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A Warm Place

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***
Danny pressed harder on the accelerator, the speedometer reaching over ninety mph as he pushed the Camaro to its limits. The port was off the next exit, a sprawling complex for inter-island cargo and foreign trade-zones. And the last place Steve had been heard from.

Danny white-knuckled the steering wheel, his mind replaying the phone call from the office earlier.

“Hey, where are you?” he asked after the third ring. “I thought we were going to meet at –“

“Danny…we were wrong.” Steve sounded out of breath. “Sobol’s the one smuggling –”

Gunfire erupted, deafening over the receiver.

“Steve!” Danny yelled over the chaos. “Steve, answer me!”

But the line went dead. Grabbing his weapon from his desk drawer, Danny called Chin as he raced out of the office.

It’d been two hours since the last contact with Steve, two hours since the team confirmed Gregory Sobol wasn’t a victim of an international smuggling ring—he was the head of one, responsible for multiple homicides.

Danny’s tires screeched as he drove toward the exit at speeds too dangerous to be sane. Danny blared his sirens as he raced down the main road toward a series of warehouses, dozens of large cargo ships looming in the distance as they waited their turn to dock. After waving his badge to get through a security check-point, he spotted Chin standing by his Mustang, waiting.

Danny parked alongside Lou’s giant truck. “Where’s Sobol?” he yelled as he climbed out of the car.

Chin held out his hands in a calming gesture. “Danny.”

“Where is the bastard?”

“Lou’s with him.”

The rest of the team had been following another lead when Steve called. Sobol was still packing up his operation when Chin, Kono, and Lou had arrested him. But Sobol had deep pockets and business connections; he’d could be booked and out on bail within the same hour. And their only chance to find Steve would be more protected than ever.

This was their best chance to crack him.

Danny wiped a hand over his face in frustration. “Did you guys get anything out of him?”

“Not yet.”

“Why the hell not?”

Chin frowned and placed a comforting hand on Danny’s shoulder. “We’re pressing him. Hard . It takes time, you know that.”

But it wasn’t enough. Danny walked with Chin toward the man’s car, thinking, reminding himself he was a cop, he still had a job to do. They all did.

A ship horn blew; a painful reminder at how chaotic their search area would be. Danny sucked in a breath of salt-tinged air, desperation and anger bleeding into his voice. “What do we have?”

Chin was all business. “I still don’t have anything from Steve’s cell and we have the local security doing a grid search.”

Danny scanned the labyrinth of congested rows of multi-colored cargo containers waiting to be loaded onto forklifts. “Two hours is a long time to hide someone.”

They we not searching for a body. Steve was not dead. Not after bombs and International kidnappings, nuclear explosions and Danny single-handedly pulling Steve back from the brink of too many near-death experiences.

Danny would rip this entire shipping yard apart with his bare hands if he had to.

“Hey guys,” Kono called out. She hurried out of the warehouse where they had secured Sobol. “Security said they found Steve’s truck abandoned by the fuel depot. Officer Blackman is searching for witnesses, but no one’s seen Steve.”

“What about security footage?” Danny asked.

“Nothing.” Kono shook her head, annoyed. “The network for those cameras just happened to malfunction this afternoon.”

“That’s not surprising,” Chin said. “Steve said the only way that a smuggling ring of this size could have been pulled off was with the help of an inside man in The Port Authority.”

But that didn’t matter to Danny. “We don’t have any leads on an inside guy, but we do have Sobol.”

Kono shared a concerned expression with Chin. “He’s not giving up anything.”

Danny clenched his jaw, channeling all his worry and anger into raw determination. “He will to me.”

***

The warehouse was filled with wooden pallets and rows of shipping containers. The front office was under construction, the door was missing and covered with plastic, tools and two-by-fours strewn everywhere. It was a walking work-hazard.

Danny stormed past the clutter, moving around a table to where Gregory Sobol sat tied to a chair. Lou Grover loomed beside the prisoner while massaging his knuckles, his face drenched in sweat. He looked over and nodded at Danny.

Sobol was a pudgy bastard, one of those guys with a layer of fat over plenty of muscle.

Blood stained the front of his thousand dollar dress shirt and dripped from the corners of his mouth. He spat on the ground at Danny’s shoes and grinned at him. “Are you here to escort me home?”

“Where is he?”

“You need to be more specific.”

