"I swim. I swim for survival, not for fun."
(Danny Williams, Ep. 1.01 Pilot)
"I swim. Very well, actually. I just choose not to."
(Danny Williams, Ep. 1.07 Ho'apono)
1 The Snorkeling Conundrum
"No," Danny said, loudly, firmly, and enunciating very, very clearly just in case Rachel was getting deaf as well as stupid. "No, she can't. No way. I am not giving my consent for this clusterfuck waiting to happen." He paused, listened with the forced patience of an ex-husband all too used to arguing with his former spouse, and pawed the air in front of him in frustration when Rachel insisted on being an idiot. "Are you nuts? She's nine years old! I remember how I was at her age. She'll forget!"
Beside him, Steve turned his head a little to glance at him, prompting Danny to stab a finger at the windshield in a wordless order to keep his eyes front, damn it. Proving to be way smarter than Rachel for once, Steve obediently looked back at the road. He'd better. One almost-crash per car chase was more than enough.
"No," he repeated. He took the phone away from his ear so he could face it directly as he snarled into the speaker, which was the next best thing to getting in Rachel's face. "Non. Njet. Nein. Īe. No fucking way." He shook his head even as Rachel's tone rose into a whole new register of bitchy. "I don't care. It's not happening!"
Ahead of them, above a sun-flooded intersection, the lights turned red. Steve, being Steve, floored it.
"Truck!" Danny yelled, eyes going wide even as he grabbed the oh shit handle and hung on for dear life. "Truck, truck, truck, truuuu-"
Steve pulled the Camaro into a fancy maneuver that involved a lot of spinning and squealing tires and got them past the truck and across the intersection in one piece.
"I hate you," Danny informed him, because that was safer than letting the maniac know Danny might just be a teeny-tiny bit impressed by his driving skills.
Perfectly capable of reading between the lines of Danny's griping, Steve flashed him a proud smirk and drifted around the next corner like he was auditioning for the next The Fast and the Furious movie.
"Not you," Danny snapped at Rachel, who'd naturally taken offense where none was meant, because that was just how the two of them rolled. "Wait, yes. You, too. Don't get our daughter in trouble, woman!" That, of course, set off a whole different diatribe, this one as routine as it was unfair. Danny blew an errant strand of hair out of his face and waved his free hand, both in irritation and to direct Steve towards a shortcut.
It always made Steve absurdly happy when Danny displayed his growing familiarity with the streets of Oahu and he showed his pleasure by kicking the engine into a triumphant roar as he gunned the car up the narrow road. Danny fastened his seatbelt and tuned back into Rachel's tirade in time to cut her off as she hit a particularly sore point.
"I don't care. I can't change it, this is how it is, I get to veto these things and I'm vetoing." Rachel hit him with the verbal equivalent of stomping her foot. Danny rolled his eyes. "I don't know. That's your problem. Schedule a tennis lesson or something. I gotta go, some of us actually work for a living."
He quickly pushed the off button before Rachel could come up with an appropriately scathing rejoinder and stuffed the cell phone back into his breast pocket. On second thought, he buttoned the pocket then pulled the bulletproof vest closed over it and made sure it was securely fastened. He'd lost more than one phone in the line of duty since he'd started working with Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett. All that jumping through windows and dodging bullets was hell on the equipment.
"She does work for a living," McGarrett piped up, because McGarrett didn't know when to keep his trap shut.
"Well, she's not about to get shot at, is she? Whereas I know that the second we catch up to these idiots, there's gonna be bullets whizzing past my ears and people will be actively trying to kill me. Means I work harder." Steve opened his mouth, but Danny's hands cut through the air between them like a knife, preemptively. "Don't argue with me. I know you SEAL types believe gunfights are refreshing and nothing to think twice about, but us regular people like to avoid them. Come to think of it, I'm so filing for hazard pay."
Steve pouted a bit at that, but didn't manage to keep it up for long. The crazy bastard lived for this shit and their perps had just fishtailed into what looked like a survivalist compound, which meant more excitement for Mr. Odds-Are-Always-in-Our-Favor-Oorah.
"So what's she want now?" Steve asked, as if they weren't about to crash through yet another gate and start the mother of all gunfights.
"Snorkeling lessons," Danny spat. He checked his clip, said his usual prayer to St. Michael, and braced for impact.
Super SEAL didn't disappoint.
"So what's so bad about snorkeling lessons?"
One thing about Steve McGarrett was that he was tenacious. Like a dog with a bone or a shark with a fat baby seal. It was useful on the job, but more than a bit inconvenient when it came to Danny's private life. Or rather, some of the more sensitive aspects of it. The man had atrocious timing, or maybe excellent timing... probably depended on your point of view.
Danny scowled his displeasure, but he didn't manage quite the depth of feeling he'd have needed to get Steve to back off. He was too relaxed. They'd gathered for their customary post-case celebratory barbecue at Steve's and now Danny had a belly full of good food, a mostly empty beer in one hand and a slice of sweet, fresh mango in the other, and Steve was sitting next to him looking all mellow and content, all of which made it extremely hard to work up a lot of bluster.
"It's not so much the snorkeling," Danny explained, about to go for a slightly adapted version of the 'why Grace is not allowed on a surf board' spiel.
Steve beat him to it. "Let me guess. Sharks, skin cancer, and the horror of Grace wearing a bikini."
Bristling was an option, but Danny was full and feeling pretty mellow himself, so he just smiled and popped the mango slice into his mouth, talking as he chewed. "Very good, Steven. Got it in one." He waved a juice-slicked finger. "That, and if she swallows salt water and barfs, I'll never hear the end of it."
