THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

 

PART ONE

 

Hawaii Five-0's third episode of the eleventh season was titled DEADLY COURIER. In that story, a state Department courier named Sherman is brainwashed and delivers a fatal bomb to his contact. While Five-0 is investigating the bombing, Dan Williams is kidnapped, tortured and brainwashed by Chinese agents. Williams' 'programmed mission' is to steal a government courier's bag protected by Five-0.

 

This special DANNO WHERE ARE YOU section starts immediately after the episode's dramatic climax at the airport. These pivotal events begin in the eleventh season, with far-reaching consequences. They are the foundation and explanation of the curious disappearance of Dan Williams in the twelfth season. Sensationally beginning in October of 1978, life-altering incidents affect the Five-0 characters in 1979 and beyond . . . . . .

 


 
TALONS OF THE DRAGON

by GM

 


 

**********************************

 

EXCERPT FROM DEADLY COURIER

 

***********************************

 

Keyed with sharp tension, McGarrett overlooked the airport from the second floor lanai lounge area. The vantage point commanded a clear vista of the walkway on the bottom level and the twin escalators connecting the levels. Confused and alerted by two bizarre and inexplicable phenomenons; Dan Williams leaving his post; the courier knocked out and the briefcase stolen. Steve wasn't sure what was going on and didn't stop to seek an explanation. From his angle, he observed several men rushing through the concourse, one with a black briefcase, broken handcuffs still attached. He called to Duke and some patrolmen to stop the thieves.

 

At that same moment McGarrett noticed Dan riding up the escalator, a Chinese woman clinging to his arm. A quick glance told Steve something was terribly wrong with Williams. After Lukela had recovered the courier's attaché case, McGarrett directed his full attention to Danno.

 

The woman issued harsh, urgently whispered commands to Williams. Face pale, sweaty and tight with confusion, Danno appeared ill. There were faint bruises around his temples, cheeks and eyes -- the eyes shone glassy with disorientation. McGarrett froze from inaction; from bewilderment, from a premonition of disaster gripping him in paralyzing fear. Dan and the woman reached the landing and confronted McGarrett.

 

"Danno!'

 

As if fighting with internal demons, Williams seemed to struggle with his own will. Abruptly he drew his revolver and aimed it at McGarrett!

 

Steve jumped back in surprise. "Danno, it's me! It's Steve!"

 

As distracting background noise, Steve could hear a blur of shouted commands from the woman. Concentrating intently on the mind-boggling crisis, he focused only on his friend. Williams was sweltering and terrified, his weapon held with an unsteady, nervous grip. Steve issued counter commands for Dan to surrender the gun. Time suspended. The only reality was the deadly standoff -- his closest friend aiming a weapon at him.

 

"Danno, give me the gun!"

 

Ever so slowly he closed the gap between them. As he stepped nearer his confidence and distress both escalated. Dan looked sick, in pain, and confused. McGarrett knew -- KNEW -- Williams was not going to shoot. Simultaneously, McGarrett's fear was also mounting because of the glassy, dazed look in Danno's eyes. The same look Steve remembered on his own face in the renunciation film, after he had been tortured, hypnotized and brainwashed by Wo Fat.

 

When Williams came within reach McGarrett grabbed onto the revolver then captured Williams in his arms. The younger detective was fevered, trembling, and drenched with sweat. Leaning heavily against Steve's chest, he gasped for air.

 

"Danno."

 

"Steve," Williams gulped, "I was going -- "

 

"No you weren't," McGarrett interrupted quickly, as calmly as he could. His own heart was racing with remnants of fear and disorientation. Embracing his friend in a death-grip hold, he used his strength to calm Dan's shivering.

 

"I was going to kill you --"

 

"No you weren't," McGarrett insisted firmly, certainly. He didn't want Danno to say, to think what had never been a possibility. Steve would never believe it! Dan would never, under any circumstances kill him. It was just not possible. Steve knew that. He would have to make sure Dan believed that as well.

 

"You all right? Danno?" He kept a tight grip around Dan for several minutes. They were both shaky and unsteady and Steve was reluctant to let go of his friend. A quick glance toward the end of the terminal showed McGarrett that the woman had been captured by Enslow, the State Department intelligence officer responsible for the courier. Enslow also had the courier's briefcase. Duke rushed up and took the Oriental women into custody.

 

**********************************

 

EXCERPT FROM DEADLY COURIER

 

***********************************

 

The technical details of the case in other hands, Steve's attention returned exclusively to his friend. He pocketed the .38 and tightly restrained Dan with both arms, pressing the curly head against his chest. McGarrett continued to reassure his friend that everything would be all right.

 

There was a sudden shift of the body -- a dead weight in his arms -- collapsing. Gently the older man laid Williams onto the floor. It took a few seconds for mental alarms to sound, for him to register that Dan had stopped breathing! Steve pressed a hand to the pale neck, to the cold, damp wrist. Holding his palm against the still chest, he frantically sought a heartbeat. His own heart seemed to skip a beat when he could not find a sign of life within the inert body.

 

Then suddenly a heartbeat thumped against McGarrett's trembling hand. He jumped with surprise. Quickly he replaced fingers on the carotid artery and a hand on Williams' chest to verify a beat, although already he could see his friend breathing again. Steve started to breathe again as well. Slowly Williams' eyes fluttered open. It took a few seconds for him to comprehend where he was. Alarmed, he bolted upward.

 

"Hold on, Danno," Steve warned. He firmly pressed back on Williams' shoulder until the younger detective rested on the floor again. "You're not going anywhere."

 

"How did I get down here?"

 

"You collapsed," McGarrett responded curtly, opting to not go into detail.

 

Williams was incredulous. "I fainted?"

 

The tinge of embarrassment could have been amusing in other circumstances. Still frightened from the alarming experience, McGarrett's response was grim. "If you want to call it that." Williams slowly leaned up on his elbow. McGarrett kept a steadying hand on the wan, sweaty, shaking detective. "You're not going anywhere except the nearest hospital." Williams fell back against McGarrett without offering an argument. Steve protectively held him until medical aid arrived.

 

During the ambulance ride McGarrett felt like a zombie. Insulated in his own sense of shock, his dazed mind snagged onto a terrible, unavoidable theory. Danno had been brainwashed, the proof evident from the abnormal behavior and condition of Williams: The heart failure, the near-shooting, the shock. On the inside of Williams' arms were countless bruises and needle marks. Steve also noticed discoloration and abrasions around the detective's wrists and face. He grimly studied the needle pocks and contusions. Clear indications of imprisonment and torture. Involuntarily, he winced, haunted whispers and ghostly images misted into his memory -- foggy tendrils of Wo Fat.

 

Pacing the halls of the hospital gave McGarrett ample time for reflection. He elected to put his mind to work on some problem, however revolting, to keep thoughts off the frightening realities of what had happened at the airport.

 

Brainwashing. They had seen it before. Steve had experienced it from Wo Fat. The first courier, Sherman, had been a recent victim -- now Danno. Psycho-hypnotic drugs, torture, sleep deprivation -- it sickened him to know it had all happened to Williams in the short course of a night and a morning. Also revolting were the theories threading through his mind. He understood first hand what Dan had gone through. What made it more painful was the idea that Dan was an innocent to such mental torments. McGarrett had a certain amount of training from his Naval Intelligence days; preparations for capture, torture and dealing with the related affects of those traumas. With those advantages it had been tough enough for him as a POW in Korea and later as a victim of Wo Fat's techniques. He could hardly imagine what someone totally unprepared, like Danno, must have gone through -- what he would still have to go through.

 

Steve didn't want to envision any of it, but disgustingly, he knew he would have to live with it and deal with it now. This second hand bystander role was in some ways worse than being the casualty. As the victim, he could handle his own suffering. Now, he had to watch his close friend endure all the anguish of post-torture. Sometimes the psychological aftereffects could be worse than the initial physical torment.

 

As McGarrett reviewed the events of the morning, it was hard to believe brainwashing had happened at all. Dan had acted so normal -- the joking, the assignment, the lie that his undercover visit to the import company had been uneventful.

 

'Some detective,' Steve thought derisively of himself, 'I never observed Danno close enough to see the obvious signs of torture and drugs! I shouldn't have let him go alone,' McGarrett recriminated.

 

"Use a cover, this gang is lethal," he had told Dan. Then he had not insisted on any follow up or back up! Careless and unforgivably stupid! Closing shop, he'd stopped by to see the Governor, then spent the night on his boat! While Danno was being tortured, he was out in the channel watching the Waikiki nightlife! He had never even thought to check back on the operation! 'Danno's a good cop,' he silently argued. 'It seemed easy . . . .'

 

"Use a cover, this gang is lethal."

 

What did he think -- Danno could call if he got into trouble? After Chin's fatal undercover assignment just a few months ago, how could he make such a blind mistake?

 

Duke quietly joined him in the hospital waiting room and reported the Oriental woman was in holding at HPD. Enslow said she was a known Chinese spy. Steve had lost sight of the whole reason for this chain of events. The operation now seemed meaningless, overshadowed by the personal tragedy still unfolding.

 

In a curt, cryptic monotone, Steve explained the situation to Duke. Lukela had already guessed much of what had occurred. He was subdued and responded in few woods. There was nothing to say, really. Duke had been through this after McGarrett's last encounter with Wo Fat. Having it happen to Dan on their home turf was frightening and a bit incomprehensible. It would take time for them to come through the shock.

 

At a brisk, business-like pace, a doctor emerged from the examination room. The physician mask was set firmly in place. Steve felt his blood drain away, an automatic response of expecting the worst and trying to brace himself to accept it.

 

"I'm glad you warned me about the drugs," the doctor said blandly. "We could have killed him if we pumped him with the wrong stuff on top of these unknown substances. Blood samples are at the lab now. We ought to know by tomorrow -- "

 

"Is he all right?" McGarrett cut in.

 

"As far as his physical condition goes, yes, he should recover completely. He's sleeping now, doing okay."

 

A long, unsteady sigh was released from McGarrett. "Why did his heart stop?"

 

The doctor shrugged. "I suspect a side-effect of the drugs. We'll monitor him. Might take a few days for the drug toxicity to wear off. There's still trace elements of the unknown toxin -- we're alert for aftereffects. He's slightly disoriented and running a fever now, so I'm keeping him for observation at least overnight. No problems so far aside from the minor symptoms I mentioned." The physician paused, then from McGarrett's pensive expression he continued. "Exhaustion and some minor bruising are nothing serious. I wouldn't worry about the drugs. A night in the hospital, then he'll probably be hitting the beach tomorrow."

 

"Thank you," McGarrett tersely dismissed. He turned to Duke. "Put a guard with Danno, just in case." It seemed like locking the barn door after the horse had escaped, but he was going to take no chances with his friend's safety.

 

 

 

*****

 

Steve stayed with Williams as the restlessly slumbering detective was wheeled into a private room. For some time McGarrett watched his friend twitch, groan and toss. The silent observation helped keep his mind occupied. There was a real reluctance to stray beyond the moment. He did not want to think of the future and knew it was because he dreaded what lurked there. Afraid the doctor was wrong; he feared a fatal relapse, or side effects from the drugs. Steve also feared facing the gritty aftermath, the reality, of recovery from torture and the demeaning, humiliating acts performed against the will. Recuperation meant a whole new brand of torture and self-examination. Danno would have to go through that painful process and McGarrett would be right there with him, going through his torment, and the memories of his own convalescence three years ago -- ten years ago -- with Wo Fat. Now, faced with his reaction in this crisis, he wondered how much he had really recovered.

 

*****

 

Just before McGarrett's arrival at Seaside Import-Export Co., the crime scene investigators discovered the door to a hidden passage in the back room of the shop. Stiff with tension, McGarrett warily entered the high tech laboratory. It made his skin crawl to think of the cold, efficient equipment here; sterile and empty, used last night to crush his friend's mind and will.

