Over The Edge
by
G M 


"It's a long shot," Dan Williams sighed as he studied the map stretched out across the top of the table. The desk lamp cast a bright, harsh, glow onto the multi-colored drawings outlining the topographical features of the Big Island. Leaning elbows on the paper, Williams stared closely at the land-form line along the northeast coast. "The old house may not even be there anymore, Steve."

 
Williams pulled back, rested hands on the edge of the table, and stretched sore, cramped shoulder muscles. They had been at this a long time and the younger detective was ready to agree to almost any scheme, no matter how outrageous, just so he could go home to a welcome night's sleep. The other Five-0 detectives, Kono Kalakaua and Chin Ho Kelly, long since left, along with the rest of the staff. The warm evening breeze blowing in from the open lanai doors fluttered the map and Williams moved his empty coffee cup over to weigh down the paper. He turned to sit on the end of the table and observe his companion in misery.
 
Steve McGarrett lay stretched out on the sofa, a shirtsleeved arm flung over his eyes. Williams wondered if his friend was asleep, then noticed the nervous tapping of McGarrett's fingers -- sure indication that even in repose the chief of Five-0 was furiously thinking.
 
"When Kahela was arrested he gave no clues as to where he stashed the plates," McGarrett pointed out without looking at his colleague. "He's too hot for any of his low-life friends to touch. In fact, double-crossing his pals -- what are their names?"
 
"Tanner and Oslo," Williams supplied absently.
 
"Yeah, when Kahela double-crossed them and grabbed the plates, I think he ran for home ground. How else do you explain the airline ticket to the Big Island and a rental car receipt out of Hilo, dated the day of his arrival in Hawaii?"
 
"I can't," Dan admitted. "Neither could the Feds. Which usually means nothing." He added the dig hastily before McGarrett got off on another tirade on the inefficiencies of the local FBI and Treasury representatives.
 
"The Feds don't think his trip to the Big Island means anything. I'm convinced it does."
"Okay," Williams agreed, "so we play your hunch." What he would not say aloud was that he was agreeing with McGarrett because it was too late to argue and because usually, McGarrett was right about these gut instinct things. "It's either a brilliant piece of detective work, Steve --"
 
"Or it's the biggest mistake of the month?" McGarrett offered as he removed the arm from his face and turned to look at his friend.
 
Williams offered a slight, wry smile. "No. I was going to say, or, it's a great excuse to spend a day on the Big Island."
 
"Yeah," McGarrett agreed as he slowly sat up and stretched.
 
"Either way, there's no good reason why we can't call it a night," Williams stated firmly. He emphasized his opinion by retrieving McGarrett's jacket, gun and holster and laying them on the sofa next to the boss. "I'll go call Chief Aku in Hilo and tell him to have a four-wheeler ready for us in the morning."
 
McGarrett nodded tiredly. "I'll lock up."
 
* * *
 

The next morning Williams picked up McGarrett to drive to the airport. On the subsequent flight to the Big Island, McGarrett strove to make up for his surly attitude of the previous day -- week.

The Governor, the FBI and Treasury department hounded him for results. On the trail of a master thief who had stolen the government printing plates for the $50 savings bond, they expected cooperation, not involvement. In Federal circles, McGarrett's infamous reputation for jealously guarding his territory made interlopers wary of confronting Five-0. Just two days ago it had been a slap in the face to his ego, when the FBI nabbed the thief, sans plates. Now, McGarrett, more determined than ever, hoped to find the plates before the federal agents. It was a matter of pride, of honor, for Five-0.

 
To his credit, McGarrett HAD recognized that he had been rather sharp to his staff. Maybe over the weekend he would host a rare dinner for the gang to show his appreciation.
 
The Hawaiian Air jet sliced through dark clouds as they touched down in Hilo. The windward city was misting with morning rain as McGarrett and Williams alighted and walked over to greet a tall, stout Hawaiian in a suntan colored uniform.
 
"Aloha," Chief Aku said warmly as he shook their hands. He ushered them to his nearby car. "I got da gear ready up by da Hamakua station." He studied their casual aloha shirts. "You shoulda read da weather reports, bruddah. You two gonna get wet up dere. Clouds comin' in heavy dis aftanoon."
 
"Hopefully we won't be here that long," Steve countered.
 
The night before, Williams had given Aku only the briefest of explanations. McGarrett followed in that terse beginning by not revealing more information than necessary. They told Aku they were there to look for evidence left by a criminal at a mountain cabin. It was a simple task that should not take more than a few hours, in and out, of the rugged North Kohala region. Singularly non- curious, Aku did not ask for more details.
 
"Last night was heavy rains up north," Aku explained.
 
As the police car cruised along the coastal road, the officers witnessed nature's spectacular scenery. Wiper blades swept aside the persistent misty rain which never seemed to stop. Dark, heavy clouds hung low over most of the area. Out to sea there were intermittent breaks in the cloud cover and a number of double and triple rainbows glistened over the ocean.
 
"Da area where da cabin is, all the small back trails look washed out," Aku explained.
 
