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Same Deep Water

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'A'ole au e nalo iā 'oe.
"You will not fail to remember me."


Steve's doing what he would never do -- pushing his lover's head down. Long fingers, his fingers, are thrust in a sun-bleached fall of hair that's longer than he sees every day. It shines bright against his own dark skin. He'd be ashamed of himself if he didn't know it was a dream, but there's no fucking way this could happen in real life. Because Danny's glad to; he's moving down like a man with a mission, and it's all about getting Steve's cock in his mouth.

God, the mouth on that man.

The details are different, but Steve knows who they are.

Pale fingers reach up in between his own, dark and light tangled together. Sunlight is hot on his skin, but not as hot as that loving touch. He stretches against the tree, welcoming the rough bark against his back. This is the first time Danny's done this . . . offered, no, demanded to taste him, out here in the open. He's making noise against Steve's body, moans that roll right through to the bone, that echo in his flesh, all because he's touching Steve's skin, kissing his hip. Danny rubs his cheek against the rough trail of hair as he licks his lips, building the pressure of need in Steve's belly.

Their kisses are sloppy and eager and triumphant, out here on the trail where they've been chasing each other down, running naked and free, and it could only lead to this. It's more right than anything's been in a long time. As firm lips close around his cock, delicious suction, he wants to come, needs to come; hell, all he wants to do is die knowing that Danny's here for him. Only for him. As Danny's mouth takes him in again and again, that knowledge sears through him as fast as his orgasm does.

Groaning, he shudders awake to his tight hand gripping his still-hard cock. There are fresh wet patches in his dark blue sheets. Having Danny in his house is ruining him. Christ, he hasn't run through this many sheets since he was sixteen. That was when he learned to do his own laundry, because no way was his aunt going to find out how much clean bedding he needed. He smears the evidence off himself with a sheet that feels too rough.

He shivers off that vague sense of wrongness that comes with fantasies about his friends. Knuckling his eyes, he wonders when Danny's going to find a place of his own. He hopes for good news on that front every day, even though every night he dreams that Danny will just . . . stay.

Situation Normal, he thinks, All Fucked Up. At least military service teaches you to embrace awful inevitabilities, like having sex dreams about your partner, but things have been getting worse. This unwanted attraction has him more turned around than being tortured in North Korea. He knew damned well that would end, and soon, one way or the other. Once this torture ends, and Danny moves on to another apartment, Steve will still be working with him. It would be nice if he could do that, someday, without imagining Danny's lips stretched around his cock.

It's not looking like that's in the Cosmic Plan.

He wonders if some day he can find a nice boy, like his mom always promised Mary. "Someday you'll like boys," she told the wailing girl. He grabs one of his pillows and shoves it over his head. His mom never knew she'd been talking to the wrong child.


To Question Repeatedly


Chin starts it.

They're around the table trying to find a facial match to a fake driver's license pulled off a dead body found floating near the site of a shootout. It was HPD and some folks who were moving six hundred pounds of explosives off-island. For once it wasn't Five-0, or even the HPD, who eliminated all the witnesses. The one man who escaped did it for them.

"So what's wrong with Danny?"

Steve's pacing back and forth. Everything's taking forever. They're still waiting for Danny and Lori. The two of them went out to chase down a lead based on two bills of lading that Danny pronounced 'hinky.' The man's spent too much time watching NCIS reruns. "Nothing. Nothing's wrong with Danny."

"You're the one who lives with him. Haven't you noticed how quiet he's been lately? I'm getting worried," says Chin.

Kono chimes in with, "Let me count the things that are wrong with Danny."

"Are you serious? What's up with you two?" Steve turns to her. He's not about to criticize Danny behind his back, even with Chin and Kono. "Danny's just fine."

"I'm serious as a grenade launcher. Where have you been?" She's moved back against the nearest wall, hands on her hips, shoulders forward, a cross between an overdressed calendar girl and a street fighter out for blood.

"I've been right here, every day."

