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Still The Rain

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***

 

The plane shuddered against vicious turbulence and Danny dug his fingers into the armrests, his nails denting the leather. Two different alarms blared in his ears and he watched in horror as most of the lights on the instrument panels flashed red.

"This is a terrible idea, Steven!" Danny yelled over his headset.

"Not much of a choice." Steve's arms strained with the flight controls. "We've got to land or we'll be torn apart by wind shear," he said into the comm.

Danny was almost thrown out of his seat by the next giant air bump, saved only by his harness. Sweat poured down his back and soaked his armpits; a tiny whistle-whining sound caused his heart to pound.

"What's that noise?" he yelled.

"Can you be more specific?" Steve asked between gritted teeth.

"That annoying noise like we're losing air." Danny's eyes darted nervously around the cockpit. "We're not losing air are we?"

"That's the emergency release valve to stabilize cabin pressure."

Right. Because the most merciful thing to do would to let them pass out before crashing into the ocean. No. He couldn't think like that. They were going to survive this. He'd see Grace again and Danny would have a chance to beat Steve senseless after the idiot pulled off some miracle.

Steve battled with the yolk while he turned on the radio. "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is Commander Steve McGarrett. Aircraft Whiskey-Bravo-Seven-Seven-One-Three. My location is eight hundred nautical miles northwest of Honolulu at 25° 42'14"N by 171° 44'04"W. Request assistance. Over." He bit his bottom lip and stared at the silent receiver. "This is aircraft Whiskey-Bravo-Seven-Seven-One-Three. I'm caught inside a tropical storm. I need to make an emergency landing. I have one passenger aboard a Gulfstream G100. My listening radio frequency is 126.975 MHz. Over."

A blitz of static was the only reply.

A wave of anxiety swept through Danny, his heartbeat a staccato against his breastbone. "A tropical storm? Try storms, Steven. Massive, destructive storm systems stretching hundreds of miles."

"I'm well aware of that. I needed to be concise."

"Concise? Concise is –"

"I'm beginning our descent," Steve growled.

Danny couldn't see shit through the windshield with all the rain. "Where? I don't see any land."

"Radar, Danny."

"You're going to trust some little green dot?"

"That's how radar works. Don't worry. It's a small island, but it's all we've got."

"Have you landed a plane in the middle of a monsoon before?" Danny stared at Steve, at the fearlessness in his eyes.

Steve flicked his gaze at Danny. "Trust me."

Danny trusted Steve; he just didn't trust the plane.

They dropped in altitude and Danny's ears popped as the wind battered the plane around like a toy. Steve fought with the yoke, his face flushed, jaw clenched. Another alarm sounded. The plane bucked up and down, the fuselage groaning under the constant barrage.

Time crawled to a standstill. It felt like Danny was on a rollercoaster; all he could make out through the window was rain and jungle.

"Can we land on the beach?" he yelled, because there had to be a spot somewhere.

"Negative. Not enough room."

They circled around. God, they were so close Danny could see the treetops.

"Steve."

"I found a small clearing. Hold on."

Danny spotted a tiny swatch of brown snaking in and out of the rainforest. There was no way it could be big enough for a landing. But Steve had that dogged expression; he wasn't using any instruments, his eyes fixed on the windshield, using skills Danny often mocked in order to guide them down.

Danny might have held his breath and said a little prayer, but he kept his eyes open. Kept them open and took once last look at Steve before the world exploded with the sounds of tearing metal.

***

Danny heard a loud insistent noise and it took a second before he realized it was the sound of heavy rain pelting against the roof. He forced his eyes open and found himself still strapped to his seat in a totally dark cockpit. A flood of relief coursed through him, and he turned his head to find Steve staring at the windshield.

"Babe, you okay? Are you hurt?"

"No," Steve said, slightly breathless. He glanced over at Danny, trailing his eyes over him in concern. "What about you? Are you injured?"

"No, I'm good." Danny touched a sore spot at his temple, but there wasn't any swelling. "I might have hit my head, but I don't have a concussion."

Steve slid a hand into Danny's hair, caressing the side of his face. Danny went a step further, pulling Steve into a hug, rubbing the side of his face against Steve's stubbled cheek. "You are aware that most humans might kiss their significant others after a near-deadly crash? Just saying."

"It was a crash landing," Steve mumbled.

"Crash landing? Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't aware there was a difference."

"A crash is an uncontrolled occurrence."

Danny rubbed at his head. Maybe he was wrong about the concussion. "Are you're saying you were in control when our plane violently collided with the Earth?"

"It was a violent landing. But now we need to evaluate our situation."

"Our situation is that we're on some island in the middle of the ocean, during a monsoon. And –"

"I'm talking about evaluating things we're not currently aware of."

And with that, Steve stood up and walked out of the cockpit and into the cabin.

Danny followed, agitated. Only Steve could cause his internal pendulum to shift from exuberance to annoyance. He used the wall to navigate through the darkness where he found Steve struggling to open the cabin door to the outside.

"Do you think the governor will be upset that you just wrecked his million dollar plane?" Danny asked.

"Try ten."

If Danny's stomach wasn't already a mess, it was now.

Steve gave the latch a furious yank, rain spraying him in the face when the door flew open. "Come on."

There were no stairs leading down, so Steve leaped out the short distance to the ground. Danny jumped too, his feet sinking into mud all the way to his ankles. His shoes made disgusting slurping sounds when he pulled them out and Danny grimaced before he trudged through the muck to look around while Steve inspected the plane.

He resisted the urge to whistle. The area wasn't very big, maybe two hundred yards in length covered randomly with leafy shrubs that quickly morphed into the lush trees surrounding them. They were definitely in a lowland judging by the steady amount of water running down from the hills.

Damn, it was hot. Sweat prickled at his forehead despite the fact his clothes were already soaked from the weather. He pulled at his collar while swatting at the flies buzzing around his head.

"Front landing gear's twisted," Steve announced with a glower. "And the engines are filled with branches."

"Did you really think you'd be able to take off again?"

Steve shot him a huge scowl, which Danny ignored. He flicked rain out of his eyes and looked down at the ground again, noticing how the water had risen an inch higher on his khakis. Alarmed, he dug his fingers into the mud until they sank past his wrist. Not good.

"Hey, Steve. Did you notice the elevation of the rest of the island?"

"We came across the north side. Based on what little I saw, this is likely one of the lowest points." Steve walked over, his hair plastered against his skull, his black T-shirt glued to his body. It was slightly distracting. "It was the only place I could land."

"What about nearby rivers?" Danny asked.

"Yeah." Steve crossed his arms in front of his chest, clearly picking up on Danny's concern. "Less than a quarter of a mile from here."

"We're in a really low-lying area," Danny said, doing a circle with his finger to indicate the clearing. "And the ground's been saturated by back-to-back storms for how long?"

"Over the last couple of weeks." Steve squinted at him through wet eyelashes. "You're thinking possible flashflood?"

Danny checked his pant leg again, noticing the higher water line. "Saw it plenty of times back home. It could take hours, or even less. But it's possible that the river could be overflowing its banks. And if the ground can't absorb any more water, and we continue to get several inches of rain an hour..."

Steve walked past Danny, surveying the mix of mud and water with intent. "I was going to designate the plane as our primary shelter, but we should probably gather all necessary supplies and find higher ground."

He climbed back inside the plane like a monkey, and Danny wondered how long it would take before they were reenacting every page out of the SEAL survival handbook.

***

"What do you have in your bag?" Steve asked, scrambling around the cabin. "Can you give me an inventory?"

Danny didn't even know where it was at the moment. Using the daylight spilling through the windows and door, he searched the overhead bins above the passenger seats. "Not much. Remember, this was supposed to be an overnight trip?"

Steve pulled out a flashlight from his backpack, which he found without much effort. "I've got a change of clothes. T-shirt, pants, boxers, socks. Toothbrush stuff. Razor, shaving cream, and gel that might come in handy."

"I don't think we have anything dissimilar," Danny said. He found his small nylon duffel and started rummaging through his stuff. He had his Heckler and Koch and an extra clip along with his badge. There was a T-shirt and shorts to change into at night, and a short-sleeved white button up with a pair of blue slacks. His cologne. He searched through the side pockets. "I have a couple books and my cell charger."

"Dump the books and the charger. You don't need the extra weight."

"You realize they're paperbacks, right?" But Danny didn't get a response.

Steve wrangled through storage compartments, pulling out five bottles of water and the food they'd picked up from Safeway for the trip. "We already ate the ham and cheese sandwiches, but we have the turkey wraps." He grabbed a small first aid kit and stuffed it inside his pack. "We should turn off our phones. They're useless until the storm blows over; once the weather clears, we'll turn them back on so that search and rescue can ping our GPS. I've got a Ziploc bag we can keep them in."

Danny handed Steve his cell so he could secure it. "I'm not an overpriced weatherman or anything, but I've been through a few storms and hurricanes in my time." He finished rearranging his stuff before looking up at Steve. "I think we're going to be stuck here a while."

"You have an ETA?"

"Do I have an ETA?" Danny couldn't believe his ears, but Steve frowned at him, obviously waiting for some exact time, accurate to the half hour. "No, I don't. Because as we just found out, storm systems are not a hundred percent predictable. As in, a million different things can cause them to slow down, or speed up, or alter trajectory."

"I don't have any expertise on hurricanes. Hawaii actually doesn't experience them very often. The water's too cool most of the time. So, I'm asking you –" Steve pointed his finger at Danny's chest. "The better expert. Do you have an estimate as to how long we might be facing tropical storm conditions?"

"At least the next four days. Probably more."

Steve moved closer, drops of sweat beading down the sides of his face. "Define more."

"Maybe five or six days. Possibly a week. The storm system that was supposed to head toward Japan before it changed directions?" The one that wasn't supposed to be in our flight path, he left unsaid. "It's probably a category one hurricane by now. And it's a slow moving bastard, won't reach landfall for another couple of days. Not to mention all the other activity popping up, like the microstorm that forced us to land in this beautiful paradise."

"And if hurricane picks up power from the other storms..."

"Then things are going to get very bad in the next day or two."

Steve seemed to take the information in stride, and if anything, he switched into higher gear. "See if you can find any blankets or sheets."

Danny didn't protest being barked orders; he expected certain aspects of Steve's personality to emerge in crisis-mode. Although, if Steve started to slip into too much military jargon, Danny reserved the right to smack him.

For a Gulfstream, the plane didn't have many amenities. Sure, the six leather seats were nice, and there was plenty of legroom, but it was small, and if he recalled the heated conversation between Denning and Steve regarding their improvised trip, the plane had been kind of commandeered. Other than fueling her up, he didn't think the galley or anything else had been resupplied for their little jaunt.

"I found one measly blanket," Danny said, folding his discovery and stuffing it in his duffel. "What about you?"

"Another flashlight," he said, handing it to Danny. "And this." Steve held up a glass coffee pot.

Danny couldn't help the grin across his face. "Now that's my type of survival equipment."

"It's for boiling water." Steve shook his head and packed the item before scanning under the first passenger seat with his flashlight. He yanked out a large plastic yellow bundle the size of a large suitcase and contemplated it. "We've got an eight-man life raft. With the storm, the river will be too rough to use it."

"Not to mention it'd be a monstrosity to carry," Danny added.

Steve stared at the bundle with a rare expression of indecision before shoving it aside. "Have you seen an ax? There wasn't one in the flight deck compartment."

"That's all we need," Danny mumbled while packing his flashlight, "to turn this from a disaster movie to a horror film."

The plane rocked from a powerful gust of wind, and Danny nearly fell into one of the passenger seats. Steve braced himself using an overhead bin.

"We need to prep ourselves before heading out," Steve said, strapping a knife holster around his thigh and securing a six-inch blade. "Are those the only shoes you have?"

Danny looked down at his mud encrusted dress shoes. "Yeah."

Steve frowned at him. "Put on a second pair of socks and make sure the laces aren't too tight. You can't afford any open blisters."

Steve was deadly serious; he looked at Danny as if willing a pair of hiking boots to appear.

"Okay." Danny started untying his laces without complaint. "These are comfort fits by the way, so they have great orthopedic support."

“Also strip out of your boxers."

When Danny glanced up, he found Steve shucking out of his cargo pants. "Excuse me?"

"We're going to get drenched out there." Steve yanked off his briefs and put back on his pants in quick efficiency. "Underwear dries slower than regular clothes and it'll chafe."

"This isn't exactly how I pictured us taking off our clothes on the plane." Danny quickly changed, slipping his legs back into his slacks and doubling up on his socks. He started to retie his laces when he saw Steve standing next to him with a roll of duct tape. "And what the hell do you plan on doing with that?"

"Rainforests contain billions of insects. Extra humidity makes them crazy." Steve unrolled a long strip. "If you can't tuck in your pants into anything, then you need to tuck them into your socks and tape them together."

All of Danny's skin prickled with the phantom feeling of thousands of tiny legs, and he wiggled uncontrollably in his clothes. He quickly shoved his slacks into his socks and grumbled, "I look like a complete dork."

Steve rolled his eyes and taped Danny's socks around his slacks before he could do it himself. "The fact you're wearing a long sleeved shirt is a good thing for once."

Danny trained his eyes over Steve's tanned, inked arms and his T-shirt. "What about you?"