"Yeah," Steve muttered, distracted by Danny's finger. He looked like he wanted to grab it and lick off the juice. Danny would've liked that, but Danny wasn't the type of guy who made the same mistake twice. He'd learned his lesson with Rachel. Tempting as Steve was – and he was plenty tempting – this time Danny was going to keep it in his pants. Didn't mean he couldn't enjoy the flirting.
Then Steve had to go and ruin it. "It's just... you said this is how it is and that you can't change it. What did you mean?"
...and there went Danny's relaxation. "It's just a phrase. Hey, you want another beer? 'Cause I could definitely do with one."
The good thing about Steve? You could use his own tactics against him. Steve's guard was down, too, and he was a good host, when he wasn't asking dumb questions. "Sure," he said, successfully distracted by Danny's request. "More mango?"
Danny looked down at his sticky fingers, but the fun was out of the game. "Nah," he said quietly. "I'm done."
There were a lot of things about Hawaii that annoyed the hell out of Danny, but he reserved a special place in his heart for a few select evils.
Sand trumped all. When it wasn't messing up Danny's footing or getting in his shoes, it was whipped up in the air to irritate his eyes and, at the end of the day, it was in his clothes, in his apartment, even in his hair. Granted, this might've had something to do with how much time Danny spent on beaches surveilling suspects, tailing suspects, and chasing suspects, but the result was what counted. Sand was bad.
Pineapples were pretty high on the list when they weren't cut up and served with alcohol.
Island time might've been nice for beach bums and tourists, but it was a pain in the ass when you were trying to catch criminals and delays could cost someone their life.
Tropical downpours went without saying, especially since Steve had taken away Danny's umbrella. Apparently, in Hawaii, cops didn't use umbrellas. They did the macho thing and got wet.
The Hawaiian pidgin, droll as it could be, was chock-full of context-dependent word meanings and hidden connotations.
Then there were the Hawaiian nationalists. Well, to be honest, Danny tended to butt heads with nationalists of every persuasion, because he had a serious problem with extremists, but since he was currently living in Hawaii, Danny focused his displeasure on the Hawaiian subgroup. More specifically, the boy scouts gone bad who called themselves the Kapu.
It didn't help that Steve labored under the delusion that they had "bonded" with Kawika and tended to consult him whenever they were dealing with gang-related crime. Who knew, maybe Kawika and Steve had found a common wavelength. Kawika and Danny got along like oil and water. Which was to say, Kawika was a self-righteous prick who took great pleasure in trying to offend Danny, and Danny was clinging to his temper by the skin of his teeth every time he had to make nice with the man.
There were several levels to their mutual dislike, though thankfully Steve hadn't caught on to that yet. The operative word there was "yet", because Danny was fast approaching the limit of his patience. He had a fairly high tolerance for bullshit, it came with the job, but somewhere between the tenth time of being stuck with the check and the nth time of being called haole, Danny's professionalism was starting to take a backseat to the desire to put an end to the needling. Danny didn't do well with bullies. It was a "runt of the litter" kinda thing.
Cue another painful meeting, but this time they were still waiting for their drinks (and Danny dreaded to think what color his tongue would turn this time) when Steve's phone suddenly came to life and blared out the girliest pop song to ever emasculate a phone owner. Kawika's eyes bugged out in disbelief. Danny had to freeze his entire body to keep from laughing. He knew that if he started, he wasn't going to stop for a while and he couldn't do that to Steve in front of the pain-in-the-ass leader of the Kapu.
For his part, Steve first looked every bit as startled as Kawika and then he realized it was actually his phone doing the betraying and he snatched it out of his pocket like a hot coal. "Mary!" he barked, and, well, that explained everything.
Danny grinned at the thought of Mary stealing Steve's phone to change her ringtone in order to get back at her brother for something Steve had probably long forgotten he'd done. He noticed that Steve seemed torn between whatever Mary was saying and his usual focus on the job at hand, and made a shooing motion. "Take the call," he told Steve with a carefully straight face. "I'll handle this."
Steve, bless his heart, darted a quick look from Danny to Kawika and back, trying to gauge the level of hostility. "You sure?" Mary's tinny voice squealed from the speaker and he held the phone away from his ear with a wince. "She's persistent today."
Probably didn't help that whenever she called, Steve was usually busy chasing a suspect or planning a raid or holding pressure bandages over bullet wounds and wasn't inclined to chat. Mary had learned to distinguish between Steve's "Not now, I'm up to my neck in criminals!" and his "Not now, I'm soon going to be up to my neck in criminals" voice and to latch on when it was the latter.
"Go talk to your sister." Danny smirked. "Tell her I said Hi."
Steve snorted softly. "If I get in a word edgewise, I will." He nodded at Kawika. "Be right back." And off he went, long-legged strides taking him out of the bar onto the hotel terrace. He stopped there, half in the sunlight, half in the shade of a huge palm tree, trying not to let other people see the way his eyes softened and his smile widened as he listened to his sister's brash voice.
Danny watched him go with an affectionate smile that slipped off his face the instant he turned back to Kawika and found the other man staring at him.
"Nothing. Just watching the little mahu i'a haole pine." Kawika's face remained stony, but his Kapu buddies snickered nastily.
Patience, Danny reminded himself. Professionalism. Manners. He forced a smile, but even he could tell it turned more into a baring of teeth. "Four insults in one sentence. Wow. I'm flattered. How long have you been wanting to use that?"
"Watch it, i'a." And that was new and it wasn't; with Steve there, he'd have called Danny a haole, but now they were alone for the first time, Kawika had no qualms about letting Danny know which part of him was resented the most. "You show us a little respect, or you better not set foot in the water while you're here."
