Storm Ravaged

Chapter 33

Only another full week had passed and while Steve was virtually back to normal and cleared to drive, Danny's own progress was a bit slower. He was now walking with limited support, but he tired easily and Ramirez was taking it almost personally that his patient had gained back a mere six pounds.

They were all keeping an eye on him and for that, his limits of aggravation were becoming more and more thin. Every so often, he wouldn't respond to a text message or phone call begging off for having been sleeping. He could be excruciatingly slow to answer a knock on his door, too.

Of course it was Steve who guessed the lingering problem. There were no nightmares or traumatic episodes per se, however the stillness of the dark, night hours and utter quiet would prey on Danny's sometimes uneasy nerves. His guess that Danny was sleeping during the day because of disturbed nighttime slumber was quite accurate.

The disruptive routine affected everything else by default: his meal schedule, hence his medication schedule and round he went in a self-fulfilling prophecy that led to a lack of stamina, energy and not enough weight-gain. Danny was moody and irritable with everyone except for Grace. He, however, refused to make any changes in his living arrangements as he muscled through his late-night issues. Steve complained that his stubbornness was completely unnecessary, while Danny dug in with his old determination. As a last resort to engaging Doctor Ramirez, Steve lobbed an ultimatum for one more week's worth of patient understanding. Lines of communication were left open and an elaborate use of text messaging was employed in case Danny might actually be sleeping.

Danny learned to expect the bland but loaded 'R U Up?' from Steve between the hours of midnight and two in the morning. Most times he was and he'd respond back .. or not .. depending upon the darkness of his mood. Oddly, the more dismal he felt, the more likely he would text or call Steve back within seconds.

If Danny didn't respond, he got another chance. A second similar text message might follow more towards dawn before Steve went on his early morning swim. As he learned from recent experience, a non-response to this second attempt by the time said exercise was accomplished, would earn him a SEAL on his doorstep.

Therefore, Danny responded. He grudgingly communicated and dutifully tried to improve his schedule. Each day was finally getting markedly better; especially since he had received a particular phone call from Sergeant Lukela.

It was almost a role reversal when Steve's cell phone chimed that afternoon with Danny's number flashing across the screen. He answered it quickly and was cut off before he could worry about the reason behind the call.

"Steve! Duke just called and the Awards Ceremony has been scheduled for next Monday afternoon." The pleasure and pride in Danny's voice was unmistakable. "It's going to be at the hotel and we're going to book another room for a party and early dinner along with Lucy's family to celebrate."

The long pregnant pause begged another unspoken question and Steve grinned into the phone. "I wouldn't miss it for the world, Danny. We're all going to be there in fact."

"She's something else." Danny had been saying those exact words for days. It was a repetitive, awed sequence preceding almost every conversation.

"She certainly is." Steve agreed with ease. It hadn't taken him long to enjoy the vicarious nature of what it might be like to have a child through his partner's friendship and eyes. And Gracie was a beautiful joy that Steve was lucky enough to see often. So, as promised, Steve didn't tell anyone what Rachel had shared before the father-daughter reunion; least of all Danny. He listened to Danny's personal rendition after the father-daughter weekend with so much more pleasure. He then learned that being told something by the man's ex-wife and then seeing the end result with his own two eyes, were entirely different experiences. He had gone over to the apartment as soon as humanly possible to visit his partner. Barely in the door, Danny had proudly dragged him over to see his Father's Day gift which hung now on the wall.

Steve didn't need to put on airs or enhance his reaction for it was a beautiful, stunning gift. The words on the interim certificate and the small gold name-tag displaying "Grace Williams" and the date filled him with a sense of pride, too. He sat in rapt attention as Danny related every fine detail of Grace's story. Steve couldn't help grinning at Danny's continued distaste for what had happened in the shed. However, the girls conducted themselves wisely and intelligently with Duke quickly intervening. And then of course, Danny had investigated the original theft and arrest; he'd also gotten his professional read-out of his own back-story to compliment what Grace and Lucy had accomplished. Then this official information only added to his fatherly pride.

The days flew by quickly after Duke's call and Danny found himself anxiously waiting for Steve to pick him up at the apartment. They had all agreed as a team to wear their official uniforms and Danny grinned when he saw Steve in his Naval dress blues. He would both blend and stick out in a sea of HPD Officers.

He was using his cane nearly all the time now, however Steve insisted upon running back into the apartment for the wheelchair.