Steve started tucking his cargo-pants into his Timberlands and looked up at him with a smile. "I'll use nature. But first, we need one last item."

***

When Danny exited the plane, the water level almost reached his knees. Rain beat down on him, soaking his hair and dripping down his face. He watched in confusion as Steve hopped out beside him, carrying a hammer and a wrench, and went toward one of the engines.

"Um. Steven? What the hell are you doing?" Danny had no clue where the tools came from.

Steve obviously couldn't hear his question as he started screwing around inside the engine. Danny gazed up at the sky filled with thick gray clouds, wondering how the hell they were going to get out of this.

After a few more minutes of banging around, Steve ambled over with parts of a plane propeller in his hand. Danny stared in muted exasperation; the goof looked ten shades of excited.

"The engines are made with twenty-two fan blades," Steve said with a gleeful expression.

"No one should look that excited about two-foot long pieces of steel with sharp edges. Are there zombies here that I'm not aware of?" Danny asked.

"No, but we won't make it ten feet without a couple of machetes."

Steve took what looked like strips of leather upholstery from one of the airplane seats, and with some duct tape, he wrapped two makeshift handles around both pieces of metal. Grinning like a loon, he slashed each of them in the air a few times and, seemingly satisfied with the results, stuck them into the ground.

"If you're done fantasizing about slaying dragons, could we please go?" Danny asked, staring at the rising water level.

"Hold on." Steve knelt down, scooped up several giant handfuls of mud, and vigorously applied them up and down his arms. "Without bug-spray, this is the only way to protect our skin from insects. You'll need to spread this all over your face and neck or you'll get eaten alive."

"Wouldn't it be easier just to roll around like a couple of swine?" Danny asked even as he squatted. "Won't this just wash away after a few minutes?"

"We'll keep reapplying it." Steve pasted mud all over his cheeks, across his forehead, over his ears. "This is important. Insect bites can kill you out here. Infections are rampant in these conditions. I've seen a member of one of my SEAL teams go down because of an untreated bee sting."

Danny reluctantly rubbed mud across every inch of exposed skin, down his throat, getting it in his hair, sucking in his lips as he spread the muck over his mouth. "God, this is, this is..." He spat out a leaf and glared at Steve with the fury of a thousand suns.

But Steve was too busy covering himself up with dirt, looking all Soldier of Fortune, like he was ready to invade the island. The soaked black tee and cargo pants left little to the imagination, and he had that whole pumped on adrenaline air about him.

God, it really was a hot look. Danny swallowed. Fuck the universe and its sick sense of humor with inappropriate timing.

Steve marched over, handsy as a motherfucker. He inspected Danny's work, forcing him to turn around, mumbling about missed spots.

Steve rubbed more mud down the back of Danny's neck, a fierce intensity radiating off his body. "We're going to get bitten a lot. As long as you don't scratch –"

Danny turned around until he faced Steve McGarrett, Danger Magnet. "Mountain cliffs; dinghies in the middle of the ocean; nightmare camping trips. You had to add rainforest adventure to the list, didn't you?"

He really hated Steve's stupid smile.

***

The jungle was a noisy wall of sound. Bird caws, chirps, and tiny squeaks. It was unnerving, which was stupid, because Danny had been in rainforests before, dozens of them, yet this was different, louder. There were rubbings, warbles, clicks, knocks, rattles, peeping, and popping sounds. It was overwhelming at times.

He'd threaded his arms through the straps to his duffel so they hung around his shoulders like a backpack, the contents digging into the small of his back. But he ignored it, slashing at vines and leaves that stubbornly didn't fall away and die like they were supposed to.

"So, what's the plan?" Danny asked, forced to walk slightly behind Steve, who hacked a path with every swing of his machete. "Or are we just walking aimlessly around?"

"We need to...find a place for tonight. Get some rest and plan in the morning."

"That's it? Your big strategy is to wake up tomorrow and think of something?"

"It's called finding a temporary shelter to give ourselves a chance to recover so we can make the best decision."

"But we're headed toward the leeward side of the island?" Steve shot Danny a surprised expression and Danny glared back. "What? This is one of those very rare instances, like the blue moon kind, in which your inane use of naval terms and those of us who live in the real world actually cross."

"As I was saying," Steve said, huffy, "we'll find somewhere to bunk for the night, but in the meantime – yeah, we're heading for highest point of the island."

"Because we had the very bad luck of landing on the windward side?"

Steve took a deep breath and released it. "Yeah."

Danny chewed on his lip. While Steve's experience with wind direction had to do with ships, Danny's experience was rooted as a first responder's during bad storms. He'd taken a meteorologist course to help with understanding of hurricanes. In his world, windward meant the prevailing wind, or the side that got hit with the worst precipitation.

Which meant higher elevation, or any hope of finding any real shelter, like caves or a ridge, was located on the opposite side of the island. In the meantime, they'd be exposed to the heaviest rain and wind.

Danny didn't have the energy to complain about their bad luck again; the humidity seemed to suck the very life out of him. He wiped at his sticky forehead, swatted at the mosquitoes that seemed to be everywhere, and then slapped at something tickling his elbow.

"We've investigated how many cases in jungles? Why is this one so damn annoying?"

"Different topography and climate. But even the islands with little to no population receive enough traffic from the locals or adventure-seeking tourists to leave trails and have an impact on the environment."

"Guess...it would have been...too much to ask to crash on...an inhabited island?" Danny asked.

"Crash landed," Steve corrected.

***

His face felt like a furnace and Danny held up his head to the rain. Water trickled down his cheeks and neck, tepid and wet, but not giving him any real relief. His skin was smeared with mud and sweat and it itched liked crazy. He'd give anything to be doused with a bucket of ice water.

A fly landed on his head and he tried batting it away, only to crush it, smearing its remains in his hair. "Damn it!"

"Come on," Steve said, grabbing Danny's elbow and guiding him under a tree. "Drink some water."

Danny leaned against the tree, listening to the rain pelt through the layers of leaves above. He took several large gulps and felt guilty when he realized the bottle was half-empty.

"You know, we don't have to stop every half hour to rest on my account," he told Steve.

"I'm keeping to a reasonable pace without overdoing it." Steve sipped on his own water, flushed cheeks peeking out between streaks of mud. "Keeping the body healthy is the key to surviving in this type of environment."

Danny nodded and sat with his eyes closed as a mini-waterfall dripped over him from the lush canopy above.

***

He was sick of being wet. Of his legs sinking into standing water, and swatting at things trying to snack on his face and crawl under his shirt. But Danny was really sick of hacking at vines with flowers and having thorns slap him in the face.

His hands hurt where he gripped his machete and his shoulders ached from swinging it. He was no gym monkey, and he certainly didn't prescribe to Steve's need to swim and run marathons on a daily basis, but Danny was in good shape. He took pride in his body, worked out, and ate right despite what Captain America thought.

And when Steve's foot slipped out from under him, Danny grabbed him by the backpack to keep him from face-planting. "Whoa," he yelled, hauling Steve up and trying not to fall as the result.

Steve did a good impression of a cartoon character, pinwheeling his arms, machete and all, until he regained his balance. "Thanks."

"Maybe we should take another break?" Danny offered. Steve frowned, obviously wanting to go on, but Danny made the decision for them. "That looks like a great spot over there."

He took refuge by another tree, sighing when his ass sank into the unyielding ground. God, he never realized how much his feet hurt until he wasn't standing anymore. "How far do you think we've gone?"

"A quarter of a mile," Steve said, sitting next to Danny. "Maybe more."

"That's it?"

Steve flexed his right hand. "We're making good progress. Chopping a path through the rain forest expends a lot of energy. It's slow going."

"You know, this looks like a nice sturdy tree, we could –"

"I want to try to make it to a little higher elevation first." Steve gave Danny a hard look, running a hand through his hair until it stuck up in all directions. "Look. We're on a steady incline, but our progress's going to slow to a crawl over time. If we're going to make any real headway, it needs to be today."

Danny didn't want to budge; he was waterlogged to his bones and sapped of energy. But he knew storms, knew things would get even nastier, and he recognized the edge to Steve's voice; the combination was foreboding.

***

The undergrowth thickened with roots and dense foliage, forcing Danny to hack low while Steve chopped high. It was like the jungle had swallowed them whole, the canopy above a thick dome of lush greens that nearly blocked out the sun, trapping the humidity.

"I think this is a good spot," Steve called out. He scanned the ground, nodding to himself. "The soil's wet, but not oversaturated, and I don't see signs of animal trails."

"What animal trails?" Danny asked, unloading his temporary backpack.

"Wild Boar." Steve surveyed the area, resting his hands on his knees with a damned glint in his eyes. "Come on, I found the perfect set of trees."

Danny glared at Steve and his gung-ho attitude and his ability to exude a renewed sense of energy when Danny was running on fumes. He could barely move his feet without pain because of his inadequate shoes.

"Do you think you could collect a pile of tall branches to create a roof with?" Steve asked. "Ones with the most palm leaves."

It was a rhetorical question since Steve began attacking bamboo with the machete, cutting down pieces two meters in length. On any other day, Danny would stand there and ogle all that play of muscle, imagining how he'd peel off those wet cargo pants, but reality forced him to abandon such pleasurable thoughts.

Dragging his aching feet, he started breaking off branches.

"By the way," Steve yelled over his shoulder. "Be sure to check where you're walking for ant nests and snakes. Oh, and scorpions."

Danny threw a tropical pinecone at Steve's head.

***

Danny returned with a variety of branch sizes just in case Steve had specific dimensions in mind; he didn't put it past him to have a tape measure hidden in his backpack. He dumped his load as Steve looked over at him in exuberance.

"Hey." Steve waved Danny over, a grin plastered across his face. "I think these are perfect," he said, pointing at a couple trees a few feet apart.

There were several thick branches growing at waist level, but two of them jutted out like a giant V, their ends resting on the third branch from the opposite tree. Together they formed a natural triangle large enough to accommodate both of them.

"Help me tie these vines at the junction points," Steve said, tossing Danny a bunch of plants.

Danny wrapped the vines several times where the branches met perpendicularly, tugging to ensure they wouldn't move. "Okay, I see what we're doing. We're going to take the bamboo beams you cut and place them horizontally across the bed frame to make a platform."

Steve grabbed a stack and began laying them down. "Then we'll cover the top with broad leaves and grass."

"Huh, I didn't think Navy SEALs required soft things to sleep on," Danny said with a smirk, helping Steve with the bamboo. "Sounds like it'd ruin your reputations. Are we going to hunt birds next so we can fashion some pillows with their feathers?"

But Steve didn't rise to Danny's barb, his attention fully focused on inspecting their work. "I'm pretty sure this island is under some type of environment protection. Killing the indigenous life would be illegal."

"Seriously?" Danny asked with a snort. "You think this entire island is under the protection of PETA or Greenpeace?"

"Maybe. Or an eccentric billionaire, or a privately funded group. It could explain why an island of this size is uninhabited." Steve unsheathed his knife and pointed at row of bamboo. "Now if you could hurry and fluff up the bed with some leaves, you could help make a lean-to ceiling to protect us from the rain."

***

Steve carried over a very long branch that was eight feet in length. "Before we construct the roof, we need to set up a high support beam."

"Like tying a wooden clothesline between each tree," Danny said. It made sense that their lean-to roof actually had something, to well, lean against.

Together they secured the support beam between both two trees, tying the ends of the limb down in the notch of each branch. They took all the biggest branches and leaned them across the beam at a forty-degree angle, creating the lean-to.

Danny allowed himself a smile despite feeling like he'd rolled around inside a sewer. His clothes stuck to his skin, and he shook his head like a dog to clear the water out of his ears.

"Hey," Steve complained when some of water splashed on his face. "Quit that and hand me the blanket you grabbed from the plane."

Danny pulled out the light blue cottony material, resisting the urge to wrap it around his shoulders. "This is a waste of a perfectly soft, dry blanket."

"And its sacrifice to keep the rain out will be duly noted."

Steve held out his palm expectantly and Danny stared at it in exasperation.

"I know you're in your element out here, probably even enjoying yourself because that is the type of sick human being that you are. And while I concede that following your directions is the key to me seeing dry land again, that doesn't mean that I have to put up with your Sergeant Slaughter attitude. I am not your grunt. I am however, hot, filthy, and really, really wet," he snapped.

"Not to point out the obvious, but we are on dry land; it just happens to be raining right now," Steve said equally grumpy. "But we'll continue to be in a constant state of wet if you don't hand me that blanket. So please, weave it across the lean-to while I tie it in place."

Danny sighed and helped spread the blanket, weaving in and out of the branches, the rain running down the side as they tied saplings across to keep it together.

The shelter was actually impressive for something they'd built in less than an hour. It had a platform to sleep above the muddy ground and a slanted ceiling to cover them.

"What do you want me to next?" Danny asked.

"Take my pocket knife and see if you can find some dry wood to help make a fire. Let me know if you need any help," Steve added preoccupied.

Danny walked behind Steve and stuck a hand into his front pocket, fingers brushing against him through the inner fabric, before grabbing the knife. He smiled when Steve made a choked sound.

"I know how to find dry wood in the rain. I went on four Aloha Girl field trips before our nightmare outing. I could earn a badge," Danny whispered in Steve's ear.

Clutching the pocketknife, Danny smirked devilishly, ignoring the glare that he knew Steve was sending in his direction.

