“I love you, babe.” Danny strokes his fingers through Steve’s hair, gently smoothing it back down.
Steve’s eyes flicker open. The corner of his lips curl up. “Now you tell me.” His voice is weak. It wavers on the last word.
Danny quashes his growing sense of panic. Leaning down he plants a kiss on Steve’s forehead. His lips touch ice cold skin.
Steve’s been trapped in this underground storage tank for over an hour. It’s gradually filling up with freezing cold rain water. They’d only found him fifteen minutes earlier: the water was already up to his shoulders. Divers and firefighters are working on getting him out of there but the water is steadily rising.
Danny watches the water creeping closer. His own legs are submerged: he’s perched on the edge of the tank, behind Steve. He’s supporting Steve’s neck and shoulders, keeping him upright, giving him every inch of height he can. Shivers travel from his toes, up his spine and down his arms. Gritting his teeth he holds himself still. If he moves now Steve’s going to slide lower.
He’s not gonna let that happen.
“I’m not kidding,” he says, leaning down awkwardly to whisper in Steve’s ear. “I’m in love with you. Have been for a long time.”
Steve’s eyes open wider. His confusion is clear. Danny’s not sure if it’s from the hypothermia or he genuinely doesn’t believe him. Bending down even further he makes his point with a soft kiss on Steve’s lips.
“Bad timing.” Steve murmurs, shaking his head. Suddenly he stops, a flash of pain crossing his face. “Fuck.”
“What?” Danny tightens his grip with his legs, just hanging on. “Talk to me, Steve.”
There’s a pause for a moment. “Hurts,” Steve says simply, his eyes closing again.
“They’re getting you out.” Danny bends over double to hook his arms around Steve’s shoulders, squeezing him tight for a second. Sliding his forearm under Steve’s chin he lifts it up. In just a few minutes the water’s already gone over his shoulders.
They haven’t got much time.
“They’re getting you out,” he repeats, as much to himself as Steve. “They’re gonna get you out and then I’m going to show you how much I love your sorry lookin’ ass.”
He waits for the comeback that he knows Steve would normally have ready. Steve’s proud of his body, he works hard to stay in shape: Danny’s just fine with that. His panic level shoots through the roof though when his weak attempt at humour is met with silence.
“Shit.” Steve’s teeth are chattering, he’s shivering more violently too. “Come on, babe. You can hold on a little longer. Didn’t they teach you anything at SEAL school?”
Steve’s breathing is getting more laboured. His eyes are staying stubbornly closed. Danny blinks back the tears burning in his own eyes. Tightening his grip, he pulls Steve further into his embrace. In situations like this his first reaction is to rant. But he’s been told by the rescue crews that they both need to stay calm.
“Come on,” he whispers repeatedly, rocking Steve gently.
Steve’s right, he thinks, his timing is shit. But he’s been telling himself for far too long that the time’s not right. There’s always been excuses, other people to look out for. He’s pretty sure Steve’s been doing the same.
For once in his life he’s going to be a selfish bastard. He’s going to get them out of here. Then they’re gonna lock themselves in the house for a whole week and no one is going to interrupt them. No one.
Plan made, he’s about to share it with Steve when he hears an explosion. The tank vibrates, low at first and then louder. His ears pop as the air pressure changes. Blinking with surprise he’s about to yell for the rescue team outside when he realises what’s happening.
They’ve blown a hole in the side of the tank. The water level is falling.
There’s movement, as someone crawls into the tank beside them, a flashlight attached to their jacket. Voices start talking, swapping instructions, yelling advice. Everything’s blurred though. All Danny can see through his tears is Steve’s frighteningly pale face, his eyelashes dark against his cheeks. But against his forearm he can still feel Steve’s pulse beating. It’s fast, too fast.
“Love you,” he whispers into Steve’s ear again. “Hold on.”
Steve blinks against the early morning light that’s creeping around his bedroom curtains. Stretching, he bites back a wince. His body’s still telling him he suffered hypothermia. But his own bed sure is more comfortable than the one in the hospital. Shuffling back under the bedcovers he sighs happily and drifts back to sleep.
When he wakes up again, the hairs on the back of his neck start prickling. He’s knows he’s being watched. His lips curl up in a sleepy smile as he rolls over to face the bedroom door.
Danny smiles back.
He’s naked. Beautifully naked. His eyes are sparkling, his hair is mussed. And in his hand he’s got…the house keys.
Rubbing his eyes, Steve props himself up on his elbow. “What are you…” He licks his lips, suddenly distracted as Danny walks over, his stomach muscles rippling in the soft light. “The keys?” he tries again with a frown, worried as a shadow crosses Danny’s face. “You going somewhere?”
Danny slowly and deliberately opens the top drawer of the bedside cabinet and drops the keys in. Then he smiles. And his face lights up.
He fucking glows.
Steve stops thinking. Rolling on his back he opens his arms and welcomes Danny in. He can’t remember much about being trapped in the tank, apart from the sound of Danny's worried voice. He remembers even less about the rescue. But he can remember Danny saying ‘I love you’. The words had sparked the fire - the hunger - in him that he’d been denying himself for way too long.
He’s never going to deny himself or Danny ever again, he promises silently, as he pulls Danny into his arms. They've already got so much catching up to do.