SHORT WALK ON THE
LONG WALK ON A SHORT PIER
Surging fear rippled just below control surface as Dan Williams sped the LTD across the wide stretch of sand toward the small beach shack. The HPD surveillance team had initially lost track of the car transporting the abducted McGarrett. So Dan ordered a tail on Nick Gentry. Only moments ago the HPD chopper had spotted Nick's car near the shack. Williams had ordered a silent approach to sneak up on the isolated building. There was no hope of a surprise attack and no time for negotiations. A frontal assault would have to do.
He fully expected to find McGarrett's dead body in the shack. Steve, literally, in the old gangster sense of the phrase, was 'taken for a ride.' Gentry and thugs were onto him and obviously they took Steve and Frankie to the shack for executions. Dan could not comprehend the thought that Steve was dead, yet, neither could he conjure up enough hope to think of how Steve's life was spared.
As the car skidded and slid to a halt in the sand, Williams leaped out, revolver drawn. He crashed through the door, splintering the wood, relying on faith that the HPD men just behind him were fast enough to provide a back-up. He was not waiting for safety measures. His single, urgent thought was to get to McGarrett.
To his astonishment, Dan saw Nick prone, apparently dead, on the floor of the cabin. McGarrett seemed okay. He sat against the wall holding an obviously deceased Frankie in his arms. For a stunned moment Williams remained rooted in his shooting stance. Then he broke from his shocked relief and checked Nick for a pulse. Several HPD officers crowded around and he issued orders for them to tend to the dead. Dan moved over to kneel next to Steve.
"You all right?" he asked as he holstered his gun.
"Yeah," McGarrett replied slowly. His voice was hoarse. His eyes were watery. "I couldn't save her," McGarrett whispered more to himself than to anyone. It was a plaintive regret filled with remorse and pity.
Dan was unsure of the source of emotions. Was Steve relieved and humbled that he was still, miraculously, alive? Was he upset at Frankie's death? The speculation allowed Dan's initial relief and gratitude at McGarrett's well being to be swept aside. A wave of subsurface anger ruptured his thin control. Steve's comment about Frankie only fueled Dan's anger: anger at McGarrett for going undercover alone, anger that Steve had not provided adequate back up and had come so close to death. It was inexcusable for the head of Five-0 to put his life on the line so cavalierly. Contact procedures were deplorable and he should have told the team what was going on so they could protect him.
The secrecy was the piercing cut deepest for Dan. That Steve did not trust him enough to divulge the undercover assignment was wounding. Then, after Steve was apprehended, had nearly broken Dan's jaw resisting arrest, Steve compounded his crime by going back out on the street, against Dan's strong advice, and still not accepting help.
The combination of betrayal and fear for Steve's safety had driven Dan to the brink of desperation. He had mobilized Five-0 and selected HPD men to the sole job of tracking McGarrett. Even with the extra manpower it had been a near disaster because of McGarrett's lack of cooperation. If it had been one of the detectives out in the cold instead of the boss, heads would have rolled for the lax, even sloppy, mission. Then, to find Steve safe but bemoaning the death of a washed up junkie was too much.
"Better her than you," was Dan's uncharacteristically acid retort. "You're lucky to be alive."
McGarrett stabbed him with iced blue eyes, cold with the spark of anger. "She was a victim, Danno," he snapped.
"She was a junkie," Williams flung back vehemently.
There was much more he wanted to say, but this was not the time or place to vent his frustrations and grievances. Yes, Frankie was a victim, but of her own weaknesses. By the time Steve had come on the scene she was already one foot in the grave and not worth the risk of McGarrett's life. Dan was acutely aware of the other officers in the room. He restrained any further comments to avoid a family dispute in public. This was between Steve and him and they would have to work it out when they both had cooler heads.
"Come on," he offered, calmly. He put his full compassion and understanding into his tone. "It's all pau here, Steve. I'll take you home."
He gestured for an officer to come and take Frankie. For a brief moment McGarrett was resistant. Then he relented and released the body. Dan held out a helping hand. McGarrett seized on and let Dan help him. Without further comment they left the shack.