 

Unbidden, comparisons flew into his thoughts. This, however, was not the dingy, dirty, rat-infested cell which had been Wo Fat's prison in Hong Kong. This was not the sensory deprivation chamber Wo Fat had used the first time they had met. This was not a bamboo cage in the hot summer plains of Korea. The scene, still, was a parallel; a ruthless, cruel torture chamber used by vicious Chinese to exact twisted results from an innocent American.

 

The crime team bustled around the room cataloging evidence, snapping pictures and lifting prints. McGarrett was careful not to touch anything. Not solely for the sake of preserving evidence, but because he couldn't stomach the thought of coming in contact with the gruesome instruments. The straps --stained with dark smudges -- which had bound Dan's wrists. The hypodermics filled with milky liquid, the needles discolored with blood. He assigned an officer to send all drugs to the hospital for immediate testing. Maybe they could get some answers to help Dan's recovery. Aside from keeping the evidence intact there was the need to distance himself from the physical reality of the torture scene. Beyond the cleanliness and electronic wizardry, spectres of grimy, dirt-smudged walls and skittering rats lurked in the grottos of his mind. Always in the deepest recesses of his thoughts there loomed the menacing shadow of Wo Fat.

 

*****

 

Morbid fascination and a compulsion to overcome the pressing anxiety impelled McGarrett to leave for HPD. Lukela handled the booking of the prisoner and had started initial interrogation. Duke was out in the hallway pacing when McGarrett arrived. The head of Five-0 could see at a glance that the Hawaiian was seething with anger. It took something nasty for the redoubtable veteran Lukela to lose control of his temper.

 

"This kind of thing makes me wish we could throw away the rule book," Duke snapped out tightly, his voice ragged with emotion. "Enslow sent one of his State Department minions over," Lukela said with contempt. "The guy's name is Webb and he's putting a gag order on this whole thing, Steve. I don't like it."

 

Steve sympathized with the roiling feelings. When someone as close as Danno was hurt it was tough to see beyond the rudimentary passion for vengeance. They needed more than ever to lean on the law now, to keep them from sinking to the level of the animals they were pursuing.

 

"I know, Duke," McGarrett agreed warily. "I know. Where is the dragon-lady?"

 

Lukela jerked his head toward the door behind his back. "Reynolds and Hokala are sweating her now. I couldn't stand it anymore."

 

"She won't cooperate?"

 

"Keeps giving us the phony name Marla Kahuana and insists she doesn't know anything about Danny or the courier." His eyes narrowed with contempt. "She's solid, Steve, like a block of ice. Like a pro."

 

McGarrett motioned to the next doorway. They entered the small room where, through a one way mirror, they could view the interrogation. Several detectives were already in the observation room recording and monitoring the session. Steve and Duke slid to the back of the room.

 

It was amazing how chill and controlled the woman was, McGarrett thought. Just her bearing and superior attitude made him want to slug her right in the face and break the icy facade. He knew it was an instinctive, barbaric reaction, but he felt it all the same. Underneath her perfect, affected mask was cloaked the heart and mind of a beast and he wanted nothing more than to confront that vicious dragon on her own savage level. As he had often wanted to confront Wo Fat with no rules or laws confining him.

 

With some surprise he realized his hate for Wo Fat was in the past-tense. His memories of the spy master were still intense and charred with contempt, but it was historic. The revulsion for Marla was in the present, real and fired with vivid hatred. Presented in this perspective, McGarrett realized that he was truly recovered from his mind-control ordeals. The memories, the emotional detris still lingered, but more like an occasionally recurring fear, not the waking nightmare that shadowed him for so long. The realization lent him a sense of strength, which he would have to call upon in helping Williams through the upcoming recovering period.

 

He refocused on the porcelain-like mask/face of Kahuana. This she-beast had been restricted by no morals, ethics or humanity in her treatment of Danno. Did she deserve anything better? With a regretful sigh McGarrett knew that she would receive better treatment whether or not it was deserved. One of the patrolmen who helped at the airport, Paul Nakamura, joined them at the back.

 

"Makes me sick," he spat out. "I heard they ran her prints through Washington and Interpol, top priority. Nothing so far. And she's not lettin' anythin' slip. Wish a few of us could go in there for a few minutes off the record with her!"

 

There were no words of comfort to offer in response. McGarrett agreed with the officer's attitude and feelings. He guessed the HPD officer, involved in events from the shocking beginning at the airport, was ready to take this woman out and shoot her. Williams was considered ohana at HPD. If word spread about the torture there probably wouldn't be an officer in the building who would want to play fair with the Chinese woman known as Marla Kahuana. Somehow that thought held no comfort. To the involved officers' credit, they had all followed procedure and played by the rules of the land so far.

 

A few more minutes of listening to Kahuana's answers-by-rote and Steve was angry enough to go in the interrogation room himself. He didn't know what he could accomplish, but he felt compelled to meet with her face to face. Stopped by a knock at the door, he was pleasantly surprised when John Manicote, the State's Attorney General, entered the room. He should have known Manicote would rally behind them in this crisis. John was a friend to the Five-0 group.

 

Steve appreciatively shook hands. "You're moving fast on this one, John. Mahalo."

 

Manicote bit his lip. He glanced through the glass at Marla, then back at McGarrett. "How's Danny?"

 

"By the grace of God it looks like he'll be all right," was the terse reply. Steve couldn't bring himself to offer cover-up clichés. It would be awhile before Dan -- any of them -- would recover from this.

 

"Steve," John began hesitantly, "We've got a complication to Ms. Kahuana's arrest."

 

Steve's mind instantly flooded with a string of technicalities which might have snagged the arrest. Didn't they Mirandize her? Did State want to claim her as their prize? McGarrett stilled the flood of doubts racing through his mind.

 

"What complication, John?" It was a harsh challenge.

 

Again, visible hesitation. To John's credit, he continued to look McGarrett straight in the eye. "I've been contacted by the Chinese Embassy. Ms. Kahuana is an undersecretary with their staff."

 

McGarrett felt his blood run cold. "What exactly does that mean?" Every word was enunciated as if cut off by sword's blade. "If she's a member of their staff," he continued icily, "what was she doing running the Seaside Import Company?"

 

"She owns an interest in the company. Look, Steve, it doesn't matter what the details are she is on the diplomatic staff of the Chinese Embassy!" His voice was sharp and loud, a reaction of his own anger and frustration. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"

 

Voice and hands shaking, McGarrett clenched his fists into tight balls to counteract the violent rage building inside him. In frightening contrast, his voice was silkily cold and deadly. "Do you mean to tell me she has diplomatic immunity?"

 

"Yes."

 

"NO!"

 

"Steve --"

 

McGarrett exploded. "Do you know what she did, John? What she did to Danno --"

 

"Steve --"

 

"She can' t get away with this!" McGarrett shoved past Manicote toward the door.

 

"She's not, Steve! Not exactly." Manicote he took a breath for courage. "We've demanded her deportation."

 

"Deportation? No way, John!"

 

"Steve!" Manicote had a grip on McGarrett's arm to keep the detective from rushing from the room. It was a one-sided struggle since Manicote was nearly a foot shorter than the head of Five-0, and motivated by justice instead of his opponent's passion. "Steve, it's done. Webb from State is escorting her to the airport." He was dragged along to the doorway as he continued to cling to McGarrett's arm. "It's out of our hands, Steve!"

 

During Manicote's entreaties an HPD officer, a Chinese gentleman and Webb -- a tall, thin, dark-haired man, sober and stiff in his government issue three-piece suit -- entered the interrogation room. Webb, an operative of Enslow's shadow-staff from State Department intelligence, spoke to Kahuanu in Chinese. McGarrett watched through the one-way glass as Marla coolly, regally, rose from her chair and exited the room. McGarrett broke free of Manicote, lunged out the door and into the hall, nearly colliding with the two Chinese.

 

Standing just a few feet in front of him, Marla was small, petite and exuding tangible waves of disdain and lethal danger. For Steve, the air fairly crackled with intensity and venom as they stared at each other. Completely aware of his anger and hatred for her, she, in turn, was filled with loathing and contempt for him.

 

"You're not going anywhere. Diplomatic immunity be damned!"

 

Webb stepped forward and tried to push McGarrett away. Almost eye to eye, Steve stared him down, silently communicating he meant business.

 

"Give it up, McGarrett. Her release is signed, she's out of your hands." The Five-0 detective did not budge. "You want me to get the governor for you, McGarrett? We've all got orders, now follow yours instead of making trouble. You can't win."

 

Fists balled with rage, he stepped to the wall.

 

"Don't forget me," she silkily whispered as she walked close. "I have the feeling we will meet again, Mr. McGarrett."

 

There was no subtlety in his returning threat. "Oh, I promise I'll never forget you. And I sincerely hope we do meet again." Between words he ground his teeth in a struggle for control. He fought to keep his voice steady. Although he was aware he had already lost the battle, he would not show an ounce of surrender to the enemy. "I hope it's here in Hawaii. Because after this your diplomatic immunity won't protect you from a parking ticket. Bet on it! And I've got a lot more than that to charge you with."

 

There was no fear or intimidation in her wide, dark eyes. Challenge and dismissal rippled beyond the falsely-serene mask. "It is not I who will need protection, Mr. McGarrett." Offering the slightest bow of her head she whispered, "I leave you my legacy. Remember there is no defense against the talons of the dragon." Then she literally turned up her nose and walked away with the aide.

 

"Can they get away with this, Steve?" Duke asked, the misery and betrayal clear in his voice.

 

"They haven't yet," he responded with fire. "I'm calling the State Department."

 

"Don' t bother," Webb interrupted. With an air of dismissal he gave a nod to the group to proceed. Stepping back to confront the officers, he revealed, "She's in my custody, McGarrett. Stay out of it. Accept your losses and mind your own business." Then he walked away to join his charge at the stairs.

 

"Steve," Manicote interrupted, "where do you think the deportation order came from? I just got off the phone with Jonathan Kaye before I came here."

 

Ignoring the comments McGarrett stalked down the hall. He had suspected Kaye was involved -- the Pentagon intelligence officer always seemed entangled with this cloak and dagger stuff. McGarrett would still call. It would probably change nothing, but he had to fight through every option. How could he ever face Dan, or himself, without taking this to the limit? It went against everything he believed in, everything he was feeling now, to let Kahuanu -- or whatever her name was -- walk. It was as revolting to him as when he had been forced to let Wo Fat escape on several occasions. He would do everything he could to keep history from repeating itself this time.

 

*****

 

McGarrett returned to the office in a barely contained fury. His call to Jonathan Kaye in Washington was a waste of time. Kaye reiterated the privileges of diplomatic immunity and insisted on suppressing the truth of the spy ring with a gag order. Inquiries already traveling the coconut wireless would be put to rest. The official statement of the incident would vaguely mention that Officer Williams of Hawaii Five-0 was injured in the pursuit of an international smuggling ring. The smugglers escaped and Williams would recover without complications. End of story. Justice for an island cop ranked too low to risk displeasure with the State Department and Chinese government.

 

Frustrated beyond words, Steve telexed Marla's prints to a valuable old friend in New York. Napoleon Solo, formerly connected with the U.N.C.L.E., promised to help ferret out the woman's true identity. Then Steve made an attempt to bury himself in paperwork. {The Napoleon of Crime Affair and others(see CROSSOVERS)}

 

Lukela arrived to offer support and commiseration in their mutual aggravation. The facade of activity was pathetic -- Steve simply could not concentrate. There had never been a failure quite like this one -- such a personal failure. He didn't know how to cope with it. By evening he finally ordered Duke to go home. Lukela commented he could not sit around and do nothing and opted for the pistol range to work out his anger on some helpless targets.

 

To work off his own seething rage Steve went home, changed, and jogged down to Kapiolani Park and back. After a hot shower he dressed in casual clothes and sat out on his lanai to watch the outrigger canoe teams rowing up and down the canal.

 

The first quiet time allowed during the agonizing day, Steve knew it was a mistake. The pause in tempo and energy left him time to think. The terrors which crowded his thoughts were the fearful memories of Dan holding the pistol on him -- the terrifying instant when Dan had momentarily died. The heartbeat had stopped only briefly, but still, he had died.

