Epilog - Once Upon A Time -- extended edition

 

 

Once Upon A Time in Hawaii

by

gm

 

 

As he sped the black LTD along on the freeway, Danny Williams’s hands twisted nervously on the steering wheel.  The bright, warm, winter afternoon would normally be a treasure to cherish, but not today.  Instead of appreciating the golden sun dancing on the azure water along Nimitz Highway, or the warm wind blowing through the open windows, he anxiously anticipated the upcoming rendezvous. 

 

At their last parting, McGarrett had became -- how did he put it?  Strained didn’t even come close.  Unhinged.  Closer. 

 

Last month, he had heard about Steve’s unleashed rage when he was held hostage by a deranged Marine.  {episode - King of the Hill}  Some who witnessed McGarrett’s behavior felt the top cop was unbalanced himself on that terrible day, trying to save Dan from bleeding to death. 

 

Williams got a little taste of Steve’s extreme passion that awful night Steve tried to cope with his nephew’s death.  A wave of cold washed over Dan, despite the warmth of the day, his memory of the night was so vivid and still scary. 

 

That raw moment when he had walked into Steve’s office he had never seen his friend so crushed.  Sitting in the dark, as if hiding, McGarrett was shattered -- in pieces.  Torn up, he wept and yelled and burst all control and cried out with soul-deep pain.

 

Shocked at the rare, vulnerable anguish, Dan didn’t know how to react or what to do to comfort his friend.  The pain instead of the usual fiery anger -- how did he deal with that?  Never dreaming of ever seeing the tough and solid McGarrett fall apart like that, Dan was numb and at a loss to offer comfort through the confusion and suffering.  It physically pained him to see McGarrett lose control.

 

In an inadequate and completely inexperienced attempt, he tried to offer the only solace he could think of.

 

 

=====

 

“How right can you be, Danno?”

 

The raw suffering was too much for Danny to handle, and he was at a loss for long moments, unsure how to respond, unable to offer comfort to his mentor that had never shown weakness like this.  Anger, yes.  Pain, yes.  Regret, yes.  Vulnerability and weeping?  Never.

 

His only instincts were to offer what he inadequately could in the situation.  “Anything I can do to help, Steve?”

 

Oblivious to the proffered aid, McGarrett continued.  “She cried so hard,” he sobbed.  “She choked on her own tears.  Telephone turned to salt in my hand.”

 

Helpless and frustrated at his inability to do anything to comfort his friend, Dan wanted to reach out but could not push against the barrier of isolation suffering surrounding McGarrett.  There was nothing he could do but perhaps give the only advise he could think of.  End the suffering on all sides.  Did McGarrett have to be right all the time?  Why couldn’t’ he let someone else take the burden.  Or release the guilt and accountability completely.  Just let go! H wanted to plead, the anguish tearing him apart with bystander-torment.

 

“Steve, this once can’t you back off?”  It came out harder and harsher than intended. 

 

Knowing he had done too much to intrude and not enough to help, he silently endured McGarrett’s angry lashing out at the universe, feeling devastated he could do nothing more.

 

 

=====

 

Soon after Steve’s passionate blow up of vowing justice against the doctor whom he held responsible for if not murdering little Tommy then at least responsible for trading false hope for money -- the boss left, heading for LA, refusing Dan’s offer to drive him to the airport.  That severing of their usual routine clued Dan in that Steve was hurt, maybe resentful and angry with his clumsy attempt to help.  He had wanted to ease Steve’s guilt and, in a way, give him permission; to not be in control, to not be able to save everybody, to not feel guilty about failing this one time.  There was nothing Steve or even the parents of little Tommy could do to save the baby.  Dan just wanted his friend to stop hurting and blaming himself.  And none of his good intentions had worked.

 

While manning the fort in Honolulu, Dan became over=-zealous about fulfilling his duties as second-in-command and being in charge in Steve’s absence.  Overburdened with work, Five-0 became his life -- his day and night, his waking and dreaming hours, his food and drink. 

 

A while back, when Steve had hurredly left for LA because his nephew had taken a turn for the worst, Steve had divided assignments in an impromptu staff meeting.  Delegating cases and issuing instructions, the boss outlined May, Chin and Kono’s duties.  Danno had been saved for last.

 

=====

 

“Steve, is there anything I can do for you?”

 

The typical half-smile when McGarrett had something up his sleeve or personal targeted at Williams. “Yeah.  Mind the store.”

 

“Sure.”

 

=====

 

It was the highest priority in Steve’s life -- Five-0.  Dan was entrusted with the care of the organization in Steve’s stead.  That had been done before for years, but now it was even more vital.  In this emotional, family crisis, Steve turned to no one for help or comfort.  But, he asked Dan to take care of Five-0.  To Williams, that was the most sacred trust possible and he held it with soberness and maturity.  Entrusting the unit in his care, Dan made sure he did not come up wanting.  When Steve returned, he had been pleased at everything at the office and even offered rare, proud praise at Dan’s efforts.  The welcome was more than Dan expected.

 

When Steve hit the next crisis with Tommy’s death, Danny had hoped to fulfill his obligations as a friend, then, too.  Unfortunately, he felt he had failed.  Steve had been weeping and broken and Dan could offer no relief.

 

Along with the rest of the staff, Dan had contributed to flowers for the funeral.  And sent a sympathy card to the family, including Steve.  Hardly useful, he felt.  Knowing what it was like to lose family members, Dan felt he had failed to handle things well.