* * *
It was early evening when McGarrett entered the Five-0 offices. It was a bit strange to be back -- almost as if he had never left. His undercover assignment seemed like a bad dream. He wished it had been.
the beginning the masquerade had seemed right and justified: Work with the
Feds, go undercover in complete secrecy, even from his guys, to nail Nick
Gentry on murder one and keep the mobs from taking over the Honolulu docks.
Things had become complicated with his involvement with Frankie, then the
infamous run-in with Danno in the alley off
After the rescue at the beach shack he had gone home, showered, shaved -- including the mustache -- and taken a brief nap. He was too keyed up to rest well and could think of nowhere else to go but to come to the office. This was his home; his refuge. This was where he could recover from the sour memories. He was not sure what he would do here but he knew this was where he needed to come to restore himself.
The secretaries had gone home and the offices were strangely silent. Only Chin was in one of the cubicles of the outer office.
"Steve!" the Chinaman greeted happily when McGarrett poked his head into the small office.
"Hi, Chin. Everybody else call it a day?"
"No." Kelly smiled a bit ironically, as if surprised at the thought of the detectives going home at a reasonable hour. He took several minutes just to assess McGarrett's condition. "Sure good to have you back, boss. We weren't sure you would make it. Sounds like it was pretty close."
"Yeah, it was. Thanks, Chin."
The scrutiny embarrassed Steve. From this reaction he realized how worried Chin had been. A concern obviously shared by Duke and especially Dan. Until now it had been a reaction taken for granted. Recently he had taken too many things for granted. Of course his guys would be worried. He was worried whenever one of them went undercover, but this time was more intense. He also knew from his brief arrest, when he had been able to talk with Duke in the interrogation room, that his guys had also felt betrayed. Duke had been honest and had not softened any remarks about the undercover fiasco. At the time, Steve had been too wrapped up in the assignment to worry about the opinions of his guys. Now, from this perspective, things were very different and he regretted the way he'd handled the operation. It had been a mistake to exclude his people. He thought of Dan's reaction, beyond the punch, and knew Dan was more worried than angry. Again, a vital clue to Williams' state of mind, which McGarrett had ignored. These three detectives were too valuable, too close as friends to be taken for granted. Steve knew he had a lot to make up for.
While he was undercover it had seemed justified. All along he felt the deception was worth the risk because secrecy was so important. Now, it did not seem right at all. His action seemed like a dishonest, sneaky crime. Never feeling this guilty about case decisions before this remorse was probably because he knew now his guys deserved better than what he had given them. Never before had he considered the ends to justify the means why had he thought it would be acceptable this time? He had been wrong. Looking at Chin, he knew that with an impact that he had never experienced before.
"Danny and Duke are at HPD," Kelly explained. "We didn't expect you back tonight."
"I didn't want to stay at home," he admitted. He gave a nod toward his office. "Come in and fill me in."
felt good to settle into his chair behind his familiar desk. This was far away
from the mean streets of
This detective, the head of Five-0, was the real Steve McGarrett, not the Lone Ranger crusader out to right all wrongs. He knew those times were past him, not part of who he was anymore. No longer did he need to prove himself on the streets.
As the discussion with Chin progressed, Steve felt remarkably better about the bitter experience. He had slipped back into the working groove with ease. Tomorrow morning he could come in and take up the caseloads, at least, without missing a beat. The emotional angle would take time, but they WOULD sort it all out, he assured himself. On that positive thought he told Chin to go home and take the next morning off. Everyone had been working hard in his absence and he was feeling generous. He would not admit, even to himself, that the reward was also to cover any lingering guilt he felt at his actions.
"I'll be happy to sleep in, boss, but I think Danny needs the time off more than I do. He's been pushing himself since you've been gone." Kelly paused a moment, as if unsure what to say, then with obvious resolve, plunged ahead. "You know we were all worried about you, boss, but Danny was really upset over this whole secrecy business. Even more than he let on to us, I think."