***

Danny found a downed tree and enough dryish wood underneath it to carry back over to the shelter. Of course, he found Steve up another tree, perched on a branch, surveying the jungle.

"What the hell are you doing? I swear to god, Steve. If you fall and break your leg, I'm not carrying you around."

"I wanted to see if I could spot anything useful. And I'm not going to fall," Steve said as if the mere suggestion were ludicrous. Skimming down to the ground, he gestured at a large pile of stones. "I already made a place for the fire."

"Why not build a fort while you're at it? Maybe a car made out of wood. We could drive our way out of here."

Danny was immune to the McGarrett glare of annoyance, and he plopped tiredly down on the ground, pulling out his pocketknife. Steve sat across from him and picked up the first piece of wood, from which he started scraping the outer layer with his blade.

"Did you find any fungus or termites?" Steve asked.

"Let me think about that. No, of course not. Why would I?"

"They make good tinder," Steve mumbled.

Danny wanted to tell Steve what he really thought about good tinder, but he bit his lip while Steve crushed leaves over the kindling.

Pulling a lighter out of one of his many pockets, Steve flicked it several times and held the flame out until the leaves slowly started to smoke. "There we go," he said with a big dopey smile.

And that was Steve in a nutshell: Easily giddy while in the shadow of disaster. It was as irritating as it was enduring.

Steve sat under the tree and began taking off his boots and socks, running fingers over his feet and in between his toes. He looked up at Danny and gestured at his shoes. "You need to check for ticks and leeches. But if you find any, don't touch them. We'll have to burn them off." Danny didn't even have the capacity to express the expletives whirling in his brain as Steve continued undaunted. "I stretched out a vine to dry our wet clothes by the fire while we change into dry ones. We'll rotate our clothes to keep illness at bay."

Danny hadn't even noticed the stupid vine with all the talk of bloodsucking insects. "Only you could act domestic while we're stranded in the middle of the Pacific."

But he stopped complaining when Steve undid his belt and slipped out of his cargo pants. Even after three years, Steve spontaneously undressing still sent a tingle down Danny's spine. He forced his eyes away and focused on removing his own shirt, surprised at the number of bites all over his torso. His skin started to itch.

"Could you see if there's anything in the first aid kit for these bites?"

Steve dug through his pack, grabbed and looked through the kit. "It doesn't look like this has been stocked in a while. There's nothing in here that'll help. I'm sorry," he frowned. "Just try not to think about them."

"There are pink, inflamed areas the size of quarters all over my chest. Not thinking about them won't make them go away," Danny snapped.

He craned his neck to look at his back, suddenly feeling the bites he discovered across his shoulders. The itching sensation worsened.

Steve moved closer, reeking like a musty basement, and pressed a fresh set of clothes into Danny's hands. "Just change quickly."

Danny wrapped his hands over Steve's, his anger deflating, and gave him a small, grateful smile.

He put on his shirt and shoved his legs into his slacks, eyes skittering over Steve's arms, at the dozens of bites now visible without the mud. Steve only had a tee to change into, his forearms even less protected than Danny with his longer sleeves. He stared helplessly, trying to think of anything that could ease the discomfort.

But Steve proved that he had radar attuned to Danny's stress, because he looked over and gave him a short nod, broadcasting a soul-deep confidence in things. It reminded Danny that Steve had probably survived a dozen different hellholes, and in the last couple years, they'd both faced life and death situations together and won.

They could face some rain and bugs.

"Come on." Steve wrapped an arm around Danny's shoulder. "Let's eat something and get some rest."

***

Leaves and moss did little to cushion bamboo, but Danny didn't care. He was off his feet, in fresh socks, and under a ceiling that kept the rain from his face. With his stomach full from a turkey wrap, he almost fell asleep. Except for the fact that Steve was immune from any type of tryptophan coma.

"Will you please just come over here and sit down? You're like one of those spider monkeys who can't sit still."

"We're almost out of water."

"It's pouring. How long could it take to fill up our bottles?"

The tree shook as Steve crawled under the lean-to and sat cross-legged. Danny lay on his back, stared at the blue blanket slanted over him, and rubbed at his eyes burning from the fire. He looked over at Steve, who sat hunched over, arms on his knees but looking completely at ease.

"You've slept in a lot of trees over the years, huh?" Danny asked. Steve shrugged. "It'd explain where you learned some of your most charming manners."

"Manners won't get you breakfast in the morning."

"No. But manners might get you a softer pillow than some annoying leaves."

"Oh, yeah?" Steve scooted over, curling his lanky body onto his side and resting his head on Danny's shoulder. He sighed, contented. "Much better than leaves."

Danny humphed. "You are one sweaty SEAL, you know that?"

"You like it when I'm sweaty."

"I like it when you are freshly showered. With soap and shampoo."

Steve's head grew heavy as he snuggled closer, the rest of his dirt-streaked body going lax as Danny ran his fingers through his short hair. Despite the miserable, sticky conditions, he smiled at the fact that Steve had fallen asleep first.

***

Something wet splashed against Danny's cheek and he sat up and discovered his reason for waking up. Part of the slanted roof had fallen apart and rain poured in where Steve should have been sleeping. But the goof wasn't there.

Danny crawled out of the shelter and into pure humidity. It was ten times worse than any sweltering day back in Jersey. He looked down where the fire had washed away during the night, then toward his sock-covered feet. But the clothes they'd hung to dry were not on the vine anymore and he debated if he should search for Steve when the devil came marching over.

"Where the hell have you been?" Danny growled.

Steve had the audacity to look like a confused drowned rat. "I went to find food."

"Really? Where'd you go? The IHOP?" Danny pointed accusingly at the vine. "And did you notice that our clothes have disappeared?"

"I put them in my backpack to keep them dry."

Steve was all bright-eyed despite being completely soaked again, his hair plastered to his forehead. He unloaded his backpack. "I found some guava."

"They look like fat limes." Danny took some of the fruit and dug his nails into the green skin, biting into the pink inside. He grimaced at the sourness. "And taste like really bad grapes."

Steve sucked the juice running down his fingers. "Eat up. We have a long day ahead."

"I'd rather have pancakes."

"Well, I did grab some hibiscus shoots. But I figure you'd prefer the fruit."

Danny munched on a dozen guavas until his lips puckered-up. Steve wolfed down his portion before he started to dismantle the shelter. It was annoying that they were going to have to rebuild the thing all over again later today.

He dug his clothes from yesterday out of Steve's backpack and sat under the tree and started to switch out his socks. He checked his shoes for surprises, dumping them upside down and shaking them before he stuffed his sore feet inside.

While buttoning up shirt, his nostrils flared from an overwhelming acrid odor. "Why do my clothes smell like a luau?"

"Probably from the fire last night. Burning wet wood can stink."

"Awesome. I'm sure smelling like a tasty barbeque won't attract any hungry beasts."

Steve shouldered his backpack and grabbed both machetes, handing one to Danny. "It's not the beasts we need to worry about."

***

The rain hammered down through the trees, knocking down leaves, large drops splattering all over his face. The temperature might have dropped a few degrees, but the humidity had to be at a hundred percent. Danny alternated between wiping rain away from his head and swatting at the growing number of flies. The buzzing was driving him crazy.

And the disgusting smell...

"What the hell stinks of rotting meat?"

"Rafflesia."

"Raffa-what?"

"Parasitic flowering plants." Steve turned around, his chest heaving from walking. "You're about to step on one."

Danny quickly sidestepped an ugly red flower the size of a small bush. "Those petals are bigger than my hands."

"They're called corpse flowers. The odor attracts the flies."

"That's something I could have lived without knowing. And I swear, Steven, I better not hear how those hideous things are edible. Because I'll eat my shoes before I eat corpse flowers for lunch."

Steve, the asshole, smirked at him.

***

Treetops bent, pitted against the gale, the increased wind driving the rain faster than before. Danny stank of sweat; his feet felt like raw hamburger. Even breathing took extra effort.

He didn't protest when Steve physically shoved him under a tree. "I'll be right back." Then he vanished before Danny could ask him where he was going.

The creepiest part of being stranded in the jungle was the darkness. It felt foreboding, amplifying the beating rain, the bird caws, and the constant chittering sounds of insects. If he closed his eyes, the noise reached a crescendo, so he sat there like a useless lump, staring out at all the shades of orange, yellow, and green.

Steve returned and sat next to him, looking ragged around the edges, legs sprawled out in front of him, head resting back against the tree. "Here. Eat this. It's breadfruit."

Danny looked at the yellowish melon things, mouth twitching. "Aren't we supposed to cook them first?" Steve raised an eyebrow. "I told you. Four Aloha Girl trips before our memorable disaster."

"They do taste better cooked."

Yeah. If either of them had the energy. "Thanks," Danny said. "I promise I'll forage for our dinner."

"We're not in a competition."

"No, it's called being fair."

Steve didn't say anything; he just sat and ate, his shoulder touching Danny's. Tearing open the fruit, Danny didn't even complain that they tasted like figs, a food he despised.

He gulped down an entire water bottle in less than a minute and Steve silently handed him another one.

***

Danny couldn't see anything past the mosquitoes swarming his face; the damned things had tripled in the last half hour. He would have given anything to jump into a giant pool of chamomile.

"We need to something about all these little bastards gnawing on us before they have a field day." Danny stopped and started digging through his pack. "I still have an extra T-shirt," he said, waving it around.

Steve slapped at a mosquito flying around his ear, but three more circled around the sweat beading at his forehead. "We'll make a couple of bandanas." He grabbed the tee, and using his knife, made quick work of it. "I should have thought of using it earlier."

"We didn't walk into a pestilence from some horror movie until a few minutes ago." Danny grabbed Steve's wrist, rubbing his thumb over his pulse point. "It could be any number of things causing them to swarm now. Like you said, babe. The humidity makes them crazy."

Steve sighed like he did when he didn't want to relent to logic, tying part of the white T-shirt around his mouth and nose. He looked ridiculous, but Danny didn't dare mock him since he had to wrap the other part of the tee around his own face.

***

Long sleeves sucked. They suffocated him along with the damn shirt over his face; the bandana helped keep the bugs at bay, but only made things hotter. When a branch smacked Danny in the face, it took several seconds before he realized he'd walked right into it.

Steve took the machete from Danny's sore, aching fingers. "I've got it," he said with a hand to his shoulder. "Why don't you sit down?"

"No." Danny panted under the swatch of fabric. "We need to keep going."

"You need to rest."

His feet never hurt as much as they did now. And it made Danny feel like an asshole, unable to move another inch, a pain seizing his calves. "We've been stopping almost every hour."

"And we'll keep stopping."

"We're in race against the storm. If we don't make it –"

"We'll make it – we always have," Steve said, his expression determined.

***

Danny was hot, like, rip his skin off hot. He couldn't carry his machete and was forced to hand it over to Steve while his head pounded with every sluggish step. All Danny could do was follow behind Steve, who hacked his way through the jungle as if it had personally offended him.

"Okay," Steve said, breathing heavily. "I want you to take this branch and start stripping the leaves."

Danny blinked, looking around where he currently sat on the ground. When did that happen? He stared at the branch in his hand, at the wet stems and leaves, at the droplets of water rolling onto his lap. He felt sick to his stomach, and he swallowed, his mouth dry and cottony.

“Steve...I'm not sure...”

“Don't worry about it. Come on, Danno.”

Danny felt his arm move without his permission as Steve draped it over his shoulder and lifted Danny to his feet.

"Just a few steps, you're doing great," Steve said.

Danny was walking, then stumbling, his center of gravity changing before he was lying down on his back. The air was less stifling, although still very damp. He slumped against something, felt hands touch his face, fingers running through his hair. He felt the tape around his ankles get cut away and his shoes were removed. Then his belt was loosened along with the buttons and zipper to his pants.

"You need this," Steve told him.

Something plastic was pressed to his lips and he drank greedily until the fuzziness in his head abated a little. He glanced over at the slanted blue blanket, felt the bamboo under his ass. When had Steve built a new shelter? How long had he been out of it?

He licked tingly lips. "What's wrong with me?"

Steve dropped his gaze, his features pinched in worry. "Heat exhaustion."

"Heat exhaustion?" Danny shook his head. No fucking way. "We've only been here for two days. I've been drinking fluids like every hour. We've taken rest breaks. I don't –"

"It's the humidity."

"Babe. I grew up in Jersey; I've lived on an island for three years."

"But not at this level of humidity. You're sweating like crazy and it can't evaporate and cool you off like normal. Your body's getting depleted of water and salt." Steve gripped Danny's shoulder, sporting one of his crazy, stubborn expressions. "But I'm going to take care of that."

Danny curled his fingers into Steve's T-shirt, because like hell was he going to allow him to do something stupid and reckless on his behalf. "What do you mean? What are you going to do?"

"Don't worry. Just lie down for a while. I'm leaving you two more bottles of water." Steve grabbed his pack, efficiently checking everything inside, completely in mission mode. "Drink both of them while I'm gone."

"Don't give me that, Steve. I don't know what you think you're going to –"

"I'm going to get you some help. I'm trained to handle these conditions."

"Yeah. Back in your SEAL days."

"I still have to stay fit in the Reserves." Steve glanced up undeterred. "I'll be fine." Before Danny could protest, Steve squeezed his shoulder again. "We have to get to higher ground. Together."

