Steve is doing paper work when the call comes in. His own paperwork, because Danny is on the Big Island picking up a witness and Steve is stuck here doing penance for scaring the shit out of him. Again. And scratching the paint on the Camaro. Again.
“YOU can stay here and get carpal tunnel filing reports. I am going to Hilo. “
“Don't you 'But Danny' me! You scratched my car! You owe me! This is what I want to make up for it. We'll call it a mini-vacation. I can buy Grace a souvenir.”
“ If I say yes will you stop torturing me about the very minor scratch I accidentally put in your car?”
“We'll see” the smug bastard said and went to book his flight.
It was 6:42 pm Steve remembers later. When he gets the call.
He's almost done for the day. Danny's flight should be landing soon. Steve has no trouble admitting how much he missed him today. He's allowed to do that now, admit how he feels about Danny. One of the many perks to sleeping with the guy.
His land line rings which is a bit weird in and of itself, he answers it distracted and irritable.
“McGarrett” he barks not trying to keep the impatience out of his voice.
“Commander McGarrett? This is Ed Westway from Tamarind Air there has been an incident involving Detective Williams flight”
“We're not really sure what happened but the flight dropped off radar half an hour ago. There has been air to air communications and the transponder is no longer-”
Two sentences and the bottom dropped out of the world.
The space of time between Danny arguing with his pilot “The Rangers vs The Devils” and the ocean rushing up to smack the little Cessna is a very short space indeed.
He hears “Oh Fuck! Hang on you guys!” and then he's thrown and and rolled battered and he can he metal tearing and the wind roaring, and then nothing-
Danny comes to again gasping and flailing, his own quick breath and the rush of water the only sounds. The windshield is blown out and the ocean is pouring in and he has to get out or he's gonna die and he'll never see anyone again, Gracie and Steve and his Mom and oh fuck it hurts but you have to move, have to move faster and the water is closing in. He pushes against his door and it gives just as the plane slips under, the vacuum it creates trying to pull him down, even though he's out and its everything Danny Williams can do to keep from going down but he can't because he has too much fight in him, too much to fight for.
He breaks the surface again in a rush of trapped air. And everything is still.
There is nothing in sight except water. The surface is churning with trapped air form the plane. All Danny can do is tread water. He doesn’t know how long he's doing it when wreckage starts surfacing around him. pieces of plastic. A first aid kit that was strapped to the inside of the fuselage. A seat cushion. Pieces of what was the airplane and suddenly Danny realizes, really realizes. He is in the pacific fucking ocean and he doesn’t even know where land is much less how the hell to get there. He looks around hoping to spot the pilot or the witness neither of whom where in what was left of the plane when he got out. There is no sign of them, no sign of anyone.
And the sun is just above the horizon. It is going to be dark in half an hour and Danny is treading water in the pacific.
Another seat cushion pops to the surface beside him and Danny latches on to it it. A few feet away he sees a bright yellow container twice the size of his fist with a red cross on it. A red cross is something that can help him Past that he sees the first aid kit again, it's further away this time. He swims as close as he can to the yellow thing. When a swell tosses them in 2 different directions he reaches and when his fingers just brush it Danny grabs and hangs on. There is printing on it that says says it's a life jacket, and he's really fucking glad he tried for it. Even with the seat cushion holding him up his arms are already getting tired.
He's wondering what the hell to do now when some thing fast moving a gray bursts to the surface right beside him. A bright flash of terror and panic and 'shark!” flash across his brain-pan before he realizes it's a plastic tote. It was in the back of the plane, now it's sitting high in the water lid held on with velcro. Danny grabs on.
It's flat and low and it might make a good float.
His head hurts and he's kind of dizzy and panic is buzzing along his nerve-endings and all he wants to do is hang on and wait for rescue.
Another high swell tosses him and he almost loses everything he is trying to hang on to because it's too much stuff , and he cant figure out what to keep and what to let go of. He wants to hang on to everything but it's impossible.
'Make a decision god-dammit!' He yells and trhe sound of his own voice snaps him out of it and he lets go of the seat cushion.
He holds on to the tote with one hand while he struggles into the life jacket with the other. When he pulls the cords on either side it quickly inflates and Danny feels himself lifting a little way out of the water. He is suddenly overwhelming glad he managed to reach the damn thing. He can stop trying to swim now.
