By: Ridley James
A/N: I had some extended travel time yesterday and after having an awesome Hawaiian shave ice on the beach, this little one shot popped in my head and wouldn't leave me alone. A very kind reviewer asked for a tag to a specific episode, and though I currently don't have time to do that, I hope this suffices. Reviews feed the muse, and seeing as how the muse and I will be on vacation the next week, I want to keep her happy and hopefully productive.
Steve McGarrett once heard his father say that sometimes all a man could do was to hold his breath and hope for the best. At the time, Steve was thirteen and the words didn't reconcile with the beliefs he held about his larger than life dad. John McGarrett was a man of action, he made things happen. He most definitely did not wait for circumstance to deal him the cards it saw fit. Steve in all his adolescent wisdom and bravado disregarded the explanation as one of those communication gaps that sometimes fell between generations. Grown ups were weird. He had not thought about that day in years, not until the precise moment he found himself in a situation that required the exact action or lack there of about which his father had spoken.
He didn't miss the irony. Steve might have tossed his father's philosophical musings aside, but he had spent a great deal of his adult life learning to hold his breath. In fact, he was excellent at it. So skilled in the art that he'd earned a free-dive record in SEAL school. In the most literal sense, it should have been easy, second nature to follow his Dad's advice, but like his father Steve was not a man bred to concede. He prided himself on having a counter for almost any possible scenario; his meticulous training and personal creed demanded he fight until the bitter end. Perhaps it wasn't the holding his breath so much as it was the hoping for the best part. Steve was a realist and in his world, fate was not kind to those who cowered and pandered for mercy. But here he was, doing the unthinkable, leaving it all up to chance.
"Don't you dare do it!"
The desperation in his partner's voice, the mix of panic and fierce pleading in Danny's blue eyes as he struggled against his captor confirmed Steve was doing the right thing. As he lowered his gun and took a step back into nothingness, he had never understood his father better.
Danny screamed his name, the sound as loud in Steve's ears as the gunshot and quickly approaching roar of the water from below. Even as the bullet burned across his right shoulder, he hoped his partner used the distraction for all it was worth, took full advantage of the one chance Steve could give him, the only chance that would have a suitable ending either of them could live with. Danny was a fighter and Steve had not only provided an opening for his resourceful partner to escape, but a motivation for him to fight even harder. Danny would be as set on revenge as he would be on rescuing Steve from another one of what he would undoubtedly term 'Crazy ass Super SEAL Stunts'. The funny thing was, Steve was not acting out of anything he'd learned from the Navy. He'd been a good soldier, a committed commander to his men, but he'd never been anyone's partner-not until Danny. What he was feeling now, what had compelled him to lower his weapon and choose retreat over stay and fight, had nothing to do with being a SEAL and everything to do with being a cop.
The impact with the water was unforgiving, brutal, but it was the rocks surrounding the stone wall that were his real enemy. Steve needed to get to open water. He'd hoped for a clearer landing, had only been granted the briefest of opportunity for a glance at the point of entry his trajectory would offer. He'd jumped from this cliff as a boy, even though he'd been strictly ordered by his father to stay away. Those were different circumstances, he'd been prepared and he was leaping from a much lower cropping down the trail.
Upon impact lights flashed before him, images both recent and so very distant in time revealed in the brilliant colors dancing through his mind. Danny taking a glancing blow to the head as they entered the clearing, being forced to his knees by one of the drug runners they'd chased through the thick jungle foliage, the gun that was pressed to his temple by the very angry and desperate ex-con with nothing to lose. Then the vision of Steve's father, leaned over a steaming cup of coffee at their kitchen table, his arm in a sling, Steve's mom pressed against him.
A sharp pain to Steve's hip, a knifing sensation across his back as he was tumbled over the jagged edges and slammed against the wall by the pounding surf and the lights blinked off, darkness tugging at him like the unrelenting may have been repeated gunfire, Danny might have yelled more; but the one sound that rang clear in Steve's head as he took a deep breath and dove to escape the deadly current was that of his father's voice.
"It happened so fast…we didn't know what we were walking into. Hell, we had stopped for coffee."
Thirteen year old Steve had stealthily made his way from his upstairs bedroom. The promise of his mother's left over fried chicken was a siren's call to his teenage boy metabolism. Usually his mom was asleep during her son's midnight kitchen raids, having put Mary down hours before. Steve's father was working the late night rotation. Hearing their soft voices brought him to a stop outside the kitchen where he considered a retreat.
"I wish you'd called me from the hospital. I would have come and picked you up."
The concern and soft exasperation in his mother's tone and the mention of the hospital changed his mind. He pressed himself closer to the entrance, eavesdropping.
"It wasn't serious. I've had worse."
Steve knew his mother had rolled her eyes when his father chuckled.
"It's not like I got shot on purpose, you know."
Steve's stomach flip-flopped, the tentacles of fear seeming to twist themselves around his guts so that the lingering smell of their dinner that drifted from the kitchen had his mouth watering for a much more unpleasant reason than hunger.
"It sounds like you did just that."
"I made a choice, the right one."
A chair scraped, from the soft footfalls it was his mom. The cabinet opened and closed, a distinctive clink as a cup was placed on the granite counter, the sounds of the coffee pot being lifted and replaced.