Steve wrapped his arms around Danny's back and pulled him close, kissing the side of his face. "Promise you'll stay put?"

Danny leaned into Steve, digging his fingers into his sweaty shirt. "Don't be gone long and I will."

***

The muscle cramps in his legs increased and Danny fruitlessly tried massaging them. But a heavy lethargy pinned him into a half-curl on his side, forcing him to listen to the pattering rain. He felt like a total dick for being sidelined. Heat exhaustion? What the ever-loving fuck?

He crushed the empty water bottle in his hand, then quickly smoothed it out. They needed every container they had. He tried steadying his breathing and relaxing his body in hope of aiding in his recovery. But keeping still wasn't his thing. Except maybe back home on his sofa with a cold beer and a football game on TV. His thoughts drifted to Grace, and a flare of panic seized his heart.

He was going to see her again, hug her tight, and laugh at all her stories from school. Somewhere with air conditioning and under a real roof with Steve driving him crazy.

He shifted onto his elbow, listening past the barrage of rain for signs of the idiot. It'd been at least an hour with no sign of Steve, no sign of anything except the relentless storm. He'd noticed the increased wind gusts, the way the rain started to slant in one direction. The storm was picking up in intensity; the hurricane could be a day or less from landfall.

The echo of distant gunshots made his heart race. What the hell was that? He crawled onto the edge of the wooden frame, shoving the blanket aside, squinting against the outside. Swallowing down bile, Danny gripped the edge as he almost tipped over from a wave of dizziness.

"Goddamn it, Steve," he hissed through his teeth.

He flopped back down onto his back and cursed Steve some more, trying hard not to worry.

***

"Come on, Danno, wake up."

Danny startled at the sound of Steve's voice to find the big lug looming over him. "Jesus."

He barely had enough time to process reality when Steve slid his big hand behind his head. "Drink."

Some repugnant liquid filled Danny's mouth and he coughed and sputtered on the vile bitterness. "Damn. That is disgusting."

"Finish the whole bottle," Steve ordered.

"Are you kidding me?" Danny pushed it away, sitting up. "Please get that away from me."

"No, you need this."

It was like arguing with his mother, except Steve looked nothing like his sweet ma, his face streaked with mud. Danny grimaced, sniffing at the brown liquid.

"You know this is warm?" he complained and swallowed two more gulps. "And thick. God. I think I'm going to be sick."

"Don't. You can't afford to become more dehydrated. I'm drinking some." Steve put his own bottle to his lips, swallowing the contents until it was empty. "It's filled with electrolytes. Come on, I need you to drink two bottles."

"What is it?" Danny asked, forcing the rest of it down.

"Tell you later."

"Tell me now."

"I scraped the salt from the leaves from mangrove trees."

"And?"

Steve cleared his throat. "I mixed and boiled it with animal blood."

"You what?" It took everything for Danny not to throw-up.

"You need salt and electrolytes," Steve said unapologetic.

Danny tried to ease his nauseous stomach, trying to remind himself that he enjoyed a good rare steak. That this was the only way to get better.

"Was that the gunfire I heard?"

"There are feral pigs on this island, but the bush was too dense to get to them." Steve relaxed marginally and shrugged his shoulders. "So, I killed a few lizards and snakes."

His stomach twisted again, the awful taste lingering on his tongue. "You couldn't find a margarita or something instead?"

Steve actually chuckled, despite looking totally wrung out. Danny wiped a hand over his face and held up his half-empty bottle with a grimace. He couldn't believe he was going to drink more. "Cheers, I guess."

***

His stomach gurgled uncomfortably, and all Danny wanted to do was curl back up and go to sleep, but Steve was a relentless asshole, coaxing him to move.

"Come on, you need to put on some dry clothes."

"You just like ordering me around," Danny mumbled, and he caught Steve's tiny smile before he was manhandled.

Steve helped unbutton and peel away Danny's damp shirt and started wrangling off his pants. But there was very little maneuvering space and Danny hit his elbow on a branch, then his head. "Ow. You're not a very good at this."

Steve tugged hard on Danny's pants. "And you're like a little kid," he grunted.

"Hold on. Let me change where there's more room."

Danny crawled out of the shelter naked as the day he was born, then started listing sideways from dizziness.

He felt Steve's arms wrap around his shoulders. "Whoa. Take it easy. You're good."

"I got it," Danny said, closing his eyes, waiting until he felt more levelheaded. "I hate this."

Steve kept him close, steady and reassuring. He pressed a kiss to the back of Danny's head. "Just give yourself a second."

"Okay. I'm okay."

Steve tentatively let go, but he hovered close, antsy as hell.

Danny stood on his own, rain trailing down his bare skin. The water felt nice. Cleansing. It was all in his head of course, it was the same lukewarm rain from the last couple of days, but it washed away some of the layers of sweat and stickiness.

Sighing in relief, he flicked his gaze toward Steve who stood there with Danny's shirt and pants, his eyes warm and admiring.

"All right, all right." Danny shook his head, feeling his mouth curving in a smile. "Give me my clothes before you get any crazy ideas."

***

Moving in and out of the shelter sapped what little energy Danny had left, and he slumped onto his side, watching Steve paw through his backpack with unwavering focus.

"I have something that should help cool you down and soothe the insect bites."

"If it's part of another animal, no thanks." Danny propped himself on his elbow, peering at Steve's stuff. "But maybe there's some Tylenol in the med-kit?" He'd take anything to take the edge off of feeling this crappy.

"Meds for fever don't help with heat exhaustion."

"What about the shaving gel in my pack? That's good for irritated skin."

"The smell would attract every insect in the area. But..." Steve pulled out some plants, his eyes bright in enthusiasm. "I did gather some aloe, which doesn't have a fragrance."

Danny watched Steve break apart the green fleshly stem, squeezing a clear liquid into his palm. "I want you to relax, okay?"

No, it wasn't okay. He shouldn't be relaxing; he should be pulling his own weight. And yelling at Steve for crashing the plane in the middle of some god-awful storm, on an island filled with hungry insects, and enough humidity to fill every sauna back home. He should be finger pointing and demanding an ice-cold beer.

Instead, his traitorous body seduced his brain into turning around and settling against Steve's chest, his eyelids sliding shut. Danny felt Steve apply the cool gel over his nose, down each cheek, slathering more across his forehead. It was a silky godsend.

He hummed in contentment, slumping further against Steve until Danny's head and shoulders rested across his lap. Steve spread the aloe over Danny's throat, his chest, all of his irritated skin slowly easing to a smooth-rich calm. If Danny weren't so relaxed, he'd really be turned on.

"Babe," Danny murmured, intertwining his fingers with Steve's. He opened his eyes and frowned at all the inflamed, puffy skin down Steve's normally tanned arms. "Save some for yourself."

Steve ran his hand through Danny's hair, all warm and fond. "I will."

He couldn't help melting into Steve's ministrations. This wasn't the Steve barricaded by tattooed muscle and hard glares. The man was a walking dichotomy: at ease when armed to the teeth, smiling and giddy when demonstrating how to throw knives to a bunch of ten-year-old children. Danny loved both facets of the man, although the sweet side was his favorite.

He drifted between full-on sleep and barely aware, when he felt a hand lift up his head. "What?"

"Just wait a second. I'm going to help with the muscle cramps."

"Not going anywhere," Danny said, happily sated.

For a second, he missed the softness of Steve's lap as his head settled against the hard surface of bamboo. But before he could protest the change, his feet were moved on top of Steve's warm thighs. Nimble fingers slowly kneaded the pressure points along Danny's left arch, digging into the tendons.

Danny moaned, his legs twitching in lazily in pleasure. Because, damn, it felt nice.

He grunted with the slow circle of Steve's fingers into every tender, achy spot. Then Steve dug his thumb in the middle of Danny's heel and his body went boneless.

"I saved some aloe for your blisters," Steve said a few minutes later, moving his fingers toward Danny's calf.

Danny flapped his hand. "Whatever. Yes. Thank you," he babbled before falling deeply asleep.

***

A nasty burning odor woke Danny up, and he didn't need to open his eyes to know Steve had started another fire. He lay there, feeling like ten miles of bad road, wishing he could go back to sleep. But the blanket bulged in between the framing from the weight of the rain and he knew they needed to get moving.

Rubbing at his burning eyes, he tested out his sore limbs, rallying his energy, and began to crawl out from under the lean-to when Steve poked his head inside. "Hey. You're awake."

"Of course I'm awake, although if you're trying to give me smoke inhalation, you're doing a good job."

"Burning wood –"

"Stinks. Yeah. I know."

Steve climbed inside, scooting next to Danny, and handing him another water bottle filled with his nasty salt concoction. Danny didn't even argue and started drinking it. Steve stared at him surprised.

"I'm pretending it's a Bloody Mary."

Steve smirked because dumb humor suited him. But his expression sobered and he crossed his arms over his chest. "How are you feeling?"

"Better." Danny watched doubt flicker across Steve's face. "Seriously. I don't feel like I'm about keel over. I'm not up for running a marathon anytime soon, but I'm ready to head out."

Steve still looked skeptical, his jaw protruding, but Danny wasn't going to let Steve's worry for him cloud his judgment. Not with how the whole lean-to was rattling.

"Do you hear that wind?" Danny asked. "It's only getting stronger, and we're still not near any real shelter."

"If I get enough bamboo to reinforce –"

"We're talking at least seventy mile an hour gusts, maybe up to a hundred. And that's if the storm hasn't gained strength." Danny grabbed Steve's hand and squeezed it to gain his full attention. "There's a reason why people board-up their homes or are forced to evacuate."

"Do you know how long we have before things reach their peak?"

"I told you. I'm not sure, but we need to find real shelter today. I don't think another tree fort is going to cut it."

Steve pulled an epic indignant face, his lips pressed together. "It's a shelter. Not a fort."

Danny broke into a grin; he couldn't help himself. He pulled the crazy goof into a giant bear hug. "Of course it is, babe."

***

The hike grew rougher with the steady incline. Danny constantly had to watch his step with all the branches that threatened to snap in the brutal wind. The jungle thinned out at the higher elevation, revealing peeks at the dark, ominous sky. The only good thing about the shittier weather was it seemed to keep the damn mosquitoes at bay.

Steve stopped, chest heaving, and turned around. Water poured down his body like a waterfall. "How you holding up?"

"Just peachy." Danny held out a hand to shield his face from the diagonally falling rain. "I was thinking of putting down a slip and slide and having a good time."

"Are you still experiencing any muscles spasms?"

"My legs are fine, my feet are killing me. But unless there's a spa nearby..."

"I'll take you to The Four Seasons for their pampering princess treatment, okay?"

"No, that's not okay," Danny snapped. Because Steve still treated this whole thing like some summer camp, glaring at him anytime he brought up the reality of their situation. "But a spa treatment will be a start. The teaser to a day filled with pedicures, massages, and cucumber facial treatments."

"You sure know a lot about spa treatments."

"I know a lot about buying them for people; there's a difference."

Steve rolled his eyes and headed back up the trail when his foot skidded out from under him in the mud. He went to his hands and knees, the machete slipping out of his fingers. Danny cursed, snagging the propeller blade before it disappeared down the hill.

He carried it back over to Steve. "You all right?"

Steve stood up and heaved out a sigh, rubbing at his calf. "Yeah."

Danny frowned. Steve looked rough around the edges. His face was flushed despite dripping with rain, his neck and throat covered with bug bites.

Danny tapped the flat side of the machete against his hip. "You know we can take turns cutting through the jungle? You don't have to do all the heavy work. I had heat exhaustion, not heat stroke."

"First off, you don't know that for sure," Steve said. "Second, you don't need to overexert yourself."

"Don't give me that." Danny stabbed the machete into the ground. "It's not like you're at the top of your game. And before you give me your I'm-a-badass-SEAL glare, you, my friend, are exhausted. You've slept far less than me with your lizard hunting and building shelters. How many calories do you think you're burning with all the hiking and machete chopping without the proper amount of food and rest?"

"I'm fine. I'm –"

"Trained. Yes." Danny crossed his arms, voice dripping in sarcasm. "That's why you've slowed to turtle speed."

Steve dropped his jaw in exasperation, the outrage on his face priceless. It was too easy to push his buttons.

"It's called keeping a steady easy pace in a tropical environment," Steve said miffed. He was like a bird with ruffled feathers. "We're not hunting down an enemy force."

"No, we're trying to outrun a hurricane. Have you noticed the lack of thunder and lightning the last few hours?"

Steve stared up at the sky. "I take it that's a bad sign?"

"Is that a bad sign?" Danny threw his hands up in the air. "Yes, Steven. It's a very bad sign, a sign of impending landfall. I mean. Do you have any idea where we're going?" he yelled. "Because it's not like you have GPS or even the sun to go by."

"I'm following the natural trail."

"What natural trail?"

But Steve ignored him, adjusting his backpack, and grabbing the machete with overly dramatic flair. "We're going the same way all the inhabitants of this island use."

***

Danny grabbed at the trees for support, his face cast down to avoid the whirling leaves and detritus from the wind. He needed a damned helmet.

Navigating an onslaught of hazards was bad enough; he didn't need to bump into Steve when he stopped suddenly. "Hey! A little warning."

But Steve froze in his tracks and jerked his head around, his eyes scanning behind them.

