Breathing, Danny decides, is a very good and quite necessary thing. It is, in a manner of speaking, the basis of life. Yeah, there is blood, and oh what an intimidating shade of red it is, and water, so very much of it, too much, and everything else of which life is made. But breathing, Danny decides, is definitely at the top of his top-ten list.
He knows firsthand what it was like to struggle to breathe, and is loathe to go through a repeat experience of that. It had been awful, and terrifying. He doesn’t know how people with asthma deal with the inability to draw in as deep a breath as they want to on a daily basis.
Given his current set of circumstances, breathing is one of the only things that Danny can do, making it all the more precious to him. He could, in effect – provided that he was found and survived this natural disaster – write a treatise on the art of breathing.
Danny Williams’, The Art of Breathing, would detail everything from ideal lung capacity to the finer points of oxygen to carbon dioxide ratio. It would be witty and verbose. It would be a masterpiece. The best, and perhaps only, paper on how to avoid suffocation. It would leave audiences gasping for air, clutching their throats in empathy.
Controlled breathing was the name of the game. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat the process. Try not to think of the water which is now touching the tips of his earlobes, or the blood from his head wound which had blurred his vision, but which is now only a slow trickle that makes him think of the time when his sister poured molasses over his head. Because, thinking of either the blood or the water will induce panic which will cause a rift in the rhythm he’s established. A rift is not a good thing.
He’s no longer cold, and has long since ceased shivering, and Danny remembers, belatedly that one of his uncles, possibly Rob, his father’s youngest brother, had told him, in rather graphic detail, about a man who’d died from hypothermia. The man had stopped shivering, had even felt warm, and then he’d been found, frozen to death, on a park bench. A blue statue, complete with icicles dangling from his nose. The police had found him several days after his family had reported him missing. Yeah, it had been his Uncle Rob. He’d been one of the police officers on the scene.
Breathe. Concentrate on breathing, Danno, he thinks and frowns as his thoughts seem to have been commandeered by Steve.
“I am breathing,” Danny says, and he instantly scolds himself for misusing air by speaking aloud.
Conserve your air. Steve has apparently taken up residence in Danny’s head. Danny has his very own mini-SEAL acting as survival guide in his own personal nightmare.
Danny has a cutting rejoinder on the tip of his tongue, but refuses to use his precious air to scold his apparent inner-Steven for being an ass and stating the obvious. Danny knows that he has to conserve his air, he is the one who’s been trapped beneath the cabinetry in his home for the past three hours, as the ocean’s water continues its slow rise.
Why he’d thought living near the ocean, near Steve, was a good idea, he’ll never know. Perhaps his brain has become addled from overexposure to the sun, the beach, and Steven McGarrett. All Danny knows for sure is that the ocean is a deadly, greedy beast; its cold tendrils reaching far beyond what the clearly delineated lines of natural demarcation dictate.
Tsunami, Japanese for big wave, now means so much more than that to Danny. The real thing is nothing like what he’d imagined it would be his first year living on the island. He’d been terrified and then immensely relieved when the predicted tsunami had been found to be a fake, a distraction that criminals had intended to use for their own personal gain.
The real thing is far worse than he’d anticipated it would be, and wasn’t that stupid? His only solace is that Grace isn’t even on the island, Rachel having brought her to England to visit her mother.
No, not stupid Danny. Inner-Steve’s voice is a touch on the melancholic side.
Danny can’t help it; he laughs, and he instantly regrets it as his breathing pattern has been altered, and the cabinet – a heavy wooden thing that Chin and Malia had gifted him with for his housewarming – shifts, squishing him even more.
Why hadn’t he listened to Steve earlier that day and gone 'mauka' (toward the mountains) with him? Danny can't quite remember why he didn't opt to join Steve right away, his mind's a little hazy on that point, but whatever the reason, he knows now that it was a foolish move on his part. Stubbornness? Pride? Not wanting to leave his precious car behind? In any case, it most definitely was a mistake on his part. One that he hoped to live long enough to rue.
“Can’t really take you up on your offer now babe,” Danny’s beyond staying silent now. His breathing’s already off-kilter, talking can’t possibly make things any worse.
Really Danno, you need to conserve your air. Inner-Steve, mini-SEAL extraordinaire, is clearly glowering now, his forehead's wrinkled in concern and his lips are pursed with the chastisement. Danny can see it clear as day and it makes him laugh, even though there’s nothing funny about any of it.
“Air? Air isn’t the problem; it’s the water, the damn ocean water. I think I’m pruned beyond redemption, Steven. You know, I can’t feel my legs.” That last thought is sobering and Danny tries, just for the sake of argument, to wiggle his toes, but discovers that he can't even feel his toes, let alone wiggle them.
Stop. Inner-Steve’s command is a little on the weak side, sounds a little pained to Danny. Conserve your energy. Rescue’s on the way.
“Too bad you aren’t real,” Danny’s words come out slurred, “figment of my imagination.”
His eyelids are just as uncooperative as his toes; they just don’t want to stay open, and Danny isn’t sure that keeping them open is all that important. He can feel the water steadily rising.
Just hang on a little while longer. Inner-Steve’s tone is encouraging, upbeat even, and Danny shakes his head a little at that.
“Just hang on, he says. Sure, Steven, I’ll hang on.” Danny’s eyes close and plunge him into deeper darkness, and he quickly opens them.
“I think I’m dying,” Danny whispers.
No, Danno, you’re not dying.