"Don't need it, Steven," Danny griped loudly as his partner placed it in the trunk of the Camaro. Gesturing to the Silverado, he made a face too for the change in vehicles.

"And, why my car? What's the excuse this time when the damned chair would fit easily in the bed."

But Steve only shrugged before giving him two very good reasons. "It might rain and the chair will get wet if it does. Plus, Danno, it's going to be too hard for you to get in and out of the truck. Let's not push things quite yet." The validity of the reasons shut him up but Danny was shaking his head as he carefully eased himself into the passenger seat of his own car.

The two met Chin and Kono outside the hotel before going to the reserved auditorium where the formal HPD Awards Ceremony was to be held. They were early and as the proud parents, were told what to expect and then where to sit in the front rows. However, with barely a glance towards Rachel, Danny added on his own team to join him there. The Edwards/Williams-5-0 Ohana sat on the left side of the large room, while Lucy's family was seated across the front row on the right.

After all was said and done, Danny was standing between Rachel and Steve in the front row. On the opposite side of Steve, stood Kono and Chin at perfect attention. In the chairs on the far side of Rachel, Stan Edwards was holding baby, Charles, and at least two stuffed teddy bears. The ceremony would begin soon, and pleasant prelude music was playing in the background. The two girls were already on the stage and waiting to be told what to do next once the official ceremony started.

Other family and friends, plus the entire Aloha Girl's troop decked out in their scout uniforms were there, too. Everyone was spread out in the room, along with members of the media who were taking pictures and recording the event with both cameras and smart phones.

The Five-0 team looked entirely professional and extremely respectable except one pair was studiously attempting to ignore the first. Chin hissed at them under his breath when the music became louder, the girls were told to sit, and the HPD officials began to take the stage. Everyone in uniform was asked to remain standing for the duration of the entrance piece, though Rachel and Lucy's family followed suit.

"I'm just saying … it makes no sense, Steven. It never will." Danny had his cane hooked over his casted left wrist as he used his right thumb and forefinger to pull on the black sleeve hard enough to make Steve jerk his arm out of reach. Once again harping on the upside down language of black-colored dress blues, Danny was clearly annoying his partner.

"Drop it already." His movement caught Danny off guard and Rachel murmured worriedly as Steve rushed to grab Danny's good arm to rebalance the still very unsteady man.

"Shut up, Danno. Use your cane and watch your kid," Steve smirked under his breath as Grace covertly waved to them again from where she sat next to Lucy on the stage. They were not the only two receiving commendations that day. Three HPD officers were also on the stage and sitting behind the podium waiting for their special awards, as well. The room was full to capacity with a mix of proud and excited friends and family members.

"I wish she'd stop doing that," Danny complained as Grace made a tiny, cute wave towards her brother, Charles. The baby saw his sister and fairly screamed with glee as his feet and fists alternated between kicking and punching the air.

Sitting back down in embarrassment, Stan bounced the overly excited baby on his knee and rolled his eyes towards Rachel who blatantly ignored all of them. She had her camera wrapped around her neck and was bound and determined to take photos of her daughter regardless of the buzz of activity from her own family. Only Danny was visibly unhappy when Grace did it again and the little guy responded once more very loudly to make both girls giggle on stage.

"This is serious stuff and she's making jokes." He tried to gesture with his right hand to catch Grace's attention, but that brought the tip of the cane off the floor and Danny rocked unsteadily into his partner.

"She's a kid, Daniel. And like it or not, she has your crazy sense of humor," Steve chuffed happily under his breath before biting his own lip to keep from laughing. The entire Aloha Girl's troop filled up any remaining chairs in the room and they were far from being quietly respectful. Lucy was making faces at one of their friends in the back row and even her parents were now becoming embarrassed.

"Grace!" There was a loud spat of giggling and Danny fairly wheezed her name out as he wobbled dangerously. Forgoing keeping his hands clasped in front of him, Steve finally anchored his hand to Danny's elbow regardless of the cane's existence.

"She's fine! So shut up and watch the ceremony. It's about to start and I guarantee everyone will quiet down."

"Let go. I can stand," Danny whispered as he vainly tried to tug away from what became a pinching, ironclad grip. For a split second, he lost his balance once more, but found himself securely held upright instead.