McGarrett forced himself not to flinch at the mention of Dan's name. There was a lot he had to account for and most of it to Danno. The secrecy was something that had hurt Dan, he had seen that in the surprise meet in the alley. Later, Dan's obstructive, concerned attitude corroborated the theory. Williams felt betrayed by Steve, and that hurt worse than anything else McGarrett possibly could have done. The more Steve thought about it the more he knew he would have to make this up to Dan. If he didn't, there would be a lingering guilt on his part, and a lingering disappointment on Danno's. Their friendship was too precious a commodity to be damaged by pride or neglect.
"I know," McGarrett confirmed "I'm sorry I put you all through this."
Chin nodded, "Steve, I think Danny deserves the apology more than me."
"Don't worry, I'll make it up to Danno," he promised. He didn't know how he would fulfill that promise, but he would.
The outer door slammed shut and through his doorway he saw Dan and Duke coursing toward them.
"Steve!" Dan called out. "What are you doing here?"
"Couldn't keep away," he responded lightly.
"Glad you made it back in one piece," was Duke's heartfelt greeting accompanied by a warm handshake.
McGarrett's hand, injured when he had delivered the numbing punch to Williams, stung from the shake. Steve gritted his teeth, determined not to reveal the pain. Emotionally moved at the open display of concern and welcome, he did not want to rebuff his friend's warm welcome. He fell back on an easy cliché.
"Good to be back, Duke," he said sincerely.
Looking to Dan for additional comments, he was met with a guarded, unreadable stare. It was the first time in a long while he was unable to decipher Williams thoughts from his colleague's usually scrutible expression.
"You could have taken a day off for once," Williams commented and sounded as if it were a preference.
Nonplused at what he interpreted as a rebuff, Steve was uncertain how to respond. So he did not. Fortunately Duke stepped into the sudden chasm.
"You look worn out, Steve. We can handle things here."
"I'll drop you home if you want," Dan offered. This time the expression was readable -- it was a concerned compromise.
Affronted and defensive at Dan's seemingly censuring attitude, McGarrett bristled at the suggestion. "I'll stay awhile."
Williams' expression hardened. With a curt nod of acknowledgment, he nodded. "Fine. " Drawing in a deep breath, he appeared on the brink of saying more, then released the air in a long, low hiss. "The I guess I'll see you in the morning," he finished. For a moment he paused, searching McGarrett's face. After a moment of mute conflict, he left. The following silence was so complete his footfalls were audible until he was through a closed door and to the stairs in the center of the Palace.
"You want some advice, boss?" Chin asked.
"Not especially," was the honest reply as Steve slumped into his chair.
"Danny isn't going to just forget about this."
"He's been through a lot, Steve," was Duke's more tactful reminder.
Guarded, McGarrett sourly replied, "We all have, Duke." It came out sounding more self pitying than he had intended. In truth, he was feeling sorry for himself and Williams' lack of sympathy surprised him, bruised his ego. "Look, I'm sorry I ducked out on you guys," Steve snapped defensively. "But it's over, we need to put it behind us."
McGarrett's irritation was hard to maintain under the expressions of regret from his detectives. Duke summed it up for them all. "You're right, Steve, but it's going to take some time."
McGarrett advised Duke and Chin to call it a night. Both raised immediate objections, but McGarrett forcefully overruled them. As the two detectives were leaving McGarrett stopped them at the door. "I'm sorry about this whole mess," he repeated quietly. "I want to get past it." His detectives accepted and agreed with the apology, but between the three of them was the unspoken comment that the words were really meant for the missing member of the team.
* * *
There was no response to his knocks, so McGarrett used his key to enter Williams' apartment. No one was home and a cursory search revealed the usually neat officer had strewn his clothes on the bedroom floor. Since Dan's cars were in the garage, McGarrett assumed his friend had probably gone for a late night swim. McGarrett left the apartment and walked just down the street. Steve was well known to the bouncer at the door and was admitted without question to the King Kamehameha Club where Williams swam or surfed at the club's private beach.
As McGarrett walked from the surf-crusted sand of the waterline, to the beach-side bar of the club, he saw his hunch had been right on target. Williams, still dripping from a swim, slouched at a table on the lanai facing the dark ocean. A towel draped around his neck; beer in hand, feet propped on a chair, Williams' gave the impression of a man without a care in the world. Only the pensive expression on the youthful features belayed that false image.