 

Tears welled in Steve's eyes. The aftermath of fear, the sense of loss, was catching up to him. Savagely, Steve swiped at the tears with a shaky hand. He knew this was his delayed reaction to the trauma. Still, he hated to lose control because one crack in the resolve could lead to his barricades collapsing.

 

No, he couldn't allow himself to crumble because then he would have to really face the stark horror of Dan's brainwashing and near-death and he could not handle that yet. Escape -- he had to get out. Too much thinking was dangerous. Impulsively he drove out to his beach house in Aina Haina. For hours he walked the strip of sand around Malama Bay. Still unable to keep his thoughts under control, to keep the emotions at bay, he drove to where his heart had been all along.

 

*****

 

When he reached the nurse' s station he unexpectedly met the cool, tactless Dr. McBride. The thin, thorny, sour psychiatrist who had investigated the Sherman brainwashing, was bluntly to the point.

 

"I think your Mr. Williams is going to have a hard time coming out of this."

 

Warily, he asked, "You've talked to him?"

 

"Yes, however, he has not responded well. He is uncommunicative," McBride returned sharply.

 

McGarrett's defenses sprang up full force. This prickly shrink was insensitive and uncooperative. She was much colder and harsher than previous psychiatrists who had worked with Five-0 years before. Never in a mood to hone his people-skills, he wouldn't bother to waste time working on tact.

 

Steve mounted an offensive. "A bit of a snap judgment, don't you think? He's gone through a hell of a nightmare!"

 

"You saw Sherman's overt reactions," she continued, unruffled by his criticism. "Williams' reaction is completely opposite -- withdrawn and vacant. No response. He won't talk to me. Even under hypnosis he is resistant."

 

Incensed, Steve took it as a personal affront that she would attack his friend. After all, she was not only an outsider, but a psychiatrist/minion of the State Department! She had no business making spot evaluations of Danno. Williams probably didn't respond because he had had enough of probing women!

 

"You mean you gave him more hypnotic drugs?" he asked dangerously. "Because he won't talk to you?"

 

"Psychological treatment is not in your purview, Mr. McGarrett. The State Department authorized any means I thought advisable for Williams and Sherman. Hypnosis is common -- "

 

"You back off, doctor! Leave Dan Williams alone! He's been through enough without your meddling!"

 

"You don't have the authority --"

 

"He's my officer! You can do whatever you think you need to about Sherman, but Dan Williams is an officer of this state. You have no jurisdiction with him and I demand you leave him alone! As of this minute!"

 

Glaring daggers at him, McBride promised repercussions over the dictatorial attitude and rude treatment. Considering his disposition unprofessional, she declared the conflict was not over. Angry at the dismissal (she had NEVER been treated like this!), she implied she had retrieved enough information for now, agreed to a temporary stay of evaluation, but insisted she WOULD question William again.

 

When Steve entered the private room he was shaking with rage. He quietly stepped to the bed and for a moment just watched his friend. Perhaps silence was Dan's form of coping. A reaction Steve could empathize with. Dan needed to have some time and distance from all the mind games. Even the defensive posture of facing the wall gave Williams the image of a wounded soul cowering from the world.

 

After a deep breath, Steve gently tapped the detective's shoulder. "Danno?"

 

There was no response. From the tone of the breathing he could tell Dan was awake. Worried, McGarrett firmly pressed his hand to his friend's hot, sweaty arm.

 

"Danno. I know you probably don't feel much like talking. That' s okay. I want you to know I'm here." He waited for a few minutes. The silence worried him. He tried to instill all the sincerity and concern he felt into his voice. "I want to know you re okay."

 

What he wanted to say was, 'Don't close me out, please. I need you to include me so we can work this out together.'

 

Williams' hands covered his face. His voice was muffled, but unmistakably cracked with emotion. "I tried to kill you."

 

"No you didn't!" Steve snapped back. "You didn't do anything!" Drawing a breath he tried to steady his own nerves. He had to approach this with calm, gentle persuasion. Dan was on the very edge of emotional hysteria. Steve had completely misjudged the depth of trauma to his friend. He had come here for reassurance for himself, and to reassure Dan all was well now that the danger was past. Steve had not rationally accepted that the worst was still ahead.

 

"I aimed the gun --"

 

"Danno," he interrupted firmly, "I know YOU. That's all I need to know. You would never hurt me. Never! Whatever happened wasn't your fault. You were brainwashed." Forcing his tone to be trusting and reasonable, he had to make Danno see nothing had changed. Nothing had shaken his complete confidence in his friend. "You are not to blame."

 

"You can't ever trust me again

 

"That's not true. You had no control. That's what you told me in Hong Kong, Danno. remember?" [episode -- NINE DRAGONS]

 

"That was different."

 

Tired of being ignored, McGarrett went around to the other side of the bed. He pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of Williams. Gently he moved Dan's hands away so he could look into his friend's face. The blue eyes would not make contact, but they were as transparent as windows into the deepest emotions of the heart. There was terrible pain there; an utter exhaustion of body and soul, a fathomless agony. Steeling himself, McGarrett pressed on. If he did not get through this now they would never bridge the gap. There would forever be a rift in the most valuable friendship he had ever known. McGarrett would not allow that.

 

"You were drugged, tortured, brainwashed, and forced to perform a degrading act of betrayal. How is that different than what happened to me?"

 

There it was, out in the open with a non-stop run of words. Before he could think the confession/interrogation had taken a disturbing, self-exposing turn. Part of him wanted to race away, flee out the door and escape this all-too-exposing conference of honesty. The other part, the better, big-brother part of him, refused to leave the field and abandon his fallen ally.

 

"I tried to kill you!" The words were wrenched out of Williams' torn heart. For the first time Dan looked at him. Tears spilled out of the tortured blue eyes and onto the pillow . The voice reflected pure agony. "I betrayed YOU!"

 

Shaking uncontrollably, Dan pulled his hands free of Steve's grasp and covered his face, then burrowed into the pillow again and cried. Each sob was like a knife blade slashing at McGarrett's exposed soul; opening old wounds left by Wo Fat, deepening new wounds left by Danno's ordeal.

 

Not knowing what else to do Steve impulsively reached over and placed his hands over Dan's. It was the only comfort he was capable of rendering. They were beyond the shallowness of words. They shared a mutual need to be reassured and McGarrett was the only one capable of relating on this level of Williams' anguish, the only one who could possibly help his violated friend.

 

It was several minutes before the sobs subsided into quiet hicoughs and finally into deep, shuddering sighs. Williams placed one of his hands over Steve's. For a long time he made no attempt to move. Even when gentle snores indicated Dan had fallen asleep, the link was not broken.

 

*****

 

It was after midnight when McGarrett pulled into his parking garage. Once home he wearily sought solace and peace on the lanai. Quiet, calm. Honolulu nights this time of year were warm and breezy. Located at the back of Waikiki, McGarrett's apartment missed most of the hustle and noise of the tourist spots. The bright, huge tropical moon was intermittently laced with drifting clouds.

 

The canal was a dark sheet of undulating, satin-like watery ribbon which shone in a sparkling sheen under the lunar light. In the other direction he could see tiny house and street lights pinpointed at the foot of Diamond Head. He had picked this location for it's ideal view and it's close proximity to the beach and the park. From here he could easily reach several destinations -- jog or play tennis -- without driving and fighting street traffic. The calming peace of the night view was an added bonus. At this moment, the serenity was a much needed balm. He never had a lot of time to enjoy the night solitude. Most of his nights were spent at the Palace. Tonight he chose to avoid the office. No way he could work -- the Palace held too many reminders of the recent case. He drank in the natural beauty around him and had a chance to think and sort out his tangled, worn nerves before he put his exhausted body to bed.

 

In the early morning hours he dozed to sleep in his chair, his feet propped up on the railing. Disturbed by intangible nightmares of Wo Fat; of Marla, of Dan shooting him, Steve awoke stiff, disturbed and fatigued.

 

Faint tinges of pink outlined the black silhouette of Diamond Head. Dawn was not far away. With a deep sigh he ran fingers through his thick hair and contemplated his next move, planned out his morning. It was a relief to concentrate on something mundane and less threatening than Chinese spies and torture.

 

Changing into jogging clothes he left the apartment, hoping to run out his distorted confusion. Deciding change might help clear his thoughts he jogged a stretch of beach on Waikiki instead of his usual route around Kapiolani Park. At the Halekulani he ran up to Kalakaua Avenue past the closed shops, down to the Hawaiian Hilton and through the beachwalk to the sand. He stayed on the firm, wet beach where the waves lapped up and back, instead of the soft sand farther up toward the hotels. Playing a little game of keep away with the water, he tried to see how close he could come to the waves without getting his shoes wet.

 

The sky was now light although the sun would not clear the hotel skyline for a while. There were a number of walkers and joggers out enjoying the morning on a uniquely empty Waikiki beach. In preparation for the busy day ahead the sand in front of the hotels had been raked clean. Chairs, outriggers and surf boards were being readied for the tourist mobs. It was a good time to be out.

 

At Kapiolani Park the beach ended and he automatically ran up the sidewalk along Kalakaua Avenue. Well down the tree shrouded street he abruptly stopped cold. Out of habit he had been heading towards Dan's apartment which was at the other end of the park. Sometimes, when Dan was without morning company, they would jog together. McGarrett always took the beach route to the park then back along the street with his friend.

 

The pace now ruined, he caught his breath and jogged back along the street. Dodging the thickening morning traffic, he made his way back to the canal and down to his apartment. The scenic beauty of the morning had been shattered.

 

Now his mind was filled with the spectres which had never really left, but had been temporarily pushed aside. Since Dan's ordeal, wraiths had haunted McGarrett and he could not ignore them nor hide from them. They were ghosts of his own torture, brainwashing, bitterness, anger and humiliation. Wo Fat was still out there somewhere as an unresolved threat, a ghost still capable of hauntings. Danno would share the same fate and McGarrett seemed destined to relive this unresolved justice all over again.

 

 

 

*****

 

McGarrett stopped at Williams' apartment and picked out some casual clothes. He arrived at the hospital as breakfast trays were being cleared. Steve approached the door of William's room and nearly collided with a nurse. She was a short, pretty Hawaiian girl and was laughing when she stepped into McGarrett.

 

She blushed. "I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going."

 

Steve grinned. "Had your mind on your patient?"

 

The nurse's blush deepened. "You must be Mr. McGarrett," she countered, neatly avoiding his question. "I was warned about you." She threw her head back in a gesture indicating the room. "Nobody warned me about your friend. I'm sorry he's being released today."

 

With that cryptic comment the latest Williams' conquest left. Amused, McGarrett wondered; who had alerted her, and what was his reputation which warranted a warning to hospital staff? When he peaked into the room he was pleased to see Williams dressed in hospital-issue robe, impatiently pacing the room. He seemed healthy, energetic and completely recovered from the physical affects of the day before. It was a positive, delightful scene entirely different from the dark memories of the night before. Clearly, Williams' recovery was as dramatic as his breakdown and McGarrett couldn't have asked for better medicine for his own gloom.

 

"Giving the nurses trouble?"

 

"Steve!"

 

McGarrett laid the folded clothes at the end of the bed. "Thought you might need these."

 

"Thanks. I can't wait to get out of here."

 

Standing to the side of the bed, Steve observed the meal tray was still full, the food pushed around on the plate, but not eaten. He also noticed Dan was reacting just slightly off mark --odd -- a little nervous.

 

Williams paced the room and finally took a perch on the end of the bed. McGarrett wondered if his friend was uncomfortable at his arrival. Perhaps it was a unique reaction to the brainwashing -- a resistance to conformity and conventional behavior. A residual physical reaction to the potent drugs, whatever they had been. On closer inspection, Steve noted his friend's face was darkly accented by eye-shadows and lines from fatigue and stress. The physical evidence hit home to Steve that it would take more than just a few days of R&R for his friend to physically bounce back from this blow.

 

When McGarrett returned from his POW experience, he had displayed odd quirks. To this day he could not think in a closed room. He was constantly seeking windows and looking outside. Imprisonment had left him with an odd kind of claustrophobia. He would have to be alert for those new idiosyncrasies in Dan.