"Really, you never noticed? You don't talk to him? You don't!" Kono's eyes widen. "You live in the same house! He's been having a tough time! You never have a beer, get da kine after the thing with Rachel?" Now she looks like she's ready to leap at him in order to wring his neck.

No. No way in hell. There's no way Steve's talking to Danny, or anyone else, about Rachel.

He despises Rachel. He's not proud of it, and he tries not to think about her at all. But the knowledge that she's still, after everything that's happened, Danny's one and only . . . makes Steve sick.

At first, he thought she was pretty decent. He didn't think much of her trying to take visitation rights away from Danny, and forcing her to knuckle under had been a small triumph. It made him hope Danny would see him differently. For a little while, that even worked, sort of. In Steve's fucked-up head, Danny became almost attainable. They spent more time together. A pizza and beer in the evenings, sometimes a game. He knew better than to think Danny would turn gay for him, but he seemed okay with the smiling glances Steve couldn't stop handing out like some kind of perverted candy.

They were friends. After Nick, Steve knew better than anybody else how much he needed a friend. Danny's obvious irritation with his old buddy -- jealousy, insisted a tiny voice -- warmed him like hot coffee after a cold recon.

Then Danny was back in her bed. He never would've believed that seeing Danny so happy could hurt so much. That day in the hospital, Danny's doped-up world-by-the-tail grin burned like a fresh tattoo. He wasn't sure how he'd managed to hide it, or if he even had. It didn't matter; Danny was oblivious to everything but the woman in his arms. Grace's glowing face sealed Steve's fate. His worn-out daydreams were history.

Since then, Steve's tried to back off. Treat Danny like any normal coworker, ignore his griping, just plain ignore him as much as Danny can be ignored. He told D to get back in the saddle, for God's sake, spitting the words out like rotten fruit. Anyone is better than Rachel, who can and will turn Danny inside out on a whim. Anything is better than the strange limbo Steve's been living in. Sometimes he still has to smash down the burnt curling edges of disappointment when Danny stands too close to him.

Then the housing disaster struck. No way in hell was he going to ask Danny to stay with him. That was just masochism above and beyond.


And he wasn't, he didn't, until the day Kono offered Danny space on the floor in her studio, saying sweetly that Chin's house might be available for rent in a couple weeks -- pausing only to glare at Steve. She even came up to him later and asked him flat out why he wasn't offering. He made noises about being the boss and how they argued too much, but she shamed him into it. Did she really know? He hopes she wouldn't have done that if she did.

Why wouldn't she know? Hell, everybody knows. People who've never seen them before know. That hurts, too. Thank God Danny himself has never noticed. Contrary to what Danny thinks, Steve knows when he's making that face, the one that's more puppy love than puppy-dog eyes.

So he tries not to pay attention to every little thing about Danny. He just can't handle that awareness anymore. He can't deal with the bruising intensity of his own hope. Christ Almighty, the man is living with him, and the last thing he needed over the past three months was Joe picking up on it. Joe's not stupid. Why should Steve out himself to his one-time CO, the man he used to look up to, over something that can never happen?

He never came out to his own father; no reason to stir shit at this late date.

Finally Steve answers Kono, and he's aware that he sounds grim. "He never said word one to me about it."

"Cannot! That's kapakahi!" Kono says, then narrows her eyes. It's a look he doesn't get much from Kono, and it rankles. "Okay, you must really be married after all."

"Hey!" Chin's offended for the sake of marriage, but they ignore him.

"He lost his family. Again." The woman is ruthless. He's got to start her on more interrogations. "He complains about everything, but not that?"

Steve leans up against the doorframe of his office, hands shoved in his pockets -- the picture, he hopes, of easy confidence. "Danny is one of the strongest men I know. He's got more determination than you could pack into anybody twice his size. He'll be fine."

"It doesn't matter." Kono makes a sweeping gesture that knocks Steve's assertion off the table. "Read my lips, bossman. He's a human being, not the Determinator! He's been a mess for a long time! The big stuff started Halloween weekend."