And Danny can picture Steve, his own personal mini-SEAL to the rescue, arms akimbo, mouth set in a grim, determined line. And then he’s imagining his friend as an action figure: green, like GI Joe. He comes with a set of miniature hand grenades and a bazooka that's almost too big for his hands. Action figure Steven McGarrett would be forced to have tea with Grace’s princess Barbie, donning a tiny white apron in lieu of his black tee and cargo pants.
Navy, Danny, Steve’s voice is chiding, how many times do I have to tell you that I'm in the Navy, not the Army? And he sounds genuinely hurt at the slight, but Danny can’t take him seriously because Grace has him dressed in Ken’s dinner jacket and he’s sporting a top hat. There’s a crumpet in his hand where a grenade should be, and no Naval commander, action figure or not, should be sitting down to high tea with princess Barbie draped on his arm.
“Hard to take you seriously in that get-up babe.”
Danny’s lips feel strange, kind of like they’re made of rubber. They don’t work very well and his words sound foreign, they echo back to him, and he wishes that he could push the much too heavy cabinet off of him because he’s finding it increasingly difficult to get his breathing under control again.
In here! Inner-Steve’s shout is so loud that it startles Danny.
“No need to shout,” Danny says, his voice lacking the indignation he tries to put behind the words, “I’m right here.”
I need a little help here. Inner-Steve sounds like he’s standing above Danny and the detective wonders if maybe he’s hallucinating.
“Sorry,” Danny isn’t sure just how Steve expects him to help; the water’s now encroaching upon his lips. If he drowned, would he be reincarnated as a merperson or a sea anemone?
What the hell is this thing made of? Inner-Steve doesn’t sound happy, and Danny can’t really blame him. He doesn't much like the bulk of the cabinet either.
Solid oak. And what the hell is Chin’s voice, solid, sure and Zen-like, doing inside his head too?
"It's getting much too crowded in here guys," Danny says.
Figures. Inner-Steve is sounding a lot less like he’s inside Danny’s head now.
How are we going to do this brah? Chin’s voice sounds further away than Steve’s.
Chin, you get the foot of the cabinet, Kono over there, Danny can only assume that his partner is pointing at some section of the cabinet, and Kamekona, stand there. On my count of three, everyone lift.
Danny hears the count of three, and knows at the back of his mind that Steve is no longer inside his head, that the rest of his team is there too, and none of them are figments of his imagination. It's overwhelming and he wants to say something, but his voice fails him, and, instead, he concentrates on breathing as he feels the crushing weight of the heavy cabinet shift and then he's free.
Fingers dig into his neck, probe for the carotid artery to verify that he is alive. He’d like to tell his rescuers that he’s very much alive, that now that the cabinet’s been moved, he can feel again, and it hurts like hell.
“Hey Danny, you with us?” Steve’s face is swimming before him and he’s pulling Danny up out of the water, pressing him tight against his chest.
Danny takes in a shuddering breath, opens his mouth to speak, but no sound comes out. He takes in another breath and then it’s like a flood has been released and his lungs are on fire. He nods his head, not trusting his voice to work properly.
“Good, that’s good,” Steve’s mouth is so close to Danny’s ear that he can feel his partner’s breath against his skin, and it tickles.
“Cold, tired,” Danny manages to say, the two words sap the remainder of his strength.
“I’ve got you now,” Steve promises, and Danny sags against him. “You can rest as soon as we get you to the hospital.”
“You’re kind of bossy,” Danny says."You and Inner-Steve."
“Yeah, well,” Steve doesn’t finish his thought, but he squeezes Danny’s shoulder and tightens his hold on him.
“Gonna just breathe now,” Danny announces, not forgetting that he’s got a treatise to write when all of this is over.
“Sounds good to me,” Steve says, and Danny can feel his partner nod.
Danny doesn’t even realize when he drifts off to sleep, lulled by Steve’s steady heartbeat and the even sound of his partner’s breathing. Chin’s, Kono’s and Kamekona’s voices provide a comforting backdrop and he dreams of a set of action figures toting surfboards and shotguns. There’s a shrimp truck that rivals Barbie’s van and picnic tables. A shiny, silver Camaro completes the collection. Grace places all the figures together, and calls them - family.
When Danny wakes, he’s momentarily disoriented, lost without the feel of two-hundred pounds of wood pinning him to his living room floor. He doesn’t, however, miss the feel of the ocean slowly creeping up to drown him.
“You’re fine Danny,” Steve’s voice is an anchor, and Danny turns his head to confirm that the man is real, and not the action figure of his earlier hallucinations. “You’re in the hospital. You’ve got a pretty bad concussion, some cracked ribs, and that cabinet really did a number on your back.”
“How’d you find me?” Danny asks.
“I just followed my inner-Danno,” Steve replies, but there’s a twinkle in his eye and his lips are quirked slightly upward.
“Inner-Danno?” Danny says. “Let me tell you, Steven, you’d be a lucky man to have an inner-Danno, and god knows it’d save me a lot of headaches.”
“And create a lot of headaches for me,” Steve counters.
“Yeah, well,” Danny says, and he drops his gaze, absentmindedly fingers the blue hospital blanket that’s draped over him, “thanks, you know, for,” he lifts his hands and lets them fall back to the blanket.
“You’re welcome,” Steve says. “Just promise me that next time a tsunami hits you’ll head mauka.”
“Next time?” Danny’s head whips up and he’s glaring at Steve. “There isn’t going to be a next time Steven. No, no more tsunamis for me. I draw the line at one.”
“Yes, well, you can’t control the weather Danny,” Steve says, and now he’s openly smiling.
“Just try and stop me.” Danny can't keep the smile from his face and he mentally adds another title to the list of books he's going to write - Controlling the Weather, a Simple Schematic for the Working Man.