 

"How are you doing, Danno?"

 

"Fine, fine," he assured glibly. His tone suddenly dropped to a subdued, quiet, regretful recollection. "I know last night was scary. I don't remember a lot. What I do remember --" he stopped and stared at his hands for a moment. Just for a second his eyes seemed vacant, then they cleared. "It was pretty emotional and -- frightening." His face blushed a deep red. "Sorry. The doctor said my emotions are going to be unstable for a few days."

 

'Unstable hardly covered it,' instantly leaped to mind. Vocally, McGarrett waved away the apology. "It was the drugs, Danno. Don't let it bother you. What's important is how you feel now."

 

"Fine," he said instantly. At McGarrett's skeptical look Dan sheepishly amended the statement. "Well, a little shaky. And I really ache. Leftovers from the drugs and -- and torture, I guess."

 

Stumbling over mention of the torture was another sign that Dan had a lot of readjustments ahead. McGarrett was also wary of the bouncing emotions and non-stop prattle of his colleague. The cheery over-compensation was starting to worry him.

 

McGarrett stood beside Williams. "You seem much better," he responded optimistically.

 

After a moment of thought Dan was embarrassed again. "Did I say something pupule last night? I'm really sorry." His still pale face blushed again. "There are a few heavy bits of melodrama I remember, I was hoping they belonged to some terrible dream."

 

With easy reassurance McGarrett made it clear there was nothing said or done to worry about. All drug induced and not worth mentioning. Perhaps if Dan was lucky, the memory would never fully return. As for himself, Steve thought, he would never forget anything about yesterday or last night.

 

Bravely, Dan said, "I remember I tried to kill you."

 

"Not you -- "

 

"Okay, okay," Dan relinquished with a quirk of a gin, "I DO remember you drilling it into my skull that this wasn't my fault." Very serious, he stared into McGarrett's eyes "But it was, Steve. I know yesterday wasn't the first time I tried to kill you." When McGarrett's expression registered confusion, Dan quickly explained. "You wore Navy suntans and I -- I shot you." [MURDER EYES ONLY]

 

"No!" Steve sharply denial. "That was a test! Don't you remember? Dr. Brinkman's experiment -- it was a test!"

 

Angry and disturbed, he demanded to know how Williams remembered the years-old hypnotic demonstration that helped them solve a murder and espionage conspiracy when they were working with Naval Intelligence. McGarrett was livid when he learned Dr. McBride discovered the repressed memory of the test through regressive hypnosis. The psychiatrist had brought back Dan' s full knowledge of that experiment in mind control, as well as the details of the torture by Marla Kahuanu. McGarrett found the methods unforgivable. Danno would have been so much better off if he could forget.

 

"Can you ever forgive me?" Williams plaintively wondered.

 

Steve should have anticipated the downward plunge. He tried to keep his own reaction steadily positive. "There's nothing to forgive, Danno. YOU didn't have control. You couldn't pull the trigger yesterday because you could never do anything to hurt me. Ever!" He was almost shouting and forced himself to back off from the strident, intense reprimand. Calming, with formidable effort, his voice and demeanor mellowed. "Better than anyone else I should understand what you' re going through. Stop blaming yourself, Danno." He gave a slight nod and a raise of his eyebrow, waiting for confirmation of what he said. "It was never -- NEVER -- Dan Williams holding that gun on me."

 

Dan replied silently with a slow nod. He turned to stare out the window and his face held a distant quality far removed from the scenery. Clearly he was thinking through the advice, trying to make it fit his feelings. Finally he looked back at McGarrett. His eyes, his voice, were haunted "Do you ever forgive yourself?"

 

McGarrett suppressed the urge to squirm under the scrutiny, under the starkness of the probing question, under the demand for honesty and help from his friend. His fingers tapped a nervous cadence on the end of the bed.

 

"Over time, yes," he responded slowly. A partial truth. There were still vestiges of guilt trapped in the backwashes of his mind which he couldn't reconcile. To himself, thought, he had long ago admitted he could not have done more to fight Wo Fat.

 

"This isn't your fault, you know, Steve."

 

Far away in time and distance, McGarrett took a moment to come back to the new line of conversation. He forced his mind away from his own dilemma, his own memories and into the present.

 

"What?" he replied, truly confused. He was having difficulty again keeping up with Dan's bouncing train of thought.

 

"You're going through what I went through. Don't forget, I was once in your same position," Dan explained. "Blaming myself for Wo Fat capturing and brainwashing you in Hong Kong. I was upset and guilty that I somehow couldn't prevent it, and then after it was done, I was disturbed that I couldn't help you through it. At least for awhile."

 

"But you did help, Danno. As soon as I let you. And I expect you to let me do the same for you. I don't think we need to examine MY psyche, either," he said firmly. "One at a time is enough. I just want to make sure YOU'RE not the one blaming yourself right now."

 

Uncomfortable with the truth and honesty game they were playing, McGarrett backed away and leaned against the window. As usual, Danno had pegged it right. There was a lot of guilt and blame in his mind. He should have checked on Dan' s progress, he thought for the thousandth time. He never should have approved an undercover job without back up.

 

That was how they had lost Chin. [episode -- DEATH IN THE FAMILY]

 

Steve recognized his guilt for an even greater oversight. He had maintained some kind of blind spot with this undercover business. Since Chin's death on the fateful undercover assignment not so long ago, Steve had purposely blinded himself to vulnerabilities of Duke, and especially, Dan. Steve couldn't comprehend that something could happen to another close friend. Sending Williams on the assignment and not checking up on his progress was just another way of proving to himself that everything would be all right. What a fool he had been! His blindness had proved nearly fatal to his closest friend. He could not handle losing another team member, especially not Danno.

 

With a mental start he realized the interview was entirely too probing and Williams was suddenly all too perceptive. He guessed it was probably a way for Dan to focus on other problems than on his own. Steve could relate to that and tried to do the same thing after his brainwashing. Strange how their reactions differed. He had pushed everybody away then, particularly Danno, the one closest to him, the one who should not see all the flaws. McGarrett had been trying to ignore the incident and thus hoped everyone else would as well. Dan had never budged, however, and had stuck by him, had become a constant presence who ignored what had happened, looking beyond the failures to the core of their friendship.

 

Not believing in the need for much psychological detraining, Steve had not done more than answer a few questions during a physical exam after escaping Wo Fat. After some rocky days between Dan and he, they had reestablished their relationship and McGarrett settled back into a normal routine. That had been the only detraining he had needed.

 

Now, living similar events from the other side, he wondered if time alone would be enough for Williams. Steve found himself a little afraid to reach out far enough to offer any kind of open, unguarded aid. It would be so close to his own emotional scars. He wanted to make sure Williams was not left with any such scars. He vowed he would do whatever he had to for his friend. Danno should have the best possible care, including anything he could do to help.

 

"Don't worry, I'll be okay," the younger detective stated, but nothing in his tone corroborated the assurance.

 

To Steve it was like a distant, distorted echo of his own feelings and attitudes after his encounter with Wo Fat. Williams was following too closely in the agonizing footsteps Steve had left behind. He had to do something to knock Williams back on the right mental track. A searing jolt of honesty seemed a difficult, but obvious choice.

 

"Did you ever forgive me for betraying my country?" Steve wondered, turning to look at Williams.

 

Dan scoffed. "Come on, Steve. That wasn't your fault --" He stopped short, realization transforming his face from skepticism to understanding. "There's nothing to forgive," he slowly stated. The blue eyes suddenly misted and expressively betrayed unrestrained affection and gratitude. Moving closer, he touched his friend's arm. "Thanks."

 

Too moved and embarrassed to respond, McGarrett turned back to look out the window; his constant refuge when things got too stressing or too personal. Williams made it sound like Steve had done something incredible when all he had done was spoken from the heart -- a friend concerned for a friend in need.

 

He swallowed the lump in his throat, then turned and faced Dan. "I learned that from a good friend of mine."

 

Embarrassed, Dan wiped his hands over his eyes. "Damn drugs make me really unstable," he explained gruffly. "Dr. McBride said I'll be a basket case for another few days till my system is cleared."

 

McGarrett leaped at the chance to change the subject. "What else did that beast-lady say?"

 

Dan laughed. It was a heartwarming sound and renewed Steve' s confidence. That natural response showed him everything was going to be all right. Not too far in the future life would be back to normal.

 

"What's the problem with you and McBride?" Williams asked as he sat down on the bed.

 

"Nothing," Steve minimized with a shrug. "You know how I feel about psychiatrists."

 

"Yeah," Dan said around a yawn. Leaning his head back he closed his eyes. "You welcome them like an eruption of Kilauea under your office."

 

Sudden fatigue, McGarrett diagnosed. The drugs again, he realized as Williams' head drooped. Dan's mood and energy swings were going to be tough to handle for the next few days.

 

*****

 

As McGarrett drove to the office he rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh morning air. Feeling revitalized and uplifted, he never noticed how weighted down he had been with concern for his friend. Now his mind could be channeled into other areas since it was freed from the intense worry over Williams' immediate condition.

 

One of the first focuses would be the source of this misfortune, Marla Kahuanu. Freed by the State Department meant nothing to him. She was still Steve's personal target. He tried to keep apprised of Wo Fat's whereabouts, now the woman would be on his hit list.

 

Duke and the secretaries were in the large open area when Steve barreled though to his own office. Lukela trailed in behind.

 

"Danny?" he asked brightly, already guessing the answer.

 

McGarrett smiled. "Much improved. I'm springing him this afternoon. He's already flirting with the nurses."

 

Duke grinned. "That's our boy." Seriously, he asked, "He'll be all right?"

 

"Fine, Duke, fine," Steve sighed. "Thankfully." He checked over the papers on his desk. From years of experience as an HPD sergeant, Duke was an excellent administrator -- much better than the less-than-perfect paperwork Williams got away with. Duke had organized and prioritized several important files on the top of the McGarrett's desk.

 

"There' s Dr. McBride’s report on the top," he summarized. "The HPD and State Department reports are at the bottom."

 

"What do they have to say?"

 

Duke shrugged. "Didn't read them yet. Oh, I've evicted Ms. Vernor of the Advertiser twice this morning. Surprised she didn't ambush you on the front steps."

 

"Maybe she gave up," McGarrett hoped of one of the newspaper's most obnoxious (was there any other kind?) reporters.

 

"That would be a first," Duke skeptically admitted. "I'll warn you if she comes back."

 

McGarrett murmured his thanks and Duke quietly left the room.

 

McBride's report was irritating and depressing and McGarrett did little more than scan the contents. Basically it stated Williams' bloodstream was filled with hallucinogenic, hypnotic, will-bending drugs of uncertain, potent properties (not to mention the drugs SHE gave him). McBride recommended a prolonged leave of absence for Williams while he underwent therapy. Steve bristled -- he wouldn't allow his right hand man to be out of the action for very long.

 

A shiver coursed his spine and he was stabbed with the remembrance of those panicked moments when Dan's heart had stopped. Danno had actually died. The chill returned. What if Danno had died? Steve couldn't lose Dan -- especially not so close to Chin's death.

 

Physically shaking away the brooding thoughts he forced his concentration back to McBride's unpleasant report. Any distraction was preferable over memories of yesterday. Reading McBride's findings he felt there was nothing extraordinarily wrong with Williams. Work and routine would be a valuable therapy. McGarrett would keep a close watch on Williams, make sure he didn't overdo things, that he did not get involved with anything too dangerous for awhile. Abstractly, Steve thought if it was in his power he would make sure Dan, and Duke, were never anywhere near dangerous or life threatening situations. Unfortunately, that was not the nature of their work.

 

McBride insisted on periodic psychological tests to monitor Dan's long range stability. She warned of possibly dangerous flashbacks or deadly, latent programming. Basically she did not know what to expect and warned there were endless possibilities. At the end of the report she recommended Williams be relieved of field duty indefinitely for safety's sake. At that point Steve almost threw the papers in the trash. Instead, he closed the file folder and slapped it down on the end of his desk.