Chin ignores the face blinking up from the table. "Yeah, seeing ghosts? I know people I'd expect that from, but their spirituality encompasses the supernatural -- unlike Danny."

"I didn't think much of his scamming the apartment manager, either. Not to mention when he took Grace trick or treating in his creepy no-tell motel. Who does that?"

"Much less Danny Williams, Father Of The Year," agrees Chin.

"He's exhausted. Look at the damned circles under his eyes, will you? And he's kinda, I guess the word is 'volatile.' Hey, looks like there's a name to this face." Kono's thoughtful as she taps a nail on the table, then turns back to the real subject at hand. "I think everything from the last couple years just caught up to him, finally. There's no way to tough that out."

Steve thinks Danny's dark circles are a good match for his own. He's heard Danny tossing and turning at night, sometimes mumbling, but frankly, he wasn't about to poke that sleeping dragon. Steve's never run from trouble before, but this is the wrong kind. The worst kind.


"Fine. Whatever. What do you want me to do, send him for a psych eval?" He knows damn well that's not what Kono wants, but he doesn't care.

"What's wrong with you? For God's sake, just talk to him!"

If it wasn't Kono, he'd say she was about to stamp her foot. She's glaring at him like she wants a smackdown. Well, that's too bad. He's not going to share his deepest secrets with her or Chin. They'll have to cope with what's on the surface, like he's had to.

"Yeah," he says. "I'll think about it. But I'll think about it while we track down Furneau's known associates."


Ho'omaka Hou
To Begin Again


The dreams started not long after he blundered over the heiau that horrible Halloween, right about the time he started getting maybe six minutes of sleep per night. At first he didn't think anything of them. They were just vivid snatches of color and motion, like flipping past tv channels. But after a while, he began to notice that he was dreaming in longer fragments and remembering more details when he woke in the mornings. It's been a couple months. They're crystal clear now.

The baby . . . Rachel's baby. The baby that should have been his. He grits his teeth, crushes the insidious longing. He's pretty sure that's what brought on the next round. It all seemed so . . . real. He'd slipped into exhaustion and crashed on the couch, dead to the world, within minutes after Steve drove them back from breakfast.

He looks down at his hands and watches them measuring flour on a scale. He's not surprised they're shaking. Women die bearing children. Customers murmur in the store, dust motes following them in the diluted sun from the windows. He looks up at every movement, every blade of light from the door, distracted beyond bearing. Before he can chalk the amount onto the slate beside him, someone is shouting, "Will! Come and see the baby!"

He rips the oilcloth apron off and vaults over the counter, his feet echoing as they pound up the stairs of the square house next to the store. The flock of women in the doorway moves apart and he shoves through to see his wife sitting up in their four-poster bed. She is exhausted, face pale and her dark hair clinging to her forehead in damp ringlets, but she's smiling at him. Glowing. In her arms she is holding out a bundle of cloth and she says, pride in every syllable, "Come and meet your son, William."

When he takes the impossibly tiny bundle into his arms, he cannot breathe. He cannot remember ever feeling this terrifying joy before, not even on the morning he married his beautiful Sarah. His chest is too small to contain his beating heart and, when he looks to Sarah, he knows that she feels the same.

After that dream, Danny woke and just lay there on Steve's couch in clothes wrinkled with the scent of last night's fear and excitement, remembering Grace's birth. He'd sped to the hospital with lights flashing, other motorists pulling aside to let him pass, barely suppressing the need to let the siren wail. Then he perched beside Rachel on the edge of her hospital bed just like last night, giddy after working a graveyard shift, for the final three hours of Rachel's labor.

His hands shook when he reached for his little girl, but they steadied the instant he touched her. As he held her in his arms, the world reformed itself around this new fact of his existence, like gravity or oxygen, and the world was good.

Danny showers with a smile on his face and leaves to pick up Grace from school.

When he dreams later that night, though, everything's different.