They traveled a narrow, rutted asphalt road deep into the rain forest of the north coast. Years of windward rain and storm had eroded most of the old paths on that are of coastline. Within a few minutes they came to a stop at a small, rustic set of buildings where another patrol car parked. Two tethered horses stood at a lanai rail of the largest wooden structure.
 
Aku stopped the car and smiled. "A four-wheeler not gonna make it fo' you. So we got you some four- leggers." He laughed at his own little joke.
 
"That's fine," McGarrett said as he emerged from the car and stretched his legs.
 
He had worn his usual, comfortable western boots that were only slightly incongruous in Honolulu. Hawaii did have a heavy strain of paniolo under the easy-going beach reputation. So, by luck, his footgear prepared him for riding or hiking. He smiled at Williams, who had worn comfortable sneakers -- Danno's alternate footgear no matter what the occasion. Fortunately, he had proven adept at horseback riding with deck shoes before.
 
Although the cloud cover remained the rain had ceased. McGarrett gave only a passing thought to the weather. They hoped their expedition completed before the heavy afternoon storm arrived. Briskly, Williams and he checked out the equipment in the saddlebags. CB radios, waterproof panchos and snack foods supplied each rider with sufficient survival articles. One of the officers had provided a hand-drawn map that marked trails to the old cabin. The officer warned he had not been in the area for some years so he was not sure what the Five-0 detectives would find.
McGarrett assured the Hamakua officers their preparations were excellent and he would have no problems finding the cabin. If the weather turned ugly or they needed assistance, they always had the radios.
 
During the tedious ride in-country, McGarrett kept the pace steady and brisk. Although the scenery was lush, tranquil and beautiful, he had lost none of his anxiety for finding the missing plates -- if they were there at all. When he was not thinking of the plates, his concentration was on keeping his horse on the slimy, muddy mountain paths that sometimes narrowed to space only wide enough for a single horse. Thankful for small favors, he was grateful the mounts were sturdy, sure-footed Quarter horse/Morgan stock. Last night's storm had washed through several roads and a few times the detectives were forced to dismount and climb their horses over huge breaks in the mountain trail.
 
McGarrett said very little on the ride, in contrast to his companion, who was chatty to the point of distraction. Williams had not had his mind on business for the entire day, to the vexation of his boss. The younger man treated the excursion like a holiday, leaving no doubt of his love of the lush, wild beauty of the Big Island. Williams seemed inspired to comment on everything from the floral scents; the lush forest, the history of the region, and finally, tour guide trivia.
 
"Hey, do you know what this is?" Williams asked with sheer excitement.
 
They had dismounted to walk the horses over a wide, concave, slippery patch of mud cutting down the mountain. They were no longer on a trail, having been forced to circumvent a section of path which had been washed away.
 
"This is a holua slide." The younger detective crouched down at the side of the muddy scoop and peered up the mountain, then down, studying the straight line of the slide. "See, it cuts right through here all the way to the ocean."
 
Throughout the trip the ever present rush of surf could be heard through the forest. A few times they had even weaved out to the lava-rugged coastal cliffs bracketing the forest.
McGarrett was quickly losing his patience with the travelogues. "Danno --"
 
"This was a popular form of entertainment for the alii in the ancient days." Dan glanced at his friend. "The royals here on the Big Island would have their followers scrape these huge slides out of the mountains. Then they would cover the paths with earth, pili grass and rocks and with a wooden slide skid down the mountain all the way to the sea."
 
"Amazing bit of trivia, Danno --"
 
"Yeah, I used to date this Pacific history major."
 
"Is there anyone you didn't date?"
 
"We came over here a few times and she . . ." His voice trailed off as the sharp sarcasm in McGarrett's tone finally registered. Williams sheepishly glanced at his boss. "Bet you'd like to save the history lesson until after we find the plates."
 
McGarrett gave a curt nod. "Score one for you, Danno. If this map is accurate, the cabin should be just around the next bend. Let's get this over with."
 
They walked the horses through the forest and back to the remaining jeep trail which was now no more than a thin, ragged ledge of red, volcanic mud. The rush of surf was loud there and intermittently through the trees they could see the dark blue of the Pacific.
 
"Ah," McGarrett sighed as they came around the curve into a small clearing.
 
The shack was really a collection of old, rotting wood held together in a haphazard design. Years of storms and winds had nearly demolished the neglected cabin.
 
Williams pulled his horse to a halt next to McGarrett.
 
"Doesn't look like anyone's been here for a hundred years."
 
"Let's see," was McGarrett's comment.
 
They tethered the horses to tree branches and carefully walked along the floorboards of the rickety old lanai. The doorway to the cabin was blocked by fallen timbers, so the two detectives walked to the side where they found a hole in the wall big enough to admit a man. Just as McGarrett crouched down to enter, he stopped, then pointed to the soft soil under the eves. There was a footprint in the dark earth.
 
"Kahela," Dan said.
 
McGarrett shot him a wry grin. "So, now you believe me?"
 
"Always did," Williams assured with a straight face.
 
