Pala Pala Pa'ani
Well, my friends, this is the final chapter. I can't begin to thank you enough for continuing to read and to answer the questions I have posted for you. This is one story that definitely would not have been completed without your help. As I said earlier, I didn't think it would be that hard to take your ideas and try to incorporate them into the story, but it was more difficult than I had thought. You all had a LOT of great ideas and I tried to use as many as I could. I know a lot of it was disjointed and I apologize for that, but there were a lot of characters to deal with and it was hard to sort them out at times.
Again, thanks to Sockie1000 and Sym64 for their awesome beta work. Their ideas and extra touches really help my writing immensely, so you, the reader, need to know that they are great betas, but more than that, they are even greater friends.
Mahalo to everyone who has continued to read this. Sorry it has taken so long to publish!
Nigel thought about his predicament. Car theft apparently wasn't a strong suit of his, but he knew he could turn this around.
It was all a misunderstanding.
And he knew that these bumpkins would soon see it his way. After all, he always had a plan.
At the prodding of Ranger Ruth and the young man in the booth, Nigel finally got out of the car. Not happily, but he climbed out, moaning because of his injured arm. He warily eyed Ruth who pointed a shotgun at him and he knew there was no doubt she knew how to use it.
"Please, you have to help me," he began, apparently very distraught.
"Why?" Brad Chambers replied. "You're trying to steal my car."
"I was just trying to get to the hospital," he said, holding his 'wound' with the other hand. "I need medical help. There was a fight… on the mountain." He turned and gestured vaguely at the mountains behind them. "Two men were fighting. I was on the walking trail and one of them shot me. It was dreadful." He shook his head in disgust at that horrible memory, playing his part to perfection. "I've been wandering for hours… and my arm… I'll probably need surgery. Please, help me get to the hospital." He groaned again a little for good measure and showed them his arm that had stopped bleeding long ago.
Ruth peered at the smear of blood on Nigel's jacket. "Doesn't look too bad to me," she muttered. "And if you need help so badly, why didn't you stop at the booth instead of getting in a car?"
Brad was checking out his car door. "He used a wire to pick my lock," he said, looking at all the scratches around the lock. "And I think I would like to press charges."
"No, no, you're mistaken," Nigel began again. "I thought this was my car and I had locked the keys inside. I just needed in…"
The ranger glanced around the nearly empty lot. "There are no other cars even closely resembling this one, so how did you think it was yours? And when did you check in? All of our hikers are accounted for."
"I can explain…" Nigel tried again when Ruth pointed the gun toward him.
"Walk," she ordered. "Grace, looks like you and Lucy have caught yourself a felon."
"No, no, of course not," Nigel said. "You're wrong. You all misunderstand. Why don't you put down the weapon and we can work this out?" Nigel knew with enough persuasion, he could talk himself out of this little predicament.
"We didn't misunderstand!" Grace said to him. "We caught you stealing a car."
"Yeah!" Lucy added. "We're not blind!"
"You are just children... what do you know?" Nigel said, looking down his nose at the girls. He would not be bested by two little girls!
"They are two very smart little girls, I can promise you that," Lucy's father replied. Brad shook his head and turned to his wife and muttered, "Honey, I'm so glad we didn't have twins. These girls are going to make me gray overnight."
"Dad," Lucy said, rolling her eyes. "We got the guy who shot Michael. Maybe he will tell us where Steve is."
"We can only hope, Sweetie," her mother replied.
"I have no clue to what you are referring!" Nigel promptly replied, still not giving up his role.
"Base to Ranger Dawson," Ruth's voice sounded over the radio.
"Dawson here. Go ahead Ruthie."
"We have a situation at base camp. The girls found someone trying to break into the Chambers' car. Funny thing, he's wearing a jacket and a Panama hat. Sound like anyone you've heard of?"
"We're already heading back to base. Good work, girls. Over and out."
"Michael, do you know this man?" Danny asked as they entered the cabin and found Nigel seated at the table, Ruth's shotgun still trained on him.
Nigel jumped up and pointed to Michael. "That's one of them. The man… he had a bow and arrow and was target shooting. I was almost hit by an arrow and then the other man shot me. I'm telling you, he needs to be locked up. You have to believe me."