 

Next was a medical report detailing the ER doctor's initial diagnosis. Steve glossed over it. Possible medical reason for temporary heart failure -- massive doses of extremely potent drugs which defied exact composition analysis. The doctor found the heart failure immaterial and McBride had not even commented on the temporary 'death'. Steve cringed at the references to Dan's exhausted, depleted condition; abrasions on his wrists from restraints, bruises on his face from electric shock and physical blows. Again, Steve's own mental images of torture flashed into his mind. He tossed the file to the farthest end of the desk.

 

The HPD files he didn't even glance over. Too depressing, he decided. Marla's legal escape was a slap in the face he would not soon forget. In fact, he made a mental note to contact an old friend in intelligence circles in Washington who could probably provide some very interesting information on her. Steve wasn't sure what good it would do him, but he would file away the data and save it for future reference.

 

Disturbed now, he sighed and flopped into his chair. He had arrived in such an upbeat mood, but reality soon squashed his enthusiasm. Resolutely he tried to put his mind-set into perspective. Dan was alive and mending and that was the important thing. The rest of the spectres must be shelved to the background. He had spent enough time lecturing Dan on just that need, now Steve had to take his own advice.

 

Curious about the last file, he picked up the telex received from his friend Napoleon Solo. He scanned the lines identifying Marla Kahuanu as a Chinese spy named Jin Wu, a vicious operative known to Solo, who still kept his hand in counterintelligence on a free-lance basis. She was wanted in most of the Western countries of the world for espionage activities. Notorious not only for her own ruthless reputation, but also as part of a family of Red Chinese spies. Involuntarily his lip twitched with disgust. The Red Chinese were responsible for a great deal of misery in his life. Sometimes -- He audibly gasped!

 

His eyes had scanned a line with a dreaded name. Rereading the words, several times, the letters blurred on the page. Finally they cleared into shockingly lucid print.

 

Wo Fat.

 

He blinked, then refocused again.

 

Wo Fat, patriarch to a spy dynasty, top dragon in the Nine Dragons triad -- father to Jin Wu.

 

Wo Fat.

 

Steve pushed away from the desk. He found it hard to catch his breath. So the trail of misery really never did end. Wo Fat was not enough. Now he had sent a daughter to Hawaii to prolong the agony. His chest felt imploded from a blow; a weight heavily pressing against his lungs. Throwing the paper across the room he launched from the chair to stalk to the lanai. Pacing the open area for some time, it was hard to organize his thoughts at first. Wo Fat had thrown him off base again.

 

Once he calmed down he turned his mind to logical trails of investigation. Was Jin Wu here to kill him, and Danno was drawn into the trap by mistake? Or was Dan the target all along --specifically picked to murder him? Had the Five-0 investigation coincidentally placed Danno in danger, with Jin Wu quick to use the resources available to her?

 

Reportedly the Chinese killed Wo Fat after his bungled coup in '76, when he had captured and tortured McGarrett. Another lie? He tried to squash down the wild speculations, but they flooded through his mind like a downhill lava flow.

 

This certainly explained Jin Wu's (the name he would hear when he thought of that cold, hate-filled face) supercilious attitude! She could have been here merely for the purpose of nabbing the couriers. No wonder she was so adept at brainwashing. She learned from a master. Was she here independently or at Wo Fat's bidding? Was the whole family still in power? Was Wo Fat alive? Did he still have influence in China? Could they expect more assaults from the spy dynasty? No wonder she was so ruthless and merciless. When Danno's cover was blown he had no chance against her, he was a marked man.

 

' "I leave you my legacy." ' she cryptically warned. Now he knew what she meant. ' "Remember there is no defense against the talons of the dragon." ' Another attack on them from the Chinese spies? Or was their subterfuge more subtle?

 

Suddenly Steve's blood ran cold. He raced back into the office and fell to the floor collecting the strewn report pages. Scattering papers everywhere he frantically searched for several specific passages.

 

------------------------------------

 

"Williams could be prone to latent programming dangerous to himself or others," he read aloud the report from McBride. "Williams is susceptible to hypnotic suggestion, i.e. Naval Intelligence report attached. "

 

-----------------------------------

 

Steve quickly turned to the transcript of McBride's visit with Williams. She had put him under drugged hypnosis to see what he could remember and to discover any hidden time bombs in his mind. She reported there were certain blocks in his memory, even though he was an easy subject to hypnotize. That was why she warned against latent programming.

 

McGarrett pieced it all together. What if Jin Wu found Danno an irresistible subject to play with? On her own initiative she could have decided to use Dan to get to the courier. Then as an added present to dear old daddy, she would use Dan to kill McGarrett. Mission accomplished, she would dispose of all loose ends by implanting an order for Williams to internally shut down his heart, willful suicide, after Steve's murder.

 

It was almost too scary to contemplate -- yet all the facts fit. The diabolical genius of the plan certainly reeked of Wo Fat, but with a really nasty, perverted twist. Something a very scheming, evil daughter could devise. The icing on the cake would be the surprise cushion of diplomatic immunity.

 

The intricate plot sickened him. Dan had been used as a pawn, then thrown away to die as the coup de grace of the plan. Only the oh-so-clever Red Chinese dragon-lady had not counted on intangibles such as loyalty and friendship to override the drugs and torture. Dan's regard for McGarrett had turned the plan inside out.

 

Steve was almost glad Jin Wu had slipped away from them. By now she was probably reporting back to daddy about the incredible failure of their ploys. They had been outmaneuvered by the very simple, human factor of friendship. The gruesome effectiveness of their brainwashing and torture could not overcome the stronger, more durable bond of camaraderie between two old friends.

 

There were still revolting questions to consider and Steve did not know how to answer them. Was there latent programming? Was there a way to really find out? Was Williams still a danger to himself or to Steve? Should McGarrett take these doubts to McBride? If he did, Williams could be off the team for good. The doctor and McBride had already dismissed the heart failure as unimportant. Perhaps McGarrett was simply jumping at shadows. In a moment of blind arbitration, McGarrett chose to not report his suspicions. They were, most likely, based on his own paranoiac reactions to Wo Fat. There was no need to cause irreparable harm to Dan for nothing. With a ragged sigh he sealed his silence, hoping he was making the right decision for their future.

 

*****

 

"Have you got time for a late lunch before you go back to the office?" Williams asked with forced casualness.

 

"Absolutely," Steve responded, stopping when they reached the sedan parked in front of the hospital. Over the roof he said, "I'm all pau. The rest of the day is yours."

 

"Great. I'm starved. You know how bad hospital food is." Williams tossed the overnight bag into the back seat of the Mercury. "How about that new Chinese place on Ala Moana?"

 

"Fine," came the instant agreement.

 

"Since when are you taking afternoons off?" Dan probed with a grin.

 

As they cruised through the pre-rush hour traffic, Steve shot occasional glances at his relaxed, cheery companion. Dressed in a bright blue aloha shirt, jeans and deck shoes, Dan looked ready for a day on a boat. Hard to believe Williams had been tortured and had clinically died the day before. The detective was now energetic, even exuberant at leaving the hospital and coming back to the real world. A last minute visit by beast-woman McBride had not dampened Williams' spirits.

 

The reaction was probably another of the mood swings Williams had been experiencing -- the incredible highs and lows caused by the remnants of drugs. This was a high Steve hoped would last, but knew soon there would be a corresponding descent. The depressions were hard to watch. Danno was normally so light-hearted -- and he wore those dark moods like an ill-fitting cloak of black. Steve found himself becoming wary of the changes even when Williams felt good.

 

During the meal Williams was almost chipper with idle chat connected with tidbits from the social pages and sports news. Then he outlined his plans to try windsurfing during his enforced recovery period.

 

"If you're feeling that lively I should put you back to work," he joked.

 

"I'll probably be back before my two weeks are up anyway," Williams replied ruefully. "Much more than a week away and I start to get bored."

 

Steve grinned. "I'll remember that next time you ask for a vacation."

 

"You will, too." Dan wryly forecast "How are things at the office anyway?"

 

"None of your business," the smooth but firm reply followed quickly. Pointing chop-sticks at his companion, he firmly asserted, "You're on sick leave, Danno."

 

"Okay. Just looking for an update. At least tell me this," William asked, his nerves on edge suddenly. Hands compulsively tapped chopsticks on the table in a staccato drumbeat. "Am I going to have to break into my holiday for a hearing?"

 

Momentarily McGarrett was nonplused. "For what?"

 

Williams' eyes darted around the room and finally zeroed in on his associate. "The hearing against Marla Kahuanu. I can't -- can't say I'm looking forward to seeing her again."

 

For a few seconds Steve debated on what to say. He had given this a lot of thought and come to no conclusions. The truth, of course, was always the best, but it wasn't an easy epigram to live by when honesty could be so painful.

 

Steve stalled by placing a fortune cookie on his friend's plate. "Let's finish eating first."

 

Wary, William pushed aside the cookie. "You sound like you have a clearer vision of my future than this fortune." At the hesitation Dan urged, "Come on, Steve, what gives?"

 

"Let's wait until --"

 

"Let's not," Williams interrupted with an edge to his voice.

 

"You won't like it," was his warning.

 

Dan's face drained of color. "You're going to fire me."

 

"NO!" McGarrett instantly denied.

 

"I couldn't blame you, Steve.  After what I did you can't trust --"

 

"Danno!"  the sharp command brought an end to the rapid-fire

 

"No, of course not!" Steve leaned forward, intensity sizzling his voice and certainly his eyes, because Dan blinked.  "I trust you completely!  I told you that before and I meant it."

 

Dan released a sigh of relief. "Good. I thought maybe you --"  he looked at McGarrett, apparently saw the stormy expression and rephrased.  "I thought maybe the governor was pressuring you to get rid of me after -- what happened."

 

"No way, Danno, no way." The misconception was sobering, however. Obviously Danno had a lot of concerns he had never voiced. Although he should know better, job security had apparently been on his mind. What Steve had to reveal was not as bad as being fired, which made it easier for him to plunge ahead. "The governor knows better," he assured. "You're on the team until I kick you off. And I'm not going to do that."

 

"Thanks."

 

"The bad news is about Marla Kahuanu, about who she really is and what's happened since your brainwashing."

 

William nodded slowly, seeming to steel himself for bad news. "Okay, lay it on me."

 

"Her real name is Jin Wu. She's a spy for the Chinese and was attached to their embassy." He tried to be neutral in his delivery. Once started on the explanation, however, he knew that his tone and inflections revealed the bitterness and betrayal he felt as deeply as Dan would feel them. "She's Wo Fat's daughter."

 

"Wow," was Williams' breath of incredulity. "Wow," he repeated, stunned by the news. "That's heavy," he breathed out.

 

Steve nearly squirmed with discomfort at the blow about to come. "It gets heavier," he grimaced. There was no way to cushion the shock, to make it any easier than by just telling it straight out. He would have wished for better surroundings, but on reflection realized there was no good time or place for this crushing injustice. "She had diplomatic immunity, Danno. She walked."

 

"Damn, I don't believe it," he snapped. Anger instantly flooded his face. "Dammit, how could they do that!" He launched to his feet, nearly overturning the table.

 

"Danno --"

 

Williams violently threw his chopsticks on the table and stalked from the restaurant. Ignoring the curious stares of the patrons, Steve hastily tossed some bills down and raced after Williams, catching him out on the sidewalk.

 

Placing a firm hand on Dan's shoulder he stopped his friend. "Easy, Danno. It's over," was his hypocritical advice, ignoring the memory of his own violent reaction to the same revelations. Dan shrugged away and kept walking. McGarrett put an arm around his shoulder and resolutely steered him to the Mercury. "I know it's hard, Danno, but there's nothing we can do about it now. It's over."

 

Williams leaned against the car, his hands in his pockets, and stared up at the sky for a moment, shaking his head. Steve retained his contact, unsure of what else to say or do. He had been through all this before, yet it hurt to relive it with Dan. This official betrayal was even more agonizing than those many instances when he had witnessed Wo Fat walk out of a noose. Perhaps this was more intense because it was happening to Williams this time and McGarrett despised being so powerless to help his friend.