"Mind if I join you?" Steve asked quietly when he reached the table.
Startled, Williams' feet slid off the chair and beer splashed onto his trunks and bare legs. "Steve!" He straightened. "I thought you were staying at the office?"
"I decided to join you instead." He sat down in a chair opposite his colleague.
"You really are the best detective on the rock," was Dan's rueful complement as he wiped the liquor from his legs.
"I know you like to swim here at night."
Williams waved at the bartender. "Hey, Keoki, bring a coffee and another beer," he ordered without consultation. Glancing back at McGarrett he said, "Sometimes I wonder why you bother with your condo. You're never there long enough to get your money's worth."
McGarrett shrugged noncommittally as the order was brought.
"So what really brings you to the moana?" was Dan's next question.
"You've got some things on your mind." McGarrett strove for a neutral, easy tone. Although his nerves were tight with anticipation of the coming confrontation/conference, he wanted to present an accessible front to Williams. If he seemed too resistant Dan would probably just close up and simmer in silence. Lately there had been too much miscommunication and deception. For the sake of their working status and their friendship he did not want that to happen. "I wanted to know what they were."
Williams levelly looked him in the eyes for a moment, as if assessing the mood. "You won't like what I have to say."
"Still, if it's important enough to bother you so much, I need to hear it whether I like it or not."
A mirthless smirk twitched at Dan's mouth. "Don't take this wrong, Steve, but you aren't known for taking well to --"
"Criticism?" McGarrett supplied blandly.
Dan pondered the semantics. "Observations. Opinions." For several moments he spun his bottle on the table, pondering.
"You're mad at me," Steve anticipated, impatient to get on with the discussion. "You don't have to beat around the bush. I'm sorry about what happened, Danno, but I guess that probably doesn't cover it."
The statement hit a bullseye because Dan glanced up and there was an incandescent blue-hot fire in his eyes. "It doesn't even come close," he assured with an edge. "I hardly know where to begin. So it's probably better that I don't even try!" The latent anger quickly came to the surface with heat and intensity.
The last statement was loud enough to attract the attention of other patrons. Irritated at the poor timing and location, McGarrett tightly suggested they take the discussion elsewhere. With a correspondingly curt nod Williams agreed.
The stretch of beach beyond the bar was empty. It was late, close to closing time, and the club had few members enjoying the ocean facilities that night. Faintly illuminated by the lights from the bar, and the moonlight, the surf edge was the path mutually chosen for their rambling discussion. The water lapped upon the sand; undulating ribbons of shimmery liquid against the dark beach. The detectives walked in silence for a time.
Still on edge from their previous exchanges, when McGarrett spoke he went right for the crux of the conflict. "You're mad about the punch in the alley, aren't you? It was the only way . . . " His voice trailed off when he noted Williams had stopped walking.
"You think that's what I'm hung up about?" came Dan's incredulous response. He paced out a few random steps in the sand, rubbing his wet hair in a gesture of indecision. "If that was my big beef, Steve, I'd just haul off and hit you right now and call it even."
"Then why don't you?" he challenged.
"Don't tempt me." The tone indicated the desire was perilously close to the surface.
"Then tell me what's wrong!" There was more impatience and dare in the line than repentance. It was natural, Steve rationalized. Dan was putting him on the defensive and Steve didn't take that from anyone, not even his closest friend, not even if he WAS wrong!
"I don't think you want to be here that long," was Williams' sarcastic, cutting reply.
"I have the time. Start at the beginning," was McGarrett's commanding demand.
In the following, stiff silence, almost like a filmed replay, McGarrett's mind switched back to the beginning of the Nick Gentry case. Within a split second he reviewed his innocent send off at the airport by Dan; his contact with the FBI man and the following days that threw him into the underworld of Honolulu. It had been such a simple, innocuous beginning to such a disastrous finish. An end for Gentry and Frankie. A finish to his friendship with Dan if he was not careful.