Danny moved in close and grabbed the lapels of Nigel's jacket. "Shut. Up." He pushed him back into the seat. "Michael? Do you know him?"
Michael wearily took a seat and nodded. "Meet Nigel Harrington. My boss."
"No, no, he's wrong. I'm just a hiker and this man tried to kill me."
Chin looked at Nigel from head to toe. "Funny hiking clothes you've got there. Want to rethink your story?"
Nigel stood once again. "You people are crazy. I'm getting out of here," he called out and made to leave.
Danny forcefully pushed him back into his seat. "I will ask you one question and you better answer correctly. Where is my partner?"
Danny took his badge from his pocket and slammed it on the table in front of his prisoner. "Five-0. My partner is Steve McGarrett, the head of the Governor's task force. Now… do you want to talk straight or do you have another story to tell us?"
"I… I don't know any McGarrett. Really," he pointed to Michael. "Ask him. He is the one who was in a fight with the other guy."
"Ruth? Becky?" Danny said, glancing over to the women. "Please take the girls into the other room. And don't come out until we give an all clear."
"Right," Ruth said. "Come along girls. Nothing here for you to see."
Lucy turned to Grace and mouthed the word "Wow" to her. Grace grinned back and they didn't take their eyes off the people in the kitchen until the bedroom door closed.
"I told you Danno would get him," Grace whispered.
"OK," Mrs. Chambers began. "You don't need to be watching anything like that. I'm sure they are just going to talk to the man."
The sounds of a dull thud and then a kitchen chair hitting the floor echoed into the bedroom and everyone's eyes widened.
"Don't worry," Grace told them. "Danno knows what he's doing. He'll get him to talk."
"Hey, Grace", Danny said, calling his daughter at six on Sunday morning. "I hope you got some rest last night."
"Yeah, I guess," she replied, sounding sad. "Lucy's grandma is really nice, but I wish I was at the park. Danno, you're going to find Uncle Steve today. I know it."
"You know, Monkey, I think you're right."
"I'm positive," she repeated. "Because Uncle Steve made a promise to take Catherine on a date today."
"Well, yeah, he did," Danny agreed. "But Honey, I doubt they'll be able to make their date this afternoon."
"I know that," she said, "but he promised her and Uncle Steve doesn't ever break his promises. So, I know you'll find him."
"Yeah, Gracie. Yeah, we will. Listen, I made arrangements for you to fly back with Lucy's family when they go home today." She began to protest and he continued, "Grace, I plan to pick you up tonight after we find Steve, but if I have to stay here, then I'll call your Mom to get you. Are you cool with that?"
"I guess so," she quietly said. "Just find him and bring him home."
"That, my dear, is the plan."
"Love you, Danno."
"Love you more."
Danny hung up the phone, the knot in the pit of his stomach growing larger, churning in his gut. He knew the statistics of finding Steve alive were dropping with each passing hour. They had wasted so much time yesterday with the rain and then there had been another storm in the middle of the night. He had laid in bed listening to it rain on the tin roof and wondered where his partner was, if he had any protection from the elements. If he- Danny reined in those thoughts. He would not think the words "if he were still alive".
But the words hovered in the background, screaming at him, mocking him.
They had to find him today. There was no other option.
Emmett had three groups of rangers that had been called in for the search. They were bent over the table, looking at the map, marking off grids. When each grid was thoroughly checked, it would be called in to Ruth who would mark it off the map.
Danny clipped his weapon onto his belt and met the other members of the search party. After introductions, he nodded to them and thanked them all for their help.
They had had a long night. After finally realizing that Nigel probably didn't know Steve's location, they had sent him off with the local police. No one commented on his bloody nose as he was taken away. When Nigel had complained of police brutality, Ranger Emmett explained to the police that Nigel had fallen out of his chair.
Michael had been taken to the hospital in another police car. He was still concerned about Sabrina who hadn't been found, but Nigel had finally admitted to them that Riku had left and had someone else in the car with him. Presumably Sabrina.
The local police were on the lookout for the black Escalade but so far, it hadn't been recovered.