Danny jabbed him by the floating ribs, breaking the upper left one. Sobol doubled over with a pained-filled grunt.

“I asked you a question,” Danny said, bending over the man’s ear.

Wheezing, Sobol sat up and stared at him. “Your dog…hits harder.”

Lou’s head snapped in Sobol’s direction. Danny didn’t stop him as Lou decked Sobol in the jaw, shaking out his hand with a curse.

This wasn’t working. Sobol was tough, not to mention intelligent. He was either stalling for reinforcements, his army of lawyers, or for his cronies to ---

No. No. Danny halted that train of thought in its tracks. Steve was still alive. They had the whole upcoming weekend off together.

Danny spun away, his breathing harsh and rapid; his need to break Sobol’s bones a relentless desire. Fuming, he spotted something on one of the work benches, his blood turning to ice inside his veins.

“Maybe you guys should call the Girl Scouts,” Sobol taunted, laughing. “I hear they’re good at finding people. Maybe they’ll locate your lost SEAL.”

All hesitation evaporated from Danny’s body as he reached for a nail gun. “How do you know he was a SEAL?”

Steve and Danny had meet Sobol only once, but Sobol must have dug into their backgrounds for a reason.

Turning around, Danny marched over with the nail gun.

All color drained from Sobol’s face. He started struggling in his chair, frantic. “What the hell are you doing?”

Danny glanced back at Kono and Chin standing behind him, grim-faced and resolute. Kono gave him a single nod.

He turned around. Lou was behind Sobol, holding him by the shoulders to keep him still; there was no question in his eyes.

Danny aimed the gun at Sobol’s foot and squeezed the trigger, the kickback stronger than he expected.

Sobol screamed.

“Where’s Commander McGarrett?” Danny asked again, his voice even. Patient.

“I’m going to kill you!”

Danny fired again. “I have a whole box of nails left. And I’m just getting started.” He raised the gun, aiming for Sobol’s knee. “I really hope you play sports.”

“Stop it!” Sobol bellowed, panting. “He’s in one of the cargo containers!”

At first the words didn’t register with Danny’s brain, his hands shaking from too much adrenaline, his fingers still curled around the trigger.

“Which container?” Chin demanded, stepping forward.

Sobol tried shaking his foot in a vain attempt to remove the nails sticking out of it.

Chin kicked Sobol in his bleeding shoe. “Which container!” he yelled over Maslov’s hollering.

“Container DH1…826, you…you bastard!”

“I’ll search the Port’s database,” Kono said, pulling out her phone. “Security granted me access to their network when Chin and I first arrived. All containers have tracking devices; I’ll find out where it’s located.”

Still riding a wave of endorphins, Danny dropped the nail gun to the floor. His mouth was dry, his heart raced. But he still managed to walk toward Kono with a fake exterior of composure.

Chin joined them. “Hopefully, it hasn’t been loaded onto a ship.”

“Not yet, it’s being moved as we speak.” Kono typed fast and furious on her phone. “It’s headed toward SW-3215 on the grid. We can call ahead and have it stopped.”

“No, wait.” Lou strode over toward their huddled circle. “We still don’t know if there’s an inside guy with the Port Authority. We don’t want to tip anyone off.”

Enough with the talking.

“Then what are we waiting for?” Danny growled. “Let’s find Steve.”

“Damn it. Hey guys, wait a second. I found the manifest; it says all the cargo is frozen Ahi.” She swallowed. “It’s a freezer container.”

***

Danny wanted to punch Sobol in face, but he couldn’t, he could only drive, and honk his horn at every idiot flatbed truck that got in his way.

Steve had been missing for two hundred and forty minutes. How long could someone survive inside a freezer?

“Steve’s received the toughest training in the world,” Chin said from the passenger seat. “He’s endured cold-water conditioning –”

“When he was in his twenties,” Danny interrupted. “Not to mention he served in the desert and has lived on an island for the last five years.”

“He’s a survivor.”

A forklift tried to pull in front of them and Danny swerved around it, Chin grabbing the door handle.

Chin looked down at the laptop perched precariously on knees. “Slow down and turn left.”

Danny slammed on the breaks, his chest smacking the steering wheel from the momentum. He scanned over a dozen metal containers of various colors from the driver-side window. “Which one?”

“The letters should be on the top right corner.”