"The beginning. Would that be when you lied to me and said you were taking a holiday for two weeks?" Williams snapped back with acid contempt. "Or before that when you decided your staff wasn't trustworthy enough to confide in? Instead you went to the Feds! You had to play God and single-handedly solve the crime problems of Honolulu!"
The venom filled words were shot out with rapid-fire speed and bullet-scarring impact. Before McGarrett had a chance to respond Dan continued, now too compelled by anger and pent-up bitterness to stop.
"My God, Steve, all you had to do was tell us your plan! We could have set up some really loose cover contacts to help you! Do you even know how dangerous it was for the head of Five-0 to be slumming with murderers and ex-cons in the Hotel district?"
Reaching an apex of rage, Williams stalked off further down the beach. A bit shell shocked at the words and their high emotional impact for both of them, McGarrett was rooted in place for some time. After being arrested he had miscalculated by keeping his undercover work secret from his staff. He should have never taken the advice of the FBI in that matter. Compelled by his motivation to put away Gentry, the decision finalized by a latent need to go off alone and prove his skill. After Frankie's death and his return to the office, McGarrett received a clearer picture of just how badly he had botched things. His initial assessment was not even close. This whole incident had really cracked some foundations in Williams' life and Steve was unsure how to repair the damage. After a while he realized he had lost sight of Dan and proceeded along the shoreline.
Steve found his friend sitting on the concrete wall of a recreational area of the beach. McGarrett leaned on one of the posts supporting the shelter's roof. Humility seeping through the pores of his thick skin, McGarrett made the first step in what he knew would have to be a colossal self-realignment. He was not sure how far his pride would let him bend. He was not sure if it would be enough for Dan.
"I really blew it, didn't I?"
The line was so inanely inadequate it drew a reluctant, rueful laugh from Williams. "Yeah," he admitted with a nod. Elbows on his knees, he stared out at the black, silky sheet of water lapping onto the nearby sand. "When I started putting it all together," Dan began in a calm, subdued tone, "after I came to my senses in more ways than one," -- a sharp dart right to the conscience, that one -- "the secrecy and betrayal really hurt. Worse than the punch," he wryly finished. Obviously, the punch was something he was not going to soon forget. "I knew you had your reasons, Steve, but I couldn't see that they were justified. You never gave me the opportunity to agree or disagree with them."
Steve paced in the sand for a few steps and paced back. "There were so many times when I wanted your input, Danno, when I wished I had you there to talk to -- to help bounce my ideas around. To just talk."
Williams came to his feet. "As if you would listen," he retorted, his words full of rancor.
Steve grabbed onto his arm before he could walk away. "I mean that, Danno. I needed you, needed someone I could really trust --"
"Trust? Sometimes I wonder if you trust anyone, Steve."
Desperation backed the sincerity in his tone. "I blew this whole operation, I admit that. I value and trust your advice. And you. Nothing will ever change that."
Steve felt some of the tension ebb from Dan, but there was still resistance, still hurt in the expression.
"I'd like to believe that," was Williams' dull reply.
McGarrett released his grip and Dan moved to lean on a stanchion further along the picnic area. Determined to get this cleared up, McGarrett came up behind his friend.
"Something's still bugging you, Danno. You might as well get it all out now. If you don't we'll never clear this away."
"You won't want to hear it," was Williams' counter-challenge.
"Yes, I do." When Williams didn't respond, McGarrett took the lead. "You have every right to be angry with me." Steve was a little surprised at his admission. Perhaps he WANTED to jump in and confess rather than hear Dan's further accusations. Dan was right -- McGarrett hated the criticism, the accusations. More than anything, he hated the argument. He turned to face Dan. "The secrecy was wrong. Working for the Feds was a miscalculation. I never should have thrown in with them, I should have kept the investigation in our hands."
Williams' face reflected amazement. He unconsciously rubbed his jaw. "You admit it?"
"Completely." Looking at his friend's face he realized the words were not yet a complete balm. "It still hurts, though, doesn't it?" he asked quietly. He chucked his friend under the chin. "I don't mean the punch."
"It was too dangerous, Steve," came the flat, meaningful assessment. "The way you skulked around deceiving us -- you could have been killed!"
"I know, I --"
"We couldn't do anything to help you out there!"