He hangs on to the tote because its something solid, and waits.
He waits for the sound of a helicopter, for rescue. For Steve. He watches the sun as it starts to drop behind the curvature of the earth.
The coast guard moves fast and they know their jobs. Steve would never question that, normally. But they only get in an hour of search time before activity is called because of darkness. When the aircraft and the water-craft start returning to base they don't have Danny with them. It cant be right that he is out there and Steve is stuck on dry land.
Steve wants to get out his hand gun and start shooting holes in shit. Because that's his partner out there, his best friend. In the water somewhere waiting for them to come get him and he knows how much Danny hates the water. He wants to rant and yell and lose his shit. He calls Rachel instead.
Danny's cold. It's dark, his head hurts, he lost his favorite pair of shoes and he is in the middle of the pacific and after all the hot humid days in winter he's fucking cold. He has tried not to think about how much water there is under him . He thinks about the argument last week he tried to win with Steve about sharks. About the Wikipedia article about shark attack that ended up educating him, even if he still had to concede defeat. He thinks about small stupid things because there is no point in thinking about the shit he cant fix. He hasn't thought about the distance between him and the nearest island. Instead he thinks about how lucky he is to be mostly undamaged. Danny thinks about how lucky he is to be not bleeding. Because blood , at night would be bad. Sharks feed at night. And they can smell blood a long damn way away.
The last of the light slipped away he doesn’t know how long ago and Danny is surrounded by a level of darkness he has never experienced in his life. There is no light. He tried to count when the sun went below the horizon to keep track of the time. But he kept getting caught up and losing his place. That's when it occurred to him that he might have more than a head ache. The word concussion floats around in the back of his mind but he cant do anything about that either so he lets it go.
He remembers reading that sharks attack surfers and swimmers mistaking them for seals because of the silhouette they present , arms and legs sprawled out that look like flippers. He can do something about that he thinks and wraps his arms snugly around his tote and pulls his legs up out of the water. It's not like swimming is going to help anyway. He waits to see if the tote will take his weight and it does and Danny drops his head down on the lid.
Steve goes home when it becomes clear there is nothing to do but wait for morning. He tries to sleep. He knows he has to be rested enough to find Danny. There is nothing he do to help, no way he knows to find a man at sea in the dark. He does not for one second think there is nothing to find. Danny is out there waiting ,end of story.
He still cant make his brain shut down enough to sleep. So he goes down to the water and sits 10 feet above high tide and waits. He will either sleep or it will be dawn either way he is not trapped inside a house already filled to the rafters with ghosts.
Eventually he sleeps. He dreams about the way Danny's eyes look when he smiles.
His alarm goes off just as it is starting to get light. 4 hours sleep isn't a lot but he has gone a lot further on a lot less.
Time to go find Danny. They know the flight path and approximately where the plane dropped off the radar all they have to do is find the debris field and spread out. Steve thinks about calling Catherine to get an eye in the sky and realizes she is on shore leave at her folks place in west Virginia. Even if he could get a hold of her it wouldn’t do him much good. Doesn't matter he's going to find Danny any way. He's got 16 hours of usable light and he is going to make every fucking second count.
The coast guard had other plans. He'd listened to one and then another Coast Guard officer give him the “With all due respect Lt Commander ….” speech and moved on to his own plan. There had never been a moment of possibility that Steve would be sitting at HQ waiting for word while some one else did the work, not when it came to Danny... or any other member of his team.
4 hours after sunrise they spotted the debris field and Steve goes to find a boat.
Danny is not aware of falling asleep until he is jolted awake by water hitting his face. What the fuck? Danny moans and rolls away form the source. When his arm rolls off and hits the water he is instantly, fully awake. And wishes he wasn't. He wakes up from a nightmare about being adrift to... being adrift. Fuck.
He scrubs his face blearily and looks around hoping something has changed. Nothing has. There is still water everywhere and it's still deep and wet, there is still no sign of land. Not a cloud in the sky. The sun is above the horizon and he is still float on a fucking plastic tote in the Pacific.
He's thirsty and licks his lips. Or tries to. There doesn't seem to be a lot of spit in his mouth. His lips are cracked and dry. Danny thinks they might be a bit bloody. They hurt like fuck.
