In The End....
By Peg Keeley

(Answer to the Challenge to keep Danno from getting hurt. Also provides probably the ultimate reason for Danno's absence in the 12th Season!)

It had been raining all evening and maybe that was why the tires hardly made a sound as they slid on the pavement of the curve. The Mercury became airborne briefly as it crashed through the retaining rail then plummeted down the hillside crunching and grinding as it rolled down the thirty-foot grade. By the time it came to a stop, it resembled more a large aluminum tin foil ball than a vehicle. There was a moment of complete silence, then it exploded into flames.

Cars stopped at the broken guardrail. People stood, horrified, mouths open with cries of: "Oh, my God!" "Is anyone in there?" "Someone do something!" "Somebody call for help!"

Someone apparently did the last because fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances arrived sirens screaming in minutes. The firemen scrambled down the hillside, spraying down the flaming, blackened remains of the car and extinguishing the small grass fire the one car accident had started.

"Anyone in there?" a medic called as he approached the fire team.

"No one could get out of there alive," the fire fighter called back.

Unseen in a clump of brush, Dan Williams took a sudden, deep gasping breath. Amongst the tangle of leafy branches, he lay for a moment, trying to collect his wits. What happened? I recall the feel of the car leaving the road, that frightening sensation of weightlessness. I must have been thrown from the car. I thought I was dead. I should be dead. At least I should be hurt, but I think I'm fine. He tested his limbs by moving each just an inch or two. Satisfied with his apparent lack of injuries, Danny scrambled out of the weeds.

Both firemen turned, opened mouthed, to face him.

Danny stood up, dusting off his sooty, torn suit. "I'm all right," he claimed.

The medics rushed him.

Danny allowed himself to be shuffled off Queens Medical Center where the emergency room personnel poked and prodded for the better part of two hours before they confirmed what he had told them earlier: he really was all right.

"It's a miracle," a young nurse was whispering to the orderly in the hallway as Steve McGarrett entered the ER area. "Did you see his suit? It was burned -- cut, but he is just fine. A miracle."

McGarrett turned his gaze from the girl whose remark he had overheard to the man at the registration desk. His anxiety showing, he produced his badge. "McGarrett for Williams."

The registrar's face lit up. "It's unbelievable! You must be so relieved! He is back here!" He jumped to his feet.

But Steve was not relieved. If anything, his expression of concern deepened as the man took him to the cubicle.

Danny had just finished dressing in scrubs that the hospital had donated him to wear home when a sudden headache pierced his temple. He winced. Maybe there is something wrong from that accident after all.

The curtain parted and McGarrett stood there showing none of the wild relief and praise the hospital staff had. He quietly acknowledged his friend. "Danno."

"Steve, thanks for coming!" Danny replied. "I'm sorry about all this. I must have gotten awfully lucky this time." He ran a hand through his hair.

McGarrett stood there quietly for a moment before calmly asking, "What happened?"

"I was tailing the Yoshi brothers hoping to find out where their new drug lab was. It was raining and they were traveling pretty fast. I guess I hit a wet spot," he began to explain. He paused, realizing that he faced a major expense of a destroyed vehicle. It certainly isn't like Steve to worry about material things, but...."I'm sorry about the car."

"Forget the car," he said bluntly.

A little puzzled by McGarrett's continued brooding expression, Danny repeated, "I really am all right."

"Of course you're all right," Steve commented. He took Danny's arm. "We need to get out of here."

He blinked and agreed. "Okay. I think the hospital is ready to let me go." What is Steve so anxious about? I've told him I'm all right. It really is hard to believe myself. If I didn't know better, I'd swear he isn't happy that I'm okay. That just doesn't make sense, so there must be something else. But what? I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Steve drove at near breakneck speed to his small home on the east side of Honolulu, never uttering a word during the trip in spite of several attempts by Danny to engage him in conversation. Steve parked the car in the drive, then literally rushed the two of them inside and locked the door of the house.

"What is going on?" Danny finally asked, puzzled. "Look, I had a car accident, it's all right. I don't understand it, but I am fine."