The recent storm had left the inside, single room dripping and musty. With almost simplistic ease, McGarrett spotted a section of flooring which was cleared of debris. He knelt down and easily tugged up two boards. Underneath was a waterproof, sealed plastic bag. He broke the seal and opened the covering until two metal plates dully reflected the scant light in the dark cabin.
 
"Hah!" McGarrett exclaimed in triumph.
 
Williams patted his friend on the shoulder. "You were right on, Steve. Congratulations."
 
"Now what will the Feds have to say about Five-0?" He paused, eyes darting outside. "What was that?"
 
"Not Kahela. Must be the wind. The storm's coming in," Williams said as rain started to rattle on the wood.
 
McGarrett resealed the package and led the way back to the horses. Reshuffling the contents of the saddlebags, he placed the plates in his pouch and gave his CB to Williams. In trade, McGarrett's pouch got most of the food. Now that the precious plates were in his possession he was going to keep them literally at hand until he presented them to the Feds upon their returned to Honolulu.
 
Assaulted by the cascading rain, the detectives slipped into the ponchos and mounted the horses. McGarrett paused to consult the map. Williams dug the few candy bars which had survived his munching out of his bag and offered one to his boss.
 
McGarrett shook his head in refusal. "There's an old trail leading out this way. It doesn't look so steep, but it's longer --"
 
Suddenly gunshots reverberated around them. The horses spooked, McGarrett's rearing. The Five-0 chief was thrown to the ground and tumbled down the side of the nearby cliff. As bullets bit into the mud, Williams' horse danced with fear. Unable to both control the beast and defend himself, Williams slid off and crouched behind the protective lava ledge at the edge of the cliff. He drew his weapon as he crouched for cover. McGarrett's horse scrambled away at a dead run after Williams' horse.
 
A thousand questions were crowding his mind for attention and he sorted them into immediate order of importance. First he had to make sure the shooters were not instantly going to gun him down. The second was to find McGarrett.
 
"Steve?" Williams called quietly.
 
He stole brief glances down the cliff but could not immediately see a sign of the attackers, or McGarrett. Keeping his head low, Williams scanned the tree line but could see no telltale flashes of reflected metal to pinpoint their assailants. Worse, he could find no sign of McGarrett. His immediate fear was that McGarrett had been shot and had tumbled into the ocean. If so, there was no hope he would see his friend alive again.
 
"Hey, cops! We know you've got the plates!"
 
The disembodied voice came out of the solid wall of foliage to Williams' right. Because of the interference of the pelting rain and the crashing surf, he could not distinguish more than just a general direction. "You toss the plates into the clearing and leave. Then we both go our separate ways!"
 
Williams scanned the thick forest but could see no sign of the speaker. He had to guess it was Oslo or Tanner, Kaneha's partners.
 
"No way!" he shouted back. He continued to scan down the cliff, more alarmed by the minute over his friend's absence.
 
"It's the only way out, cops! We know where you are and the only two paths out of this forest we've got covered."
 
Williams tucked his revolver into his holster. No sense on getting it wet. He wiped rain from his eyes and studied the tree line.
 
"No one's going to come in after you in this weather, cops. Give us the plates and you can walk out of here."
 
"Right! You think we'd trust you?"
 
"In a few hours it'll be dark. With the storm and night-time, what chance do you have out here with us, cop? Better cut the best deal."
 
"Go to hell!"
 
Irritated that he could not pinpoint the men or effectively do more than defend this spot, Williams decided to search for McGarrett. For now the criminals seemed content to wait them out. That would give Williams time to find his friend, hopefully, then decide on the next step.
He scrambled down the rugged, coarse lava shelf to the next level of rocks. He could see the ocean from here. The drop to the water was uneven along this stretch. There were plenty of places to hide, but he could spot no trails. He jumped down another level and nearly slid on top of the saddle bag which had been on McGarrett's horse. Quickly he scanned the contents.
 
"Great," he muttered to himself. "We've got the plates, granola, candy bars and soda. Big help," he growled as he repacked the contents. The radio and first aid supplies had been in HIS saddlebag.
 
He slung the pouch over his shoulder and searched the area. Despite the rain, he was able to discern areas of the ledge which looked scraped, as if something had slid along the lava. Like a body. His heart in his throat, he quickly jumped down to the next level. Just above the surf line he saw the slick, green camo of McGarrett's poncho.
 
"Steve!"
 
McGarrett was huddled in a heap on the lava shelf. Carefully, Williams pulled him over to cursorily check for obvious wounds. Finding a neck pulse relieved his initial fear. Williams could see no obvious evidence of wounds or gushing blood. Steve was badly lacerated and cut from the fall, but initially seemed okay. Williams checked the pupils and made a fast test for obvious head injuries, but Steve seemed unconscious, not confused. He hoped.
 
"Steve, wake up." Urgently he shook his friend's shoulder several times. There was no response. McGarrett was out cold.
 
With gunmen above them they could not stay in this exposed spot. Williams glanced along the rough coastline and could see no avenue of escape there. Not far to the north, though, was the rainforest. If Williams could get them into the safety of the trees there was a chance they could slip past the gunmen once McGarrett regained consciousness.
 