Jumping out of the car, Danny scanned the various markings. Kono and Lou pulled up beside the Camaro. Both of them exited Lou’s truck, Kono carried an emergency blanket with her. They caught up where Danny and Chin stood as they searched the cargo containers for their identification markings.

Danny dismissed the first three containers, each beginning with the wrong letter. J, P, O….Where was it?

“Over here!” Chin yelled. “This blue one.”

Danny stared at the obstacle; two long metal bars went from the top to the bottom of each door keeping them shut tight. He opened the lock box and located the padlock that secured the center door handles.

“Man, these are lock boxes,” Lou muttered. “They’re only large enough to stick the key inside the padlock and too small to tamper with.”

Danny didn’t care. He started to pull out his gun when he heard Kono moving behind him.

“Clear!” she yelled then fired three bullets into the padlock.

Lou threw the remaining padlock pieces to the ground. “Come on, come on.”

“We need to remove these crossbars,” Chin said. He started pushing out the pins from the top hinges.

Danny crouched down to reach the bottom ones. After several clumsy attempts, he finally curled his fingers tight enough to jerk the pins free.

“Got it,” Kono announced.

One by one they removed the crossbars, the metal clattering onto the pavement. Lou yanked opened left door. “Steve!” he yelled over the whirring generators inside.

Danny pulled open the right door, a blast of freezing air hitting him in the face. It was dark, the churning motors of the air conditioning units mounted inside loud inside his ears. “Steve!” he yelled. “Steven!”

He switched on his flashlight; the beam bouncing off Styrofoam packages of Ahi. Everything reeked of fish. Danny spotted Steve on the floor curled up like a ball on the metal floor, his heart sinking into the pit of his stomach.

“I found him!”

Chin and Lou crowded behind, their flashlights providing more light as Danny ran where Steve lay. Kneeling, Danny reached for the pulse at Steve’s neck. He pressed his hand against cold skin and felt a faint flutter beneath his finger tips. He almost wept in relief.

“Come, Danny. Let’s get him out of here,” Lou said beside him.

Danny grabbed Steve from under his armpits while Chin went around and gathered his long legs. “I got him,” Chin said.

Together they carried Steve out of the freezer and into the daylight. Kono spread the emergency blanket onto the ground and Steve and Chin laid Steve on top the foil. They folded the blanket over him.

Steve was motionless, his face ashen and lips tinged blue. There was crusted blood at his temple where it looked like someone bashed him in the head. He looked dead.

“What’s the ETA on that bus?” Lou asked his voice deep with worry.

“They’re still ten minutes out,” Kono said. She rubbed her hands over the front of her jeans.

“We could pile him into the car and blast the heaters,” Chin suggested.

Danny knelt down next to Steve, pressing both hands over Steve’s chilled face, his throat, counting the shallow rise and fall of his chest under the thin blanket. “No, if we warm him up too fast, it could cause him to have a heart attack.”

Chin gave him a surprised look and Danny gave a solemn smile. “I’ve had hypothermia training.”

“He’s right,” Lou said, hands on his hips, evaluating. “We need to slowly re-warm his body.”

Danny’s brain went into autopilot. “Chin, do you still have a thermos of coffee in your car?”

“Yeah,” he said nodding in understanding. “I’ll grab it.”

“Kono, see if you can find any blankets or towels, anything that we can use to warm him up.”

“On it.” She ran back to their vehicles.

“Okay, okay,” Danny muttered under his breath. Steve was unconscious which meant he’d been exposed to freezing temperatures for over an hour, and he wasn’t shivering so his body had begun to shut down. The idea that Steve could be that exhausted….

“Are we stripping him?” Lou asked.

While Steve’s clothes weren’t wet, removing them would remove a source of cold. “Yeah.” Danny pulled away the blanket and started undoing the buttons of Steve’s shirt.

Lou removed his outer shirt and handed it over. Danny draped it over Steve’s torso, then began undoing Steve’s belt, removing his jeans, allowing the sun to shine down on pale skin instead of Steve’s normal healthy tan.

“I found a bunch of beach towels!”

Kono ran over with a bundle and began piling them over Steve’s chest, tucking them under his shoulders and arms.

Danny took one with ridiculous smiling pineapples all over it and laid it over Steve’s legs.

Chin hovered as he clenched the thermos. “I called for an update. The EMTS are five minutes out.”