The groups were geared up and ready. Emmett, Danny, Chin and Kono were going to take the two grids closest to Steve's last known location and they planned to leave no stone unturned. When they left the Jeep, Danny turned to the others. "OK, let's start thinking like Steve," he said. "We don't know what state he's in or how badly he's hurt. For all we know, he has amnesia and won't even know us," he muttered. "We just need to find him."
"Damn straight," Kono said, taking point. "Let's do this."
It was sheer luck that they did find him.
Or a miracle.
Danny didn't really believe in miracles, but Gracie did. And Grace had been right when she had told her dad they would find Steve that day.
After 46 hours of searching and hoping, she knew he would be found.
Danny thanked God for little girls and their undying faith.
Although finding Steve was a total fluke. They had been traipsing through the gully-washed jungle for almost nine hours, having had to leave the pitiful excuse for a path way too many times to count. The first grid had been called into Ruth and marked off and they were beginning the next section. None of the other parties had seen any signs of Steve either, a fact that caused the worry in Danny's gut to continue to grow.
They took a breather, staring at a giant tree that was blocking their way, its dead, tangled branches now jutting toward the sky.
After veering first to the left, which was dense with undergrowth, Emmett stopped and turned around, telling them they needed to head to the right, around the tree, in hopes of reconnecting with the path.
Chin's machete was cutting through the brush while Kono kept her trusty flashlight trained on the ground, checking beneath brush and rocks. They continued to slowly walk, trying to see everything with fresh eyes. They had just been here yesterday and felt this exercise was futile, but they would not… could not give up.
Kono tripped on what she had thought was a root and shined her flashlight down there, saying, "Watch out."
Danny looked where she was pointing and simultaneously they saw the mud-caked brown boot jutting from the brush. After staring at it for a moment, they realized what they were actually seeing, and both shouted. Chin and Emmett returned and then Emmett moved away and called the other teams, giving their location.
Danny reached down and placed two fingers beneath Steve's boot… there was no doubt as to whose foot that was… to search for a pulse. After a few panicked moments, he picked up a beat. It was by no means steady or strong, but it was there.
"Emmett," he yelled. "We need air transport ASAP."
"Working on it," the older man shouted back. "Talking to Ruth right now."
They began removing the dense brush, scratching their hands and pricking their skin with thorns, all the while shouting Steve's name. The once-charcoal gray cargos were caked in both dry and still sticky mud with reddish stains mingled with the dirt. Somehow Steve had managed to tunnel into the thicket of brush, thorns and branches. Chin tried using the machete to remove the brush but was afraid he would cut Steve in the process.
Finally they managed to get closer and Kono set down her light, crawling as far as she could into the space with Steve.
"Still can't see his face," she told them. "Steve! Hey, Boss, can you hear me? He's on his stomach," she called back to her friends. "His arms are above his head and I can't get in far enough to see his face." She paused and then added, "Guys, he's lost a lot of blood. The shaft of the arrow has broken off, too."
"Here, hold the light for Kono," Chin told Danny and tried to circle around to the other side. "I'm going to try cutting away from over here."
Danny looked up from the hole Chin had cut away. "Good idea, be careful. Kono, can you see anything else?"
She was still trying to slither into a space not big enough for a body to enter. "Oh, God. Danny, there's blood everywhere."
He heard the panic in her voice; knew she dreaded what she was going to find.
"Hey, Danny?" Chin called. "I can make headway on this side. Come over and help me pull away the brush when I chop it."
"I'll go," Emmett told him. "You stay here with Kono."
"Thanks." Danny kneeled down as far into the space as he could but couldn't get a good look at his partner.
Kono turned and looked at him, smiling. "We found him Danny. He'll be OK."
"Yeah, of course he will."
He had to be. Gracie was never wrong.
They decided to wait until rescue had arrived before moving Steve since they couldn't see the extent of his injuries. Chin had cut away most of the brush from the other side of the thicket and they had been able to crawl in there close to him. They checked him over and since Steve's breathing appeared to be even, there was no need to endanger him further by moving him.
When they heard the whap-whap noise of the chopper's rotor, they breathed sighs of relief. Danny reached down and touched Steve's shoulder. "Soon, Partner. We'll get you out of here."