One of the water canteens had fallen nearby. Williams slung it over his arm, then took his friend under the shoulders and dragged him a few feet across the uneven rocks. Suddenly, McGarrett jolted awake with a cry of agony tearing out.
 
Immediately, Williams placed McGarrett against the rocks. "Are you hit?" His question was barely a whisper. He listened for signs that the others had heard the cry, but there were no other sounds above the pounding surf and the pelting rain.
 
McGarrett coiled in pain. "My leg," he said through gritted teeth.
 
Williams checked the right leg, then the left. The pant leg was slightly torn. Rain-diluted blood soaked dark streaks on the material. Williams had thought the cuts were minor scrapes from the fall. Now he saw the shin was badly swollen. It looked like a bad break.
 
"We've got to get to cover, Steve. Lean on me and we'll get you out of here. As fast as we can, I promise."
 
McGarrett gave a nod of approval. Without a word he grasped onto Williams' shoulder and the detective carried/supported McGarrett along the rain-slick lava for the remaining length of the rock path. Just after they entered the cushiony shelter of the forest, Williams spotted a wide opening in the rocks near the shoreline. A lava tube, high enough to protect them from the surf at high tide, he guessed -- hoped. He steered their course toward the lava tube and carefully wedged McGarrett through the roomy aperture.
 
They were in the relative safety of the thick forest at their backs and the sea in front of them. Williams settled his burdens against the back of the small concave shelter of the short lava tube. Then he turned his attention to his wounded companion.
 
"The plates," whispered the head of Five-0.
 
"I've got them."
 
McGarrett was pale and only semi-coherent from the intense agony of the injury. Williams warned his friend to brace for some pain, but McGarrett didn't respond. Williams went ahead and tore away pieces of the tattered and bloody pant leg around the wound. He winced as he saw the extent of the injury.
 
The area at the top of the shin was discolored and bulging from the displacement of a broken bone. The skin was tight, generating a fever Williams could feel by just hovering his hand near the wound. If Steve was jostled too much more, the bone would probably explode right through the skin. Things were bad enough without that complication, Williams thought.
 
He quickly assessed McGarrett's other injuries which included abrasions and contusions to the side of the head, the right arm, and right thigh. All the wounds would need cleaning and dressing, but by far the most serious was the leg damage. At least Steve had not been hit by a bullet, but the thought was small consolation in lieu of his current suffering.
 
Williams rummaged in the saddlebag until he found a rudimentary first aid kit, much smaller than the one which had been in his pack. With the few antiseptic cloths he cleaned the worst of McGarrett's cuts on the exposed places of the face, arms and hands. The deeper gashes he carefully cleansed and covered with the few bandages available.
 
Throughout the treatment, McGarrett was silent -- conscious and unerringly stoic. He winced and gasped several times from the sting of the antiseptic.
 
"Sorry," Williams apologized every time. He knew it stung far more than McGarrett let on.
 
"It's okay," Steve hissed and nodded for Dan to continue.
 
For the shin, Williams tore off a piece of his cotton shirt and soaked it in cool water from one canteen. Gently he placed the cloth on Steve's damaged leg to take away some of the heat. Then he slipped some aspirin into McGarrett's mouth and forced his boss to drink several gulps of water.
 
"I didn't know you were so handy in the wilderness," McGarrett commented with amused appreciation.
 
"Every Boy Scout knows basic survival skills."
 
McGarrett grinned tiredly, scoffing, "I can't believe you were a Boy Scout. You were more interested in scouting the girls."
 
Dan pretended to be overly sensitive to the jibe. "Once I was too young to worry about girls."
"You were never that young, Danno," he retorted.
 
Conceding to the inevitable, Dan grinned and shook his head. "At least I could do a little for you. It'll have to do till we're back to civilization."
 
McGarrett patted his arm. "Thanks," he whispered. He leaned his head against Williams and closed his eyes.
 
All possible aid completed, Williams sat back against the cramped, close wall. He kept a steady hand on his friend's forehead. There was no good reason for the contact, except it helped settle his own sense of anger and helplessness. Rubbing mud and lava pebbles from his face with his other hand, he tried to concentrate on a plan to get them out of there.
 
With the typical speed of a tropical storm, the clouds pressed close to the coast and pounded the meager shelter. It was nearly black from the darkness, although Williams' watch read only four in the afternoon. They were not expected back to Hamakua at any specific time. In the storm, even if a rescue team made it to the cabin, they would never find the two cops down here. Williams would have to go out for help. He checked his friend, who was in a restless doze and Williams carefully slipped out of the cave for reconnaissance.
 
He jogged into the nearby forest and searched the area for a path. The ground was rugged and the flora thick. No question; McGarrett would never make it though there. Williams could hike out, but that would leave his friend alone for hours. He couldn't do it. There had to be another way. He checked out the sea cliffs which were jagged drops above a rough, stormy ocean. A strong swimmer would be nuts to try it. Carrying someone else along would be suicide. Depressed and frustrated, Williams returned to the lava tube.
 
As he crawled into the small space, McGarrett reached up and grabbed his arm.  "What's the situation?"
 