Oh, and that was just- That was enough. Danny leaned forward in his chair and let rip. "You really wanna do this? You wanna compare dick sizes? Will that make you shut up and show me a little common courtesy? Okay, I can do that." He poked a finger at Kawika across the table, not making contact, just drawing attention; he made a chopping motion just above head height next to indicate his level of resentment. "I've had it up to here with you and your elitist little scholeío to̱n psarió̱n. You think you're badass? You think you're better than me, because your people have been living on this godforsaken rock for a few generations now? Because you're special? Huh?"
The Kapu honor guard at the other table started to shove back their chairs, but Kawika lifted a hand and they froze obediently. "That's exactly what I think, i'a. So what are you gonna do about it?"
Danny could feel his smile grow colder and a tad toothier. "I will tell you one thing before I invite you into the water with me, Kawika, because apparently you don't smell so good on dry land. I'm Old Blood. So I'll be delighted to go for a swim with you or your entire clan there, just let me know when and where." He leaned back from a suddenly pale Kawika and smiled at the waitress who was bringing their cocktails. "Or we could pretend we're all civilized adults here and try to get along without the constant pissing contests."
The waitress set down the glasses. The cocktails were blue again, with a splash of bright red at the bottom. Danny eyed his with interest. "Cool. What's this one called?"
"It's called a Shark Bite," Steve said, sitting down next to him. He smiled at Danny then gave Kawika a puzzled look. The man was still several shades off his natural skin color.
Danny smirked. "Of course it is."
It was delicious, too, even if Danny's tongue did end up blue again. So worth it.
3 Into the Blue
Steve had a rare and unfortunate talent for attracting complicated and potentially disastrous cases on Fridays. Danny wasn't entirely sure why; he suspected it might've started out as a defense mechanism against lonely weekends and had developed into a bad habit. Danny had ranted at him because of it, he'd tried punishing silence, he'd hidden the car keys, and on one memorable occasion had printed out a life-sized poster of Gracie and stuck it to Steve's office door as a reminder that Danny had to live through Friday to spend precious time with his daughter on Saturday.
His efforts were in vain. Steve tried; he tried so hard. He went so far as to stick to procedure whenever he remembered, but circumstances conspired against him on a regular basis. So there'd be car chases and boat chases and crashing helicopters and international terrorists and local weapons dealers and bombs and explosions and lots and lots of property damage followed by even more paperwork. Steve would kick ass and be heroic, drag Danny through gunfire and wildly improbable hostage scenarios, and in eight out of ten cases he'd lose his shirt at least once. And then he'd beam and say, "Book 'em, Danno," like that was the best line ever, and Danno would grumble and bitch at him and book 'em. It was all good, if a bit stressful.
Except for when things went seriously sideways.
"I'm sorry," Steve said, his breath warm against Danny's bruised belly.
Danny looked down at him, exasperated and scared, because Steve definitely had a hero complex and it had gotten him shot once already. "Can you please not do something stupid right now?" he begged, half expecting Steve to do one of his fancy martial arts flips back to his feet so he could attack their kidnappers and get shot again. "We're in a helicopter over the middle of the ocean, you're perforated, I'm handcuffed – with your fucking cuffs, I might add, and don't think I'm going to forget that any time soon – and there's at least three guns trained on us right this very moment. So can we just sit here for a minute and try to come up with a plan that doesn't involve one of us dying? Pretty please?"
Steve looked up at him from where he lay with his head on Danny's lap, hangdog expression firmly in place. "I'm sorry I'm ruining your weekend with Grace again."
"Yeah, well, Grace is getting used to spending her weekends at your place anyway." Danny shrugged as well as he could with his wrists cuffed behind his back and wished he could wipe that forlorn expression from Steve's face. "We'll grill some fish, dig out the board games, and hang out. She'll love it."
"Sounds good," Steve breathed, so quietly Danny could barely make out the words over the roar of the engine and rotor blades. Helicopters were noisy. Steve was still bleeding, but it was slowing down, the wound clotting under the makeshift bandage. All things considered, he'd been lucky. The bullet had hit him in the thigh, but it had neither damaged the bone nor hit the femoral artery. If Danny could keep Steve off his leg for a bit, he'd be fine in a few weeks. Provided they didn't get killed first, of course.
"Where d'you think they're taking us?" he asked Steve, and he knew he wouldn't like the answer when Steve wouldn't meet his gaze, just stared at Danny's abs like there was a secret escape plan written down on them. Goon Number Two definitely owed Danny a new shirt after nearly ripping this one off him in his search for wires. Like Danny was going to wear a wire on his chest. This wasn't the seventies, damn it. The bug had been in Danny's watch. Which, unfortunately, he'd lost when the monkey had tried to bite off his arm. Yeah, his life was great. He'd never had to worry about attack monkeys back in Jersey.
And while he was on the topic of attack primates, the one in his lap still owed him an answer. Danny jiggled his leg, bouncing Steve's head up and down a bit to get his attention, but carefully, so as not to make him sick again. It was a fine line, but Danny had enough practice to pull it off. "Hey. Super SEAL. Where's the chopper going?"
Steve shrugged faintly. "Nowhere."
"Oh, that's... why? You have a plan?"
Dark brows furrowed, that pretty mouth tightened... yep, it was Aneurism Face. Oh joy. "It's going nowhere, Danny, because they're going to shoot us in the head and toss us into the sea and then head back to O'ahu."
Danny blinked. "That is not an acceptable plan, Steven."
Steve shot him a dark look. His pupils were still uneven, Danny noted, and hoped he wouldn't have to watch Steve throw up again. The smell always made him want to toss his own cookies.
"Can you swim?"
"Can I-" Danny blustered. "How often have I told you, I swim. I swim like a fucking fish. I just choose not to." Comprehension dawned. "Wait. That's your plan? Seriously? This is what you came up with? Jump before they can push us? Are you literally insane? We're going about a hundred miles an hour and we're way up high! I don't know about you, but I don't have a parachute! We're going to break every bone in our damn bodies. Water's hard!"