He shifts position carefully, legs and back and shoulders sore and stiff. The side of his head hurts like a bitch and when he touches it he feels a huge knot there. There is no blood though and that is a minor miracle in itself . He wonders briefly what he hit his head on. Doesn’t matter much. He lets that thought skitter away too and concentrates on keeping his grip.
He does his best to assess his situation but his thinking is foggy and its a pretty brief assessment. Nothing seems to be broken. His head still hurts like a bitch but it is a little better than yesterday. The muscles in his neck and shoulders are wound tight but he thinks there is no real damage. His knee is fucking killing him. He looks at it and can see the swelling through his ruined khakis.
He's going to have to dig out his cane, again. When he gets home. When Steve finds him.
He's really fucking thirsty. He thinks back to the water bottle he polished off at the airport and realizes that had to be at least 14 hours ago.
His stomach grumbles. So skipping lunch yesterday and deciding to eat when he got home was maybe not Danny's best decision. It's not like he could have fucking known, but that doesn’t help either because now he's fucking starving. The sudden recollection of the malasadas he'd had at the office yesterday fill his mouth with saliva. He swallows and is briefly grateful for his hunger because at least now his mouth isn’t bone dry. It only helps microscopically.
He sits on his tote and tries not to think to hard beyond the fact that he really needs a cup of coffee.
Sean Leung knows the water around the islands better than anyone Steve has ever met. It doesn’t hurt that the man feels a debt of gratitude to 5-0 for finding his fathers killer. He is only to happy to help. He takes a different tack than SAR and heads a little further out to sea past the visible debris field. The coast guard is searching for bodies because logic dictates it. Steve is not. And Sean says that changes things a body does one thing in the water and a person clinging to debris does another. So they look a little further out but not as far as the aircraft are searching. There is only so much personnel to devote to the search and the coast guard can't cover everything so Steve and Sean look where SAR doesn’t have the resources to look. It's all Steve can do at this point.
Mid afternoon he gets word from Chin, who is back at HQ holding down the fort and keeping Steve updated. The Coast Guard found the pilots body a few miles from the debris field. It is unclear whether he died from the crash or predation, but he's been mauled probably by a shark and he's dead. Steve knows it confirms the coast guards expectations but it only hardens his resolve. They are going find Danny.
By the time Danny sees that the sun has started to head back toward the horizon he has absolutely had enough of this shit. He's fucking hot, and tired and hungry and sunburned and so fucking thirsty its making him nuts. Surrounded by tons of water and his throat is so dry it feels like its been sand papered. The sun is relentless and Danny can feel the skin on his face getting tighter and tighter. When he finally can't stand it anymore Danny takes off his shirt and slips into the water to cool off. It's a maddening relief. He is instantly cooler but still so fucking thirsty. He lets his body relax in the water absorbing the relief. His eye slip closed with out him being aware of it . A particularly big swell comes and in an instant Danny has lost his grip on the tote. The instant panic he feels is almost over whelming “SHIT!” he yells and flails madly toward the tote as another swell approaches and he feels real terror for the first time at the prospect of being adrift out here with nothing between him and the void beneath his feet. But luck is with him this once and instead of losing his float he finds him self in the bottom of a trough being all but thrown back where he wants to be. He clutches madly at the tote and scrambles back on as fast as he can.
He lays there gasping clutching his float so hard his hands hurt. Danny can feel the panic jittering around under the surface of his skin trying to get loose but he has to get a holds of himself. If he panics now it will kill him. He has to keep it together. “ Not getting off again! Don’t care how hot it gets not getting into the water. Shit! Fuck! Just gotta hold on! Just hold on they'll find you. Steve'll find you! Just gotta hold on” He says it over and over and over again both a vow and a prayer.
He gets the panic under control but only barely. The thought that he might not make it back is circling below the surface and it's hard right then not to just let go and freak out a little. He can see the sun close to the horizon. The thought of spending another night out here is almost too much. But he has to hold it together and Danny is a stubborn son of a bitch if nothing else. He is not giving up or losing his shit. If he is going to die out here he's doing it will all his marbles intact. He can keep it together he just needs to remember Steve is never going to stop looking for him.
The thought helps him get a handle on things bit it doesn't stop him from drifting off thinking about Grace and Steve and their last weekend together.
At the beach predictably because where the hell else can you go on Oahu?