With an economy of words, Williams outlined their predicament. He rechecked the leg wound and gave McGarrett small sips of water. The head of Five-0 was barely on the edge of coherence, just nodded.
 
"We've got a tough one, Steve," was all Dan could manage to say in the long silence which followed his explanation.
 
"You'll get us out of here," he said, patting Williams' arm.
 
"I hope so," he sighed, not sharing in the confidence.
 
Over the rain Williams thought he heard voices. he edged toward the mouth of the tube and listened.
 
"Cops! Hey cops!" The robbers. Close. They knew the detectives were in the forest now. But not too close. They didn't have an exact location. "We still want to trade. Do it now and we can all get out of here!"
 
The challenge snapped McGarrett to alertness. "Who's that?"
 
Dan motioned him to whisper. "Oslo and Tanner. They say they'll let us go if we give them the plates."
 
McGarrett shook his head. He leaned back against the lava floor. "We'll never give them the plates."
 
"I know." Williams removed his poncho, folded it with the dry side out and placed it under McGarrett's head. The injured man was unconscious again. "I know," he whispered acidly, sorry he had ever agreed to come after the damn plates.
 
* * *
 

The dark, menacing storm clouds hugged the earth through nightfall. Then came a cold, rough wind raking the coast. The trees sang with nature's music as raindrops pelted staccato notes onto the lava rock.

 
McGarrett shivered from the drop in temperature. Williams grabbed the slickers and draped one over McGarrett. Fever had spread throughout McGarrett's body and the injured leg was burning like fire. Dan eased McGarrett up, wrapped the other poncho around his shoulders and leaned him against his chest. Williams put his back to the rock wall, then gently encircled his arms around the wounded man to add more warmth and comfort and try to calm the tremors exhausting McGarrett's body. Muscles and nerves involuntarily reacted to the trauma and heat of injury.
 
"Doesn't look good -- doesn't look good," McGarrett whispered.
 
Williams reminded himself delirium was a natural reaction to the wound. Still, it upset him. Steve was usually so rational, logical, strong. This rambling was heartbreaking.
 
"Gotta get back -- late, Danno --"
 
"We'll get back," Williams countered soothingly. His nerves were tight and raw, but to McGarrett he forced himself to sound reasonable and calm. "Don't worry, Steve, I promise we'll get back." He refolded the damp cloth and pressed it back onto the bulging leg which practically sizzled from the cool-on-hot. "Plenty of flights back to Oahu tonight. Just hang on. Please." The plea in his voice was clear.
 
After some time the shaking eased, but McGarrett's body was still hot. Williams started to pull away to reach for the canteen, but McGarrett grabbed onto his arm with a grip of desperation.
 
"Don't leave, Danno!"
 
"I'm not leaving, Steve, I promise. I just want to get you more water." He tried to reassure his friend with the words as well as the compassion in his tone.
 
McGarrett mutely shook his head to indicate he would not accept Dan moving for any reason.
A bit exasperated, Williams hooked onto the canteen strap with his foot and dragged the water within reach. He forced more water down McGarrett, then dripped it onto the wet cloth on Steve's leg, finally wiping water onto McGarrett's burning face. The liquid spilled over both of them, which didn't matter, Dan reflected, since both were already soaked from the rain and McGarrett's sweat.
 
"Plates?"
 
"We've got them, Steve, don't worry. Just relax." He trickled more water onto McGarrett's burning forehead and massaged the hot skin. "Pretend you're swimming under Waimea Falls. You've got a day off. Relax."
 
"Safe."
 
"Yeah. You're safe, Steve." He couldn't completely mask from his voice the bitterness he felt at that lie. McGarrett shook his head.
 
"I feel awful. You? Okay?"
 

Williams smiled with affection for his friend. Steve always seemed to be watching out for him. Touched by the concern, he responded quietly, "I'm fine. You're the one who's hurt." He shook his head, flinching as he glanced at the broken leg. "You're Irish luck always seems to be bad when it comes to catching bullets. Or breaking your head or your limbs."

 

McGarrett closed his eyes and settled more comfortably against his friend.

 
* * *
 
"How'd you ever get to be a cop?" came a slurred, tired question after a time.
 
Unsure how to respond to the weird question, Williams spoke what first came to mind. "Went through the training." It seemed the only possible comment after such a bizarre, delirium-based question.
 
McGarrett's eyes flickered with disapproval at the crack. "You bleed too much," McGarrett's next, strange comment.
 
Dan gently replied, "You've got things a little mixed up, Steve," was his tolerant reply. "You're the one who's hurt."
 
McGarrett shook his head. "In here." His hand fell against Williams' chest. "Worry too much, Danno, too much. Too much about me."
 
Dan blinked his eyes to keep the stinging tears from spilling down his face. Even in a state of unreality, McGarrett recognized Williams' overwhelming anxiety for McGarrett's safety. It was a consistent concern under normal circumstances, now pushed over the edge because of McGarrett's serious injury. The boss was notoriously blind-sided about protection. How could he explain what McGarrett's life meant? There was nothing Dan wouldn't do for his friend and Steve although motivations and concerns were never voiced between them. What a strange time to bring it up.
 