 

"We just never seem to get the best of him," finally came a comment. Dan's voice was thready with emotion, as if he was fighting off tears. The irony he tried to force into the words was lost in the overwhelming wash of bitterness. "I thought the good guys were supposed to win."

 

"We'll win someday," Steve assured and firmly patted Dan's shoulder. He could think of nothing else to say. It was an empty pep talk right now, but it was all he could come up with short of sinking into a mutual depression.

 

"Any more bad news?" Williams asked, at last facing Steve. "Give it to me now so I can put all my depression into one day." The attempt to lighten his tone fell short of normal, but already he was starting to come out of the depths of anger and stabilize to something of an old, recognizable attitude.

 

"That's it."

 

"That's enough," was Dan's dry admission.

 

"You got that right, bruddah," Steve concurred wholeheartedly. "Come on," he urged and guided Williams to the side of the car, opening the door. "Let's take out our anger on some unprotected tennis balls."

 

The surprise invitation knocked a lot of unpleasantness out of Williams' expression. He came to a stop, incredulous. "First lunch, then the afternoon off?" His tone was teasing. "Watch out, this might become a habit, Steve. You might like taking time off."

 

"Maybe, " Steve agreed, taking up the jibe and tossing it back. He patted Dan on the back then crossed to the driver's side of the car. "Maybe I should make you come back to work early so I can do this more often."

 

"That'll be the day," Williams flung back with a grin.

 

Steve smiled as well, cheered at this small, temporary victory against what had seemed like overwhelming adversity. Perhaps, for a while, winning small battles were all they could hope for in the overall war.

 

*****

 

The purple/blue horizon of dark storm clouds melded with the sea pressed close to shore. Like a moving wall of grey water, the storm approached the beach without Williams being aware of the oncoming front. His own inner turmoil matched -- overshadowed -- nature's tumultuous atmospherics. Even the magnificent sets of huge wave-curls remained unappreciated by the surfer in the throes of his own inner tempest. He valued this solitude, this chance of silent, lone introspection. There had been precious little of this in the past weeks. Between McBride's prying and the well-meaning interference from McGarrett, there had been scant time left for Dan Williams to think for himself.

 

Then Steve had called Dan back to help out while McGarrett served on a jury. {episode -- THE CASE AGAINST PHILLIP CHRISTIE} Then it was with a case fighting legalized gambling in Hawaii. Working for limited hours, Williams once more bailed Steve out of a nasty undercover attempt gone wrong. [episode -- SMALL POTATOES] Soon Dan became reintegrated into the fold as if nothing had happened to disrupt the routine.

 

Dan wasn't sure if he liked that or not. Part of him wanted to just forget the brainwashing had ever happened and bury it deep in a part of the mind which would somehow forget the terror and guilt. Another part of him yearned to talk -- really talk to Steve -- ramble through the fears and guilt and confusing emotions which still churned within. So far, neither side had won in this internal war, and Williams was unsettled because of the conflicting desires and needs.

 

There were times, many times, since Steve was such a constant part of his life, when he had almost spilled out his thoughts. Instinctive hesitation prevented the revelations. His own still prevalent guilt being the over-riding factor of silence. Resolve over nearly shooting Steve remained elusive -- a truth he would never reveal to McBride for fear of his continued suspension from full duty. His other overpowering reason for the silence was to protect Steve; from the pain of this incident, from the pain of Steve's own brainwashing experiences. Mostly for the latter reason, Williams refrained from questioning Steve. These intimate fears lingered as intricate roadblocks, impossible for Williams to fully discuss, although he really wished for Steve's input. A thoroughly upsetting situation. His friend was in a position to help counsel him through this, but only by dredging up unpleasant memories. It seemed that peace was not to be found from outside advice, nor from inward exploration. Dan wondered if any option existed rather than simply the passage of healing time.

 

Williams ran fingers through his hair in frustration. This interlude of solitude had resolved nothing. He loved Steve and appreciated the big-brotherly concern held for him, but since the brainwashing, Steve had become as close and sometimes as oppressing as the oncoming storm. Dan still felt inwardly chaotic with his tumultuous emotions as unsettled as ever.

 

For a moment he stared at his clothes, surprised he was wet. Only then did he realize the storm front had hit the beach without him noticing. Slowly he came to his feet and trudged through the damp sand to his car, resigned that there was no easy or quick solution to his continued recovery.

 

 

***** 

 

Steve McGarrett paced, out of the rain, just under the protection of the entrance to the apartment building. Oahu, in the grip of a heavy storm, received no let up from steadily pelting rain during the day. While the deluge was typically warm, it proved more intense than usual and the unique accouterments of an umbrella or rain coat became essentials.

 

He could have gone up and waited in the apartment, but this was a more tactically advantageous spot. From here McGarrett could confront his wayward protégé' as soon as Williams drove into the garage. Steve was too impatient to wait the extra time it would take Dan to reach the apartment.

 

While he waited he tried to master control of his temper. It wasn't easy. Being called out of a meeting to face an irate Dr. McBride had ruined his day. That McBride's complaints concerned Williams' mental health put an added edge of unpleasantness to the confrontation. In turn, McGarrett was willing to pass the residual unhappiness on to Williams.

 

The head of Five-0 ground his teeth at the memory of McBride' s accusations. She had blamed him for Williams' uncooperative attitude toward therapy, claiming Steve as a role model of bad habits. That perceptive accusation amused him. While he didn't want to pass on any of his least admirable traits to his friend, he had to admit Williams had picked up a lot of his idiosyncrasies over the years. A belligerent attitude toward McBride was something Steve could only encourage.

 

McBride insisted that his obsession to control and dominate was oppressing Williams' recovery. 'Fool', he labeled the psychiatrist under his breath. Obsessed was the wrong appellation. Steve was concerned and acted neither controlling nor domineering! His best friend had just been through a harrowing experience, a trauma which might have been avoided if McGarrett had been thinking a little more clearly. This was the way he could best aid Danno -- spending time with him, easing him back into the work routine -- a proven method of recovery. This was the only way Steve knew to show his support.

 

The thought of the necessary evil of therapy sobered him. He had made it clear to Williams the therapy would continue or he could not remain on active duty. Williams' sick leave had lasted only a week -- he had returned early to help McGarrett with an undercover assignment gone sour . . . . 'Well, enough about that,' he thought.[episode -- SMALL POTATOES].

 

Now Williams would go back on the job with a four or five day work week to ease him back into the routine. McBride's therapy was a stipulation right from the governor's office and a mandate McGarrett could not, would not, refuse. It was more important to Steve than to anyone else, except Williams, that the detective continue counseling.

 

The screech of tires on wet pavement alerted Steve and he stopped pacing. Williams' white Mustang slid on the slick street and sped up the ramp driveway into the garage. The car slammed to a stop in an assigned slot and Williams leaped over the door of the open-topped car. The detective's pace slowed when he saw the forbidding stance of his boss.

 

"What's up Steve?"

 

Taking in the soppy wet Williams -- from his dripping hair, the skin-clinging clothes to the sloshing tennis shoes -- left Steve speechless. Dan was soaked, looking like a drowned cat. The picture was so ludicrous the anger seeped out of Steve's thoughts.

 

"Isn't the rain bad for the upholstery?"

 

"Water resistant cloth."

 

"Where have you been?' he asked with a trace of humor and a twitch to his lips.

 

"North Store. Enjoying island living! You ought to see the waves from this storm, Steve. They are --"

 

"Were you surfing in this?"

 

"No. Would you believe windsurfing.?"

 

Just from the tone he knew it was one of Williams' jokes, but it was not so funny when he thought of how dangerous any water sport would be in this storm.

 

"I just needed to get away for awhile. Be alone," Dan confessed.

 

The carefree spontaneity of Williams was impossible to resist and Steve swallowed the stern lecture he had prepared. After what they had been through it was good to see his friend relaxed and happy. He could afford to ease up -- a little.

 

"You're still on the official sick list, Danno." The tone unintentionally sharp from concern.

 

What made it harder was Williams' opposing attitude of trying to push the limits on every front. Adversely to Steve's protectiveness, Dan was out for adventure. In some kind of defiance to the brainwashing, the therapy, the emotional upheaval, Williams seemed to go out of his way to pour out his energies in sports and activities which he hoped would literally drive out and purge the effects of his mind control.

 

Steve wished his friend luck. He didn't know if there was yet a cure for the after effects of being controlled by a master.

 

"So what are you doing here?" Dan asked -- almost accused. "Checking up on me?"

 

"Yes. Where's your watch?" He indicated the tan line on Dan's left wrist.

 

Williams shrugged. "I guess I forgot it."

 

McGarrett crisply indicated, "It's after four-thirty. You missed your two o'clock appointment with McBride."

 

"Oh, damn," Williams snapped and rubbed his hands through his drippy hair. "Is today Thursday?"

 

"All day."

 

Dan shook his had in frustration. "I totally forgot. So she laid it on you? Blast her. You didn't have to come after me, Steve. Just because I miss an appointment doesn't mean I'm a danger to society or something."

 

"No," was Steve' s razor-sharp response, "but she'll obviously read something into it.

 

"Well there's nothing sinister TO read into it!" Williams snapped. His frustration at his own unresolved status was fed and flamed by the continued intrusion by McBride, and the oppression by Steve. He was fed up with it all! "I wanted some breathing room! If she doesn't like it that's tough!"

 

With an agitated stride he stalked away, McGarrett matching his pace. "She won't let you stay on duty unless she's satisfied you're cured! Any irresponsibility on your part and she has the authority to yank you off the team!"

 

"She's not my keeper!" Dan shouted back. He rooted himself to a spot just inside the garage. He glared into his friend's face. "She doesn't have all the answers, Steve, and I'm not going to let her control me! I've had enough people controlling -- to last the rest of my life!" Williams turned away and slammed a fist into the elevator controls.

 

Steve caught a retort in a breath. This was not at all what he wanted to say -- not the direction he wanted this discussion -- confrontation -- to go. With a deep sigh he shook his head, knowing better than to push someone who had endured what Dan went through.

 

Williams caught his breath. "Sorry."

 

"Me, too."

 

The elevator doors opened and they stepped into the box.

 

"You didn't have to come out on this, Steve. I could have handled McBride."

 

"You won't say that after my lecture." his comment was not completely sarcastic.

 

Williams rolled his eyes.

 

"All right, all right," McGarrett sighed and slapped him friend on the shoulder. Water sprayed off the soppy shirt and grimacing, he wiped his soggy hand on a handkerchief. "First you better get into some dry clothes," he suggested.

 

"Uh-oh, sounds like a long lecture," Dan retorted lightly.

 

The tone forced an exasperated, nearly amused grimace from the older man. "Sounds like a good idea right about now."

 

 

 

*****

 

For a moment Williams stood at the threshold of his living room and studied Steve, who contemplated the stormy ocean from the glass door of the lanai, unaware of the scrutiny. A quick change into dry clothes prepared Dan for the next phase of their discussion. Analyzing their clash of a few moments ago, the conflict resolved some things that his psycho-therapy sessions could never plumb. Not a stranger to psychology, Williams recognized a few fears of McGarrett's which had surfaced in the heated, intense exchange. Steve was worried about Dan's health, but afraid of the change this brainwashing had affected on their relationship and on Five-0. The 'mother hen' routine was the undemonstrative McGarrett's form of affection and care.

 

Without a doubt, Williams now saw his status and future were an integral part of Five-0 in the eyes of McGarrett. Steve remained stubbornly adamant -- obsessed -- believing nothing would change with either relationship. Williams HAD TO recover; Five-0 HAD TO return to normal. Everything interrelated and intertwined to a blurred point where Williams could no longer decipher the whole complex tapestry anymore. Steve, he and Five-0 were merged and hazy beyond separate distinction. He wasn't sure he could pull them asunder and he knew Steve could no longer see the delineation. Dan did not consider this a slight; in no way felt diminished by the realization.