They spent the day in the sun. He watched his little girl get her feet under her on a surf-board. The shine of pride in her eyes for the rest of the day was worth any of the misgivings he felt.
They'd stayed until the sun set that day. Steve and Danny and Chin and Kono and Grace eating steak on the lanai. When Grace fell asleep leaning against Steve, Danny asked if he minded carrying her in. The undiluted happiness on Steve's face at being trusted with such a simple thing... it made Danny's heart stutter for a second to realize his good opinion meant so much to Steve.
When he came back out it was just the two of them. They stayed there as close as they could get until the stars came out. Danny thinks now it was the best day he'd had in Hawaii spent there with people he just liked. He watches the sun get closer to the sea and wishes he could have the day back so he could tell them that.
He hoped Steve came soon. Before- well just... soon.
Steve and Sean look until the sun goes down. Steve knows they should have headed back earlier to be entirely safe but he couldn't face turning away from their search until the very last minute. Sean doesn’t suggest it until the last possible moment. They'd keep looking as long as they could. It's almost the end of the second day and even though Steve isn’t ready to admit it they were rapidly running out of time. Three days without fresh water is the human limit and tomorrow was the third day. They had to find him.
“Commander” Sean says from the wheel house “ I'm sorry but we have to head back to port. It will be dark in an hour and fuel is low” he waited for Steve's approval before turning them around making a bee line for port. Steve would watch the whole way in, looking for anything.
He kepes on watching until his eyes ache from the strain.
The fear of being almost out of time burns low in his chest even though he would not call it what it was. Danny wasn't just going to be gone. Steve won’t let him not now, the few weeks they've had togetherwas no where near enough. He'd counted on a lifetime.
His eyes burn and he absently reaches up to wipe at them. His hand across his eyes meant almost missed it. A light dropping into a swell, just above the surface of the water.
“Sean!” He calls. “ You see that?”
His captain throttles back and steps up beside Steve to take a look. They both have their glasses trained on the trough but Steve sees it first. A flash of light. It's blinking!
Without a word Sean powers up and swings towards the light. Steve never takes his eyes off the spot.
Then he sees it. “Shit” it's some kind of a float and there's a person laying on it.
“Please be Danny. Please be Danny! Please” he mutters unaware he's speaking focused solely on the figure on the float.
Sean throttles back as they get close so as not to swamp the makeshift craft. When the person on board stirs and lifts their head to look up it is the sweetest thing Steve can imagine. Danny's battered sunburned face staring blearily up at him.
Sean brings them alongside smoothly and despite the slight rough seas Steve has Danny on board on his second try, timing his reach to rise of the water. He hauls Danny aboard and can’t help the urge to clutch at him.
“I got you Danny. I got you” Steve runs his hands over him checking for injury.
“Tote” Danny croaked.
“Don't forget my tote” he says waving his arm unsteadily at the thing he had been floating on. “ can't leave it out here. Saved me”
Steve and Sean look at each other, confused. Dumbstruck actually. Then Sean reaches over and hoists it out of the water without another word. Danny reaches out and pats it sloppily and collapses into his partner.
Danny wakes up in the hospital, however many hours later. It is still dark out. He hopes it is the same night and not days later. He has an IV in each arm. A nurse unhooking one was what woke him. “Well look who's awake!” she says cheerfully and smiled at him.
“What?” a voice garbles off to one side said.
“Your friend's awake” the nurse says not looking at him. Danny turned his head to follow her gaze. Steve , of course.
“ Danny! Thank Christ!” he says grinning and leaning in. He looks exhausted, he needs a shave, and
there are bags under his eyes. He was the best looking thing Danny has ever seen.
“How you doing?” Steve wants to know.
Danny tries to answer but all he gets is a breathy croak. Then Danny is aware of the nurse there again even though Danny hadn’t really seen her leave. She presses a spoonful couple of ice chips to his lips and passes the cup to Steve.
It was the best kind of relief, feeling that melt slip down his throat washing away the pain as it went. Steve feeds him a few more before taking them away all together. “Not too many Danny. You'll make yourself sick”
Danny feels himself slipping back into sleep but he isn't ready yet. There were so many things he had to tell Steve.
“It's alright Danno. You're good now, I got you.” Steve says quietly and Danny feels his own hand gripped by Steve's big paw. The hold warm and safe and sure.
He can only think of one thing he really has to say right now.
“I knew you'd come”