"You're important to me," Dan whispered shakily. "You're the boss. With you out of the way I'd have to do all the work."
 
The flippancy was feeble and McGarrett didn't even bother acknowledging it.
 
"Careful, Danno, careful," was McGarrett's cryptic whisper. Then he closed his eyes and shifted more comfortably against his friend.
 
Drawing McGarrett tighter against his chest, Williams gently wiped water on the heated face. The fever was frighteningly higher. With renewed fervency, he mentally searched for a way to get his friend out of danger and to medical help. They could not expect a search party to find them in time to help. His friend's fate was entirely in his hands.
 
Dan leaned his head back against the rough lava wall and released a deep sigh. In a momentary flash of guilt, he blamed himself for agreeing to this escapade. However, he was enough of a realist to recognize this situation was not his fault. Pure and simple, they were stuck here tonight because of Steve McGarrett's ego. The incredible McGarrett pride and arrogance to be the best, first and number one had created this precarious situation. That pride was Steve's worst fault, but something Dan had learned to overlook, even ignore, over the years. In the beginning of Dan's employment with Five-0 he had tried to confront, even antagonize Steve's sometimes arrogant attitude. After some heated, even nasty confrontations, Williams had eased off, learning life was a whole lot simpler and happier when you didn't buck the boss. If Steve was going to be wrong, he had to learn it for himself -- it was not a piece of information he could accept from others. The immunity to the character fault could be their undoing this time.
 
Williams kicked the plates with his foot. They were Steve's ticket out of here if he could trust the criminals. On the other hand, they might just kill him and Steve would be left to die alone in this cave. He glanced down at the friend sheltered in his arms. McGarrett was burning with fever, the heat generating against Williams' chest like a searing fire. He placed a hand gently on the thick, damp hair under his chin. Certainly any risk was worth taking to save his friend. Steve's life was more important to him than anything, even his own.
 
* * *
 

Sometime late in the night the rain ceased. By then Williams had come to a decision. McGarrett's fever would not subside and the risk to his health was frightening. Williams had to get them out. He secured the ponchos around his friend and hefted McGarrett over his shoulder. It would be a long, slow climb, but he would take the steep, short path to the north and make for the little town of Haina.

 
He struggled up the sharp slope of the forest for only a few minutes before he heard men running up behind him. He came to a stop and carefully placed McGarrett on the ground.
This was where it was going to get tricky. He thought of going for his gun, then resisted. Better to meet the crooks without aggression. He had to negotiate. He couldn't afford a shot-out with McGarrett in the open and their enemies well hidden in the forest.
 
"Don't shoot," he warned.
 
"Where are the plates?"
 
"Back in a lava tube about a dozen feet from the edge of the forest. You can have them."
 
"Why?"
 
"My friend's hurt. I need to get him out."
 
In the quiet of the night he could hear them confer in subdued whispers. He still couldn't target their exact location, so if he needed to defend himself he would be firing blind somewhere just to his left. It didn't matter. He was committed to getting Steve out and the only thing that would stop him would be a bullet. The question of trust, of ethics, of justice was no longer important to him. He had just spent eternal hours holding his suffering friend in his arms; his whole perspective of life was distorted through that emotional desperation. Steve depended on him and Dan was not going to let down his best friend.
 
"Get out of here," came a terse order out of the darkness.
 
Without question, Williams shuffled McGarrett back into his arms and hiked up through the forest. Within a few minutes he came across a decent trail which was not too slippery or steep. Williams focused on hiking the narrow path up through the close rainforest. Whenever he grew too tired, he would place McGarrett on the ground, take a breather, check the leg, reposition McGarrett and start again. As long as the bone didn't break through the skin, he thought things would be okay. The fever was no longer rising but was still terribly high.
 
The trail leveled off and Williams took it as a good sign. The optimism was confirmed when he heard the chorus of dogs barking nearby. Civilization. He quickened his pace toward the sound of the dogs and saw a porch light flickering through the trees. Someone came out of the front door and Williams nearly cried with joy.
 
"Hey, can you help me!" he shouted. "My friend is hurt."
 
A couple of burly Hawaiians emerged from the house. Succinctly, Williams explained his friend was hurt and needed an ambulance. Two of the men carefully took McGarrett's unconscious form and carried him into the house.
 
"What you doing out here?" one man asked.
 
"Uh -- hiking. We've been in the forest all day."
 
Williams had been about to reveal their identity, but stopped when he had noted the plants in the garden surrounding the house. These were marijuana farmers.
 
'And I thought all they grew up here was sugar cane,' he mused. He didn't think the hospitality would be the same if he told them Hawaii's two top cops were at their mercy.
 
His suspicion was confirmed when he was offered some pot while he waited. Wryly, he declined politely and sat down in a chair next to his friend. He placed a hand on Steve's arm in a gesture of reassurance. The nightmare was almost over. He dropped his face into his left hand -- weak with relief. Steve was going to make it.
* * *
 

"Of all the stupid, irresponsible -- you local yokels are hopeless idiots!"