"Bullets are harder," Steve reminded him grimly. He was stirring a little, tensing, and Danny realized with a growing sense of horror that his lunatic of a partner was readying himself to move.
"Can we talk about this?" he asked plaintively even as he tensed up himself, because Steve might be a moron sometimes, but he was Danny's moron and Danny had his back no matter what. Two guys on the right, one on the left, and he knew Steve was going for the duo, gunshot wound and concussion be damned.
"No time." And then Steve came up off the floor, but he wasn't going for the guards, he was going for Danny, his mouth pressing against Danny's in a hard, wet kiss, wild and a little off-center, too much teeth and tongue to be any good, too much passion and desperate emotion for it to be anything but perfect.
Someone was shouting, more annoyed than alarmed, but Danny hardly noticed, too wrapped up in Steve to give a fuck about offended sensibilities. This kiss wasn't a "what the fuck" or even a "what, now?", it was a "finally, finally, finally", long overdue, eagerly anticipated, and who cared about shitty timing? This was Steve. It was exactly the kind of first kiss Danny had expected and he enjoyed the hell out of it.
A beefy hand came down on Steve's neck and started to pull him off Danny, and that was rude, that simply wasn't done, so Danny moved with them, up and forward, pushing Steve into the guard so he could headbutt the fucker over Steve's shoulder before Steve could bang his own head back. One concussion was plenty, thank you very much.
He broke left, Steve broke right; Danny kneed his opponent in the groin, Steve body-checked his into the wall and then slammed his knee into the man's solar plexus. Steve retrieved the handcuff keys and freed himself while Danny leaned against the cockpit door to keep the co-pilot from coming into the back and adding to the general mayhem. A second later, his own cuffs clicked open, Steve's fingers caressing the lacerated skin briefly before the helicopter lurched to the side and tossed him away.
Somehow, they got the hatch open and, Jesus, there was nothing down there, nothing but endless ocean, no land anywhere, not even a speck of solid ground, nothing but water. The ancient blood that ran through Danny's veins made his heart beat faster at the sight, the excitement pulsing through him almost as addictive as the unexpected sweetness of Steve's kiss.
The helicopter tilted again and bucked like a living animal, trying to compensate for the sudden thump of air rushing into the cargo area. The sea was closer than Danny had anticipated, close enough so the impact probably wouldn't hurt them too badly, and he could see the same realization in Steve's eyes, wide open and burning with the manic thrill of danger and a shitload of adrenaline. The co-pilot was starting to shoot through the door and the bullets whizzing past their heads provided the final incentive.
"Trust me," Steve shouted, like there was even the ghost of a chance Danny wouldn't.
Danny rolled his eyes, grabbed Steve's wrist as Steve grabbed his, and they took a running dive into the blue.
4 Old Blood
"What do you mean, we're on our own?"
Treading water fully clothed was hard work. Danny had ditched his shoes and socks and was contemplating losing his pants next, but Steve's admission brought him up short. He pushed up a bit, the better to glare at his partner and check up on him at the same time. Steve didn't look good. Oh, he was still stoically dog paddling to stay afloat, but Danny could tell that his wounded leg was all but useless and probably hurting like the devil. He was bleeding again and his skin had taken on the almost gray cast of an exhausted man in serious pain. Looked like they were about to find out just how drown-proof Navy SEALs really were.
"Grabbed... grabbed my tracker from... asshole... ruined..." Steve grimaced and closed his eyes. "'m gonna be sick..."
Yeah, unsurprisingly, saltwater and concussions didn't mix. Danny pushed closer to Steve's side and got in position behind him to hold him up while Steve retched miserably, spitting out brackish water and a bit of bile. Not much left in there to upchuck, they'd been chasing their quarry non-stop since breakfast and now the sun was going down. The sky was a riot of colors, a final conflagration trying to push back the night that was rising like a sleepy beast from the sea.
It would've been all kinds of pretty and peaceful if not for Steve's pitiful condition and the sense of movement in the darkness underneath them. If Danny stayed real still he could feel them, sleek and hungry, drawing closer with every twitch of Steve's weary body. The smell of Steve's blood in the water was attracting predators and apparently they'd managed to land smack in the middle of Shark Central. Shit.
"Let me recap," Danny said, mostly to give Steve something to cling to, if only the familiar sound of a Danny Williams bitchfest. "We're at least a hundred miles from dry land, the tracker Chin could've used to find us is useless, nobody knows where to look for us, and night is falling. And because that's not enough excitement, you're concussed and bleeding like a stuck pig, and oh, yes, there's sharks down there. Small sharks, but still sharks. Would you agree that our situation is bad? Really, really, life-or-death bad?"
"FUBAR," Steve mumbled agreeably.
Even Danny knew that one. He sighed. Grabbed Steve by the shirt and pulled him back up when the man started to go under. Scowled so hard he could feel salt residue crackle on his skin. "We should've taken our chances with the perps in the helicopter."
Steve's head lolled back against Danny's shoulder. Danny compensated for the weight and held them both up, careful not to hit Steve's legs with his as he kicked the water a little harder. "Better chances down here," Steve explained, more than a tad slurred. "Chin's going to find us." He smiled proudly even as his eyes started to droop. "Got a tracker."
Only the tracker was dead and Chin had no way of finding them and even if he did, time was running out fast. The sharks were closing in, nervous flicks of their tail fins propelling them ever nearer, still uncertain, but hopeful. Always hungry. Always hunting.
"Did you mean it?" It was out before Danny could stop it, stupid and insecure, but whatever happened next, things would never be the same between them and Danny... Danny needed to know. "The kiss? Did you mean it?"