Danny sat on the ground beside Steve’s head and stretched out his legs. He considered his next move, mapping out the care and speed it’d require. Grabbing both sides of the emergency blanket, he lifted and scooped Steve into his lap. Danny cradled Steve’s head against his chest while he wrapped his arms around Steve’s body, holding him close.

“Could you hand me another towel,” he asked Kono. “We need to keep his neck and head warm.”

Kono knelt down and wrapped a fluffy red one around Steve’s throat.

Taking a moment, she caressed Steve’s cheek. “Danny’s going to keep you warm, boss.” Kono flicked her gaze at Danny. “Is there anything else we should be doing? Like I don’t know, rub his limbs or something?”

“No,” Danny said. “Massaging him could cause his blood vessels to open up too much.”

“And that’s bad?” Chin asked.

“Yeah, because it could tank his blood pressure and his heart could…,” Danny didn’t complete his train of thought.

He held Steve into a tighter bundle of towels and blankets. “Come on, shiver buddy. You can do it.”

Danny adjusted his grip, bending down to press the side of his face against the rough stubble of Steve’s cheek. His skin was still so damn cold. Danny closed his eyes and mumbled reassurances under his breath and began rocking them both.

“Only you could get locked in a freezer in the middle of a tropical island. And seriously, I’m disappointed that you didn’t pick the lock with your shoelaces or something. What kind of Navy guy can’t escape a cargo box destined for the sea?”

He squeezed Steve harder. “And you were surrounded by giant tuna fish. How does a Navy SEAL get trapped with a stuff that ends up on crackers?”

“Tun-a?” Steve mumbled, drowsy.

Danny’s heart rate spiked. “Yeah, tuna fish, like the one we caught in the middle of the ocean before getting boat jacked.”

Kono and Chin hovered on each side of them, Lou hollered to someone on his cell phone to hurry up.

“Steve?” Danny whispered beside his ear. “Can you hear me?”

Steve began to shake; his body was beginning to fight.

“W-where…am…I?”

“In my wonderful arms.”

Kono snorted.

“W-hat?”

The confusion wasn’t unusual for a victim of hypothermia, not to mention a probable concussion. Danny tried keeping Steve calm. “You’re in Hawaii; you’re going to be fine. I promise.”

Chin crouched in front of them. “I’ve got that warm coffee.”

“See if you can help him sip some of it.”

But Steve was dazed and he struggled weakly as Chin moved closer.

“Steve, it’s okay. It’s just coffee,” Chin said, speaking soft and easy.

“Hey, hey, shssssssh, behave,” Danny ordered.

Steve’s head lolled against Danny’s shoulder. He stared up at Danny in confusion, his eyelids drifting closed until he forced them open again, his body shuddering with the effort.

“It’s me. It’s Danny. You know my voice, Steve. You know I’d never lie to you.”

Steve’s teeth started chattering.

“Do you trust me, Steve?”

Despite all his distress, Steve managed a slight nod.

“Good. Now let Chin give you something to drink, it’ll help, I promise. You trust Chin, too. We’re ohana.”

Steve tried nodding again, but the motion was interrupted by the violent nature of his shivering. Danny would take it. Shivering meant Steve’s body was generating heat again.

Chin placed a hand on the back of Steve’s skull to keep him still and tilted the thermos until he was able to drink. Steve swallowed rough, almost spitting the coffee back up when he started coughing.

Chin waited until Steve regained his breath and held the thermos to his lips again. “Easy, easy, small sips.”

Kono kept a hand on Steve’s leg through the mountain of blankets, lending steady strength.

Danny supported Steve while he tried sitting up, keeping him inside his cocoon. Chin continued giving Steve warm fluids while supporting his neck. But after a minute, Steve’s head dropped back against Danny’s chest, his energy depleted from the effort.

“It’s okay, babe,” Danny said. “You did great.”

“’m….s-so tired….”

“I know you are, but you need to stay awake.”

“Can’t….”

“Yes, you can. Because you’re an obstinate SOB and you were put on this Earth to annoy me.”

Steve managed a lopsided smile, his eyes still slightly unfocused as he fought against exhaustion.

Danny heard the blessed sound of sirens in the distance.

“What’s the longest you’ve stayed awake, huh?” Danny gave Steve a slight shake. “Come on, I’m asking you to bestow us with your mighty SEAL prowess.”