Steve walked through the house closing the blinds. "You had an accident and it is not all right." He double-checked the locks on the door.

"But I am all right!" Danny spread his arms wide and gave a half grin. "You should have heard the ER people calling it a miracle."

"It is not a miracle." Satisfied that his home was secure, Steve walked back to stand before Danny. He crossed his arms, leveling a steady gaze on his friend. I have dreaded this moment for years, but I knew it would come. It always comes and it always seems to come too soon.

Danny now scowled. "Well, I know that it wasn't some supernatural....."

"It is not a miracle. You died."

Danny stared at him, then chuckled. "You okay, Steve?"

"I am okay. I have been okay for over six hundred years," he replied without emotion.

Danny blinked once and licked his lips. "Stop kidding me."

McGarrett turned his back on his friend and walked into the bathroom. Standing before the sink, he began to wash his face, then his hair. Danny stood to the side watching in shock as the years washed down the drain. When Steve turned back, he looked the man Danny had known twelve years ago, wrinkle-free, graying hair gone. "You see?" Steve said more kindly. "Make-up. All pretend. I have been 34 years old for nearly 600 years."

"But....." Danny stopped talking. The youthful look of Steve was overwhelming. He looks as young as I do -- younger. How can that be? He is over fifty-five, but he looks like he's thirty. This is a trick, some elaborate hoax. Why now? Isn't it enough that I almost got killed tonight? Anger began to burn. "I'm tired. I've had enough of this for one night. What is this all about, Steve?"

"I am an Immortal," Steve claimed quietly, like one might explain living in California or the Bronx. But what he was declaring was hardly as simple as that.

Danny was trying to reconcile the impossibility and be patient. Steve enjoys a good laugh, but usually his timing is perfect. This isn't funny anymore. "Immortal," he commented with a wry smile.

Steve gave him a steady gaze. "And so are you."

"Immortal?" he repeated, squinting. "Like in living forever?"

"Something like that." Steve showed no emotion at all. They never believe at first. Never.

Danny rubbed his neck. "Steve, this is a joke, right? I mean, this is not real."

Steve gave a gentle smile. "Real? What is real? When I met you at the hospital, you experienced a sudden brief headache, right?"

Williams cautiously managed a single nod of his head. How did he know that?

"That is the warning: how Immortals know another Immortal is there."

"Warning about what?"

"Immortals battle to the death." Steve walked over to the wall behind his couch where two samurai swords hung, crossed at the blades. "I have saved something for you for a long time."

Williams was very nervous about the peculiar behavior of his superior and closest friend. It was very disturbing to think that McGarrett might have somehow gone over the edge. I have never seen him like this. So strange. He has always been truthful and right -- but Immortal?

Steve carefully took down one sword. The highly polished blade shimmered as it reflected the light from the overhead ceiling lamp. Steve held it out flat on both hands towards Danny. "For you."

"Me?" He raised an eyebrow, gently pushing the gift back. "Thanks but -- well -- they are a pair. I'm not into oriental art like you are."

In a sudden spurt of furious action, Steve spun the hilt into his hand and with a broad sweep of his arm, cut the air fiercely with the sword and Danny jumped back. "You will need this to defend yourself." He spun the weapon back up to offer it again.

"Defend -- you just said we were Immortal -- we cannot die, remember?" Danny said with a small grin. This was a joke, I thought so!

"Immortals are locked in an eternal conflict we must fight to the last, till only one is left. You can only die if someone takes your head. And they will come looking for you."

"Takes my -- come on, Steve! Enough of this," he pleaded. "First you say we live forever, then you say some Immortal person will show up here any minute and kill me. Isn't that just a little inconsistent?"

Steve did not bother to reply to the line of logic that to him only demonstrated how far Danno would have to go. He will learn in time -- if he gets the time. "You aren't the only one," Steve added gently. "Did you ever wonder why Ben and Kono left so suddenly?"

Danny stared at him. "I thought they got a better job offer. Are you trying to tell me they were Immortal, too?"

He nodded. "I watched over them until their time -- and now the time is yours."

