A/N: Chapter 2 for your enjoyment. Thank you all so much for the very kind feedback. I don't have time to respond to everyone individually, but please know that it's very much appreciated. :)
Steve is safe.
Someone is holding him and rocking him in a gentle rhythm. Everything feels distant and unimportant and he wishes he could stay here forever. He smells the ocean and thinks home. There's only one place he's ever felt this safe, only one person who's ever held him like this.
"Mom?" he breathes, the sound of his own voice startling and foreign.
"Not quite," huffs a familiar, male voice from behind him. "Though sometime I feel like it, due to the fact that I'm constantly having to say things like wear your seatbelt, Steve, and don't run into the path of oncoming bullets, Steve, and don't drive boats into RPGs, you fucking moron."
The words swirl and jumble inside Steve's head, bouncing around behind his eyes and making his skull spike with pain. The feeling of safety implodes like a crushed heart and nausea swells up into the back of his throat.
When he gags and vomits onto his own chest, the ache bursts into a white hot flash of agony. The sound of his own pained moan echoes in his skull and makes his brain feel like it's trying to squeeze out through his eyes and ears. He can't stop vomiting, each dry heave driving the pain in his head to a crescendo that ratchets up the nausea and begins the cycle again.
"Hey, hey," the voice says softly, a cold hand bracing his forehead. "Breathe, McGarrett. Breathe."
Steve sucks in an unsteady breath and the pain recedes a little. He leans back against a solid shoulder and focuses on breathing, pushing the pain down like they trained him to do. He swallows convulsively, battling the urge to throw up again. The hand is still on his forehead, cold against his skin. The chill seems to radiate out from that touch, sweeping through the rest of his body and leaving him shivering and weak.
"You with me, babe?"
Steve knows that voice.
"Who the hell else would get stranded in the middle of the ocean with you?"
It's only then that Steve realizes they're floating and he's wet (And cold. Really cold). His awareness of their situation is patchy and vague, data floating in and out of his brain like flotsam on a tide. It fills him with an undefined dread, like he's two steps behind reality.
"Hey, can you open your eyes for me?" Danny asks. Steve tries, but as soon as his lids begin to open the bright Hawaiian sun pierces straight to the core of pain behind his eyes. He slams them shut again and clenches his jaw, pressing back against Danny's shoulder and breathing harshly through his teeth.
"Okay, that's a no," Danny says, voice tight with concern. "That's fine. You just keep them closed for now. Nothing out here to see anyways. Just a whole lotta blue."
"Yeah. Okay," Steve grunts. He realizes that somewhere along the line he's grabbed onto Danny's forearm and is now squeezing it in a vice-like grip. He forces his hand to relax and let go, despite the small, childish part of him that still wants to hang on. He lets his arm splash back down into the waves, shuddering as the cool water chills his skin.
Danny uses his freed hand to splash some water over Steve's chest. Cleaning away the vomit, Steve thinks with a flush of humiliation. He wants to apologize. Sorry for letting you see me puke. Sorry for being weak.
"What happened?" he asks instead.
"The boat full of drug runners? The bazooka? Any of this ringing a bell?"
Steve gets the feeling he's had this question answered before, but when he searches his memory all he finds is a disconnected sense of danger. He shrugs apologetically. He feels his partner's chest heave in a sigh against his back, a warm tickle of breath ghosting over his neck.
He shivers again and Danny absently rubs at his arm. Steve should tell him that it's a useless gesture, that the tiny bit of friction he's creating is nothing compared to the body heat the ocean is leaching from them. But Steve likes the way it feels and Danny always feels better when he has something to do with his hands, so Steve stays silent.
"Long story short," Danny says, "You blew up our boat and yourself, and now we're stranded in the middle of the ocean. Congratulations on finding yet another way to give me gray hair. You know, I don't even think we have a code for this on any of our incident reports. We'll have to create new paperwork just to encompass the incredible scope of this day's fuckery."
It takes Steve a moment to follow what Danny's saying, his brain lagging a few seconds behind his ears, but he can't help but smile a little when he finally muddles through.
"Sorry," he sighs.
"Well, now I know you've been brain damaged," Danny says with mock amazement. "Because you're actually apologizing, and I didn't have to punch you or scream at you or anything."
"Oh, it does? Really? When? Because I've been working with you for six months now and in that time I think you've apologized to me unprompted, let's see… carry the one… oh, that's right. Never."
"Hm. Sorry," Steve says without meaning to.
"Oh my god, twice in less than five minutes. Please, no more – I don't think my heart could take it."