 

Williams removed the phone a few feet from his ear. Before Simmons, the Treasury agent, finished yelling insults, Williams hung up. He had anticipated this kind of fall-out over the loss of the plates. The reputation of Five-0 would be damaged somewhat, but it was not irreparable. The state police unit had never enjoyed a smooth relationship with government agencies -- in Hawaii there was room for only one boss and McGarrett already had that slot. So the Feds were unhappy no matter what happened. As for the local press, well, they never sided with Five-0, he told himself. He just hoped his boss was so dismissive about the whole debacle.

 
He sat in Chief Aku's office and used the solitude to think. His toughest critic was yet to be told the whole story and he was still unsure how to approach that sticky explanation. Chief Aku came in. Laughing, he handed Williams a copy of the Hilo morning paper. It gave a diluted account of the dramatic survival of two Five-0 officers caught in the storm.
 
"Wish I could see da faces of dose pot farmers," Aku laughed. "Dey gonna be worried all day wonderin' if we'll bust em."
 
Dan smiled at the thought. Honokaa police had known of the farmers for months but had not moved on the small operation. Dan had not turned them in -- a trade for their welcome hospitality of the night before. Tiredly, he put aside the paper. He pressed his hands to his face, exhausted with fatigue and emotions. They had made it. Looking back on the misadventure, he considered their -- Steve's -- survival something of a miracle.
 
"You look like you could use a nap, Danny. We gotta bed in da back."
 
Williams shook his head. He had slept for little more than a few hours. He had been at the hospital until almost dawn. When the doctors reported McGarrett's fever under control and his condition stable, Williams had finally left. While at the hospital, he had phoned Chin to organize an APB; harbor and airport alerts on Tanner and Oslo. Ben and Duke were also contacted to generally keep Five-0 rolling until Williams could return to Honolulu. Then he had made his distasteful calls to the government groups concerned. He was finished with his duties, but too keyed up with tension and residual strain to rest.
 
Initial duties finished, he debated whether he should return to Honolulu immediately, or wait until after he had talked with McGarrett. Confident that his staff had things under control at the office, Williams opted to remain in Hilo for what would probably only be the rest of the day.  He looked out the window at the low-hung, dark clouds pressing against the lush green countryside.
"I think I'll take a walk," he decided.
He should go to the hospital.  Usually no one could pry him from McGarrett's side when the boss was in the hospital.  But this time, Dan was so riddled with guilt he didn't know what to say.  How could he face his friend.  Knowing he had to -- want to -- he started back to the police station.  He would borrow car and head over to see Steve, or stay with Steve, now.
 
He needed to think; of the consequences of his actions, of how he would confess. For him it was a bitter disappointment that they had lost the plates after all they had been through. To McGarrett it would be a disaster -- worse -- a failure. When Dan reached the police station he was soaked from being caught in another wave of the rain storm. Mentally, he was still undecided about what to say when his friend awoke.
 
"You got a call from Chin Ho," Aku reported when Williams came in. "Your criminals got snagged at da airport. With da goods."
 
"Great."
 
His voice did not reflect the stated opinion of the successful arrest. Now he had no choice in a statement to McGarrett or anyone else. The embarrassing truth would have to be told.
The phone on Aku's desk rang and the chief answered it. "Gottcha," he said and hung up.
"McGarrett is asking for you, Danny." Aku tossed him a set of car keys.
 
"Thanks." He rushed out the door, his mental dilemma no longer important. His greatest concern was seeing for himself that his friend was all right.
 
* * *
 

"Hi."

 
The greeting was quietly spoken as Williams poked his head around the corner of the curtain. The Hilo hospital was overcrowded and McGarrett had the unprivileged distinction of having to share a room.
 
"Hi, Danno."
 
Williams stepped closer and stood by the bed. McGarrett was still pale and worn, but he did not seem to be in any pain. Even from this distance Williams could tell the fever was insignificant now. The improved condition was a great relief to him.
 
"How are you feeling?"
 
"Pretty good." Steve gestured to the leg cast which he poked out from under the sheet. "A lot better than last night."
 
Williams nodded grimly. "Yeah."
 
"My memory is kind of hazy, but I know I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you, Danno." Williams started to wave away the gratitude, but McGarrett forged ahead. "Thanks for taking care of me."
 
Embarrassed and guilty at the undeserved praise, Williams countered, "I'm just glad it's over and you're going to be okay. That's what's important."
 
"And, we proved those Feds wrong. Did you take the plates back to Honolulu?"
 
"Chin's got them."
 
"Good. Maybe I can get the doc to let me out today so I can return them to Treasury myself."
 
"I don't think that's such a good idea, Steve."
 
"Why?" He felt his forehead. "My temperature's almost normal. I bet I can get out as soon as I find the doctor."
 
Under other circumstances, Williams would have been amused at 'doctor' McGarrett's self diagnosis. Now, he swallowed hard, knowing it was time he plunged into his confession.
 
"Steve, we didn't get the plates. Well, we had them, then we didn't. Actually, Tanner and Oslo had them when they were arrested in Honolulu at the airport.  That's how Chin finally got them."
 