The morning they bury Sarah is fair and hot. He stands beside the open grave and barely hears the drone of the parson or the tears of the women around him. The coffin is small, so much smaller than she had seemed in life. But it is large enough for his wife, his son, aged nine days, and all that is left of his heart. He jerks at the sound of the first shovelful of dirt to hit the coffin lid and

Danny's body writhes in the darkness, tears streaming down his face. The sounds and colors of mourning in a far-away graveyard are slow to dissipate. Still half-caught in the dream, Danny lies on what he knows is Steve's couch, his t-shirt clinging cold and damp to his body. His son is dead. His wife is dead. It crushes him, sucking his lungs empty, leaving him paralyzed. It's not true, though, it's not true. That never happened.

Standing in the sterile hospital corridor watching the baby through the glass, Danny had known that this boy, this innocent who for so many days had belonged to him, who had been his, was gone from him. His wife, Rachel, was gone. As he stood there, lifting his phone to send proof of Rachel's love to a man he despised, the last bits of him had faded away.

Danny knew he looked like a real person to anyone who passed by, a solid man of flesh and blood. That guy who said something about a nose in the hospital corridor, he talked to Danny as if he was any other proud father, any man, but he'd been wrong. Inside Danny there was nothing. There was nothing left but a fragile candy shell that could shatter at the slightest touch, and the cold hospital air was sinking heavily onto him.

Except there was Steve, standing next to him, sharing his strength. Steve, the one he counted on. Steve, who rescued him, who used a smile to hold Danny up until he could walk with steady steps, walk away from his grief. Steve, who would try to help him fill the empty shell. The weight of Steve's arm around his shoulders didn't break him; it held him together.

The couch and the house fade away, then, as if they're the bad dream.

Will awakens to so much pain. He tries to reach out, but there's nothing familiar. Will hurts all over. There is a warm hand on his forehead gently stroking back his hair. He tries to open his eyes but it's as if they were sealed with tar. He feels the sting as he panics and some of his eyelashes tear out when he wrenches them open.

It's dim and cool wherever he is despite the fever heat in his body. Leaves rustle and there is the dripping of water. A wet cloth soothes his face, passing over his hot skin and wiping away sand and salt. It takes time before his eyes focus, and when they do, there's a dark presence hovering over him. He blinks a few more times but the presence stays, shadowy and enormous and . . . unknown. Dark skin, piercing dark eyes that gleam in the little available light.

He tries to speak, say something, but only croaks. His throat hurts. His whole body aches as if he's had a terrible beating.

The man smiles when Will's eyes focus, and his teeth are very white in the cool green dimness of the hut. He lifts Will to sit up, careful as he can be of Will's mumbled pain, and waits for a moment while Will's head swims.

"Here. Drink." There is a large serrated tooth hanging from a piece of rawhide around his throat and it gleams whitely against the man's skin. He ought to be terrifying -- Will's heard tales enough of headhunters, bare-chested, tattooed and huge -- but he's somehow calming him, easing his fears. Will still has his own woozy head, after all.

"Thank you." He doesn't try to whisper, but his voice is small.

"You have been asleep for a day and a night since I found you. Here. Drink this now." It's slippery and thick, different than the water, strange-tasting, but not like medicine. "Coconut," says his helper. "It will help you heal."

"Who are you?" Will tries to sit up straight; he's as weak as a kitten and his breath catches as every part of him cries out. A muscular arm slips around his shoulder and he is angled to sit more upright, tucked against a warm body. He shivers at being so close to another living person; it has been over a year since Sarah died. It feels so very good, he can't even be offended that a stranger takes such liberties.

"My name is 'A'amakualenalena."

"Ah . . . Ah . . ." He cannot say it.

"The Godly Men gave me a name perhaps more pleasant to your tongue. They called me Stephen."

To Hold Fast


He likes Danny, he does, even aside from the nag of yearning that feels like a pack weight he'll carry forever. Danny's looking haggard in the mornings, and yeah, Steve noticed. As much as he tries not to, there's little he doesn't notice about Danny. And now Steve feels guilty. After Kono, that's a given. What she's really asking is, what happened to our team? And her answer is, Steve's ruined everything. He's got his own gripes, but she's not that far wrong.