A cold cheek pressed against Danny's. Steve nodded slightly, stubble rasping against stubble in an intimate caress. "Love you," Steve whispered, voice almost gone now. "So much. 's scary."
No argument there. "Yeah. It's- I love you, too, y'know?" Danny said, and naturally that was when he felt it, a sudden burst of pressure from below, something shooting towards them, gaining speed with every whip of its powerful body.
Danny reacted on instinct. He let the water tell him what he needed to know, waited until the last second, then he twisted hard, pushed Steve out of the way, and rammed the heel of one foot against a pointed nose, the other sideways against an unblinking eye. The tiger shark recoiled, stunned by the force and accuracy of the blows, and ducked back down into the dark.
The good news was that Steve was wide awake now, and keeping himself afloat. The bad news was that there were more sharks down there and night was falling fast. If Danny didn't do something, Steve was going to die.
Two quick strokes brought him back to Steve's side and he grabbed the beloved face between his hands, kissed the open mouth, tasted salt and bile and Steve.
"Listen to me," he ordered, stern and unwavering because Steve was conditioned to obey this kind of tone, and by God, for once the damn Navy brainwashing was going to work in Danny's favor. "I love you, okay? I love you. Don't freak. There's sharks beneath us, lots of sharks, and you can't swim. You can't even tread water until someone stumbles over us." Steve was starting to shake his head, but Danny didn't let him, held his face still, forced him to meet Danny's eyes.
"I'm gonna let go of you in a moment, Steve. I'm gonna go under the water- No, listen to me!" He shook Steve once, hard. "I'm gonna dive deep and I'm not going to come back up for a while. Don't freak. Don't, okay? I'll be fine, I promise. There's nothing in these waters that can hurt me, trust me on that. I'm gonna take care of the sharks and then I'm going to come for you. I'll look different, but I swear, it'll still be me. Don't panic. I'm going to come up from under you and I want you to grab on to my back and be careful about it, because my skin is going to be rough. Don't hurt yourself more, okay? You hold on to me and I'll get us out of here, I'll get us both back home, I swear. Just don't freak. I love you. Don't freak."
"Danny?" God, he sounded so lost, so young, completely unlike the Steve Danny knew. If Danny's protective instincts hadn't already been in overdrive, that would've pushed him there.
"Don't freak," Danny reminded him once more, and then he let go of Steve and the air in his lungs and dove under the surface into the deep.
It was always a revelation. Always. He didn't do this often enough; couldn't, because it was addictive, too damn good to indulge, too hard to quit it. A kind of freedom unrivaled by anything else. This was why Gracie's time in the sea was always strictly supervised and limited. Grace, like her father, loved to swim.
Danny stretched and twisted like a cat after a nap, muscles shifting and singing their pleasure. His world turned monochrome and then expanded as his other senses kicked in; taste and smell first, then electroreception, then hearing. Steve was loud, splashing around as he fought to stay afloat, screaming Danny's name. Danny could feel him all along his skin, prickling and seductive, his taste hot and coppery in the water, the smell of his blood familiar. He could feel the others, too, small, quick, agitated. Used to being the baddest bad boys around. Hungry for Steve, but Steve was off-limits, Steve was Danny's.
He crashed into them like a Great White ambushing a school of tuna, tore them up, ripped them open, wallowed in the blood and the frantic twitches as they tried to get away, suddenly not so hungry anymore. He swallowed them and they were just crunchy enough to be fun, tasty. They scattered, their dull minds catching on to the fact that there was a bigger, nastier hunter among them now, something out of their own distant past, ancient and made for killing. Old Blood. Carcharodon megalodon, he of the big teeth, and he hoped Steve would never look up the meaning of the name or Danny would never hear the end of it.
That was, if Steve ever spoke to him again after this.
The thought was sobering. Danny snapped half-heartedly after the last of the tiger sharks, but didn't bother taking up the chase. Those that were left had gotten a taste of feeling like prey and apparently hadn't liked it. He turned a tight circle to check his surroundings, but they were gone, mostly, only a few brave ones circling in the distance. Nothing else around that could threaten Steve, not even jellyfish. Seemed like everything alive had taken a nosedive the second Danny had Switched. Sea creatures were a lot smarter than people generally believed.
He rose from the killing grounds slowly, carefully, trying not to startle Steve who was still paddling feebly, still crying out Danny's name in that broken, fading voice. It wasn't completely dark yet, but while Steve might've felt something of the stir the deadly dance beneath him had caused, he likely hadn't been able to see a thing. The sea was too deep, the light too weak, and Danny's skin was the perfect camouflage for conditions like these. His ancestors had had to deal with fierce competition, so they'd adapted accordingly.
Danny tried to be discreet, but the first thing Steve saw of him was a fin breaking the surface, a fin that kept getting bigger as Danny emerged. He could smell Steve's increasing panic, a primal terror in the face of death by shark not even a Navy SEAL could control. Danny calculated distance and speed precisely, which wasn't easy considering the size difference between them, and he would've come up in perfect position for Steve to sit down on his back and grab his first dorsal fin, but unfortunately he bumped Steve just slightly and Steve lost it. He kicked at Danny and cussed him in what sounded like four different languages at least (Cantonese, Steve? Really?) and his heart was pounding so desperately Danny could actually hear it, a frantic drum beat that made Danny's own heart clench in pain, because Steve was afraid of him.
Realizing there was no way he could pick up his passenger with same passenger fighting him every step of the way, Danny retreated and dove back into the darkness. Fuck.
Okay. Second try. This time, Steve tried to slice him up with the edge of the handcuffs he must've pocketed before they'd jumped. Danny had to hand it to the man; he was a brave son-of-a-bitch. Danny wasn't sure he would've dared try this against a shark the size of a small Navy submarine. Then again, this was Steve, the human most likely to give even a megalodon indigestion. Fuck.
