective squinted and attempted to make out the battered, mud-splattered license plate.
"Well, you'd better hurry up, Williams. He's gonna give you hell if he sees all of us here and not you."
"Uh huh." Only half-listening and unable to ignore his hard-won instincts, Danny maneuvered his car closer to the suspicious vehicle. "Hey Lou, the active investigation we're working right now - -"
"The Mac Taylor case?" Lou's voice hardened. "You know you ain't supposed to be involved in that. The Doc said nothing strenuous, and a dismembered college student definitely qualifies as 'strenuous.''
Rolling his eyes, Danny cut a car off and pulled in behind the beat-up car. "Yeah, yeah, so maybe I looked into it a little bit. Whatever. Skip the lecture, alright? Your suspect's car… what was the description?"
He could practically hear the older man's shrug. "2008 white Chevy Cruze. Dirty with a dent on the passenger's door. License plate - -"
"- - HGX 212," Danny finished, sighing as he watched the sign for the airport exit ramp pass by. "I got eyes on it right now… actually, I'm right behind it."
Then Lou unleashed a torrent of swear words, cursing Danny out and warning him of what should become of Danny should he even consider going after the suspect. And Danny understood, he really did. Damn it, he was supposed to be at the airport greeting his best friend after a three-month absence! An absence that - given his luck - would probably begin again after a few days of reprieve. The last thing he wanted was to get in a car chase with a suspected killer.
Especially after what happened the last time you were in a car chase, the annoying little voice in his head whispered.
Shut up, he growled back.
"Hey, hey!" he interrupted the other man's tirade, which was still going strong. "I don't got a choice, alright? I took an oath to protect people from murderous scumbags, just like you did. And I don't get a free pass because my ribs hurt when the weather changes!"
"Don't start with me, Williams! You know damn well that's not why you're on desk duty!" Yeah, Lou was definitely still pissed, but at least he was slowing down a bit. "Just call it in and discreetly tail him until backup shows up. That's it! You hightail it outta there the second you see a black and white."
"For crying out loud, Lou, I'm not a child!"
The Chicago native ignored this. "Steve's gonna kill me, you know that, right? I'm as good as dead. He'll walk off that plane, see you're not here, and he's gonna do some crazy SEAL crap when he finds out why."
Swallowing a huge lump in his throat, Danny very nearly turned around right then and there. He glanced at the clock before refocusing on the car he was tailing. "I can still make it," he growled. "The plane lands in like thirty minutes, right? As soon as backup arrives, we'll take this guy down and I'll book it to the airport, alright? If I'm not there when he lands, just… stall a little bit and don't tell him what I'm doing. Okay?"
"Okay, man, whatever you say." Lou still sounded doubtful, but at least he backed off a bit. "Keep me updated, and please, be careful!"
Hanging up, Danny quickly called for backup as he followed the car off a different exit heading back into the city. The road congestion only increased, making it a challenge to stay on the suspect's tail without either giving himself away or losing the car. It wasn't a good situation, he realized, as the car took two right hand turns one after the other. The suspect could just be sticking to his route, or he could be checking for tails.
Glancing in the rearview mirror, he silently urged HPD to hurry up. Of course, right as he mentally pleaded for luck to swing his way just this once, the white car made a quick left and accelerated. With the screech of rubber on asphalt, it careened ahead at a speed far from safe on the heavily-trafficked road.
Damn it, I've been made!
Flipping on his sirens, Danny nailed the gas pedal to pursue the fleeing vehicle. His hands clutched the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip as he sank into the familiar sights and sounds of the chase. Over the past ten years, he'd come to know these sensations almost better than his own name.
This time, however, it was almost like he was taking them in through a barrier - like he was trapped underwater while the world passed by above the surface.
Screech! of tires squealing through hairpin turns.
Blue and red lights flickering - those were his - and the sun nearly blinded him as it reflected off metal.
Honk! Now, that one came in a chorus, angry drivers blaring in perfect harmony.
The blur of trees and other cars blurring in his peripheral vision as he sped by.
AAAAAhhhh - OOOOooooOOH! came the wail of sirens joining the chase.
Growling engines fighting for dominance as the cars accelerated.
"Hey, Steve, I got a, uh, crazy tail on me and they are not being discreet at all!"
Breath exploding from his lungs, Danny grit his teeth and pounded his hand against the steering wheel. But the pain, just like everything else, faded into the fog slowly filling his head. No, no, no! Not now!
"Alright, hang tight. We're on our way."
"Do me a favor and hurry up! They're all over me, Steve! They're up my ass, alright?"
And with that, the bumper of the car he so desperately pursued blipped out, replaced with the sights and sounds of a day he'd pay any price to forget.
"Okay, copy that. Listen to me, we are headed for you now, okay? We're on the way, Danny."
Gunshots, swerving. He hit the brake pedal without realizing it, boxed in by the two black SUVs.
Then came the hands, prying his door open. They yanked him from the safety of the Camaro, bruising his arms with far-too-tight grips. And just as his panic reached an all-time high, a black hood was thrown over his head. Suddenly, he couldn't breathe.
A blaring car horn shattered the nightmare, throwing him back into the present with such ferocity that it nearly gave him whiplash. Blinking, he took in the scene in a split second.
Somehow, he was still careening down the road at top speed. That alone was a minor miracle. The suspect had slowed to take a 90 degree turn, leaving skid marks on the road.
But thanks to the little mental episode, Danny was going too fast to make the turn. In fact, he was right on top of the guy.
No human could've possibly reacted quickly enough to prevent the impending accident. With all the speed of a 4 cylinder sports car, the detective's car slammed into the exposed side of the beat-up Chevy Cruze. And Danny's world erupted in crunching metal and shattering glass.
I would love to hear what you all think of this! I'm not super great at writing late-series stuff, so hopefully this comes out in something resembling quality! Thanks for reading!