They were so close, the four of them, but Steve wanted more than any of them could give. He wanted their trust. He wanted their secrets. Worse yet, he wanted Danny's love. When none of that happened, he let them all go for the one person who might still be his family . . . Jenna. Yet she was the worst betrayal of all. Steve needs a friend more now than he ever has before. If Steve is going to salvage anything, he's got to save Danny.

Of course, when Danny's questioned, he cranks out another complaint about wave action as if it's right up there with jackhammers. By the time Steve finds Danny face down, asleep on his desk in the middle of the afternoon . . . okay, he never bought that fairy tale in the first place.

But Detective Williams is a tough nut to crack. For a man who talks as much as he does, he's serious about the right to remain silent. He has no intention of sharing whatever's been smudging his eyes.

"Why do you look like you got into a bar fight with a raccoon? Something wrong with the couch?"

"What, now I got rings on my tail?" Danny's face turns red, as if he realizes he just asked Steve to check out his ass. He turns around and waggles it like that's what he meant. But Steve sees what looks like a real flash of fear in his eyes.

"That's not what I --"

"Sheesh, go one day without makeup and everyone gets on your case."

"No, but unless you wear eyeblack – seriously, what's been --"

Danny's not about to let him finish a sentence. "So I'm not pretty in the morning. You shoulda thought of that before you invited me to stay over."

There were so many things Steve should have thought about before inviting him to stay. Then Danny's phone rings, and the rest of Steve's sentence fades into the breeze.


Memento; Souvenir


Later in the afternoon, Danny stops by the museum to see Gabrielle. She's a friendly face. He needs one. He can't go to his coworkers with this. "This" is nothing more or less than his daily life. They've all had their problems, and don't need to spend any extra time on his. There's nothing that can solve them. Besides, who really wants to hear that one of their teammates, a man who's supposed to have their backs, thinks he's going a little nuts?

All the things that could splatter someone's ordinary life roared down on his head over the last two years, and the avalanche of shit just keeps on coming.

Besides, having coffee with a woman will distract him. He's watching Steve for some reason, and he can't get the dreams out of his head. It's like he's got another life hovering over his shoulder, another shadow down the sidewalk, and he can't get away from it.

Then there's the life he used to have. He was just kidding with the air-heart and the I Love You, right? He's been wondering lately; was that a joke on Steve, or a joke on him? Because the universe tilted a little when Rachel dumped him a second time. A set of broad shoulders is looking better than a pair of shapely legs. And they're his partner's shoulders.

He gets thumbed back toward Gabi's office with a nod and a smile from Makani, who's walking into the gift shop.

Gabrielle looks up from a cardboard box of junk. "Hey! What's up?"

Nothing explodes. She doesn't report any dead bodies, gang wars, or betrayed friends trapped in countries run by ruthless dictators. She's a white picket fence compared to the hurricane-battered shack that is his life and his work.

"Not much. What's that?"

"Museum stuff." She smiles, friendly and uncomplicated. "People give us all sorts of things. In Hawai'i the kupuna, elders, can have astonishing things stashed in the attic." She hands him a pair of light gloves like the ones she's wearing and then offers him, of all things, a knife. "Here, it's okay to examine them."

It looks so familiar. It's a big-ass knife, heavy, dulled with age, with a cracked handle that must be made of bone. It's carved with a tiny scene of a ship, a volcano, and a whale. He holds it in his hand, tracing the lines with his eyes. The butt has a banged-up metal cap on it. He'll ask Steve later if he keeps museum pieces in the garage. This couldn't compete with Steve's stash of SEAL paraphernalia, but where else would Danny have seen one?

He listens vaguely while she talks, but stops listening when he turns the knife over and sees the scrimshawed picture of a man on the grip. First there's the sizzle of recognition. Then there's a rush of loneliness and sorrow so vast that it pushes him back a step. Chills stream up his spine and he shivers, hoping Gabi isn't watching too closely. It's not much of a likeness, but by the tattoos, the muscle, and the long legs, it's the man in Danny's dream.