Several minutes later, Steve was on a backboard, propped on his side with a rolled towel beneath his neck and pillows supporting both his back and stomach so that he wouldn't roll. He hadn't made a move on his own since they got him out of his hiding place, but Danny dropped down on his knees in front of him.
"Hey, Steve, can you hear me? Wake up, Babe. You seriously have us worried this time."
Silence greeted him and Danny got up to meet the Army medic who said that the chopper had managed to land nearby and they would walk the basket out to the chopper instead of hoisting Steve up. The other medic was busy inserting an IV when Steve groaned and tried to pull his arm away.
"Sorry, Commander, but you need to hold still."
"Steve?" Danny quickly dropped to his knees once again. "Hey, Buddy, how ya doing?"
Steve's eyelids flickered and he bit back another groan when he squinted them open to see Danny staring at him.
"Hey," he managed to get out after trying to wet his lips with his dry tongue.
"Hey, yourself. We found your hidey-hole."
"Mm. Day… izzit?"
Steve groaned again, but this time not in pain. "Crap. She's gonna kill me."
Catherine paced the narrow confines of the ship's Tactical Room. Glancing at her watch once again, she realized they had docked a little over an hour ago and here she was, still waiting… impatiently… to disembark. Until inspection, they weren't allowed to leave, so she did the next best thing.
Her left thumb nail had already been bitten into an unrecognizable shape so she balled her hands into fists so as not to bite off any more of them. Catherine wasn't good at waiting.
Just like someone else she knew and loved.
Steve, what the hell happened to you out there? She paused, and then sadly smiled. Another dinner down the drain, you dog.
She shook her head, thinking back to when he had asked her out last week. He had almost acted shy about it… like he was afraid she would turn him down. It was weird, she had woken up and he was propped up on his elbow, staring at her. It was disconcerting at best but she watched as a smile brightened his features.
"What'cha doing?" she asked.
"Nothin'." The grin didn't waiver but he looked away from her. "Just thinking."
Catherine turned on her side and slipped her leg between his. Leaning in closer, she whispered, "About?"
"You," he admitted, glancing back at her. "Do you think… I mean, would you like… how about if we went out next week after you dock on Sunday? I mean a real date. You know, dinner… out?"
"Really?" she grinned back at him. "You're asking me out on a for-real date? Wait… we're not going to eat in the car again, are we?"
"No, come on. Dinner in a restaurant. With reservations and everything."
She leaned in further. "I. Would. Be. Delighted." Each word was separated by a kiss around his mouth until finally he rolled on top of her, stopping her from speaking at all.
Cath glared at her watch and started to call Danny once more from the ship, but stopped herself. He'll call when they have news. Rollins, you need to be patient. Everything is fine.
Forty-five minutes later, she finally was able to disembark and walk to the vehicle which would take her to base and her car. She looked for the transport bus, seeing it parked near the fence. Quickly walking in that direction, she prayed she wouldn't have to wait forever until it left the dock.
Catherine was so intent on her mission she didn't see someone heading her direction until he cleared his throat.
"Lieutenant Rollins, Ma'am?"
"I'm sor… Tyler? I mean, Ensign Grant?"* She did another double take, realizing the young man was carrying a bouquet of at least two dozen red roses.
"Yes, ma'am." Tyler stood at parade rest, unable to salute for fear of dropping the flowers. "Um, these are for you. I'm going to guess you might know who they are from."
"Yes, I mean, why? … How? Tyler, did Steve make you stand out here waiting on me?"
Tyler handed her the flowers and she leaned her head down and sniffed. Suddenly the tears she had needed to cry since yesterday afternoon came unbidden.
"The Commander requested my help with a covert mission, Ma'am… begging your pardon, but, please don't cry. I have his note for you right here."
"I'm sorry," Cath told him, wiping her face. "When did he plan all this?"
"A few days ago," he said. "He told me to tell you 'it is all in his note'."
"I guess you haven't heard," Catherine whispered, wiping away another tear.
"Heard what, Ma'am?"
"Steve went to Kauai with friends and he disappeared in the jungle. He hasn't been heard from since before 2200 on Friday."
"The Commander? I'm sure he is fine, Lieutenant. Are you going to head to Kauai?"