Danny was taking the opportunity to catch his breath when he heard rustling noises in the distance. "What is that?"

"Shhh," Steve hissed.

Danny opened his mouth to argue, but Steve made a fist in the air, and Danny responded on instinct by crouching down. Licking his lips, he strained his ears. Were those running sounds?

All the chirping and chittering jungle noise slowly faded and a flock of white and pink birds loudly took to the sky despite the heavy downpour.

Steve canted his head in the direction of the approaching noise, and Danny listened hard, noticing a series of grunting sounds.

Steve's eyes went wide and he grabbed Danny's arm, roughly yanking him toward a tree. "Climb this. Now."

Danny knew that voice, and he didn't argue as his feet scrambled for purchase. He climbed until he found a thick limb to sit on, frantically searching for Steve, who was scrambling up another tree a few feet away.

The crashing sound exploded into dozens of wild pigs barreling through where he and Steve had just stood. There were too many to count, all of them large, weighing one to two hundred pounds. Their bodies were covered in muddy, grizzled fur.

It reminded him of an elephant stampede he saw once on the Discovery Channel. Chaotic, mass panic. When one fell, it squealed horribly as the others trampled over it.

Slowly the pack thinned, the smaller pigs trailing behind, their shorter legs trying to keep traction. Danny stared transfixed, realizing in horror how close they'd come to almost dying.

He pressed a hand to his galloping heart. "I've never seen anything like that before."

"I have."

Danny looked over at Steve perched on a branch, gripping his Sig with a scary type of calm. He methodically climbed down and stored his weapon in his backpack, blinking against the harsh rain.

Danny climbed down as well, mud splashing his feet when they hit the ground. Adrenaline still pumped through his veins, and he hurried over where Steve cut up parts of the dead pig, wrapping them up with the remains of Danny's old T-shirt. He carefully put the bundle inside his pack.

Danny wrinkled his nose. "What now?"

"We follow those pigs."

"Excuse me?" Danny asked in disbelief.

But Steve was freaking serious, studying the trail with a renewed sense of energy. He looked up at Danny, pointing up the ridge. "They're doing the exact same thing we are. Searching for shelter. And they'll lead exactly where we need to go."

***

Danny whistled at what he saw. "You weren't kidding."

A few hundred feet away was an overhang of rock extending out from the ridge with dozens of wild pigs huddled underneath it. They crowded around an area that plateaued ahead of the steep incline, their tiny legs too short to climb any higher. Not that it didn't stop some of the bolder animals from crawling further up the mountain and failing.

"Told you they'd lead us where we'd need to go," Steve said, chest heaving. He pushed off his backpack and pulled out his Sig.

Danny rifled through his pack and dug up his weapon. "Okay, so we found the hogs. Now what?"

"See those caves about thirty meters up on the ridge?"

"In zero visibility?"

Steve grabbed Danny by the shoulder, pressing close, and pointed at the steep incline. "If we follow that trail –"

"That's not a trail. That is a freaking mountain."

"It's a hill. Stop embellishing."

"Embellishing? Are you serious? Because that is not a hill, Steven. It's a mountain. Its width and height –"

"Do not fall under the definition of a mountain. Mountain peaks are greater than three hundred meters. This island is too small to support a mountain."

"Are you a geologist now?" Danny demanded. "Because watching National Geographic does not, in fact, make you an expert."

A high-pitched squeal made them both jump, and they spun around with their weapons aimed. But all the pigs were too preoccupied, vying for the best spot under the narrow rock.

Steve slowly lowered his weapon. "As I was saying. We can follow the trail up to those caves."

"And I still don't see any."

"Trust me. I do."

"And now you have X-ray vision," Danny muttered. He stared at the pigs with a grimace. "Do you think they'll charge if we get too close?"

"Normally they don't attack humans. They're only aggressive during mating season, or if their young are threatened. But given the stress of the situation, we can't be sure they won't panic from our presence."

Danny looked over at the pack of feral animals clambering around for space. "I think they're a little busy being scared out of their tiny brains to care about us."

Steve nodded. "Agreed. But the trail is pretty steep and it'll lead us around them."

***

Danny couldn't see where he was going with the all the damned rain, and whenever he did glance up, he was treated to a fantastic view of Steve's ass. Which, okay, was a tiny highlight. But he didn't know how much more gas he had left in the fuel tank; every inch took monumental effort. His arms and legs were shaking from the strain.

"I expect dinner after the day at the spa, Steve. A four-course meal. And good beer. Imported from Jersey. I'm making you pay for a six pack overnighted from The Flying Fish Brewery. Are you even listening to me?"

"I would be if I wasn't busy surveying our shelter."

Danny lifted his head in time to find Steve's hand in his face, waiting impatiently for him to grab it. "You are the most annoying man alive," he grumbled, wrapping his fingers around Steve's slippery wrist.

Steve hauled Danny to his feet and it took him a moment to regain his balance. When the lightheadedness subsided, he took look around, his jaw dropping at what he saw. "What the hell is this?"

"It's a cave."

Danny had to crouch down to peer into the tight, dark space. "This isn't a cave, it's a damned crevice!"

Steve didn't argue; he simply fished out a flashlight from his pack and crawled on his belly like a worm.

"I'm not going in there," Danny declared crossing his arms. This new 'shelter' was nothing more than a damned hole.

He waited for Steve to come shimmying back out, but the only thing he saw were glimpses of the flashlight beam bouncing around. And he was still stuck out in the downpour. Alone.

"God, I hate him sometimes," he mumbled, dragging himself inside.

***

Danny wiggled into the hole using his elbows and awkwardly trained his flashlight around. The crevice was like someone took a giant knife and gouged out an area eight or nine meters in length. He saw the back of Steve's boots as he squirmed around at the other end, no doubt seeing how deep he could wedge himself before the ceiling narrowed. There really was only enough room to turn around in, so Danny clicked off his light and rolled onto his back, trying not to think about the size of the suffocating space.

"You might not want to lie there just yet," came Steve's voice.

"This is the first time in eight hours that I have been somewhere dry. I need a moment to savor it. This is me savoring. You should try it sometime."

"I'd rather not savor it with all the possible critters hiding out with us."

Danny bolted up and almost smacked his head. There wasn't even enough room to sit up, so he sprawled on his stomach, patting the ground near his leg for his flashlight when Steve blinded him with his.

"Hey," he yelled, throwing a hand up. "Do you mind?"

Steve flicked his light toward Danny's legs. "Would you rather hang out with ants?"

"What?" Danny looked down at the long line of black-bodied insects creeping by his left knee. "Oh, for crying out loud."

He scrambled out of the way, flipping on his flashlight. There had to be hundreds of them. The devils formed a long line that disappeared under the five-inch gap of the back wall. Danny didn't want to know what else could be hiding under there and he wished they had something to stuff inside it.

"Those are foragers," Steve said, tracking them with his light. "Probably busy bringing food to the colony."

Danny tried to block out images of the hundreds of jaws chomping on his body while he slept. "How about we move the farthest away from them we can get. Yeah? All I need are my bug bites to get more bug bites."

"Look," Steve said, emptying his backpack. "I'm going to try to collect as much wood as possible before things get real bad."

"Are you seriously considering building a fire? Wait." Danny shook his head. "Why am I even asking?"

Steve, the neat freak, ensured all his clothes, food, and supplies were placed in rows before slipping on his empty pack. "Fires keep predators at bay, and before you argue, spiders and centipedes stings can be deadly without the right medical help."

"I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but we've kind of got some cramped living quarters going on here."

"It'll be a small fire, and I'll place it right at the entrance so the smoke goes outside. Besides." Steve pointed at the cloth-wrapped bundled remains of the other T-shirt. "We need to cook that pig, unless you want to eat raw pork?"

Danny's empty stomach ached at the thought of food. "Good point," he said, but he grabbed Steve's shoulder, feeling the warm flesh beneath the cotton. "And it can wait an hour."

"Danny –"

"Don't Danny me. Rests breaks every hour, remember? Or do you think physical fatigue and illness are intimated by your death glare?"

"This is our third day here, the storm has to be making landfall now, and it's only going to get worse out there."

But Steve was beginning to relent, his jaw relaxing minutely. Danny started rubbing Steve's shoulder, his thumb massaging the tight spot below his neck. "Sixty minutes, babe. Then we can have our own little luau."

***

Danny had barely closed his eyes for their nap when it was time to go back outside. Scavenging and cutting wood in the middle of a freaking monsoon was insane, but he was following the lead of a crazy person. By the time he climbed back to their shelter, his muscles were shaking with fatigue. He pulled out the dry clothes he'd set inside the entrance and quickly tried to change before he got soaked again.

Steve yanked off his wet tee and cargo pants in four quick motions and changed before Danny finished buttoning up his shirt. Danny glared at him.

"Sane, intelligent people would have remained in their dry hole," he said as he crawled inside their little lair.

"Are those the same people who would prefer to eat fruit or pork?" Steve asked. He switched on his flashlight and set it down like a lamp.

Danny resisted the urge to argue; he was too tired and his head hurt. Steve curled on his side, pulled out his blade, and silently started cutting the outer layers of bark. Danny settled on his belly, cutting much slower until his eyes adjusted to the dark.

After ten or twenty minutes, he heard Steve layer the bedding and flick his lighter, the sparks bright in the darkness. Danny couldn't stop watching the shadows leap across Steve's face, accenting heavily stubbled cheeks and the hard edge of his jaw as he grew frustrated when nothing happened.

Steve burned a leaf and held it over the kindling, but it simply deteriorated in his hand. He tried again with a larger brown leaf, biting hard on his bottom lip.

Something pinged in Danny's brain and he fought against overwhelming sluggishness to dig through his pack. When his fingers wrapped around a familiar glass container, he shook his bottle of cologne. "Would this help?"

He couldn't quite make out Steve's face, but he could feel his smile.

***

Their burrow stank of damp and the hints of Danny's aftershave. But he ignored the muskiness while he lay flat on his back, his stomach happily satisfied from dinner. Steve, on the other hand, was fidgety.

"You are not the Energizer Bunny; would you please give it a rest?" Danny waited a beat, but Steve continued to scrape the salt off his stack of mangrove bark. "What is your issue? And I'm not talking about your laundry list of abnormal behavior and mental deficiencies. Why can't you shift gears, huh? Try dropping your sails and pulling up those oars."

"Do you think bastardizing naval terms is going to get you what you want?"

"It is an attempt at communicating in your native tongue. I should get points for that."

Steve actually put his knife down.

"Now, perhaps you could come over here keep me company?" Danny asked exasperated.

"I need to mix up some more salt and water and tend to the fire. If it goes out –"

"It'll mean we'll both breathe better. And I don't think salt needs your help diluting itself. Now get your ass over here." Steve slowly crawled behind Danny, smelling of sweat and smoke, and slipped an arm around his waist. Danny intertwined their fingers. "Talk to me."

Steve rested his chin on Danny's shoulder; it was an oddly vulnerable gesture. "I'm doing what needs to be done."

"Yeah, I get that. I do," Danny said frustrated. "But we're good here. And we'll wait for this storm to blow over and hike down this mountain to the beach and, you know. Wait for rescue." Danny felt Steve's whole body tense. "We're going home. I know that with utmost certainty, just as I know it's not your responsibility to bear it alone."

"I don't think that."

"But you're acting like it."

"I'm –"

"Acting like a control freak. Per usual. But on steroids." Danny took a deep breath, listening to the beating rain outside. "I understand this is an extreme situation, which only exacerbates your whole one man army mentality, but if you don't follow your own rules about –"

"This is what I do, it's...it's what I have to do."

Danny pulled Steve's arm tighter around him. He was attuned to Steve and all his idiosyncrasies. The man was constantly alert, always in motion, physically and mentally.

Damn. Maybe this really wasn't Steve's version of summer camp?

"Are you going to be okay cooped up in this cave?" Without anything to occupy that brain of yours? Danny thought.

"I've been in tighter spots for days at a time. I'll be fine."

"And those tighter spots were in..."

"Many places."

Danny could still feel the tension in Steve's muscles, the restlessness of survivor mode. He kissed Steve's knuckles "Tell you what. We'll take turns watching the fire. It'll give both of us something to do."

Danny felt Steve's arm loosen around his waist, undoubtedly happily contemplating fire-tending duty schedules.

***

As the storm bore down, it was like listening to cycles of a washing machine. Danny knew these sounds; he'd been through worse storms. But not inside a cramped hole in the ground under tons of rock. Despite his desperate need, sleep eluded him.

"How did you know about this place?" he asked, trying to focus on Steve's breathing and not the random bumps and thuds outside. "And don't tell me you saw it because that's an outright lie."

"I told you the pigs would lead us –"

"No. This was after the pigs – you were bound and determined to climb the ridge, but with the distance and rain there was no way you could have seen this...this crack."

Steve slowly fed leaves to the dwindling fire, a crease furrowing his brow. "Why does it matter?"

"It matters because we're in said hole for the foreseeable future and the fact that you're trying to dodge the question."

"You're bored."

"I'm not bored. I'm –"

"I made a strategic assessment based on the environmental factors," Steve rattled off.

It sounded verbatim from some military manual. Danny didn't buy it. "You did what?"

"With the formation and deterioration of hills there was bound to be overhang or a cave. Something we could use for shelter."