Danny readjusts his grip around Steve's chest, pulling him up and in. The movement awakens new pains in his ribs and belly and his left hip flares with the sort of deep ache that comes with bone bruising. He must grunt or stiffen because Danny freezes and Steve can practically feel the laser-like look of concern aimed at the side of his head.
"What?" Danny says, voice anxious. "Did that hurt? Are you hurt somewhere else?"
"No," Steve tries to lie. The shaky way his voice comes out does little to back up the untruth.
"Don't you dare lie to me about this, McGarrett. We're floating alone in the god damned ocean and I've spent the last twenty minutes keeping your waterlogged, unconscious body afloat after fishing you out of the drink and resuscitating your ass, so when I ask you if you're hurt anywhere else you better fucking tell me the truth."
"You resuscitated my ass?" Steve asks, a last ditch effort to deflect the question as well as a habitual reflex that drives him to push Danny's buttons. It takes a few more seconds to process the fact that apparently he'd stopped breathing and his partner had revived him. By then it's too late to take back the joke.
"This isn't funny, you asshole," Danny says, his tone clearly backing up his words. "You weren't breathing. I thought you were dead. So stop fucking around and tell me where else you're hurt."
Steve wants to apologize again, but Danny said not to and for some reason it seems really important that Steve do what Danny wants right now.
"Uh, my ribs hurt," he says.
"Which side?" Danny asks, loosening his hold on Steve's chest. "They broken?"
"Left," Steve admits. "Not broken, I think. Just bruised, maybe one or two cracked? S'hard to tell."
"How bad? Are we talking I got kicked in the guts kinda pain, or I'm bleeding to death from a ruptured spleen kinda pain?"
Steve shifts uncomfortably, grimacing at the knotted discomfort in his core.
"Just hurts," he says. He knows he has the words to explain himself better, but they slither out of his reach like eels.
Danny's free hand slips around Steve's body and under the drifting hem of his tee. Blunt fingers slide over his abs, pressing against the tensed muscles there. Steve grunts when Danny hits a tender spot and his partner pats his belly apologetically before removing his hand.
"Doesn't feel too rigid," Danny tells him. "I don't think you're bleeding internally. What else?"
"My left hip's a little sore," Steve says. "That's it."
"Okay," Danny says, voice relaxing. "That's not so bad. Not so good, either, but I think you'll live. Assuming anyone figures out where we are before the sharks get us."
"Yeah, you know – big gray things with a fuck-ton of teeth, like to snack on surfers? Often preceded by ominous string music?"
"S'fine. Shark attacks are rare."
"Well, your bleeding head wound combined with your atrocious luck don't make me feel overly confident about our chances. There's a reason I never go swimming in this shark-infested hell-hole. I like all my limbs attached and all my blood inside, thank you very much."
"Oh," Steve says, late to the party again. "You're swimming, Danny."
"Yes, congratulations Commander Obvious," Danny says. "You finally got me in the water. If I'd known you were going to resort to such drastic measures I would have just gone for a dip in a pool or something. And speaking of swimming, now that you've been conscious for more than two minutes do you think you could give that a try? There's a big piece of fiberglass drifting about 300 feet behind us. I'd like to try to reach it, but you're heavy as shit and I'm starting to get a little fatigued here, keeping us both afloat."
"Sure," Steve says. "Okay."
They drift in silence for a moment before Steve feels Danny sigh again.
"I realize I don't have the sort of extensive training that you SEALs get, McGarrett, but I'm pretty sure that swimming works better if you, ya know, move."
Oh. Yeah. He's supposed to be swimming.
Bracing for the pain he knows is coming, Steve cracks his eyes open. The sun is just as bright as before and his eyes water madly. He blinks rapidly, trying to adjust, and eventually he is able to open his eyes in a squint. For a moment he feels better, more grounded in reality now that he can see his surroundings. But his heart sinks as his sluggish brain catches up with what he's seeing. Danny was right when he said a whole lotta blue. There's nothing but blue sky, blue water, distantly drifting sea birds.
"McGarrett? You with me?" Danny asks, fisting a hand in the shoulder of Steve's shirt.
"Yeah," Steve says, gently extricating himself from Danny's hold. His hip throbs as he kicks his legs experimentally, but his head stays above the surface. Danny keeps his hold on Steve's shirt for a moment, his blonde head bobbing in the waves. He looks bedraggled and worried and pissed and very much Danny, and Steve finds it oddly comforting. When Danny reluctantly lets go of Steve's shirt, Steve feels disoriented and adrift. The rocking motion of the waves makes his stomach roil with renewed nausea, but he fights it down and breathes deeply, setting his eyes on the vague spot of white fiberglass behind Danny's head.
Danny nods at him and turns to swim away.
Steve sets his jaw and kicks after him.