Danny Switched back for try number three, came up naked and mad as a wet hen to yell at Steve, because apparently Steve couldn't function without a good shouting-at. "Did I or did I not tell you not to freak, goddamnit? McGarrett, I swear to God, do you ever listen to me? Do you ever-"
That was about as far as he got before Steve had latched on to him and was kissing the breath right out of him, hands sliding up and down Danny's body searching for injuries, even though that made Steve sink again. Danny whimpered into the kiss, flailed, kicked, managed to get a grip on Steve's shirt and hold him up so the idiot wouldn't drown. He pulled back finally, because he could feel Steve getting weaker, was about to yell at the man some more, but God, the way Steve looked at him damn near made his heart stop.
"I thought you were dead," Steve croaked, fingers shaking against Danny's cheek. "I thought you were dead, Danno."
Danny swallowed, unable to hold on to his indignation in the face of Steve's misery. "I'm sorry, babe. I should've explained better." He could feel Steve shivering and his worry kicked up another notch. Blood loss, concussion, exhaustion... Steve couldn't afford hypothermia and shock on top of that. He'd never make it back to land, not even with Danny's help. Danny turned his head to press a quick kiss to the cool fingers still cradling his face. "We gotta get you out of here. We gotta get back to Oahu. I can get us there, babe, but I need you to trust me. Can you do that?"
Steve frowned, offended. "You know I trust you." His eyes were fixed on Danny, but even in the fading light Danny could see he wasn't quite tracking. "There's a m-monster shark down there, Danny. You have to- to get out of the water."
"Listen to me." Danny shook him, tried to get through the haze of head injury and exhaustion that was slowing Steve down and making communication difficult. "The shark's me, okay? I am the shark. I tried to get you to grab on to my dorsal fin, but you kept hitting me with those damn handcuffs."
"T-there's a shark." Definitely not quite tracking.
"I'm the shark." Actually, Danny thought with a slight edge of hysteria, as badly as it was going, this conversation was probably easier with a concussed Steve than it would've been with a Steve who was firing on all cylinders.
"The s-shark's a whole lot bigger than you," Steve observed, skeptically.
Fuck this. "To be honest with you, as megalodons go, I'm still on the short side," Danny admitted from between gritted teeth. "Now if you're done dissing my size, can you focus, please?"
Steve nodded obediently. He was petting Danny, Danny realized, clumsy fingers threading through his wet hair, leaving trails of fire down his neck. It was distracting, but Danny couldn't make himself tell Steve to stop. He took a deep breath. "Okay. Listen, Steve. Listen to me. I'm going to let go of you in a moment. I'm going to dive so I don't hit you with anything when I Switch, okay? I'm going to circle around and I'm going to come at you from there, see?" He pointed to Steve's right, because Steve needed to focus on something and this way maybe Danny wouldn't startle him so badly this time. "You'll see my fin first and I know it's big and it's a little scary, but I swear to God, it's me. It's me, Steve. Looks like a big shark, but it's me."
Steve didn't look convinced, but he didn't argue, just held on to Danny like Danny would vanish the second Steve let go. "Okay," he said.
It was Danny's turn to be skeptical. "You sure? You won't hit me with those cuffs again? Because that was not nice, man. You hurt my feelings."
Ah, there was the bitchface. How Danny had missed it. "I said, okay."
Danny smirked. "Good. Remember, no hitting. I'll go as slow as possible, you just grab on to my fin and sit tight. And be careful, my skin's really, really rough, all right?"
"Dermal denticles," Steve muttered, the big geek.
"How do you know that?" Danny complained, because really, what the fuck. "I didn't know that. I didn't know that, and I have dermal denticles sometimes. And can we not call them that, please?"
Steve raised an eyebrow, which somehow made him look even more like a drowning puppy. "Why not?"
"Sounds like an STD," Danny grumbled, embarrassed, and then had to do a fast grab and pull again when Steve laughed so hard he forgot to float.
Fourth time was the charm.
Danny half expected to get beaten or kicked again, but Steve somehow clubbed his fight or flight instinct into submission and held his position when Danny rose from the depths. The pickup wasn't perfect; Steve almost knocked himself out against the almost man-high fin and Danny heard him curse and smelled fresh blood when Steve grabbed hold of him, but Steve was nothing if not persistent and he slid and climbed around until he found a spot that worked. Danny stayed as close to the surface as possible, a good part of his back exposed to the cooling night air, and he took care not to swim too fast so as not to jerk around so much.
The only living creature that had ever touched Danny in this form and not been killed was Grace, and she'd been a tinier version of himself then. Carrying Steve on his back was odd, a constant itch that made the fish part of his brain want to dart to the side and buck off the irritation so he could snatch up the warm morsel and devour it. The Danny part was appalled by this desire, so the Danny part locked up the fish part and made a beeline for Oahu.
5 Home, Sweet Home
It took them the better part of the night to get back home. By the time they reached Hawaiian waters, Danny was no longer surprised that their kidnappers hadn't even bothered to shoot after them when they'd jumped. There was no way in hell they would've survived if not for Danny's unusual heritage. No way anybody would've found them.
Steve dozed off a time or two as Danny cut through the ocean at a steady cruising speed, a small bit of warmth on Danny's painfully dry back that tingled and prickled. Danny was used to finding his way through the magnetic fields that also direct the ocean currents, but Steve's presence distracted him until he gave up on it and just focused on getting back to Gracie. Danny always knew where he was in relation to Gracie. It was a very useful ability, especially in crowded malls and when he was trying to find his way back to Hawaii from the ass-end of nowhere.