Danny couldn't believe his ears. Steve had guessed.

 

***

"Sounds like freight train out there," Steve said his voice barely audible over the bombardment.

"Yeah."

"You okay?"

Danny tried ignoring the chugging rhythm of the wind. "Never better. And what about you? Are you okay?"

Steve pulled out his Sig and started disassembling it. "I'm good."

Danny exhaled deeply; it was going to be a long night.

***

The fire went out despite all of Steve's efforts, but of course he didn't want to waste the batteries in the flashlights, so it was pitch dark and noisy. Danny slowly sipped on a bottle of water, resisting the urge to pour it on his itchy arms. He'd ask Steve for more aloe, but he knew they were running low, so he stared at the ground and flicked away the twentieth beetle that sought refuge with them.

Learning back, he rested against the length of Steve's body. It felt comforting. "Ever been through anything like this before?"

"Storms at sea are rough. The swells can be scary as hell," Steve said, his voice low. "But this reminds me more of bunking down during a giant sandstorm, forced to listen to the world tear itself apart."

Danny turned his head to give Steve a kiss to drive away whatever memory haunted him. But Steve moved first, brushing his warm hand gently against Danny's cheek. Danny nuzzled Steve's palm, his wrist, licking at the salt of his skin. He kissed the bruises caused from the machete.

Steve scraped his unshaven cheek against the side of Danny's neck, nibbling at the erogenous spot beneath his ear, sending waves of pleasure down his spine. "Steve," Danny murmured, his fingers curling involuntarily.

Danny was trying to be the reassuring one, but he knew Steve wanted to offer comfort, too. And Danny could do that, allow Steve to feel needed, each of them helping the other forget the terrifying world outside.

He sighed with each kiss, each brush of teeth, shivering as Steve sucked at his earlobe, his big hand slowly sliding across Danny's ribs, curving over his hip.

"Steve, I –"

"What?" Steve asked breathless.

"I want to move. I need to touch you."

"Okay."

Danny clumsily rolled over, then crawled on top of Steve, leaning over, kissing his way up to Steve's face, his lips, and burying his hands into Steve's short hair. After days of endless hell, Danny wanted this, but most of all, Steve needed it. Needed the distraction, a reprieve from soldiering on for both of them.

And Danny could give it to him, provide him love and comfort. He stretched out time by very, very slowly mapping out Steve's mouth with his tongue, nibbling, and sucking on Steve's bottom lip.

With their chests pressed together, he felt the sweat and heat between them despite their clothes. And Danny could rock against Steve, but he didn't, restraining his movements. He grabbed Steve's restless hands and intertwined their fingers, Danny rubbing his thumbs on the inside of Steve's wrists.

"Danny," Steve growled, sounding raw and desperate.

The storm rumbled on, but Danny ignored it, focusing only on slow, wet kiss, after kiss, after kiss. Steve's hands slid down Danny's back, running his nails through the thin layer of his shirt, grabbing his ass.

They made out for what felt like forever in the darkness, hot, rapid breaths against each other's skin, hands touching and clutching at each other in need. Their world, already small and narrow, shrunk down to just the sound and taste and smell of each other. Nothing else mattered; nothing else existed.

Danny didn't need his eyes because he knew Steve, knew his body, knew how to make him hard, how to drive him crazy as Danny increased speed, nibbling at Steve's throat and licked the layers of sweat and earth off of his skin.

He felt Steve slide his hand slide between Danny's thighs, rubbing and groping at him through his pants. "Yeah, keeping doing that," he murmured against Steve's mouth.

Steve fiddled with Danny's zipper, working his hand inside, wrapping his long fingers around Danny's cock. "Fuck, Steve," he gasped, his breath hitching.

Danny was lost in sensory overload, but he gathered enough of his wits, opening and slipping a hand inside Steve's cargoes, squeezing his already hard cock, making Steve groan and buck against his hand.

"Danny. I'm...I'm not going to last long."

"Neither... am I," Danny groaned.

But he didn't care. They were both a set of live wires against the hammering rain. And he matched the rhythm Steve set, let him to take control now, take whatever he needed. Danny grunted and made little hollow noises from the bottom of his throat, encouraging Steve on, forehead pressed to Steve's shoulder as Steve slowly jerked him off.

Danny gripped Steve's shoulder for balance and nibbled his way down Steve's collarbone, then sucked and bit Steve's left nipple through his T-shirt, making Steve arch up and cry out.

Danny felt him come with a shudder, spilling over his hand, and the wrecked sounds Steve made were enough to send Danny over the edge a few seconds later. He shuddered through the aftershocks, lying heavily against Steve, the two of them boneless in blessed peace.

Danny could feel himself drifting asleep, content in listening to Steve breathe, his brain slowly registering that it was quiet outside. That somehow, miraculous, he'd forgotten about their nightmare for a while. And now...

"Is it...over?" Steve asked his voice hoarse.

"Are you talking about us or the storm?"

"The storm," Steve mumbled, curling an arm around Danny's back.

"No. We're probably in the middle of the eye," Danny said, trying to stay awake. "We have a few hours of relief before it gets ugly again."

"Oh."

Danny forced his weary head up, kissing Steve's lips. "We should… you know. Clean ourselves up before we go to sleep."

"Yeah," Steve said drowsily.

"Uh-huh," Danny replied.

He didn't even complain when he was the one who searched for something to take care of the job.

***

The peacefulness had been eerie thing, a tease into false security, because it was just a set-up for when all hell broke loose again. The renewed chaos outside woke Danny up, and he rubbed at his tired eyes. It felt like he'd slept a few hours, but it was difficult to tell, and he fumbled for the flashlight.

He thumbed on the switch, pointing it away so it didn't wake up Steve, who snoozed beside him. The beam illuminated the cramped little space and he froze when he caught something out of the corner of his eye.

His heart stuttered at the sight of a yellow and brown striped snake slithering beside Steve's stretched-out forearm, its forked tongue darting in and out dangerously close to his fingers.

He didn't know a thing about snakes, what kind it could be, or if it were venomous.

It was only inches from Danny's head, leaving him few options for getting rid of it. He couldn't shoot it in such a confined space, and if Steve woke up, the snake could strike.

Danny held his breath as he methodically inched his hand toward the machete beside his pack. Gripping the metal handle, he was calculating how to swing the blade when the snake made its way into the back part of the cave, its scaly tail slowly disappearing from view under the narrow gap.

Danny buried his face into the ground and squeezed his eyes closed. Fuck that had been close.

***

"You owe me, Steven. I saved your life while you slept like a baby."

"Why do you think I wanted to keep a fire going?"

"Doesn't change things. You will not take this away from me."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Steve sat there playing with his watch. He'd already inventoried their stuff three times, had properly prepared and cooked breadfruit for breakfast, and disassembled and put back together both their weapons. Again. "It's been about nine hours."

Danny listened closely, noting the relative calm rain. He didn't want to jinx them so he parsed his words carefully. "I think it's safe for us to check things out."

Steve started to put his boots on. "Good."

***

There were chunks missing from the ridge and large pockets of muddy earth ripped away by the storm. Dozens of trees were crooked, the hill littered with torn palm leaves and broken branches. The air was heavy with the scent of brine and the steady wind scattered debris everywhere. Danny missed the sunshine.

Steve surveyed the area, his gaze weighty. "We're at the highest elevation of the island. If we follow the trail around the ridge, it should be a straight shot down toward the beach."

"Is this another guess?"

"I could find the leeward side of an island blindfolded, Danno."

"So, an educated guess?"

Steve's face looked like he swallowed a lemon and he grabbed both propeller blades from the cave and shoved one into Danny's hand. "Come on. I want to get down this hill before dark."

***

There were fewer insects trying to feast on them for once, so they didn't have to rub mud on their skin every half an hour. Danny would take the small niceties.

"What scale of pissed-off do you think Denning's going to be when we finally get home?" he asked, using the machete like a walking stick on the steep decline.

"For which part? The loss of ten million dollars' worth of state property, or the fact that we didn't make it to Australia to extradite Sang Ming?"

"When you put it like that, should I expect congruent amounts of time off?"

Steve turned around and pointed a finger at him. "He was the one who insisted we personally escort Sang Ming back to Hawaii."

"Well, we're also responsible for losing him the most times."

"Now you sound like Denning," Steve said gruffly, his foot almost skidding out from under him.

"I'm just saying he had a point, and he found a way to save thousands of dollars in fees by having us do the dirty work."

"No, it's because he didn't want the Los Angles Marshall Service to grab him first for the crap he pulled on the mainland before he hightailed it to Sydney."

"Yes, Steven, I remember, because that is the point at which your ego took over and you promised Denning you could outrun a storm system while the LA guys waited it out."

"The storm was heading west," Steve growled, clearly frustrated. "We were following it."

Danny waved his hand to signal he was done arguing, which earned him a McGarrett scowl of displeasure. But they'd been walking for over an hour and his feet hurt like hell and his headache had returned with a vengeance.

He dodged stepping on a rock and his leg sunk into a deep puddle. "Of course," Danny muttered. He grabbed a near-by tree for balance, yanking on his foot, and pulling it right out of his shoe. "Damn it."

"You lose something?" Steve hollered over his shoulder.

"Yeah, my sanity when I met you."

Danny bent over, fishing for his shoe when he felt the ground vibrate. He snapped his head up just as a giant sheet of mud and dirt rumbled toward him. "Steve!" he yelled in warning.

But there was no time to do anything else. Danny threw his hands over his head and curled into a defensive ball when the mass struck him full force. The debris scooped him up and swept him down the hill at an alarming speed.

Low-hanging branches smacked his arms, but it was his ass took the brunt of the punishment, his tailbone striking a sharp rock that made him gasp. He accidentally inhaled dirt, triggering a coughing fit, and blurring his vision.

But Danny kept calm, ensuring his head was above the mire, that he kept breathing. Kept alive. Then after three more giant bumps, he was roughly deposited in a heap at the bottom of the hill.

Danny sucked in the deepest breath, his heart going a million miles an hour. Holy shit.

His eyes were drifting close in relief when his pulse shot up in fear. "Steve?" he called out.

He rolled over onto his hands and knees, and fuck, that was stupid. Every inch of him hurt. But he crawled forward; if he'd broken any bones, he'd soon find out. "Steve!" he shouted again.

The ground was thick with mud and water, and he was a missing a shoe. His pack was still around his shoulders and torn in places, but Danny didn't give it a second thought.

"Where the hell are you, Steve?"

"Over here."

"Where's here?" When Steve didn't answer, Danny's eyes scanned the area, frantic. "Answer me!"

"Twenty meters...to your right."

Danny spotted the Steve-shaped lump and ran toward it. Between the mud and his shoeless foot, it took him twice as long to plod over as he avoided various rocks. He'd lost the machete in the slide.

Danny sank to his knees next to Steve, eyes darting over his mud-caked body. Steve lay on the ground propped up on one elbow and was breathing heavily.

"Hey, babe." Danny's heart thumped against his breastbone. "Want to tell me how you're doing?"

Steve scrunched up his face. "I think I hurt my right leg."

"Okay," Danny said, keeping his voice steady. "Let me take a look."

Steve lay back, squeezing his eyes shut. Danny frowned. This was going to be a challenge; Steve's cargoes were covered in grime. "Lower or upper leg?"

"Thigh," Steve said voice heavy. "Near my knee."

Danny started at Steve's hip, pressing gently, searching for breaks, flicking his eyes from Steve's leg to his face for signs of discomfort. Danny's fingers went down Steve's thigh, inching toward his knee when he brushed over something sticking out of the fabric. Steve yelped, his body jerking.

Danny yanked his hand away. What the hell was that? Please, please, don't let it be a compound fracture.

He quickly took off his battered pack and pulled out a water bottle. Before Steve could protest, he poured it over the area, washing away some of the mud, revealing a branch protruding out of the side of Steve's thigh. Danny felt the color drain from his face.

Steve pushed himself up onto his elbows. "How bad?"

Danny swallowed. "It's a branch about two inches in diameter, above the knee. Kind of sticking out at a diagonal angle."

He gently touched underneath the other side of Steve's leg, pushing slightly on the flesh of Steve's inner thigh to gauge how deep the stick went in. Steve screamed, slamming onto his back.

"I'm so sorry," Danny hissed, grabbing Steve's flailing legs to keep them still.

He kept a mantra of apologies and soft, muttered words until Steve calmed and stopped moving.

Steve finally opened his eyes. "It's...okay. I'm...okay."

"I'm sorry," Danny repeated, feeling nauseous. "I needed to see how far it was inside."

Steve took several long breaths, his gaze steadier. "And?"

"There's no exit wound, but it's really deep. It just missed being a through and through."

Steve stared at his leg then back up the hill with a scowl. "We need to evacuate from the slide area."

"Jesus, Steve. Yeah. I know that. Amazing observation skills, but let's take care of your leg first, okay?"

Steve nodded stiffly, and Danny ran a hand through his hair. He could do this – allow years of experience take to over. Removing the branch was out of the question; it could tear a major artery or blood vessel. Thank god, it hadn't gone through Steve's knee. If they were home, Danny would try to make Steve comfortable and go find help. But the risk of another mudslide was too great, and there was no way in hell he'd leave Steve alone.

"Okay. Let's see about slowing down the bleeding."

"In my pack."