"Yes, I think so," she told him. "Oh! I'm sorry, but I have to catch the bus to pick up my car. I need
"No, Ma'am, that's not necessary. I can escort you back to base much more quickly than the bus. Let's go."
Catherine breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Tyler. I really appreciate this."
"No worries, Ma'am. And for the record… I'm sure Commander McGarrett is all right. No little jungle can get the better of him."
Cath laughed through her tears. "I'm sure you're right, Tyler. Thank you."
"Yes, Ma'am. Here we are." He helped her into the Jeep and then ran to the driver's side. "Let's burn some rubber."
Catherine sat silently in the Jeep, her eyes welling with tears, the opened envelope in her lap. Tyler reached into a pocket and gave her a white handkerchief. "Here you go. Don't worry, it's clean. My Momma always makes me carry one."
Cath smiled through her tears. "Thank your Momma for me, Tyler. And I'm sorry. It's just…"
"You don't have to tell me, Ma'am."
"No, it's OK. Everyone sees Steve as this big, bad-ass SEAL and then he goes and does something so sweet that it just blows my mind. He told me to dress for a nice dinner and be ready when he came for me. He said the place would blow me away, whatever that means."
"Maybe you're going hang gliding," Tyler said with a grin.
She laughed. "You know, knowing Steve, you might just be right." She sobered quickly. "I just hope he shows up soon. This waiting business is killing me."
"Have faith, Ma'am. He'll be fine."
Catherine smiled at him. "You're right, Tyler. He will be."
They passed through the gates of the military base and Catherine gave directions to the lot where her car was located. She was in the process of thanking Tyler when her phone rang. She almost dropped it in her haste to get it out of her pocket.
"STEVE!" she squealed. "What happened? Are you OK? Oh, I was scared to—"
"Hey… want to say … sorry. Um, here's-."
"Cath, hi, we got 'im."
"Danny? What's going on?"
"OK, first off, he's going to be OK, but he had to call you himself. We just found him, but I wanted to catch you before you got a flight over here. He's stable and the medics are airlifting him straight to Tripler. So, just hang tight and I'll let you know when the chopper leaves the island."
"But he's going to be all right?"
"Yeah, the goof fell off a mountain… maybe twice… and believe it or not, ended up shot with an arrow. I'm sure this is going to be a very interesting debrief."
"Tell him I'll be waiting for him, OK?"
"Of course. Medics are getting him ready for the trip. Uh, he looks a bit worse for wear, but they assure me everything is fine. Which is a good thing because when he feels better, we're going to have a talk about him wandering off like a three year old."
"Cut him some slack, Danny and don't yell at him."
"We'll see. Hey, I need to call Grace to let her know the good news. She's been worried sick."
"OK, thanks for the call. I'm going to grab a change of clothes and head to Tripler."
"We'll meet you there as soon as we can. Take care of him. Chin and Kono are coordinating a flight with our prisoner and I need to get back and pick up Grace. "
"Always. And thanks, Danny." She hung up the phone and looked into Tyler's grinning face. "He fell down a mountain, but he's going to be all right."
"Told you so," the ensign said.
"You did, didn't you? Why don't you stop by the hospital and pay him a visit?"
"I might have to do that. You know, just to rib him a little for falling off a mountain. That doesn't sound like a very SEAL thing to do."
"Tyler, you had better be nice to my guy… or I just might have to hurt you!"
"Duly noted, ma'am."
Steve slowly rose to consciousness. His first perception was that he was warm and dry. As opposed to the chilled and damp that he remembered from earlier. His second thought was that he was numb. Which wasn't a bad thing at all. He seemed to remember hurting from his head down to his toes and every place in between. Right now, even his brain felt like mush and he had trouble connecting his chain of thoughts together, although a head-over-heels tumble down a mountain was a memory he couldn't forget.
He simply laid there for a while, eyes closed, too comfortable to think any further. After a few moments of calm, he felt fingers caressing his right wrist which was lying on top of the sheet.
He didn't move, but took a chance at opening his eyes, hoping it wouldn't cause his headache to spike. His eyesight was a bit blurry but he could make out her figure, seated by his bed, one hand lightly resting on his wrist, the other holding a piece of paper.