Once he was within a few miles of Oahu, Danny slowed down considerably and painstakingly circumvented the few signs of human presence he sensed. Wouldn't do to be seen. Megalodons were supposed to be extinct and the rules of his kind were non-negotiable. Discretion was the name of the game. It helped that it was still mostly dark, only the barest hint of dawn in the air. From a distance, he'd look like a weird boat with a weird sail that kinda looked a bit like a ridiculously huge shark fin. He hoped.
Steve started to kick him with his left foot and Danny, knowing his partner as he did, hung a left and swam parallel to the shore until Steve stomped down on his back with his right foot and directed him towards the beach. Danny had no idea where they were. Sharks experience their ever-changing world by feel and smell and taste more than sight though they see pretty well, even in the dark. They're excellent navigators, but Danny had never Switched and gone for a swim anywhere near the islands, so he didn't recognize his surroundings. It didn't matter to him. Danny trusted Steve. He believed without a doubt that even in his current shitty shape, Steve knew what he was doing.
They headed where Steve wanted them to go until the water became too shallow for Danny's massive bulk, forcing him to Switch back. The sudden lack of mass resulted in the ocean rushing in to fill the void and Danny had to scramble in order to keep Steve from drowning a measly two miles from dry land. Not for the first time, he was insanely grateful that his partner was a Navy SEAL. Most people would've been dead by then.
"Danny?" Steve reached for him blindly, unerringly going for the face again, and Danny leaned into the touch instinctively, needing to ground himself after spending several hours in an entirely different body.
"Yeah, I'm here. I'm here. We're almost home. Just relax and let me do the work, okay? Keep breathing, don't talk, we're almost there."
He could see the beach in the distance and it did look vaguely familiar; he settled Steve against him in a rescue grip and started swimming once again. Another point for SEALs: they knew how to handle themselves when being towed. Steve didn't fight him, didn't try to help. He held still and made it as easy for Danny to drag him as possible, snatching air whenever he could and not complaining when he got a face full of saltwater now and then.
Danny almost laughed out loud when he realized where they were. Steve had indeed guided them home. That was Steve's house in the distance, tiny and white, framed and half hidden by a living wall of trees, a line of skinny palm trees waving at them like alien stick people.
"Tell me you got coffee," Danny gasped, eyes fixed on the prize, his one-armed strokes quickening.
"I got something better," Steve rasped. There was a smile in his voice. The man was a marvel. Danny wanted to kiss him so badly his belly ached.
"What?" he asked to distract himself. "What can you possibly offer me that's better than coffee?"
Steve chuckled. "Bed. Big bed."
"Ladies and gentlemen," Danny huffed, and hurried the fuck up, "we got a winner."
What Danny should have done was to get Steve home, call an ambulance and Chin (in that order), and have Steve checked out at the hospital, because bullet wounds and concussions required professional attention and their team was likely approaching meltdown.
What Danny did was to get Steve home, make him drink as much water as Steve could keep down, then stripped the man naked and put him under the shower. Steve swayed like seaweed in a riptide, so Danny muttered "fuck it" and got in with him. Danny was covered in salt and sand as well and his back felt like he'd been dragged after a truck. Exhaustion was catching up with him; he'd been up even longer than Steve, had gotten beaten up, Switched half a dozen times, and wrestled a water-logged Steve from the sea and into the house. Megalodon Danny hadn't even felt Steve's weight. Human Danny cursed every inch and ounce Steve had on him and then some.
They propped each other up under the warm spray, shivering like pups, until Danny turned off the water and dried them off. He checked Steve's pupils, found them almost back to normal, cleaned and bandaged the bullet wound, and didn't say a single word about Steve's octopus tendencies. He did count Steve's arms discreetly, just in case, because it felt like the man had grown at least a couple more appendages to cling to Danny. Or maybe those were Danny's. It was hard to tell through the fuzz of exhaustion.
They were halfway to the bed when Danny's hindbrain caught up with him. He stopped, tottering a little, and tried to remember what it was he had to do. "Gotta call..." Gracie? No, not Gracie. "Gotta call..." Smart guy. Cheekbones to die for. "...Chin. Gotta call Chin."
Steve nodded supportively and tilted forward precariously to nuzzle him. "Uh huhm."
Nuzzling was good. Nuzzling was awesome. Except that Danny was about a minute from falling asleep on his feet and he still had to tie up some loose ends. "Where's your..." Clean Steve-smell invaded his nose and he tilted towards the source until he remembered this wasn't the time. "Damn it, McGarrett. Stop it." He swatted at Steve. "You got a landline?"
Steve hummed an affirmative and waved a hand sloppily in the general direction of the living room. "Downstairs."
Oh no, no way, it had taken Danny forever to get both of them up the damn stairs in the first place. He had a slaphappy, very handsy Steve listing against him like a redwood about to fall and he was so tired he couldn't see straight. Danny was not going to brave the stairs again. He'd slip and break his neck and then what would Steve do? Follow him down? No, the rest of the world was going to have to suck it up until Danny could think again.
That was why Chin and Kono ended up spending a long day unearthing and destroying a drug cartel in search of their missing co-workers, which ultimately was a good thing even if Danny and Steve had to grovel a lot to get back in their good graces. It was also how their kidnappers ended up between the rock and the hard place that was Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua and got chewed up like fat fish in a shark tank, which Steve would never tire of hearing about much to Danny's chagrin and secret amusement. It was also how the governor got stuck with an exorbitant fee for deployed rescue services that combed the ocean for two Hawaii 5-0 officers who were at that point already sawing logs in Lt. Commander Steven McGarrett's bed.
All that happened later. Right then, Steve and Danny eyed the stairs with trepidation then looked at each other.
"Bed?" Steve asked hopefully.