 

Williams also concluded that to rebel against McBride's program would be to strike against McGarrett's desire for a return to normalcy. Or, if Williams voiced his own self doubts, he would damage Steve's attempts to rebuild this complex structure they had fashioned of their lives.

 

This amateur foray into psycho-motivations was a bit frightening for Dan, too. He understood that he had already chosen a direction for his immediate future. Pulling back from the edge of rebellion, confusion and frustration, he fell back on the familiar. Go with the flow, stay hard-pressed to the routine of work. Definitely do not push any emotional boundaries right now -- no pressing Steve for answers to uncomfortable personal questions. Dan would work things out on his own and allow time to heal the doubts and fears yet harbored in his soul. Not for the world would he hurt Steve or repay this caring with anything but loyalty. The decision made, he already felt better. He had a direction now, confident this path was the best possible course for them both.

 

The rain lashed against the glass door like liquid pebbles, pelting the transparent shield in a stinging clatter of cascading sound. Instead of going out onto the lanai as was his usual habit, McGarrett watched the rain from the shelter of the living room.

 

Williams entered the room with a towel draped over his head. He flopped onto the sofa, a can of beer in his hand and his bare feet propped on the coffee table. "Okay," he announced, "Ready for the reprimand."

 

Steve took a seat on a nearby chair "No lecture, Danno. I just want to make sure you're okay."

 

"I am." On the dubious expression of his friend he smiled. "Really," he sincerely assured. "It's taken time, Steve, you know how it is."

 

Now that the moment was upon him, Steve wasn't sure what to say. At first anger had lent plenty of mental ammunition about Dan's lax attitude lately. He had adopted a new, general air of irresponsibility that would have to disappear before he came back to full-time work. Williams had to understand how critical it was that he receive a clean bill of health from McBride. The psychiatrist wielded the mighty power of saving or discarding Danno's career and Steve demanded nothing threaten Williams' return.

 

Steve knew these minor character aberrations of Dan's were just reactions to the brainwashing. Even now, Williams acted more like a teenager caught out after curfew than a detective slipping responsibilities. For an amused, irritated second Steve had the comical image of Dan's uncle/guardian/cop who must have had his hands full raising Dan Williams, i.e. teenage free-spirit. Steve felt a stab of sympathetic, frustrated understanding with the long dead guardian.

 

"I don't mean to make you worry." Dan apologized. "I'm up and down, you know? More ups now, though. I need to be free, you know. No restraints, no confinement."

 

"Sure," McGarrett sympathized. "It's only natural. You want to fight back against the control that was forced on you."

 

"Did you -- I mean, you must have felt that way, too, I guess."

 

The question would have normally been ignored, but Steve knew he couldn't do that. He owed it to his friend to help in any way possible. Even if the aid was as tough as digging into his own private agonies and sharing them -- to a point. He admitted to himself he was still hung up about Wo Fat, even about his imprisonment in Korea. Some things he could not talk about, not even to Danno.

 

"Yeah," Steve admitted guardedly. "It takes a long time, Danno. You want to never be confined or enclosed."

 

Dan gave a nod of understanding. "How did you cope with it, Steve?"

 

"Not as well as you have," he responded immediately. Dan began to protest, but he went on. "I'm sure you've noticed how hard it is for me to talk about things like this." Dan smiled in understanding and agreement. "You can open up, Danno," Steve admitted slowly, unveiling a glimmer of his inner feelings. "You can ask me how to cope. I could never ask that. I can hardly answer it." He paused and briefly glanced out at the dark, churning see. "A few years ago," Steve turned back to meaningfully glance at Williams, "a wise friend said we gave Wo Fat an edge when we personalized our encounters instead of treating him as the criminal he is. "

 

"I said that?"

 

"You did. And it helped put things into perspective. I'm -- I just -- well, I hope it helps you, Danno."

 

Prolonged silence indicated the advisory session was at an end. McGarrett could delve no further into his past or his intimate ordeals.

 

Understanding, Williams nodded his thanks. Attempting a cock-eyed grin he lightly changed the subject. "I'm okay and ready to go back to work. Don't worry about me so much, it'll give you gray hair. So no lecture?"

 

In deference to his privacy, his reluctance to reveal inner secrets, Steve knew Dan would probably never press him for intimate answers again. A bit sadly, Steve wondered if he had closed a door of aid and friendship. He thought -- hoped -- Dan was perceptive enough to know better. Steve wanted to help, to answer questions when needed -- it just wasn't easy.

 

"Only to remind you not to miss anymore appointments."

 

There was a grimace on Dan's face as he agreed to be more responsible. He assured his friend therapy was otherwise going as well as could be expected when dealing with McBride. "On the bright side," he sighed, "McBride feels there's no more threat of latent programming."

 

"Thank God," was McGarrett's heartfelt sigh of relief.

 

"Yeah," Dan agreed fervently. "It must be scary to think your best friend might still have a hidden program to kill you."

 

"I never worried about that for a minute. Never!" McGarrett snapped sternly. "I worried about you." He mellowed, wishing he was as good a communicator as his friend. "I just want you to be okay. My only concern has always been your health, Danno. I want you back on the team as soon as possible, probably even more than you."

 

"I don't know about that," Williams smiled.

 

More than anything, Steve just wanted his friend to be back to normal, or whatever they could establish as normal in his reconstructed psyche.

 

Steve did not mention that the concerns he had for the subliminal programming had nothing to do with the order Dan received to kill him. Steve was far more appalled at his theory that the latent programming had been targeted for self-destruct after the mission. He still had not mentioned that to McBride, afraid the psychiatrist would ban Williams from work altogether. Nor did he mention it to Dan, who had enough to worry about without thinking he was a walking time bomb. Momentarily, he wondered if his arbitrary withholding of such vital information would hurt Danno's recovery. If McBride was convinced there was no longer a danger of subsurface programming, then he felt justified in his continued silence.

 

"I'll be fine," Williams reassured.

 

"Yeah," Steve grinned, "I think you will." 'And so will I,' he added silently, 'as soon as this is all behind us.'

 

 

*****

Storms, winds and low temperatures predominated early December. An off-shore tropical depression brought moist liquid sunshine whipping through Honolulu in gales. McGarrett's morning jogs now regularly included running to Dan's and dragging his friend along. They usually stopped for juice at a sidewalk beach stand on Waikiki, then walked back to the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu, where the parted for their respective apartments.

 

The walks proved more beneficial than the jogs, affording the two friends an opportunity to relax and talk more openly than ever before. Unusually cool wind and rain had driven them to the shelter of a beachside cafe this morning, where they treated themselves to an indulgent breakfast instead of exercise.

 

"How did you work out your frustrations when the stress built up?" Dan had asked about Steve's recovery from Wo Fat's torture.

 

Picking at the fruit in his breakfast bowl, Steve answered, "Jogged till I dropped. And I did a lot of jogging, bruddah." It was something he had not been able to admit before, even to Dan. Years of resistance to emotion and intrusion remained solid against all attack, even from friendly allies. Feeling compelled to help Dan, McGarrett reluctantly allowed interrogation -- gentle, restrained interrogation -- into his private life. "Some ghosts linger for a long time."

 

"I wish you would have let me help," Dan commented.

 

"I wish so, too, Danno. I was too scared, I suppose. So scared I pushed you away."

 

"You never -- "

 

"I did. In Hong Kong. Remember, I gave you jobs to do -- something, I don't even remember. I had Blake take me to find Wo Fat. I couldn't take you there, Danno. Couldn't let you see the prison -- the pain -- " He shook his head, the memories sending shivers coursing his skin. "I couldn't stand the pity in your eyes every time you looked at me. Blake, he could see it, it didn't matter. You, I would see every day, almost, for years to come. I couldn't stand the pity, Danno, so I pushed you away. It was a mistake. Please don't let my bad example influence you, my friend. Don't push me away, let me help."

 

Williams nodded. "Thanks. You've already helped so much, Steve, more than you can imagine." He smiled. "Maybe not more than that."

 

The completely Danno-like expression brought a smile to Steve's sober demeanor. "Mahalo."

 

From behind him a voice cut into the conversation. "Well, if it isn't two of Honolulu's most eligible bachelors!"

 

Nancy Vernor slid into the chair next to McGarrett, her smile both triumphant and predatory. Thin, narrow-faced, she resembled a bird of prey swooping down on her latest victims. In her early thirties, Ms Vernor held a reputation as one of the toughest, unkindest journalists in the Islands. Since Williams' "injury" at the airport, Vernor had been snooping around for details. Steve thought he had foisted her off with a practiced story given to all media. Apparently she did not buy the standard press release.

 

"Ms Vernor," he acknowledged cooly.

 

She zeroed in on Williams with merciless hazel eyes. "I see you're recovering from your unspecified wounds, Officer Williams. Care to comment --"

 

"No," Dan interrupted her sharply. He came to his feet. "We were just leaving."

 

"You've been coaching him, McGarrett," she accused over her shoulder, then continued her scrutiny of the second-in-command. "You're as tight-lipped as your boss, Williams. Why not give me the real story? I know there's more --"

 

Bending down, inches from her face, he countered, "What you think you know is nothing compared to everything you don't know, Ms Vernor. I have nothing to say to you. Leave me alone." Dan pushed past her.

 

Before she could recover, Steve gave her a curt farewell and jogged into the drizzling rain after his friend. McGarrett didn't break the pace with conversation, but followed Williams down Kalakaua all the way to his apartment.

 

"Feel better?" McGarrett wondered, invigorated after the wet, brisk exercise.

 

Inside the garage they walked until Dan leaned against his car. "You're right, Steve. The ghosts. They linger. I thought everyone had forgotten . . . . " He shook his head, wiping away the lines of water on his face. "Publicity. Another haunting I have to learn to live with?"

 

"Afraid so, Danno. We're public servants. Our lives are an open book. It probably would have been easier if we could tell the truth about Jin Wu -- "

 

"And tell everyone I was brainwashed?"

 

"No!" Steve denied instantly, aghast at the thought of what such sensational press would do to Danno.

 

Just the concept of the exposure drained the blood from his face and chilled him to the bone. In the aftermath of Wo Fat's brainwashing and phony film of McGarrett denouncing the United States, Steve had feared some leak, some rumor of his humiliation would find it's way to the press. Not only would his career have been finished, but in the most denigrating way possible -- his soul, his weaknesses bared for all to see. Thankfully, his secret was safe. Danno's was, too, an inadvertent boon from Webb's conspiracy of intrigue.

 

"Not the brainwashing, Danno. Never! But Jin Wu's covert web of spies."

 

Williams, pale and disconcerted, rubbed his hands over his eyes. "No, she would have spilled everything. Maybe Webb did the right thing in getting her away. Maybe injustice and the uncertainty of her status is best after all. If it ever got out -- I don't know how I'd live with it."

 

"Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that," McGarrett sighed. Seeing his optimism was not shared, he asked, "Right, Danno? You're not going to let this bug you, right?"

 

"No," Williams agreed with less conviction than his friend.

 

McGarrett dropped the debate, sensing Williams' need to work it out on his own. Refusing a ride back to his apartment, Steve jogged across the Waikiki district to his apartment. Soppy wet and cold by the time he reached his building, he felt better for the strenuous workout. Sometimes nothing helped to counteract the frustrations and irritations of life except an arduous run. While he never escaped the burdens driving him, he felt renewed with energy to return to the fight.

 

 

*****

McGarrett shuffled the papers atop his desk in restless annoyance. The afternoon traffic had been thick and crazy. December holiday congestion mingled with the slowness of the tenacious tropical storm which had hit Oahu the week before. His lunch with Manicote had gone overtime and now he seemed still behind with deskwork.

 

When Duke arrived after lunch he had the usual HPD morning updates. There were more than the average number of problems, probably because December always brought a rise in the crime rate. It was after three when they finished the reports. McGarrett glanced at the digital clock and for the first time realized that Dan was late getting back from lunch. Very late. Members of Five-0 did not take three hour lunch breaks.

 

"I'll ask my snitches what they know on the Stark murder," Duke said in closing. "Steve?"