Instead of throwing it across the room, his first instinct, he wants to keep it. Keep it, fix it, stop the sadness, make everything better, even though he knows there's no way he can. His dreams aren't real. This thing means nothing to him. So he had some dumb dream, what difference does that make, and why is he staring at a banged-up knife, anyway? He's giving himself the creeps.

Still, he wants it. He needs it. For a moment he floats the idea that he should shove it in his pocket, as if she wouldn't notice it was gone. That's ridiculous. What would he do with an old, dull knife? Put it in the glass curio case that he doesn't have? Tack it up on Steve's wall with duct tape for as long as he might be living there?

He feels a stupid pang at the thought of moving out. It's been nice to live in a real home, like his life isn't in shreds, like he's still whole. Even with Steve's rules, or maybe because of them -- face it, they live to bitch at and with each other -- it's so much better than his first lonely apartment or the awful places after that.

"Great." He reluctantly hands back the knife. "Coffee?"

They have a nice time, like a glimpse through a broken window into the real world. Too bad the caffeine has no effect whatsoever on his pounding headache. He stops at the drugstore on the way back to the office and, popping open the bottle of ibuprofen, swallows four with the dregs of his coffee.


Broken To Bits

Two weeks after Sarah's death (and his son, his son!), William can take it no more. He can't go back to New Bedford to work in his father's smithy as if he were a stupid boy again. He's a man, with a man's sorrows. But he cannot stay here on Nantucket, selling dry goods and groceries in his father-in-law's store. The grief is a fog that enfolds them all and fills his throat from dawn 'til dusk.

One morning, he finds himself down on the docks, a canvas bag in his hand. In it are some clothes, his Bible and a lock of Sarah's hair. Before he really knows what he's about, he has signed on as crew on the whaling vessel "Swallow", bound for the Outer Ground. They will not return for at least two years.

The first whale they slew was a revelation for William. With his strong back, he was on the first mate's boat. The endless hours spent pumping the bellows for his father finally paid off. He can row for an hour without stopping, so was accorded the honor despite not being Nantucket-bred. When the harpoon sank into the great animal's flesh, they were suddenly roaring through the sea faster than a galloping horse. He found himself laughing and shouting with the rest of the men in his small boat. When the animal finally tired and was killed, he felt nothing but a vague regret that the wild ride was over. Then it was a long hard row, five miles back to the Swallow, towing the carcass behind them.

The Universe has decided to fuck his shit up some more. It's not enough that he can barely sleep or that when he does, he's plunged into some cut-rate Moby Dick miniseries. When the dreams start invading his waking hours, that's when Danny knows he is well and truly fucked.

The first time he has a dream flashback, it nearly kills him. He finally agreed to let the rest of the team in on the fact that Kono has been teaching him to surf. She's decided he's good enough to not embarrass her. Lori begs off, but the rest of them meet up at the ass-crack of dawn one Sunday morning. Danny has only agreed to be there because someone promised to buy him a massive amount of pancakes if he stays on his board for three runs in a row. Since he finally found his balance on the waves, he's surprisingly cheerful when they hit the water.

His wipeout, when it comes, is nothing spectacular. He jerked a little and flipped himself right off the board and back into the water. He's fallen off more times than he can count. But this time, something is different. This time

the water is foaming all around him and there is nothing to breathe, nothing to stand firm against. With a terrible, grinding, cracking noise, terrifyingly loud even over the storm, and the deck lifted his stomach into his throat. He's thrown right off, flying over the storm rail and into the churning dark sea.

Will doesn't know how to swim and it doesn't matter. There is no way anyone could swim in the maelstrom. His shipmates are screaming off to his left; the water swirls white around the stricken Swallow, foundering on an invisible shoal. The oil from her lanterns spilled across the deck and flames throw a hellish glare across the water. He slides into the dark trough between two waves and everything goes black when something strikes his head. He has just enough wit left in him to grab the barrel floating beside him. He manages to get most of his chest out of the water, locking his arms around it.