Steve leaned forward with a grunt, and Danny quickly tugged the straps of the backpack down and off his arms. He rifled through the meager contents of the med-kit, finding several large sterile bandages and medical tape, but not much else. Hell, they didn't even have anything to disinfectant the wound. Biting his lip, he contemplated his next step.

Steve pulled out his knife as he breathed in rapid, shallow bursts. "Here."

Steve didn't say anything else, not one word of instruction, his confidence in Danny unyielding. It made Danny's chest hitch.

He cut off Steve's right pant leg at the upper thigh and a few inches above where the branch poked out. Blood leaked out from around the wound, but it wasn't that heavy; more than likely, the blood vessels had constricted. Danny used the rest of the water to clean the wound the best he could before he ripped open the packages of bandages.

"You ready?"

Steve leaned back, holding his body stiffly. "Go."

Danny applied the first field dressing below where the branch stuck out. Steve gasped in pain. "I'm sorry," Danny hissed, sweat mixing with the rain on his brow. He applied a second and third pad around the wound, careful to avoid touching the stick.

"Just one more minute," he told Steve, whose body had started trembling. Danny quickly wrapped a roller bandage twice around Steve's leg, ensuring all the dressings remained in place.

Danny bowed his head, swallowing against nausea. "There. All done." Steve hadn't said a word and Danny bent over him, brushing a hand down his sweat-slicked face. "Babe?"

Steve opened his eyes and blew out a shuddering breath, his face pasty white beneath the streaks of dirt. "I'm...I'm good."

"Yeah, you are." Danny sighed. He looked over at the hill, watching the rain slowly meander down. "Why don't you rest a minute and then we'll make our way over to the beach?"

"We should go now." Steve gritted his teeth and moved his leg slightly, the muscles in his neck bunching together. "The longer we wait, the harder it's going to be."

Danny nodded unhappily, but Steve was always honest about his limits. He looked over at the thinning jungle. The beach was in sight, although it might as well be miles away. Danny gathered up the medical kit and stuffed it back inside Steve's backpack, Steve's eyes on him the whole time.

"What?" he demanded.

Steve pursued his lips and looked down at Danny's feet. "You still only have one shoe."

***

Danny balanced the best he could given the circumstances. He wrapped his right arm around Steve's waist, while Steve's arm was draped over Danny's shoulder. They slogged through inch thick mud and water in a sort of stumble-hobble. Steve held his own most of the way, even carrying his own pack.

"You know...I could make you...another shoe," Steve huffed in Danny's ear.

Danny sidestepped a tropical pinecone, his bare foot sinking into the ground. "I'm sure you could," he said, panting.

"It won't take much."

"Hmmm," Danny said distractedly.

He adjusted Steve's weight across his shoulder before he started to tip out of balance. Steve said something about bark and how to thread a vine into rope, but Danny was too busy trying not to fall flat on his face. When Steve started on a how-to-process for creating a beach shelter, Danny stopped dead in his tracks. His head hurt and his legs felt like rubber and Steve yammering on in his ear wasn't helping.

"Steven," Danny said exasperated. But when he saw the pain lines across Steve's eyes and felt the tremor wrack his muscles, he softened his voice. "Are we talking lean-tos again, or is the rest of my day fated to digging in the sand?"

Steve licked his lips, giving him a ghost of a smile. "I was actually thinking an A-frame."

***

The beach was far from the pristine Hawaiian postcard versions Danny was accustomed to; it was more like a tourist's nightmare, with rocky ledges, pools of ocean water, and scattered boulders. And it was still raining.

"Looks like some wicked surf," Steve said in admiration as he sagged against him.

The sea was rough, large waves breaking onto a small zone of gray sand, seaweed and broken branches littering everything. Danny searched the upper shore not affected by the tide. "I see a comfy little spot."

He helped Steve limp toward a large, battered tree, most of its branches split apart or bent toward the ground. Danny carefully lowered Steve onto a thin layer of dirt and damaged palm leaves. "Easy, easy."

Steve let go of Danny's shoulders and dropped the last few inches with a thud, lying flat on his back, bad leg stretched out in front of him. He draped an arm over his face against the rain. "That really sucked."

Danny sat heavily next to him and handed him a bottle. "You should drink something."

Steve sipped the water while Danny scanned the beach and plotted out his next steps. Shelter, food, water, and figure out how to help the rescue team locate them. A million priorities vied for the top spot while his body screamed at him to please, please just curl up and go to sleep.

"With the hurricane headed toward Hawaii, the closest part of the U.S. Fleet patrols the Marshall Islands," Steve said as he sat up. "If they waited until the storm hit then went to sea, it'll still take them at least ten hours to reach us."

"It's freaky when you can read my mind like that."

"What can I say? I could feel you over there thinking like me."

"The day I start thinking like you is the day I commit myself."

"We can wait on the signal fire," Steve suggested. He took a long pull of water then wiped his brow with his elbow. "If they received our Mayday, they already know where we are. And the trails we hacked through the jungle would be visible by air. In the morning, we'll switch on one of the cell phones. A SAR team should pick be able to pick up the GPS signal."

Despite a healthily skeptical outlook on life, Danny held onto to the positive. "We don't have to worry about water," he said, trying to keep upbeat.

"And the beach is filled with plenty of edible things."

"Yeah, well," Danny scrunched up his face. "I'll tackle that after I build us something to sleep in."

Danny watched a variety of emotions flicker across Steve's face. Anticipating the moment when Steve started to push up on his hands, Danny gently shoved him back down. "Stay put, will ya? You have a bum leg; you are not – I repeat not – going to do anything stupid like move around."

"Danny –"

"I will find you some stuff so you can make me a shoe. If I turn around at any point and find you doing anything other than shoe-making, I will tie you to that tree."

Steve visibly deflated, obviously annoyed and upset at his physical limitations; however, Danny couldn't let it affect him. "But before I do anything, I should check your leg."

Steve's hand shot up and grabbed Danny's wrist. "Don't," he said his voice steely. "You used up all the bandages from the medical kit, and all we have left are our clothes, and I'd rather wait before we have to resort to those." Danny didn't lower his arm and Steve stared at him, loosening his grip, his tone softer. "There is nothing more we can do for it right now, Danno. Trust me, I know from experience. You did an excellent job patching me up. The best thing we can do is leave it alone."

Danny hated being powerless but what choice did he have? "I'm deferring to your experience, babe. For right now. But I won't guarantee for how long."

***

"You should make the angle steeper," Steve said.

"It's already at forty-five degrees; if it gets any steeper it'll be vertical."

"If it's not steep enough, the rain won't shed down the side."

"Is there nothing you don't backseat drive?" Danny turned around and pointed accusingly at the pile of twigs by Steve's feet. "You're on fire duty; stick with that." Steve had already made him a shoe out of bark and vines, and it was getting harder to keep him occupied.

Steve grumbled under his breath as he arranged a bed of tiny twigs onto of the wet ground. Danny took the moment to survey his work. It wasn't fancy, but it would do the trick. A single limb between two palms served as the backbone, and dozens of branches were attached across it at a suitable angle, thank you very much. All he had to do was add more sticks and leaves to fill in the roof.

"It looks good, Danno."

"What? You don't want to measure it?"

But Steve didn't take the bait, so Danny wiped his hands over his soggy shirt and made his way to where Steve sat hunched over small pile of tinder. Several days of growth covered Steve's face; it was normally a sexy, rugged look, but now he looked haggard, exacerbated by his unhealthy, gray skin tone.

"You okay?" Steve asked.

Danny refused to laugh at the question. "I will be as soon as you're done slacking off here. Because I got to tell ya, organic is one thing, undercooked is another. And after the last few days we've had, I don't want to eat sushi."

"Sushi would require you to actually fish."

"And are you saying I can't fish?"

"I'm saying that shooting ahi doesn't count."

"Did I need you the last time I caught a tuna? No, I didn't. Despite your attempt to take over."

Steve smiled fondly. "That was some tuna, wasn't it?"

Danny watched as a tremble snaked through Steve's hands, causing him to knock over all his carefully arranged twigs, his grin completely gone.

"Do you really need all this for a simple fire?" Danny asked, sighing dramatically. "What's with the need to build a teepee out of sticks?"

"It's kindling," Steve growled. "And the pyramid is made of the driest material."

"Really?" Danny asked, still mocking, still poking at his hurt bear. "I got to tell you, based on what I've witnessed the past few days, I thought the Navy was more resourceful."

Steve grabbed the fallen twigs with much steadier fingers while Danny sat back and happily listened to instructions on the proper way to lay a bed of tinder.

***

Danny skirted the edge of the beach, watching the waves come to shore leaving white froth in their wake. He waited for the telltale trails in the sand as the ocean receded, snagging a crab before it burrowed into the beach.

"Gotcha," he yelled in triumph, dropping the little guy into his pack.

Danny preferred skyscrapers and hotdog stands, but as a kid, his summers had been spent on the shore. That was until Billy's drowning. He took a deep breath, forcing bad memories away. He could still hunt for crabs. There was no need to dig a deep hole, it was all about timing and grabbing every critter he could get his greedy little fingers on.

He glanced behind his shoulder at the shelter and fought the urge to go check on Steve, stamping out the fear clawing at his gut. This was more important – finding food and filling their stomachs. After that, he would gather water for the night, start a signal fire, and whatever else that needed to be done.

Because damn it to hell how lousy he felt – they'd made it to the beach. They'd survived five freaking days. This was supposed to be the easy part, the coast home, the part where they sat back and waited for rescue.

He could weep.

***

"I know how to cook crab, Steven, and even without garlic butter, these are damned tasty." Danny pulled off the shell and hungrily ate the chunks of meat underneath. He plunked his third one from the edge of the fire and twisted off the legs and claws. "Here, I even did all the hard work."

But Steve ignored his offering, long fingers curled around a knife while he shaved a twig. Steve was normally elegant with a blade, sexy even, but each slice was a little too focused, too forced. Danny resisted the overwhelming urge to grab the knife before Steve accidentally sliced a finger.

"Come on, you really need to eat."

"I'm not hungry."

"And as I tell Grace – that's too bad."

Steve rested the back of his head against the tree behind him, the thump shaking the frame of leaves and sticks above them. He swallowed thickly. "I don't think I could keep it down."

"Just try a couple, babe." Danny nudged Steve's hand. "If you insist on acting like Grace, then I could pretend you're her when she was two and make little airplane noises while spoon feeding you."

"I'll eat if it'll get you to shut up."

Danny sat watching Steve nibble a little while the heat from the nearby fire slowly lulled Danny to sleep.

"We should get some shut eye," Steve said, his voice startling Danny awake.

He shook his head, rubbing a weary hand over his bearded face. His skin felt itchy, all his muscles overused. And ow, his hip and lower back were especially tender from the beating he'd taken in the mudslide. Sleep sounded fantastic.

But when he looked over at the beach, it was difficult to find the shoreline, sending a spike of anxiety through him. "It's getting dark. I need to make a signal fire."

He was surprised when Steve put a hand on his shoulder, holding him back. "We'd need to build a pyre big enough for flames that could be seen from a distance." Steve took a breath, shaking his head. "And there aren't enough dry materials for that."

"But we have to build something."

"Wet wood makes a lot of smoke."

"Yeah, I've noticed." But Danny didn't know where Steve was going with his train of thought.

"Smoke can't be seen at night." Steve carefully curled himself on his left side. "We'll build a tree torch in the morning. It's big, but simple."

"I like simple."

Danny watched Steve huddle in on himself, looking miserable. "Come on, I washed our clothes in the ocean and set them by the fire. You'll feel better if you changed shirts."

And Danny tried not to think about the hundreds of miles and unknown weather conditions that separated them from rescue. Or how easy it was to pull Steve's shirt off and force his arms into a dry one. How Steve all but flopped back to the ground because he was so tired after changing.

All Danny cared about was lying next to him, letting Steve's head rest on his chest while Danny wrapped an arm around him.

"It's...actually gets cooler on the beach at night," Steve mumbled, snuggling closer.

"Then I guess it's a good thing I have you to keep me warm," Danny whispered, holding him tight.

***

Danny's arm itched, and he absently scratched at a patch of skin at elbow, but the itch wouldn't let up and he scratched harder, waking himself up in the process. He stretched his arms, careful not to hit the fragile roof, and smacking his lips to get rid of a foul taste lingering in his mouth. Wiping the sleep out of his eyes, he blinked down at the ground and saw hundreds of ants scurrying over his pants.

He cursed, shaking his legs and knocking them off. Then he looked over at Steve and his blood boiled, the bastards were crawling all over his cargo-pants. He frantically started slapping them away, his eyes growing large when he saw them creeping over Steve's bare leg, across his dressings.

"Damn it," Danny growled. He quickly grabbed a bottle of water, dumping it over Steve's leg, handpicking the remaining ones off one by one. "Get off, you fuckers."

"What the hell?" Steve growled. He sounded awful.

"Some friends thought your leg made a good picnic."

Danny didn't mention that Steve, the lightest sleeper he'd ever met, hadn't even noticed. He looked up at Steve, lowering his voice. "I really think we should change your bandage."

Steve popped himself up on his elbows and looked at this leg, his mouth a thin line. He nodded reluctantly.

Danny touched Steve's sweaty face, his heart sinking at the heat emanating from Steve's skin. It'd only been a matter of time.