Confusion flitted across his face. "We recovered them from the shack. How did they get the plates?"
 
Williams felt like he could hardly breathe. Tensed for the upcoming explosion, he explained, "Last night I -- I let them have the plates."
 
"What?"
 
"It was the only way to get you out, Steve. We were cornered and you were injured -- all I could think of was getting you out.  When they -- I traded them for our safe passage off the mountain."
 
"So you gave them the plates?" McGarrett's jaw was so tight the words barely escaped his lips.
 
"Yeah," Williams hardly whispered.
 
Anger sizzled in McGarrett's eyes and he turned away to stare at the curtain. Williams wanted to flee from the condemning presence of his friend, but stood his ground in a supreme effort of will. It was better to take the heat now than suffer a lingering torment awaiting sentence.
 
"Steve, I'm sorry I let you down. I know it's going to make Five-0 look bad, but I -- there didn't seem to be any choice," he finished lamely. He WAS bitterly anguished that saving his friend's life now caused McGarrett so much distress. He did not regret his decision, but he was sorry he had been forced to make such a damning choice. "I guess I better go now," he said quietly. "I need to get back to Honolulu. I'll be in touch."
 
He paused, but there was no answer from his friend. Not wanting to dig his grave any deeper, he left without offering more comments.
 
* * *
 

Chin picked him up at the Honolulu airport and reported that the plates had been turned over to Treasury agents. Tanner and Oslo had confessed without much interrogation and the case seemed neatly closed.

 

"So what's the problem, Danny?"

 
Williams pulled his gaze away from a study of the afternoon sun reflecting off the ocean running alongside Nimitz Highway. He had been silent the whole trip and still did not feel inclined to talk.
 
"It's not the way I wanted it to turn out," he admitted.
 
Kelly shrugged. "We got the plates, we got Oslo and Tanner. Steve and you came out okay. What's wrong?"
 
When explained so simply, it did seem rather churlish to worry about their one-upmanship with the Feds. Williams thought back to the terrible cold, wet, anxious night they had survived. Steve had come out safe and alive. Did anything else really matter? In the long run, to Williams, nothing was more important.
 
"You're right," Williams admitted. Silently, he added, 'I just hope Steve sees it that way some day.'
 
Because next to Steve's safety, the most important thing in Williams' life was the respect and friendship of McGarrett.  If he had to choose one and lose the other, then of course he would wish Steve safety.  That this might forever change the friendship he valued still hurt.  Steve would never forget this.
 
* * *
 

By evening, backlogged work was cleared away and Williams felt caught up with Five-0 business. He had learned long ago a day away from the office meant extra hours somewhere else during the week. Still, he was satisfied with his accomplishments. Now he had to ease his conscience about unfinished business in Hilo. He called Aloha Airlines.

 
"Yes, I'd like to know when your next flight to Hilo is scheduled."
 
He jotted down the time and glanced at the desk clock. Forty minutes. He could make it.
 
"I was hoping you'd stay here and give me a lift home."
 
The phone dropped out of Williams' hand. He whipped around to face Steve McGarrett, on crutches, standing in the doorway. Williams replaced the phone.
 
"Steve! Guess you don't listen to Hilo doctors any better than you do the ones in Honolulu."
 
"I'm fine," McGarrett insisted. He gently tapped his leg cast with a crutch. "Well, at least well enough to come home," he qualified. He looked directly at Williams. "I needed to be here to sort out a few things."
 
Williams walked around the desk to join his friend at the door. He wondered if he should jump off the Pali on his own, or wait until Steve pushed him over the edge. Then he really looked at McGarrett's face and knew dismissal and recriminations were the farthest things from Steve's mind.
 
In the blue eyes was a distant reflection of what Williams had seen there the night before; honest, unguarded and soul-deep affection. There was a hint of the dependence and revealing defenselessness usually hidden deep under McGarrett's surface; traces of what he had seen last night -- Steve at his most vulnerable low.  All those qualities had been there yesterday; exposed to the only person who would probably ever see those unprotected traits. Just the expression of tolerant fondness on McGarrett's face told Williams all he needed to know.
 
Dan understood then, that it would take a lot more than a mistake to wedge a serious rift between them. In fact, he doubted anything could sever the bond they had forged every day since they had met; re-forged yesterday to an indestructible solidity.
 
McGarrett placed a hand on Dan's shoulder. "I'm sorry about how I reacted. You saved my life -- risked yours -- and I was damn petty about your methods."
 
"Putting us at the mercy of criminals was a stupid thing to do," Williams admitted.
 
"You know what?"
 
"What?"
 
McGarrett squeezed the shoulder under his grip. "I would have done the same thing if our positions were reversed." Williams was about to protest, but McGarrett cut him off. "I would have done anything to save your life. All I can do is thank you for feeling the same about me. And thanks for taking care of me."
 
Williams gave a nod. As always, it was difficult to accept such deep and sincere praise from someone who rarely issued such accolades. Especially from the one person whose regard he valued above all others.

 

PAU