“Forty---“

“Forty what?”

“Forty-three hours.”

“Just forty-three? I gotta say, I was expecting something like three or four days, minimum.”

“N-no….stims.”

“No stims? I’m hoping you just mean coffee, but something tells me you’re not.”

The sirens grew even louder, Danny’s heart sinking in relief. The ambulance finally arrived a few minutes later.

It didn’t take long before two paramedics evaluated the situation with rapid and practiced precision. They kept Steve inside his bundle while they assessed him, taking his pulse, pulling out an arm to wrap a BP cuff around.

The first paramedic was native Hawaiian and very tall. His nametag was half hidden, but Danny was able to catch a glance—Alika.

He took Steve’s temperature using an ear thermometer. “We’re going to transport you to the hospital. All right Commander?”

Steve was oblivious to the man’s words, his eyes closed. The lack of resistance and vulnerability was like gasoline to Danny’s protective instincts. “Come on, already,” he snapped when the paramedics didn’t work fast enough to his liking.

“Don’t worry, Detective,” Alika said in one of those calm rational voices that never failed to set Danny’s nerves on edge. “We’re going to take good care of him.”

Alika’s partner peeled back the foil blanket and towels and pulled out Steve’s left arm. It took a few moments to palpitate Steve’s veins before he inserted an IV. The other paramedic looked over at Alika. “He’s ready for transport.”

Both men lifted Steve onto the backboard and after securing him in place, they transferred him onto the gurney.

Alika glanced at Danny and the rest of the team who hovered close. “We’re headed for Tripler. You can follow us if you want to.”

“We’ll give you an escort,” Lou said, headed toward his truck.

Kono grabbed Danny’s arm as he stood rooted in place while he watched Steve loaded into the ambulance. “Come on; go help Lou clear the way.”

Danny looked at her in confusion as Chin walked over. “We’ll meet you at the hospital after we book Sobol.”

How could he forget about the bastard responsible for this? Danny’s anger skyrocketed to the surface again as he remembered Steve’s dazed expression.

He turned toward his car when Kono grabbed his arm, hard. “Forget about that scumbag; you have somewhere better to be.”

Swallowing, Danny nodded without a word. Kono let go of his arm and Chin gave his shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll meet you there when we’re done.”

The ambulance and Lou’s truck were gone, their combined sirens in the distance.

***

He hated hospitals: the smells of illness, the frantic waiting room, stress emanating from over worked staff and worried family and friends.

Danny flipped magazines without reading the pages; he answered phone calls outside, talking to Kono and Chin, the mayor, the FBI and ATF, his beautiful daughter.

It was all a jumble of anxiety and voices, the control over his own emotions a thin veil of deceit. How long had it been since he first took that call from Steve?

He paced and worried until a weight of unbearable proportions was lifted from his shoulders and he was escorted to a private room with dimmed lights and hushed silence.

Danny all but collapsed into a seat beside Steve’s hospital bed; his body heavy, his brain too frazzled to do anything more than to slip his arm between the metal bed rails and take Steve’s limp hand into his.

He smiled, Steve’s fingers were warm.

“Commander McGarrett is responding well to treatment,” a nurse said a few moments later. “He’ll continue to receive warm intravenous solutions and humidified oxygen until he’s reevaluated in the morning.”

“So, he’s out of danger?”

“His vitals have stabilized.”

It wasn’t a declaration of stunning health, but Danny would take it. Heavy blue blankets covered Steve except where his hands and head stuck out; tufts of hair were matted in some places and stuck out in others.

“You look like a blue burrito with electrocuted hair.” Steve’s fingers twitched around Danny’s curled hand. “Seriously, you should see yourself in the mirror.”

Danny squeezed Steve’s hand then pushed down the bed rail. After removing the metal barrier, he bent over and rested his chin on Steve’s shoulder. “Rest, babe. I’ll be here when you wake up. And the day after, and the day after that, like always.”

***

Danny might have fallen asleep at some point, he wasn’t sure. His back hurt from his cramped awkward position, but when he lifted up his head from Steve’s chest, he saw Steve staring at him between half-closed eyelids.

“Hey,” Danny whispered, reaching over to kiss Steve’s face.

“Hey,” Steve mumbled from under the oxygen mask, his voice rough and paper-thin.

It was the most beautiful sound to Danny’s ears.

***

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