 

During the agonizing trial, Steve would call home to check on cases.  Dan spoke with him only a few times, but assured him all was fine in Honolulu.  When he asked Steve how he was, McGarrett would, typically, be tight and laconic, just commenting that he would be back as soon as he could.  Hardly forgiving words.

 

As everyone hoped, Steve was triumphant in convicting the quack doctor.  His rocky relationship with his sister was mended.  He was coming home.  Did he still resent Dan’s comments about being able to bend?  Did that seem like surrender and weakness to Steve when he had only meant to be comforting?  Misinterpreted by the volatile McGarrett, all this time Steve could have been offended, even holding a grudge against someone who was supposed to agree with him and instead had challenged him in a time of need.

 

 

*****

 

Typically, the airport arrivals level was crowded with tour busses and limos and passenger cars.  Parking the LTD, Williams wove his way through the tourists snapping pictures and the lei greeters meeting the organized tours, and made his way to the proper gate.

 

When McGarrett entered the door from the tarmac, he seemed -- normal?  It had become a kind of ritual for Dan to take Steve to the airport and retrieve him from trips.  They had the chance to go over last minute instructions (Steve ALWAYS had those) and it served as a kind of personal touch that Dan liked to convey -- that he was now temporarily in charge and everything was going to be fine in Steve’s absence.

 

This time, considering their uneasy parting, Dan had been a little wary about this reunion.  After attending the funeral of his nephew and going through a harrowing court battle to convict the doctor, Steve would be feeling pretty down.  Dan had done a lousy job of helping when Steve had broken down and bitterly wept that last night at the Palace.  How was he going to handle McGarrett’s grieving mood now?

 

At the moment, however, walking among the tourists who were still wearing coats and business suits from the mainland, McGarrett seemed completely in tune with the other passengers.  No dark clouds figuratively hovering over him.  Adroitly, he dodged some pretty girls who were presenting leis to some tour group arrivals.  When he cleared the crowd, he spotted Dan and broke into a huge grin.

 

“No lei greeting, Danno?” Steve asked with a bit of a laugh as he came up beside him, warmly shook his hand, then handed him his carry-on briefcase.

 

“Uh -- sorry, it wasn’t on my list,” he tried for a quick comeback.  “Welcome home, Steve.”

 

“It’s great to be back.”  He made quick strides toward baggage claim.  “How are things going?”

 

“Fine,” Williams assured, glad to be back on familiar ground. 

 

Report.  Update.  Steve was already back in his ‘Five-0-mode’ and truly thrilled to be back home.  Better than anyone he’d ever know, McGarrett was able to push things aside on an emotional level and deal with them later.  Dan reacted emotionally most of the time, but Steve could hold back those feelings and think objectively.  That was probably why that last scene at the Palace had so rocked Dan.  Seeing the always controlled mentor weeping -- he had just been floored and inadequately stunned.  Now, Steve was back -- putting the past behind him and focused on his center -- Five-0.

 

They collected Steve’s luggage and made their way to the car. 

 

“Home,” McGarrett commented with a deep breath of air as they walked to the curb at the ARRIVALS level.  “No place like it.  No place I’d rather be.”

 

Refraining to mention at this particular spot in paradise they were nearly choked with diesel fumes from the myriad tour buses, Dan just surfed in silence on a wave of amazement.  This was not anything like what he expected from Steve.  Not knowing how to handle what he thought would be anger or grief, he was even less prepared for gratitude and -- what -- something close to relief or relaxation even.  Not the typical coil-spring tension that usually surrounded McGarrett as a walking dynamo.

 

It was not until they were driving on the freeway, that Dan was startled by Steve’s firm hold on his shoulder.

 

“Mahalo, Danno,” McGarrett quietly acknowledged.

 

Baffled, Dan studied him, perplexed at the sudden somber expression.  “For what?”

 

“I never had any worries about Five-0 while I was gone.  I knew I left everything in the best possible hands.”

 

Dan hoped he wasn’t blushing.  “Thanks, Steve.”

 

“This was a tough tragedy to go through.”  He self consciously studied his hands, then finally glanced at the driver.  “I didn’t know if I was ready for it.  It was hard for me to face, as you know.”

 

“Yeah,” he quietly acknowledged, hoping Steve did not bring up what he feared.

 

“That last night at the office,” Steve began quietly.

 

Dan cringed.

 

“I meant a lot to me.  I can’t even express it.”

 

Danny was mutely shocked.

 

“I knew if I needed anything you were there for me, just like you were that last night.  Mahalo.”

 

Williams stammered.  “Uh -- what I said --“

 

McGarrett’s smile was a little sad.  “Sorry, I don’t remember what you said, Danno.”

 

With a covert sigh, Dan shrugged.  “Nothing special.  I -- uh -- “ he clumsily searched for something intelligent to say, and settled on just opening up with honest feelings.  I wanted to help and I didn’t say anything that could help.”

 

Shaking his head, he replied, “That’s not true.  What I remember is that I was torn up like never before.  And you were the one there for me, trying to help.  Not wanting me to be alone.  I guess it doesn’t matter what you said.  Sorry.”

 

“No, that’s okay.”

 

“What’s important was that I knew I had you in my corner no matter what. If I was wrong and my sister hated me, you would be there for me.  While I was gone, I knew you were here taking care of Five-0.  And when I came back, no matter what I had accomplished or failed at in LA, you would still be here willing to help me.  For that trust and loyalty --  he cleared his throat and his voice became deep  “I can’t thank you enough.”

 

“Any time,” Dan responded quietly, hardly able to get a word out around the lump in his throat. 

 

And he meant it.  He just hoped there would be no more emotionally devastating times like they had just been through. 

 

PAU