And he could see the tears rolling down her cheeks.
She dropped the paper and stood to lean over him. "Oh, Steve." She wiped he tears from her face and smiled at him. "Hey, Commander."
"Why the tears? What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" She laughed at that. "You're lying here after being lost in the jungle for two days and you ask me what's wrong? Classic."
"I wasn't lost… knew where I was but just couldn't get back to where I needed to be."
"Right. You weren't lost. Be sure to explain that one to Danny."
"I will. Where is he?"
"He had to pick up Grace but they are going to come by later. Hey, how do you feel?"
"Numb," he immediately replied. "And that's not a complaint."
"I should hope not. I can't imagine being shot with an arrow feels great. But luckily it didn't hit anything vital."
"Hey! I'm vital," he reminded her with a pout in his voice.
She leaned down and kissed his forehead. "Oh, yes, you are very vital to me. But I meant that the arrow didn't hit any vital organs."
He grunted and tried to make himself more comfortable in the bed. "Good." He took a good look at her again. "So, what's with the tears then? I'm not dying or anything, am I?"
"No, you're not." She leaned over to pick up the paper. "I was just reading your letter that Tyler delivered. Smooth move, there, Commander."
Steve made a face. "Yeah, but it would have been better had everything worked according to plan."
Catherine glanced down at the note once again. "You know, this isn't true."
She cleared her throat and read:
"I am long overdue in showing you how special you are to me. I'll see you at 1700.
You show me all the time that I'm special," she told him.
"Not with things like dinner or flowers or stuff like that," he argued, not able to look her in the eye.
"Maybe not," she agreed, seeing his embarrassment, "but you show me with your smile, the look in your eyes, your touch and all the goofy things you do."
"I'm not goofy," Steve objected, but his grin said otherwise.
She smiled and leaned down to kiss him once again. "Oh, I beg to differ, Commander. Goofy is sitting in your living room eating an MRE. Goofy is having a 'romantic' dinner in your pick up. Goofy is—"
"OK, I get your point. Now, why don't you go find the doctor and get me signed out of here?"
"I so don't think so," she argued.
"Come on, you said the arrow didn't hit anything. What's to keep me from leaving?"
A voice from the doorway answered for her. "That would be me, Commander McGarrett."
Steve glanced toward the door and groaned. Why her? He turned back to Catherine. "Of all the doctors in this hospital, why did I have to get her? She is the most aggravating woman I have ever met."
"And you, Sir, are absolutely the most pig-headed, annoying patient I have ever met," Dr. Palakiko** retorted.
"Well," Catherine said with a grin. "I take it you two have met before."
Steve grinned. "How ya doing, Doc?"
Palakiko leaned against the other side of the bed. "I'm good. At least I'm better than you right now. Looks like you just can't stay out of trouble."
"Well, yeah, you know…"
"I have to say," she began, "that I have treated too many injuries, both in combat zones and here at Tripler and you are my very first arrow-ectomy. I feel honored."
"Glad I let you carve another notch in your stethoscope."
She reached over and flipped off the lights above his bed and pulled a pen light from her pocket. "I know you hate this, but you managed to concuss yourself once again, so I need to check your eyes."
Steve forced himself to endure her shining the light in his eyes.
"Hmm, not too bad," she commented, writing something on her pad.
"Then I can leave?" Steve asked hopefully, and blinked at her to make the white spots dancing in front of his eyes disappear. He was not very successful with it, but refused to give up without a fight.
"Nice try." She flipped back the sheet at the end of the bed and checked his foot which was resting on a pillow. Moving the ice pack, she checked the swelling and bruising. "We need to wait for some of the swelling to go down before we see just how bad of a sprain this is, but I can tell that you won't be walking on it for a little while. Since it is so late, I'll wait and check your back tomorrow. We had to cut the arrow from your muscle so you will have bruising and a good amount of pain for quite some time. I don't want you to do anything to break open the wound. You have bruising over much of your body, and that alone will keep you from moving around too much, but we want to make sure our pain management regimen works, too.
"I can lie around at home just as good as I can here," Steve argued.
"Yes, I'm sure you could," she replied. "But I seem to recall the last time you promised that, I saw you on a 'Breaking News' story on TV."