"No. No you obviously can't. Shhh! Be quiet!" The whispers were increasing in volume and Lucy finally glanced curiously towards Grace who was grinning now at Steve and Danny. Suddenly seeing some signal that the audience couldn't perceive, both girls and the other three HPD awardees got to their feet just as the rear doors opened to the auditorium. The rest of the civilian audience reacted in kind just as the entrance music began to play even more loudly.

"Both of you should shut up," Chin whispered fiercely under his breath as the HPD Honor Guard entered in formation to post the colors. The ongoing hum in the room dropped immediately as the music increased in volume and the formal Guard came down the main aisle and approached the stage.

After his brief opening remarks, Commissioner asked the audience to relax and take their seats. With a final successful tug, Danny freed his arm to sit carefully with his cane perched directly in front of him. The Commissioner then handed the podium over to Sergeant Duke Lukela, who was the official Master of Ceremonies. Beginning with each of his three officers, Duke took his time in presenting the various awards that ranged across four categories.

As the full ceremony began in earnest and Duke grandly introduced each awardee and their special nomination, Danny didn't move. He was so quiet, that Steve snuck concerned glances his way at least twice to make sure he was fine. But Danny's glassy eyes were solely focused on his daughter and every word of the presentation.

The honored HPD Officers received their awards first with complete descriptions relating their valor and bravery. The civilian awards were held for last and Duke made a concerted effort to explain the Aloha Girl's field trip, their success in earning the coveted Detective's badges, and then shared the exciting reasons behind Lucy's and Grace's particular nominations. As each girl got up to accept her own award, the applause was almost deafening as a startling number of cameras went off simultaneously.

Charles burst into tears and Stan had his hands full trying to calm the frightened child. He was on his own since Rachel had gotten up to take advantage of a different angle or two. Kono had done the same for Danny because of his injured wrist. Based on the length of time Kono was missing from her chair, the number of images that he would have to choose from would be limitless.

But when Rachel returned first, Steve was extremely surprised to see that she had her hand lightly placed on Danny's sleeve, just above the cast on his wrist. It seemed both odd and very right that they should celebrate their daughter together, but Steve couldn't help wondering what Stan Edwards might be thinking. Especially since the man was left juggling the still whimpering baby.

Steve gently smirked to himself when he noticed the stranglehold that Danny had with his one hand on the cane. He was continually and solely focused on Grace until Steve caught his eye and then stared at the white-knuckled fingers. The fidget next to him was self-conscious and Steve smiled as Danny visibly forced his hands to relax.

"Congrats, Danno," Steve whispered with a beaming smile as he helped Danny rise back to his feet for the formal closing. The ceremony was ending and all the awardees were now receiving a final ovation which would be followed by even more family photos with the Commissioner and other important members of the HPD.

Grace was standing too and holding a large bouquet of mixed flowers. The new, formal HPD Commendation was actually a large frame that held their own picture, the final certificate signed by the Commissioner, and a gold medal with a pretty, blue bow. They sat on elevated easels and each child would need help from her family to carry it off the stage. But for now, the two girls stood with the honored Officers for a final round of praise and applause.

"She needs help," Danny whispered to Steve because Lucy's father was on his way to help his daughter. But Danny was stuck and Steve felt the unspoken need through his arm.

"On it, buddy." Using the crying baby as an excuse, Steve glanced to Stan and Rachel first and then kept moving. Before they might object, he was well on his way to intercepting Grace and rescuing her special gifts.

"Congratulations, Gracie. We're all really very, very proud of you, sweetie," Steve said as he took the large plaque and aimed Grace towards her family.

"Thanks, Uncle Steve!" She gave him a quick one-armed hug and then ran to her mother with the flowers. He followed behind with the frame and waited for instructions on where they would want it until he felt another small hand tugging on his jacket.

Lucy was gazing up at him in adoration and then trying to drag him off for pictures with her family; some of whom were stunned to see that their little girl was actually friends with a decorated Navy SEAL. Steve then had to split his time between the two families, as did Chin and Kono who wound up laughing at the crazy antics. The cousins also got caught up in a hastily organized police volley ball game on the hotel's beachfront, so the two were figuring out where and what to change into for the spontaneous challenge.

Things became more than chaotic when the two girls hunted down Charlie Fong and Duke Lukela. The next uproar came from the entire Aloha Girl's troop which created another frenzy of wild picture-taking.