He doesn't know how long he floats like that. He wishes he still believed in the God of his childhood; he would like to be able to pray. But the only things he knows now are wind and water, darkness and cold. He doesn't even feel the hands that reach down to pluck him from the sea.

Shipwrecked Sailor


"Danny! Can you hear me?" Kono is practically shouting in his ear. He's lumped across the front of her board and she's trying to paddle them both to shore. In this gloriously sunny morning, there are no shoals in sight.

"What happened? Did the board hit him in the head?" Steve is shouting from a ways away, but Danny can tell he's coming closer.

Gentle hands are probing at his head; Chin's, most likely. The voice confirms it. "Nah, I don't think so. No blood."

He hasn't got the energy to shove at Chin's hands. "I'm fine, guys. Really." He pushes himself up a little and slides off Kono's board. They are close enough in now that the water is only waist deep on him. He needs it. It's holding him up.

"I dunno, bruddah. That was one serious wipeout."

"Believe it, Danny. When I caught up to you, you were face-down and unconscious." Kono's voice has a little tremor to it and he reminds himself that, tough as she is, she's still a decade younger than all of them. He reaches out and grabs her hand, squeezing it tightly.

Steve is there, saving him from having to make any reply. He's got Danny's board, pulling it along by its leash, the one that should have been snugly velcroed around his ankle. He knows he'll hear a lot about that once everyone is suitably convinced that he is all right. He's a little short on how to do that, because he's sure as hell not all right. He's so very many land-based miles from all right. His head is killing him. His hallucination almost did the same.

He agrees to sit on the beach for a bit, but grunts and waves them all back out to catch some surf. For the first time in his life, he uses hand gestures because he's too freaked out to speak. He just almost died, drowned in a freak accident. From something that, if it ever really happened, and he's starting to wonder if it actually might have -- the illusion was absolutely all-encompassing -- happened nearly two hundred years ago.

He would really like to demand of the heavens, "Why is this my life?" -- but he's too afraid of the answer. So he sits and digs his toes into the nice, warm, dry sand and tries not to think about drowning.

Steve insists in coming in to check up on him after every ride. Danny hates being fussed over, especially when he already feels like a dumbass for falling off his board and having to be rescued by the rookie. Of course, in this realm, she is a professional, an expert, and he is the raw rookie. And, of course, he might just be going insane.

Steve keeps staring at him, starting to say something and then stopping. Even when Danny demands, "What?" in his pissiest tone, when he can finally hack the word out, Steve just shrugs and heads back down to the water.

He's still weak yet his rescuer deems that this is the time to wash him. "Come with me," urges the giant. It seems little work for him to nearly carry Will to the seashore.

In the last light, black markings on the broad chest are clear to see. A wide band with rows of tiny triangles curves up and over his shoulder and across his heart. It forms a beautiful curling wave made of diamonds. There is a small turtle figure tattooed on the opposite side of the giant's chest. His arms are coiled with patterns of fine leaves.
Will stares at the painted breadth of hard muscle and shrinks deep inside at how much that must have hurt. He wonders if they are burned into him like a brand.

A stream joins the bay, flowing from the mountains above them and the rains which pour daily upon their face. The man sits him carefully in the shallow flow, then begins to wash him, gently sluicing away the salt and fever-sweat with clean, pure water. There is so much clean, clear water that Will doesn't know what to do; it is heaven. He hasn't had a real bath for his year aboard ship save what a bucket of sea water or the rain could provide.

The man's hands are gentle and firm, careful around his deep bruising and burns. Suddenly Will is back in the sea, a shattered still-burning timber shrieking steam as it falls upon his back. Had he not gone under the surface with it, it would easily have broken him. He's lucky he didn't stay under forever. He gasps at the pain, that brilliant spark of memory, grasping for the rest, but he cannot reach it.

"Are you all right?" The man's huge hand touches his face carefully. The other hand rests on Will's thigh. He has never met anyone who touched so often. Or so intimately. Will feels himself blushing even as a thumb strokes over his cheek again, dark eyes kind and worried as they search his face.