 

"Yeah," McGarrett nodded. "I heard. I was just wondering why Danno was late." He picked up the phone and dialed Williams' number.

 

"He just pulled up," Duke said, a touch incredulously.

 

McGarrett followed his gaze out the closed lanai doors. No wonder Lukela was taken off guard. Williams had just arrived in his Mustang, the top down in the pouring rain. Abruptly irate at the unexpected irresponsibility of his detective, McGarrett launched to his feet. "Get cracking on the Stark case," he snapped to Duke as he briskly strode out of the office.

 

"Where the hell have you been all afternoon? And you want to explain why you're doing your best to catch pneumonia?" he barked when he confronted Williams on the steps of the Palace. He took the younger detective by the arm and drew him under the shelter of the entranceway.

 

Sincerely repentant, Dan apologized. "I'm sorry, I just had to get away, Steve. I didn't realize the time."

 

"This is crazy," McGarrett gestured toward the convertible.

 

"You know it helps me think when I drive with the top down. I thought --"

 

"In a downpour like this? I thought we were beyond the top-down monsoon stage?"

 

"Sorry."

 

The incident had taken McGarrett completely off balance. He had not been prepared for this unexpected regression into unusual behavior. Everything had been so normal for the last month. Even that run-in with Ms. Vernor last week hadn't prompted any more than a grumpy morning for Williams.

 

Worried at the portent of this behavior, a good look into Dan's eyes revealed deep anxieties. "Why didn't you say something?"

 

Williams shrugged. "It was just an impulse. Things were closing in." Fidgeting, he ran a hand through his wet hair.

 

"What happened? You were fine this morning!"

 

"Oh yeah, fine," Dan flung back the sarcastic rejoinder. He paced away from his friend and hit the nearest pillar with a fist. "Wo Fat's daughter decided to turn my brains inside out. Last month my old girlfriend, Melissa, used me to get back at her boyfriend and nearly got us both killed![episode -- A LONG TIME AGO] I turn forty tomorrow and what have I got to show for those wasted years?" He leaned his head back and covered his face with his hands. "I had to get out," he finally breathed hoarsely. "I -- I thought you would understand."

 

McGarrett closed his eyes against the accusation which was not nearly so harsh as his own self-condemnation. Danno was right. Not only should he understand, but should anticipate reactions like this. It was holiday time. A season when anyone could get unusually depressed and unsettled. Melissa Cole, the former girlfriend, committed suicide a few days ago in her jail cell. Today was December Seventh -- Pearl Harbor day -- the anniversary of the death of Danno's parents. Although not forgetting Williams' birthday on the morrow, the significance of the number escaped him. Added together, he should have expected depression and adverse reactions from someone who had been through such intense emotional trauma in the last few months.

 

"I'm the one who should apologize, Danno." Closing the distance he patted his friend on the shoulder. "I didn't think -- "

 

"Steve, it's not your job to be my keeper --"

 

"I'm your friend!" he crisply reminded, his short temper still burning. "I know what you've been through and I didn't do anything to help you!"

 

Without making eye contact, Williams placed a hand on his arm. "You're here for me when I need you, Steve. That's more important than anything else. You're patient when I go a little crazy. And you keep me planted on the ground when I want to fly off into orbit, like today." Drawing in a ragged breath, he sighed. "You never give up on me, Steve. That helps me to not give up, either."

 

McGarrett drew him close. "Count on it, Danno, count on it." Keeping Dan beside him, he waited a few minutes until his friend pulled away, indicating the immediate crisis at an end. "Go home and take the rest of the day off."

 

"I don't --."

 

"That's an order, Danno," Steve interrupted firmly, but gently. "I'll come by later, but I don't want you back here at the Palace until tomorrow morning."

 

With a nod Williams walked back down the steps. The rain, now decreased to a heavy mist, seemed a metaphoric comment on the emotional outburst. When Dan reached the car he turned around and threw back a partial smile. "You mean I have to work on my birthday?"

 

"It's just another work day around here, Danno," McGarrett assured, striving, and failing, to copy the light direction Williams turned them into.

 

"Slavedriver," Williams smiled, then soberly called, "Mahalo, Steve. For everything."

 

"Sure," McGarrett responded clumsily. "And don't forget to put the top up this time," he warned.

 

Williams answered with an amused nod. Within moments the top rolled into place and Dan drove away. For a time McGarrett stayed on the steps just out of reach from the rain. Duke eventually joined him.

 

"You okay, Steve?"

 

"Yeah," was the terse answer. "Just too blind to see evidence right in front of my eyes. Some detective."

 

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Lukela urged. "Danny still has mood swings. A lot. Sometimes we don't see them cause we're used to them now. With all that's happened lately, with Christmas coming up, that's always a hard time with the added stress."

 

McGarrett shook his head, not taking the easy out. "I see Danno every day. I know -- KNOW -- what he's going through! I should have seen this coming."

 

Lukela would not accept it. "Danny couldn't even see it, Steve. You couldn't have either." When the boss didn't respond he said, "I'll go over later and check on him."

 

"No, I will." After a brief pause he cocked his head at the Hawaiian. "How did you know I told him to take the rest of the day off?"

 

The response was dryly advisory. "I could hear you from the other side of the Palace, Steve. Next time you have a conference, don't do it out here. The acoustics down this hall are great."

 

Duke trotted down the steps to his car. Steve ruefully shook his head in frustration. All around it had been a vexing day.

 

 

 

*****

 

Williams shut down the small computer in his office and sat for a moment staring at the screen. Reviewing personnel files was a boring job, but had to be done. Spearheading a subtle, one-man campaign to restaff Five-0, he searched for good candidates to offer Steve. Replacing Chin Ho Kelly was an emotional hurdle for McGarrett, one that would not come easily, or quickly.

 

Dan removed his reading glasses, a tangible sign of his over-Forty status, and rubbed his tired eyes. The personal computer was new to the Five-0 offices and Williams, being the chief proponent of the technology, had been elected the official operator until the rest of the staff could be trained on the electronic wonder. Williams thought he would probably hold onto the title for awhile because so far no one else felt inclined to touch the intimidating hardware.

 

The PC also had its drawbacks. Williams was still new at logging files and had just stumbled into an old file report on his brainwashing. The cold, impersonal efficiency of the PC failed to distance him from the disconcerting memories, to make the old document somehow more remote and sterile. It wasn't easy reading, exposing, the insides of his mind and his soul. The brutal facts from months ago, long since given over to the boss, still haunted Williams.

 

Clearly recalling the moment when he gave Steve the report, when they had joked about Dan remembering everything of the brainwashing. There had been the obvious humor about Jin Wu's manufactured fiction of a hot date being pure fiction.

 

"You mean I struck out?" he had asked.

 

There was really nothing funny about the affair, including the facet that his real 'date' for that night had been stood up and now would not speak to him.

 

Steve, Duke and he had laughed about the incident. Not that there was insensitivity on the part of Duke or Steve. Nor had any of them forgotten the gravity of the encounter with Jin Wu. It was a habitual reaction to try and find something light in even the darkest situation. If they did not make that attempt they would all mope around under a morbid cloud of depression.

 

Honestly, he felt remarkably restored and healthy now. Intellectually he knew he would stabilize more and more with time. There were moments, however, when reason could not absolve the guilt. Every once in a while he would look at Steve and wonder how he could ever try to kill his best friend -- twice -- even under hypnosis. He hoped the culpability would diminish with time. Just as most of Steve's guilty feelings had eased since his last encounter with Wo Fat.

 

The name now invoked the tingle of iced blades along Williams' spine. Every time he thought of the fat Chinese spy there would follow a memory of the beautiful, treacherous daughter as well.

 

The bitterness at being robbed of justice was nearly as persistent as the lingering guilt he felt. He had heard somewhere that love and hate were equally strong motivating emotions. Vengeance should have been added to the list as well. After Wo Fat had brainwashed Steve, Dan craved revenge against the Chinese spy. He wanted payback for the suffering Steve had gone through, for what they had all had gone through. Now they could add Jin Wu to the list of elusive, most wanted personal targets. Until there was some way to get the father and daughter, Dan would always feel cheated. The dreaded experiences forever open-ended, unresolved torments. Without a finish to the cases he did not think Steve, or he, could ever really put these incidents in the past.

 

One thing had kept Williams going all along -- an anchor, a foundation, a support -- strength to keep going every day. That one power was the persistence and force of McGarrett. Steve's dominating personality, the greatest influence in Williams' life, held his splintered heart and soul together. If his mentor insisted he could be trusted and forgiven, then he had to believe it of himself. Eternally grateful to Steve for the boost of confidence, he could never have survived without the support.

 

"Danno?'

 

Startled at the call, he looked up to see McGarrett in the doorway. "You were miles away."

 

"Yeah," Dan agreed quietly. "Worlds away."

 

Sensing the importance of the comment, Steve nodded toward his office. "Come and tell me about it..

 

Since the brainwashing they had engaged in a number of these private discussions. Steve tried to make himself available when he felt Dan needed to talk. After the incident with driving in the rain last December, Steve now sometimes pressured him into talking. Walking straight out onto the lanai, McGarrett leaned his back against one of the white pillars.

 

On his look of anticipation, William. took a deep breath. "It's nothing specific. Just little things remind me, then I'm in a funk for a little while. No big deal. I just wonder, how long does the moodiness last?"

 

 

"A long time, Danno," he quietly responded. "A long time. The good news is, as with any personal tragedy, time helps the ghosts fade. Even the worst of the memories diminish."

 

Williams nodded. "Yeah." He stepped closer to his friend and looked directly into McGarrett's eyes. "After going through this, I admire you more than ever. I don't know how you went through it alone."

 

Obviously embarrassed, he squeezed Williams' shoulder. "I was never alone. Never. I tried to be, but I had a good friend who forbid me to wallow in self-pity." Steve critically studied his friend. "You okay now?"

 

Williams had lost track of how many times Steve had asked that question over the last months. Dan would probably hear it a lot more. Whenever he got tired of hearing it he just reminded himself how nice it was to have a big brother watching out for him. That sheltered, protective feeling was an inexpressible comfort. Just what he needed after everything he had been through. Being a controlled puppet was a devastating way to realize your mind and thoughts were as valuable as your own soul. His soul had been rescued by a friend who had been through it all before and was guiding him past the worst of his lingering nightmares.

 

Williams smiled to reaffirm his response. "Fine, really. Just sometimes I find myself thinking too much."

 

"Yeah I know," Steve offered sympathetically. "I'm here whenever you need to talk about it."

 

The moment was broken when Duke came out to join them. "I'm ready," he announced.

 

In an enthusiastic surge of ambition, Williams had organized a Five-0 outrigger canoe team to compete in the annual race from Oahu to Maui. By unspoken agreement McGarrett and Williams had mutually directed the recovery period as time together, time segregated from work. To compensate, McGarrett had pushed a lot of the workload onto Duke and a few HPD officers. It freed Steve to spend an inordinate amount of time guiding Williams from depression. Dan could do only so much surfing and sailing before his thoughts returned to the dark aspects of his torture. His mind needed to keep continually challenged. McGarrett made it clear that Dan was needed and wanted at work, but Five-0 did not take precedence over Williams' recovery.

 

McGarrett looked at Dan with speculation in his eyes. "The Maui Channel is a little tough for three over-the-hill detectives."

 

"We'll never make it around the point," Duke predicted darkly.

 

"I have some impostors from HPD coming aboard. Kono and his cousin Truck."

 

"We'll never make it out of the breakwater," Duke corrected deadpan.

 

They all laughed. An obvious devise to keep things upbeat, but nonetheless appreciated. When they were through with the jokes Williams urged them out of the office. As they strolled down the front steps of the Palace, Williams felt renewed appreciation for his friends. Humor helped all of them get back to normal -- better than normal -- Dan mentally corrected. He felt closer to Duke -- to Steve -- than ever before. Now out of the refiner's fire, they were stronger than ever.

 


 


   
to be continued . . . . .

 

The End of the World as We Know It - Part Two

 

Ghost of the Dragon