By that time, more than an hour had passed by and Danny had physically used up his entire reserve of energy, but was refusing to sit down or admit defeat. With Steve still occupied by Lucy's family, Chin was now standing guard near him while Kono played interference with some Aloha Girl's stragglers who wanted even more pictures. She was also playfully bullying back some of her HPD peers who wanted to know which of the teams she'd be joining for the volley ball match.

Steve had his hat in his hands as he finally made his way back over. Chin had finally managed to get Danny to at least sit down in the first row where he was contentedly watching his daughter from behind his friendly but protective stance.

"Keys? I'll get it for him now." Steve nodded quietly when Chin muttered about getting the wheelchair from the car and he tossed him the keys with approval.

"What are you two planning?" Danny asked as he watched Chin jog from the room. Before answering, Steve studied him closely and provided the right judgment call based upon the slightly trembling hands. "Making sure you take care of yourself."

The ceremony had been a beautiful event and his partner was a happy, emotional, exhausted but very content father. They still had a celebratory party to attend though and Steve groaned to himself. They were already bordering on doing too much and there would be hours yet to go.

"Danny. Are you going to be okay for all of this?" He had to ask even though a shred of annoyance flickered across Danny's face. Checking his watch, Steve grumbled to himself when Danny huffed a disgusted noise when he saw Chin returning with the wheelchair.

"Perfectly. You all worry too much." However, Danny didn't complain as he transferred to the chair and handed Chin the cane. The issue was that it was only two o'clock and the buffet party was slated to begin at four. Becoming fatigued now, Danny would be in dire straits without rest and Steve knew he would never leave the hotel property.

"Excuse me. We have three courtesy rooms. I booked them this morning for our use."

Steve felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to come face to face with Stan Edwards and a much-appeased baby. Charles was gurgling happily and his tiny hand clenched inside his father's jacket pocket which was darkly stained by the baby's wet fingers and old tears.

Quietly, Stan pulled Steve a few feet away. "The girls are going swimming and taking advantage of the hotel amenities. The adults are going to do the same, hang out at the bar or do ... whatever. I heard about the volley ball game. But I got three courtesy rooms for those with babies or for anyone that needs to take a break. The kids will need to change when they get done playing, too."

Stan bounced Charles in his arms to make him laugh before continuing. "One room is completely reserved for adults who need to freshen up."

It was clear that Stan had thought ahead and the one room was actually reserved for Danny who might be desperate for rest. It was kind, thoughtful and Steve greatly appreciated the gesture. Seconds later, he found a card key shoved into his hand. "Second floor, room two-thirteen at the end. He should rest and Grace totally understands."

The relieved grin that spread across Steve's face was genuine as he clasped hands with Rachel's current husband. "Thank you."

What he hadn't realized was how much Grace did understand. She was back by her father with Lucy and two other girls excitedly explaining how they were going to all go swimming. "Uncle Steve has the key, Danno."

Her well-timed words allowed Steve to innocently waggle the plain white plastic card in the air. Grace leaned into Danny before leaving with her friends. She was the happiest that Steve had ever seen her and Danny couldn't help pulling her once more into his arms.

"I'm so proud of you and I love you so much, Monkey."

Her whispered reply was full of emotion as she returned his hug. "Me too, Danno."

There wasn't a trace of unease or nervous tension in his face when he watched her run off to the pool. Things were getting back on track and Steve waited patiently for Danny to decide what he wanted to do. Tired and yet smiling from ear to ear, Steve wasn't entirely ready for Danny's answer to his question.

"So?" He held up the room key again for his partner to take a break, but Danny was smirking in Kono's direction. Hardly shy, she was already shedding the top half of her police uniform and through her starched, white blouse peeked a yellow bikini top.

"So, you have to ask, Steven? A few rounds of volley ball first would suit me just fine!"

Almost surprised by what he was seeing, Steve laughed as Chin glared at his cousin. She had kicked off her perfectly shined shoes and was barefoot on the hotel carpet.

"Kono, ..." Chin sputtered and then coughed as the Commissioner stopped to stare at them from across the room. "Kono!"

"Hey, what? I'm always prepared, cuz. One of your most important life lessons, remember?" Chin snorted in mock disgust and then joined in their laughter when she tossed him her patrol hat. She had tugged her blouse out to hang over her dress blues, but the yellow bikini top clearly showed through.

Over her shoulder, Kono grinned deviously back at them. "Hold my hat. This won't take long."


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