Steve really didn't have a reply to that one. He knew when he was busted. "So… how long?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Probably tomorrow, if you behave. If the swelling continues to go down, we'll get your foot in a brace in the morning and see how you can get around on it." She turned to Catherine. "Make him stay put tonight, please."
"Yes, ma'am," Catherine told her. "You have my word."
"I'm right here, you know."
"Oh yes," Palakiko said, smiling. "We know."
"Hey, Catherine, how is he?" Danny whispered as he and Grace quietly entered the room.
"He's fine, thank you for asking," Steve said, opening his eyes to look at his friends. He smiled and made a face at Grace.
She breathed a sigh and moved to the side of the bed. "Uncle Steve." She started to tear up and added, "I was so scared."
"It's OK, Gracie. Everything's fine."
"Uncle Steve, I am so very sorry. This is all my fault."
"What?" Danny asked. "No, it's not."
She nodded her head. "It is. Really. I tricked you into coming to the island with me and then you got lost and you got hurt, and it's all my fault." She looked at Catherine and continued, "And I made you miss your romantic date together."
"Oh, Grace, Honey, this isn't your fault," Catherine tried to tell her.
"Well, hang on," Steve began. "Maybe it is."
"What?" Danny bellowed.
"Think about it, Danny," Steve said. "I guess Grace knew that crazy man was poaching in the park when she decided we needed to visit Kaua'i."
"No, I didn't," Grace argued.
"Well, then you probably knew there was going to be a bad mudslide and I would end up in it, right?"
"So, you knew that kid was going to drop his bow and arrow and shoot me."
"Uncle Steve, I didn't know those things," she said quietly.
He reached out and grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze. "Then maybe you aren't to blame, OK? Gracie, no one is upset with you. Besides, without you and Lucy, Danno might not have caught Nigel. Catherine told me all about it."
"The girls were great," Danny agreed. "They found Michael and then they also caught Nigel. It was a very busy weekend."
"Are we good?" Steve asked her.
Grace reached up and hugged his neck. "Yeah, we're good. But we still need to find more geocaches. Only Lucy and I are going to plan better the next time."
Catherine laughed, Danny groaned and Steve shook his head.
"Maybe next time, you aren't in charge of planning, OK Gracie?" Steve asked.
"Deal. We just have to invite Lucy. I think she has a crush on you."
"Oh, no, no, no," Catherine argued, shaking her head in protest. "You can tell your friend Lucy that Steve is already spoken for." She smiled at him. "And I don't share very well. Lucy will have to find her own boyfriend."
Grace jumped up and clapped. "You said it!"
"Said what?" Cath looked at her with a questioning look on her face.
"Boyfriend. Cool. Uncle Steve is really your boyfriend? That means that you're his girlfriend, even though he can't say that word."
"Really?" Catherine looked at him.
"Um, I think it's time for us to say goodnight, Gracie." Danny grinned at his partner. "Steve, see you in the morning."
"Yeah, uh, I am pretty tired. Think I will get some rest."
"Goodnight, Uncle Steve. You, too, Catherine."
"So…" Catherine began as the door closed behind their guests.
Steve's eyes were closed and she pinched the base of his thumb to get his attention.
"So what word can't you say?"
"I can say words."
"Then say it."
"Say that I'm your girlfriend."
"Catherine, you know…"
She held up the letter he had written and read once again, "I am long overdue in showing you…"
"OK, OK, OK. Girlfriend, all right?"
"That sounded really romantic," she retorted.
Steve looked at her and couldn't hide his grin. "Yeah, well, you know me."
She leaned down and placed her forehead against his, careful not to touch the butterflies covering the cut on his head. Whispering, she replied, "I've known you for a long time, but it's really nice hearing you say it." She kissed him. "Now, get some sleep so I can take you home tomorrow," she ordered.
"Yes, ma'am. Anything you say, Lieutenant."
"Oh, I wish, Commander!"
*Ensign Tyler Grant was a character in my story Uhane.
** Dr. Palakiko has appeared in two stories I have written; Hekili Pao and Ho'okahi.
Thank you so much for reading. See you next time... hopefully in time for Thanksgiving.