"I know and I understand, really I do, but I wish there had been an alternate one that would have not required the hospital be involved, John."
Steve had witnessed a similar routine before. His mother would be smoothing her hair, a hand twisting the soft fabric of her housecoat.
"I had to distract the bastard somehow. He had a bead on Mike."
"Letting him shoot you seemed like a good distraction?"
His father's sigh was heavy, laden with emotion. "Sometimes all a man can do is hold his breath and hope for the best."
If Steve hadn't known his dad's voice so intimately, he'd been tempted to risk a peep around the corner.
More footfalls, another chair scrape then the cup resonated differently as it was deposited on their wooden table. "And did you think of your wife and kids while you were holding your breath?"
The words weren't spiteful or baiting. It was an honest question, one Steve pressed closer to hear the answer to.
"He's my partner."
It was the first time Steve realized silence had a distinct sound, one he hoped wasn't breached by the loud pounding of his heart. His mother's voice was a relief.
"I'm just glad he's okay, that you're both okay."
"Don't forget the important part-we got the bad guys."
"How could I?" His mother snorted, and the air seemed to grow lighter. "With a can of Spam, was it?"
His dad's deep chortle loosened the last of the dread that had a tight hold on Steve's heart. "McGarrett men are nothing if not resourceful."
"McGarrett men are idiots."
His mother's laughter was drowned out by the crash of the surf, by a round a coughing that brought a vivid awakening of pain along his back and hip. It had him gasping for the oxygen he'd been deprived.
"McGarrett! Steve!" Steve slowly became aware of a presence beside him, an arm braced around his waist.
He felt himself being dragged out of the water then lowered to solid land. A stinging sensation joined the other hurts in his body and Steve tried valiantly to roll away from the source. His efforts were aided by hands on his shoulders and he recognized the rough feel of warm sand on his cheek as he continued to hack up salt water.
"Take it easy. I've got you."
The voice was as familiar as his father's, as soothing as his mother's long forgotten laughter. "Dan…no."
"Who else?" Danny's grip remained steady, guiding him onto his back once the coughing fit passed. He moved one palm to place it against Steve's chest, the other pressing firmly against the bullet wound in Steve's upper arm. "Stay still. Chin's bringing the paramedics."
"I'm okay." Steve didn't know if that were true, but it was second nature. He blinked, looking up at his partner who was dripping wet above him, his face contorted by concern and a trace of anger. The blood from the gash on Danny's head was pink with water. The most important thing was that Danny was alright. "You okay?"
"You're an idiot is what you are-a fucking idiot, and no I am not okay. I'm wet!" Danny tugged at his sopping shirt. "I lost my favorite tie and my shoes. I hate the water and I hate you."
"Good to know." Steve groaned, coughing again. Wet and pissed off were far preferrable to hurt or worse dead. Steve didn't want to imagine losing one more person, couldn't comprehend doing to Grace what had been done to him. "Things are back to normal."
"What the hell did you think you were doing, Steven?"
"Holding my breath." Steve brought a hand to his chest, brushing against Danny's which was still rested there keeping him in place."Hoping for the best."
"Holding your breath? Is that a new McGarrett euphemism for suicide now? Right up there with the tried and true 'I was only apprehending a suspect, Danno' and 'I was just following a lead, Brah?' And what the hell is this hoping for the best shit? Did you hit your head when you went into the water?" Danny's hand moved from his chest, skimming through his hair in a search for unseen injuries.
"Not suicide…" Steve insisted, between another round of coughs that set off a fiery ripple along his shoulder. He inhaled deeply, wincing against the uncomfortable pull across his back. "People can hold their breaths for eighty-seven seconds before their body forces them to breathe."
"Eighty-seven seconds?" Danny rolled his eyes dramatically. "Although interesting trivia; it's a moot point and completely useless to me in this situation considering I'm pretty sure it took me longer than eighty seven seconds to use your little distraction to apprehend Tillman and make my way back down the trail to a spot I could actually get in the water in a manner befitting a normal human being. Then there is the fact you were shot and fell from a point the height of the Chrysler Building! Can people who have been shot hold and knocked off sky scrapers hold their breath for eighty seven seconds?"
"I don't know." Steve closed his eyes, muttering "I can hold my breath for 124 seconds, Danno."
"Of course you can. You're Super SEAL." Danny gave him a gentle shake. "Stay awake."
"I can't believe you jumped in the water?" Steve forced his eyes open, managing what he hoped was a reassuring smirk. "Danno don't swim."
"From that spot you bragged about diving from when you were a kid. I thought you were dead, you ass." Danny sighed, moving his hand back to Steve's chest. "Danno swims when he has no other choice. What part of back up do you not understand, Steven?"
"I understand completely." Steve frowned, feeling exhaustion tugging at him as strongly as the current had only moments before. He might not have gotten the lesson all those years ago when his father tried explaining it to his mother, but the last year had taught him more about his old man then he'd ever imagined. Sometimes saving yourself wasn't as nearly important as surrendering for someone you loved. "You're my partner."
Danny held his gaze. "That's why you decided to use your crazy ass Greg Louganis skills as a distraction?"
"Sorry, Danno." Steve snorted, feeling himself losing the battle to stay awake. He silently vowed to make up the worry-filled ambulance ride to his partner later, grilled tuna steaks and Long Boards at his place. "I didn't have any Spam."