Realizing that helplessness was the foundation of this explosion took away McGarrett's breath. He had misjudged the depth of Dan's reaction to the alley incident, all along focusing on the punch. That was not the main issue at all. Only Dan Williams could start out with justifiable accusations and end up riddled with guilt over something he could not control. The thought almost made McGarrett smile with affection for his conscientious friend.
"Danno, I know," Steve readily agreed.
However, Williams was on a roll. There was a lot of pent-up anger worked up over the past few days and he had to get it out. McGarrett forcibly shut his own mouth and let Dan spill out all the fire inside.
"What good are we -- what good am I -- if you ignore us? We're here to help you!" Even in the subdued light Dan's eyes were bright with emotional fervor. "What am I doing here if I can't help you when you need it?"
"Is that what you really think?" he countered, upset at the picture of himself and the lack of confidence of Williams. "Can you really doubt your value to me?"
Obviously if Dan questioned his position as second in command, then he had taken Williams for granted more than he ever realized. He knew it was more than just this glaring incident, more than just some random insecurity on Dan's part.
For a moment intensity sizzled in the gaze, then Dan shook his head and looked away, out over the ocean. He walked a few feet away, desultorily kicking the sand. "For a while I really felt useless. Now I'm just angry. Angry that you risked your life for something so useless as a conviction on Gentry. Or someone as useless as Frankie!"
The reference to the junkie was still a sore spot with Steve. He was not sure exactly how he felt about the dead woman, but it rankled on him that Dan kept attacking the pathetic, sorry wretch.
"She needed help," he countered sharply.
"She won your pity," Dan corrected coldly. "If anyone else on the staff would have pulled this stupid undercover stunt with no back up, if any of us would have been seduced by a hooker's sob story, you would have had our heads on pikes! She played you for every ounce of pity she could get, Steve!"
"That's enough!" McGarrett snapped, but Williams blundered on.
"If you'd have let us in on the operation we could have warned you about the trap. She was scum! She's better off dead. Why can't you accept that? She was worth nothing compared to your life! You can't even compare --!"
"Why do you hate her so much, Danno?" Truly mystified, angry, McGarrett closed the distance between them. He stood next to Dan, but Williams would not look at him. "She was at the bottom. Now she's dead and you still hate her. I've never seen you react like this."
"I've never come within a heartbeat's reaction of shooting down my best friend in an alley." Dan turned to face him. His voice was shaking, his face white from the memory. "I could have killed you, Steve!"
Slowly McGarrett nodded. "That's what really got to you isn't it?" He placed a steadying hand on Williams' shoulder.
Dan moved away from the contact. "Yeah." The retort was sharp. Dan took a few breaths and eased off the edge of his anger. "Unfortunately, it's at the end of a very long list. You run off on your own, playing Lone Ranger way too much! You cavalierly throw your life on the line like it means nothing! Well, it means a hell of a lot to me! The other night was the limit! After the lies and secrecy -- what if I had shot you!" His voice trembled, as if in imminent danger of losing his tenuous control. "It was too close, Steve."
The finality in the tone sent whispers of fear into McGarrett's soul. Suddenly the issue of who was right, or even his damage ego, was not important anymore. "You make it sound like an ultimatum." His mouth was suddenly dry.
"I guess it is," Williams admitted with gravity. "You're my closest friend. I'm supposed to be your second in command, but you don't trust me --"
"You won't let me do my job! You won't let me protect you when you need help."
"What do you suggest?"
"I don't know. Can I expect the situation to change?" Dan's regretful, thoughtful question directed more to himself than his associate. "Maybe I don't belong here anymore."
McGarrett should have foreseen this step, a near replay of the scene, years ago, when Williams publicly resigned from Five-0. Irritated at his lack of perception and upset by the threat, he growled under his breath. He DID view this as a threat; to his autonomy, to his well-ordered kingdom that did not appreciate rebellion at the round table, to his working relationship with his friend -- which he did not want to change. He would not accept this, no matter how favored might be his dissenting knight.
"I won't let you resign," McGarrett shot back intently.