"Bed," Danny confirmed, and got them both into the bedroom where Steve faceplanted on the covers to the sound of Danny's sleepy but heartfelt, "Timber!"
Danny climbed in after him, pulled the sheets up over their bare bodies, and fell asleep plastered against his partner's side. The last thing he was aware of was Steve flopping over and curling around him. Danny ended up the little spoon. Yeah. Surprise.
6 The Shark Thing
Danny slept for twelve hours straight and woke to the weight of Steve's gaze on him, intense and inscrutable. It was not his favorite way of starting the day, not at the office and definitely not in bed.
"What?" he muttered, not completely awake yet and already feeling defensive.
"Were you ever going to tell me?" Neutral face, tense voice. Good afternoon, Lt. Commander McGarrett. So nice to wake up to the Navy's finest.
Danny countered with snarky Jersey cop, because that's what he did best. "Well, I had planned to butter you up first, woo you a little, take you out to dinner..." He waggled his eyebrows, tried for a leer and refused to inch away from the potentially hostile SEAL stretched out next to him. "But then you went and kissed me first. That was godawful timing, by the way. I should've expected it, given our track record, but you cut it kinda close, don't you-"
"The shark thing, Danny. I'm talking about the shark thing," Steve snapped, eyes flashing with temper, and this was better, this was something Danny could deal with, not the untouchable Lt. Commander but Steve, his Steve.
Steve's brows furrowed. "What?"
"Old Blood," Danny elaborated, because it was a little late for denial and Steve always had a hard time staying mad at Danny when Danny gave in and let him see the more vulnerable bits and pieces of himself. "Prehistoric shark ancestor. And no, I wasn't going to tell you. And you can wipe that look right off your face, McGarrett. You wouldn't tell me classified information either. That's not how it works. There's a reason some things are need-to-know, and until yesterday, you didn't need to know."
Steve digested this with the look of a man forced to eat shit and like it. He opened his mouth once or twice to argue, but apparently his brain kept serving him the counter-arguments before he could get out the words. His lips puckered. "Did you tell Rachel?"
"Rachel managed to beat the odds and get pregnant with my child." Trust Rachel to fuck with statistics. "The bloodlines are hereditary and dominant. Hell, yes, I told her. What kind of asshole do you think I am? She freaked, she got over it, we married. Gracie Switched in the bathtub when she was three, Rachel freaked again, rightfully blamed me, and our marriage went to shit. It is not a good thing to tell people about the shark thing." Damn it, now Steve had him saying it. "Megalodon thing." He poked a finger against Steve's naked chest. "People freak when there's predatory fish around. And don't pretend you didn't, you tried to stab me with your handcuffs!"
"I wouldn't have if you'd told me!"
"Class-eee-fieed, Steven." Danny threw up his hand to underline the point. He was wide awake now, exasperated and exhilarated at the same time, because it hadn't escaped his notice that Steve was all bent out of shape because Danny had kept a big part of himself hidden from his partner. Apparently, that was way worse than the whole shar- megalodon thing. Steve's priorities were extremely warped and Danny loved him for it, stupidly so.
Steve's eyes narrowed. "You told Kawika. And Kawika knew what you were talking about. He was scared shitless and he's been at his best behavior with you ever since. So why does Kawika know, if this is top secret?"
What the- Danny's jaw dropped. He sat up abruptly to glare down at the stubbornly scowling man beside him. "How do you even know that? What the hell, Steven, are you bugging me?"
His accusation was met with the kind of McGarrett pout that told him that no, Steve wasn't, but only because he hadn't figured out how to get away with it yet. "I can read lips."
"You can-" Danny rolled his eyes. "Of course you can. Why am I even asking." He dropped back down on his back with a groan and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache sneaking in, and its daddy's name was Steve McGarrett. "Most of the Kapu are Switchers, all right? The regular kind." He swished a hand through the air, mimicking tail movements. "I'm thinking probably tiger sharks, but could as well be dolphins. I haven't met them in the water yet, which is why they could tell I was a Switcher, but they didn't pick up on the Old Blood."
"Switchers?" Steve was sneaking closer, interest plain in his voice.
Danny stopped staring at the ceiling just long enough to glare at him. "Yes. It's a switch, not a change, and I'm not saying another word. Rachel knows. Grace and Kawika are part of it. Congratulations, you're now a member of a very exclusive club. You're not getting a membership card, but on the up side, there are no fees." He stabbed a finger straight up in his version of an exclamation mark. "On the down side, if you breathe one word to the wrong people, you'll be killed messily." He turned his head again, catching Steve's gaze and holding it. His eyes were burning, his sight blurry. He blinked angrily to get rid of the unwanted film of moisture. Must be leftover seawater. "I don't want you to get killed messily, okay? So don't fuck up."
"I won't." Steve's eyes were soft and so full of affection it made Danny's heart ache. "I know how to keep secrets, Danny. I'll take yours to my grave." Danny's alarm must've been easy to read, because he added hastily, "Someday, when we're both old. Way old. Think we can time it so we both go at the same time? Maybe while having sex?"
His hopeful tone made Danny smile and then smirk. "Will that be going out with a bang or with a whimper?"
"Well," Steve murmured, and with a move worthy of a true ninja settled on top of Danny and nudged Danny's knees apart with his so he could press his dick against Danny's, "I was thinking I could bang you and you could whimper."
Ohhhh, challenge! Danny loved challenges. He reared up and captured Steve's mouth with his, kissing Steve and grinding up against him until Steve was completely hard and humping him desperately, at which point Danny pulled back and laughed breathlessly. Steve looked drunk, completely gone on Danny, and Danny knew exactly how he felt.
"We'll see who ends up whimpering," he growled, and kissed Steve again.
Turned out they both did.
February 23, 2011