"But they didn't die! Time for what?!" He paced across the room.

"You did not know it. They did. Kono fell off a ladder at home and broke his neck. Ben was in a motorcycle wreck; he went off into a ravine. No one else ever knew. Kono and Ben came to accept what they really were and moved on."

Danny scowled. I have mourned Chin over a year. Is it possible…? "What about Chin? I saw Chin dead." What am I doing? Am I buying into this insanity? I am standing here hoping Steve will tell me a friend I was pallbearer for is alive.

He smiled. "Chin, too. He was very clever. It took other Immortals a long time to discover him. By that time, he was deep in China learning to stay alive." His smile faded a little. "But you," Steve shook his head, "your miraculous recovery made the news tonight. You will have to leave. Others could be here before morning."

"Leave! Where will I go?"

"That is up to you. But you must go. Keep this sword with you, it may be the only friend you have." Steve's face was set in sobriety.

"I don't know how to use this thing. I'll cut my own head off!" he said in shock.

Steve gave a tolerant grin, as if that would be something to see. He scribbled out something on a slip of paper. "Here's an address of a friend of mine. He is in a monastery in Brazil. Get there -- stay there. No one can hurt you there, it is Holy Ground. The Brothers will keep you safe until you are ready to make it on your own."

"But what about my job?"

"Don't worry about it. I'll come up with an explanation." He gave a mild cocky smile. "I'll say you decided to make a career change. Seeing that everyone believes me to be a stony dictator around here, there won't be any questions. You will be written off as one more employee who could stand me no longer."

Danny looked at the sword he held clumsily in his hand. "Will I ever see you again?"

"Of course, in time." As if he could read the next question on Danny's face he added, "And we will still be friends. But there will be few that are. Trust no one who gives you that headache."

He nodded, still numb from the shock. It'll wipe out my savings to get that ticket to Brazil, but it probably doesn't matter anymore. I am effectively dead here. I will just vanish to everyone I know. It is just as if I did die in that car accident. For an instant, he grieved the loss of life as he had known it.

"Danno," Steve said quietly. "It isn't that bad. You will have a chance to do everything you have ever wanted. And if you don't like it -- move on and start over."

"Somehow that seems very lonely," Danny commented wistfully.

Steve squeezed his friend's shoulder. "It's not so bad. I haven't been lonely here all these years. In another year or two I must move on, even make-up can only take you so far. Maybe I'll come to Brazil then."

He nodded and turned to the door, tucking the sword under his arm. "Good-bye, Steve."

"Good-bye, Danno. Remember, the rules of the Immortal game -- In the End There Can Be Only One."

Danno looked back at the friend he had known for eleven years. "Does that mean that someday we may have to fight each other?"

Steve sighed. "I certainly hope not. There are enough evil Immortals out there for us to deal with."

"I don't suppose you could, you know, give me a simple survival lesson with this sword then," Danny asked innocently. "I mean, I'd like to live to make it to Brazil."

Steve gave a simple grin and glanced around the office. "Well, this place doesn't have a lot of space, but I'm sure we can arrange something." He turned his back as he reached for the other sword on the wall. He was completely unprepared for the next instant as Danny's blade ran him through the back and out his chest. Steve gasped, dropping to his knees as Danno pulled the sword back. McGarrett gave an astonished questioning to look to his former employee.

Raising the sword high Danno gave a little shrug. "You said so yourself: In the end there can be only one." The blade swept through the air and McGarrett's neck.

A light rain had started to fall outside the terminal window as Dan Williams pocketed the boarding pass for the flight to South America. Memories of exploding fixtures, blue lightening blots, and the tingling of every nerve still clouded in his mind. When the Quickening had passed, he'd been amazed to realize how much stronger and alert he felt. Six hundred years of knowledge in the flash of an eye. Farewell, Steve, I am sure you would have known it all went to a good cause. Without looking back, he headed down the ramp and boarded the plane.

(For all those out there who doubted I could keep Danny safe, there is it. Now - can we get back to the serious maiming, killing and stuff)

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