To his friend's astonishment, Williams' seemed more irritated than ever at the comment. Danno was not caving in to McGarrett's resolute resistance.
"Maybe it's not your decision to make."
There was no quick response to the flat finality of the words. No other explanation or comment was made and Williams ended the discussion by turning and walking away. At a loss to assimilate and comprehend the exchange, McGarrett sat on the sand and watched the rhythmic patterns of the waves.
Racing the Mustang at top speeds, Williams had circled around the coast highway and back through the Pali tunnel before he was rid of the anger. As he drove along the freeway through town, he emotionally leveled off to a near normal state of nerves. By the time he pulled into the garage he was feeling guilty at the rough tongue-lashing he had delivered to his friend. When he stepped into the living room, he sheepishly greeted the visitor lounging on the lanai.
McGarrett gave a slight wave. "Have a good drive?"
"Yeah." Williams stepped onto the lanai and pulled a chair closer to his boss. Mirroring McGarrett, Williams placed his feet on the small table between the chairs.
"Nothing like a kamikaze spin to blow off a little steam."
Dan stared out at the dark ocean for a time and let the soft rhythm of the waves fill the silence. "Guess I was a little dramatic, huh?"
"Yeah." McGarrett turned from his study of the sea to observe his friend. "I was pretty pig-headed. Maybe we can find a happy medium." His tone was hopeful, speculative. "I don't want to lose you, Danno."
Williams looked at McGarrett. "I don't really want to leave."
McGarrett smiled. "Good, Danno, good. Then we should be able to solve this."
"Yeah, I think so." Williams moved inside to retrieve a bottle of beer for himself and a juice drink for McGarrett. Steve came in and, standing on the other side of the kitchen bar, he leaned his elbows on the counter.
"The bottom line is that this will never happen again."
"That's a promise that won't be easy to keep," Dan warned. "I hope you can -- it will insure a little bit better odds for longevity, if nothing else."
"I promise to try, Danno. Without predicting the future, that's all I CAN promise. I hope it's enough."
"I hope so, too," was Williams' tentative response. "I can't condone you just running off on your own for dangerous missions. If you do, then next time I leave. I won't stay if I have to fight you to save your life."
The mixture of resolve, affection, hurt and reprimand was at once distinct and blurred. Although the words were concise and clear, the voice was thickly charged with deeply disturbed feelings.
The emotions struck McGarrett straight to the heart. Pride collapsed under the onslaught of sincerity and finality. He knew if there was ever a repeat of this disastrous assignment he would lose Dan both as a colleague and a friend.
"I don't want your resignation, Danno," he said firmly. "I never have." He rushed on to an explanation. This was the time and place to clear the air. If he hesitated he might lose his initiative and his friend. "I am truly sorry this situation got away from me. I apologize -- for everything. What more can I say?"
Now his voice was quavering. He was humbled and touched that even after he had crossed way beyond the limits, his friend still valued him as much as ever. He was going to hold onto this priceless and valued confederate.
"I was wrong to take you for granted," he said sincerely, deeply. "I need a few lessons in appreciation, I guess. You make a very good conscience, Danno. Maybe this old dog can still learn a few things. What do you think?"
"I think if you ever do this again, I'll probably punch YOU, Steve," was Dan's somber, stern response.
"It won't happen again," McGarrett vowed. Steve placed both hands on Dan's shoulders. His mouth twitched with the hint of a wry grin. With a fist he carefully touched Dan's jaw. "I think it's safer when we're on the same side."
Humor dulled the edge of Williams' lingering irritation and hurt. Dan, with only slight hesitation, grinned. Gingerly, he touched the discolored, slightly puffy side of his jaw. "Certainly safer for me," was his good-natured comment, an off-handed acceptance of the apology.
They took their drinks outside. Settled in the chairs on the lanai, they stared out at the dark sky and deep ocean. Steve felt it was going to still take some healing time to completely close the door on this hard-learned lesson. He would never again forget, or take for granted, that he was part of a team. That team, particularly the second in command -- his conscience and dear friend -- took the responsibilities of cop and friend very seriously. McGarrett was going to make sure he lived up to the high ideals of friendship that he had been shown him from this bitter experience.