"All right, water then breakfast. But first." Danny grabbed Steve's pack and started pilfering through it until he found the Ziploc baggie with their phones. "It's time to let people know where we are. And if you try to argue with me, I'm going to smack you in the head."

Steve sighed, laying back down, rubbing both hands down his face. "Then we need to build a tree torch."

***

It didn't take long to find a tree that was far enough away from any others. The palm was young, only eight feet tall with enough leaves that hadn't been torn off by the hurricane. Many of the higher limbs were broken, but the lower ones were still intact. Danny pulled out the sticks Steve had stripped bare from his pack and loaded all the branches he could reach with the tinder.

Taking out a roll of medical tape, he cut small strips with his teeth, wrapping the pieces around the three biggest pieces of kindling. He lit the ends of the medical tape, watching it gradually ignite the tinder. Slowly, the ring of kindling started to burn, the living tree creating the fuel for a massive plume of smoke that would be visible for miles.

"Pretty cool," Danny said, admiring the simple ingenious of it all.

Stepping back, he looked up to the sky to relish the ocean breeze on his face, when he realized it had stopped raining.

***

"It's really amazing the coffee pot didn't shatter in your pack," Danny said, heating up more water.

"I bounced around mostly on my right side. That's when I must've caught my leg."

"Speaking of." Danny set the pot of water aside, tapping a finger on the handle. "Is the shirt ready?"

"Yeah, I cut it up and sterilized it the best I could with boiling water while you were gone."

Thank goodness, Steve still had some strips from Danny's tee that hadn't been used on the pig.

Danny dipped his pocketknife into the coffee pot, even though the metal wasn't going to touch Steve's flesh. "Are you sure there's no plant I can grind up to help with the pain?"

"Nothing...that's indigenous to this area."

"I could give you the last couple Tylenol?" Danny had given Steve a pill every few hours to help with the fever, although it hadn't kept it from steadily climbing.

"They won't help much. Better to save them for later."

Danny nodded. The infection was the biggest threat.

Steve took a deep breath and signaled that he was ready. Danny exhaled heavily, cutting away the wet, bloodstained bandages, careful not to jar the branch poking out. The skin around the wound was a puffy, angry red. Danny bit down on his bottom lip, forcing a calm exterior. Swallowing against his queasiness, he poured the water over the wound. Steve clawed at the ground, making the worst keening sounds.

Danny choked back his own painful sob, applying Steve's wet T-shirt in a ring around the wound and quickly wrapping the last of the thin roller bandage across the top and bottom of the knee, taping it in place. Feeling shaky, Danny tossed the dirty bandages outside the shelter with plans to burn them later. He sank down beside Steve, who hadn't reopened his eyes.

Danny swatted at a fly that buzzed around Steve's head, then rested his hand on his shoulder. "After this whole thing is over, I'm going somewhere where it's cold and covered with snow. No more tropical weather. Or sand, or anything that reminds me of an island."

Steve looked up, slightly dazed. "Don't think...it's snowing anywhere during the summer."

"You have a point. But I swear we don't have this kind of shit back home. We have Liberty State Park, where, by the way, you can see the Manhattan skyline."

"Can you now?"

"Yes, and Atlantic City. With twenty-four hour action. Casinos, theater –"

"And a big beach."

"Where I never went, thank you very much." Danny snapped his fingers. "Ohhh. Carlo's Bakeshop. Best bakery in Hoboken. I can still taste their chocolate covered cannolis. And man – Freddie's. I'd kill for their brick-oven pizza."

"You know of any places in Jersey that aren't connected to food?"

Danny stared at Steve, aghast. "Where would you like me to begin?"

***

"What's so great about the Yankees?" Steve asked.

"What's so great about...are you out of your mind?" Danny rolled his eyes for asking such a question, given his present company. "First off," he held up a finger in front of Steve's face. "They’re one of the oldest teams in the country. With a ton of history – you as a Navy guy should eat that up."

Steve smirked. "The New York Yankees."

"Hey, we don't have a major team back home. I spent many a family trip attending a Yankees game.”

"Nice view of the game?"

"Only the best." He smiled to himself at the memories, his heart aching at the thought of his family. "There's nothing better to do on a nice summer night – sip a beer, watch the game at the park."

"Sounds nice."

Danny looked down at Steve's flushed face and ran his fingers through Steve's sweat-slick hair. Danny didn't like the weakness in Steve's voice or how his body trembled. "Hey. You're not allowed to fall asleep while I talk about our national past time."

"Our national past time?" Steve's eyes fluttered closed as he took a labored breath. "Still prefer football."

"Hey, the Yankees are legendary." Danny stared at Steve's leg, willing the infection that was wreaking havoc to end. "Unlike the prowess of certain naval special forces."

Steve opened a fevered eye, glowering.

Danny continued stirring the pot. "Because for the whole, toughest, most elite badasses in the world, you're not exactly all that fierce. I mean, don't get me wrong. Hand you a weapon and you could take out a small army. But I'm surprised that a twig, a freaking piece of a tree, has slowed you down this much."

"It's a... temporary setback," Steve said.

The weak bravado was less than convincing. Danny bent over Steve, his voice challenging. "I thought you were supposed to jump over obstacles? Sidestep them, or wait – run over them."

That earned him a wan smile, but Steve didn't say anything else. And that was simply unacceptable. Danny brushed the back of his hand against Steve's forehead, cursing inwardly.

Danny grabbed a bottle of water, dribbling some over Steve's chest for the second time that hour. "I've seen your medals; are they just shiny pieces of tin –?"

"Danno."

"Yeah."

"Shut up."

Danny leaned over and kissed Steve's cheek. "Make me."

Steve lifted a shaky hand and stroked the side of Danny's neck with too-warm fingers. "I will."

Danny wrapped his hand around Steve's, squeezing it tight. He looked down at his empty water bottle, at the three discarded on the ground, and back up at the beach. They needed more water, Steve needed to cool down before – there was something coming toward them in the sky. Danny blinked.

He gently shook Steve's shoulder. "Steve. Steven. I think I see a helicopter approaching."

Steve's eyes flew opened, wide and unfocused. "Where? What model?"

"What kind of question is that? It's a damn helicopter! It's coming for us." Danny smacked his head on the roof in excitement. "Don't move," he said, pointing at Steve. "I'm going to meet it."

Steve tried pathetically to push up into a sitting position and Danny placed both hands on his shoulders. "Stand down, babe. I'll direct them here." He gave him a worn-out smile. "We're going home."

 

***

Danny hated helicopters. They were loud, menacing machines he associated with lunatic pilots. He could barely stand it when Steve was behind the controls, let alone some hotshot rescue guy, who happened to be a gal, but that didn't matter, because she was still cut from the same military cloth.

The flight was bumpy as hell, filled with people trying to prod and poke him. He got stuck with an IV needle and forced to lie down on a stretcher while he tried not to puke his guts out.

"Don't worry, sir. The wind's still rough, but we're almost to the carrier," a corpsman told him.

"Carrier?" Danny demanded.

A gloved hand gently pushed him back down and he craned his neck, trying to get a glimpse of Steve over the two guys in fatigues blocking his view. "How's Steve?" When no one answered him, he yelled louder over the rotor blades. "Hey! How's my friend?"

"Commander McGarrett is going to be fine, sir," the corpsman told him. "Now please remain still; we're about to begin our approach."

Danny was summarily strapped down even tighter to his gurney before the helicopter started to shake like crazy.

***

His bed was soft, the sheets scratchy, and his skin stank of topical ointment. Danny sat up, his brain fuzzy as he stared at the IV and pulse thing clipped to his finger.

"Hey," he yelled at a guy in blue fatigues and a lab coat walking passed his cubicle. "Excuse me?"

The guy – a physician, he thought, based on the stethoscope and demeanor – crossed his hands in front of him. "How are you feeling, Mr. Williams?"

"How am I feeling?" Danny waved a hand down his body. "I'm in a hospital gown, which I don't even remember changing into," and he sniffed at the pink coating all over his skin. "I smell like a medicine cabinet, not to mention my brain feels like it's tied to a helium balloon."

"We're treating you for dehydration and giving you something to re-balance your electrolytes." The guy studied him. "You have a number of deep bruises and might feel a little light-headed from the analgesic and antihistamine injection. It's understandable that you were unable to stay awake when we applied the topical cream to all your insect bites."

Danny was appalled. "Are you saying I passed out?"

"You just went through a major ordeal; you were physically exhausted."

"How long have I've been asleep?"

"Several hours."

"And what about Steve?" Danny couldn't believe he hadn't been there when Steve received treatment. "Where is he? Is he okay?"

The doc stepped closer; the guy was in his early forties with shorn blonde hair. Danny hadn't even realized he'd started to sit up straighter in bed. "Commander McGarrett is resting comfortably after surgery."

Even though it was inevitable, hearing the word surgery unsettled him. "And he's going to be okay?"

Danny waited for the doc to fill him, but he was met with silence and an uncomfortable expression. If this guy was going to pull out the patient-confidentiality clause, he had another thing coming.

"Listen here," Danny checked the bars on the man's collar. "Lieutenant. Commander McGarrett and I are partners and members of Five-O, the Governor of Hawaii's Special Task Force. We just survived a plane crash and over five days in the jungle during a freaking hurricane. You can damned well tell me how he's doing, or I'll find someone who can."

The lieutenant's mouth twitched. "The branch in the commander's thigh was completely removed and the muscle and tendon damage repaired. He has an infection we're treating aggressively with broad-spectrum antibiotics, and he's still running a low-grade fever, which we're monitoring. But we're very confident he'll make a full recovery. "

"Yeah?" Danny threw his sheet aside. "We'll see about that."

"Sir, you can't –"

"I can't what? Walk a few steps? Roll my IV pole? I watch NCIS; I know infirmaries are the size of a shoebox."

The lieutenant didn't stand a chance against Danny's resoluteness.

***

Sickbay was warren of brightly lit rooms; everything was white and stuffed with medical equipment. Danny wore a robe over his gown with slippers that did little for his achy feet. He rolled his IV pole, maneuvering between people in fatigues as he made his way to the post-op area.

His doc followed him until they reached the darkened cubical area where Steve was tucked away. "I'll come back in a little while to escort you back to your bed," he said before leaving.

There wasn't a chair to pull out, so Danny stood by the curtain. A sheet covered Steve except for his right leg, which was propped up on a pillow, his thigh swathed in heavy bandages. Someone had shaved him and his face looked relaxed, the tips of his cheek slightly pink from the fever. He also stank like a medicine cabinet from topical ointment.

"Should you be out of bed?"

Danny shook his head at Steve's question. Of course, he was awake. "No, I shouldn't, seeing as the last several days have been hell on earth, and I actually prefer the idea of lounging in bed, even if they're the cheapest low-bid mattresses ever built."

Steve wiped at his eyes, grimacing when he tugged on his IV. "They're actually more comfortable than a bunk."

"Good to know, considering we're probably stuck on this boat until we return to Hawaii."

"Doubt a carrier patrolling this part of the Pacific would return to Pearl." Steve took a breath. "We'll probably get flown out with the next supply run."

Danny shifted his weight from one sore foot to the other. "Oh, goody, I'm sure they'll find room for us between the mail and boxes of tinned meat."

"MREs haven't had tinned meat in over a decade."

Steve shifted sideways in bed, grimacing with the movement.

Danny threw up his hands and moved closer. "Hey, what do you think you're doing? It doesn't matter if you're drugged to the gills, does it? You'll still find a way to fidget."

"I was...making room...for you to sit."

Danny huffed, shaking his head. He unlocked the railing and pushed it down, carefully resting a hip until he sat perched on the left side of the bed. "You're an idiot."

"Yeah, yeah," Steve said in a singsong voice. "And what does that make you?"

"Smarter."

"Hmm." Steve smiled sloppily.

Danny glanced down at Steve's bum leg then up at his face. "Do you know how long you'll be out of commission?"

"Six weeks. But I wouldn't exactly call it out of commission."

"You wouldn't?"

"No, more like winged."

"So, you're a winged SEAL." Steve glowered at him, and it was ridiculously adorable. "You're winged, and we're both probably going to have some time off on our hands when we get back to Oahu."

Steve regarded him with a little more focus, arching an eyebrow. "And I gather you have plans on how we're going to spend it?"

"Somewhere as far as possible from anything resembling an island, a tree fort, or a damned cave."

Danny swallowed, working up his nerve, Steve watching him with a renewed sense of alertness. It wasn't a surprise that the man fought against the drugs. It was pure McGarrett.

"When Denning suspends us, I want to go to Jersey with Grace, and I want..." Danny cleared his throat, glancing around to ensure their privacy. "And I want you to come with me, so I can take you to all the places I told you about. Maybe even meet my parents... That is. If you want to?"

He waited, unable to tear his gaze from Steve's face as his eyes went wide. Danny's chest tightened.

Steve opened his mouth and wet his bottom lip, his voice thick. "Yeah, Danno. I'd love that."

Danny burst into a huge grin and bent over to envelope Steve in a hug, Steve crushing him back with his octopus arms.

Danny finally pulled away and kissed him, saying against Steve's lips, "And if you behave, maybe we'll grab a beer at the Flying Fish brewery, maybe even take in a Yankees game."

"Then I'll take you to your spa treatment," Steve whispered back with a laugh.

***

fini-

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