Each chapter is a scene from the episode. What is in italics is the actual dialogue. And most of this is reflection on what's said and done in the first half of the episode, except for the last little bit. Because that last little bit is in my head – but it needed to be put on paper.
"OK, listen, I know you. I know you want to put on a cape and go save the day, but please, keep in mind, please, that this is not a puddle jumper to Lan'ai. This is North Korea."
North Korea. Damned place is a black hole, even Danny knows that. Steve knows it too – and Danny knows Steve knows it. He can see the "well, duh!" look blossoming on Steve's face, and Danny also sees that Steve thinks he's being an overprotective candy-ass.
"I'm aware of that. Thank you, Danny."
Thank you? THANK YOU? Well, at least he's being polite about it, because they both know there's nothing Danny's gonna do to stop him. He's tried before, and that just never works. Ever.
"OK. Whaddya wanna do?"
Because Danny knows already that this is an "op" in Steve's mind. It's just something the SEAL does – collating data, processing it at a speed that most military minds clearly still envy. And all Danny can do is try to keep up, and maybe stop Steve long enough to think just a second time about this.
"What am I gonna do? I've gotta help her. I'd do the same for you, anybody else here. What are we gonna do?"
That's a damned good question. And right then, whatever ghost of a hope Danny had of slowing his partner down is out the window. And he knows it. So, he digs deep in his gut, and asks what he's asked for before when Steve goes off half-cocked.
"Wohwohwohwoh, please. Just … just assuming whatever it is you're about to do, you've done before, right?"
The look on Steve's face tells Danny he's not getting any answers – at least, no details. But he can tell from the small grin creasing his friend's face that this isn't Steve's first rodeo. So, Danny pulls out his favorite military cliché, the one he knows Steve will respond to in a predictable fashion.
"Ah, it's classified. Of course."
"Do I … is that concern I see?"
Really, the man is pushing his luck. Danny trusts him, and Steve knows Danny does. But still, this is NORTH FUCKING KOREA they are talking about, and Danny can't let it go at that.
"Yeah, jerk. I'm concerned. Big deal."
"I'll be fine, all right? It's North Korea … what could go wrong?"
That simple acknowledgement – those four words – tells Danny that Steve knows exactly what could go wrong, likely in exacting detail, probably from some half-remembered mission that had the ex-SEAL picking shrapnel out of his ass. Because of that, Danny knows Steve is listening, and he knows his partner will be safe.
Well, as much as an ex-SEAL in North Korea can be, of course.
"Yeah, I know. Do me a favor and watch yourself, huh?"
"I'll think about you the whole time."
God, Danny hopes not. Because really, all he wants is Steve's over-worked, mile-a-minute brain where it should be – focused on the job at hand.
"I just tried Steve's satellite phone. Twenty times in the last hour. No answer."
OK, so if Steve had picked up on the 20th call, he would've been a little pissed off. Make that a lot pissed off. But he hadn't answered any of the first 19, so Danny figured one more wouldn't make too much of a difference.
"The area they're in, is all deep forest. It may have blocked the signal."
Kono's trying to be reasonable. Danny knows she has a point, but he's known Steve for more than a year now, and he knows when his favorite SEAL-turned-cop-turned-Superhero could be in trouble. Danny can't shake the feeling this is one of those times. And someone needs to put that concern into words, so why not Danny?
"No. Something is wrong. Something is wrong. Otherwise, why would've Jenna lied to us?"
"My question is: did Jenna have anything to do with Bethany Morris's murder?"
That might be Kono's question, and Danny is willing to admit it's a fair one and she clearly wants him back on track. But Danny can't answer that one right now, and since he can't, he wants Steve to pick up his satellite phone and let everyone know that Danny's concern is just another of his Jersey rants – specifically tailored to the situation and to a partner that seems to find new and inventive ways to piss him off.
"Hey, any word from Steve?"
"Look, there's got to be a number of logical explanations as to why he's not answering."
Oh, really? Danny shakes his head and swallows hard. He likes Lori, really, he does – and on the upside, at least she hasn't turned out to be the governor's lap dog. But clearly, she's not getting it. And since no one else is either, it's time to spell this out in clear terms, uncertain terms. Ones everyone can understand, and ones that make it clear who Danny's priority is right now – murder or no murder.
"No, there is nothing logical about this."
Because, really, there isn't, and Danny needs things to start making sense. And soon.
"Hey, Joe, would it kill you to stay in cell phone range?"
Because, all things being equal, Danny has had enough of people not answering phone calls today. And as Danny sees it, Joe is the first step in trying to make sense of this, and then the stream of information will go something like this – from Joe to Danny to the rest of 5-O and then finding Steve.
Quickly. Orderly. Preferably with no bullets flying or explosions.
"Hey, what're you doing out here?"
Right to the point. Danny likes that about the man. No bullshit.
"Listen, Joe, I need to know everything about a CIA/Special Forces joint operation called Switchback."
Danny watches as Joe and Wade Gutches – another SEAL, dammit, as if Danny hasn't had enough of them lately – exchange blank looks. There's the typical classified stamp that gets rolled out – and yeah, Danny's had enough of that lately, too – before the questions roll back to him.
And after a brief exchange, Joe gets right to the point.
"Why don't you ask her about it?"
And that's the bitch of the matter. Danny knows the next words out of his mouth will set either Joe or Gutches off. Honestly, he can't blame them. Because right about now, Danny's getting a pretty sick feeling about this mess, and losing a fair amount of faith in what he thinks Steve can handle on his own.
So Danny swallows hard, and plows forward. Nothing for it, really. It's gotta be said.
"Yeah, I would, but I can't because she's with Steve. In North Korea."
Yeah, that reaction. And for all Danny's trust in Steve, he can't keep the grimace off his face when he decides it's time to admit what everyone has tried to deny so far.
"I think he's in trouble, Joe."
"Hey, hey, it's Jenna. Get a trace up, right now."
Kono's already running to the image table, for which Danny is eternally grateful. Because it's Jenna calling, Jenna and not Steve. And for all of reassurances from Kono and Lori, all Danny can see is the look on Joe's face when Danny said the words "North Korea."
"Hey, Jenna, it's Danny. Where are you?"
He's trying to keep his shit together and stay calm. But it's hard. Because while Danny may have qualified his comments to Joe White by adding "I think," there's no question in Danny's mind anymore. He doesn't think Steve's in trouble.
"Danny, I'm sorry. I screwed up! I'm so sorry!"
And the anguish in her voice – God, Danny can guess that it's not just trouble. It's spiraled beyond that. There's no Josh – or at least, if Josh is there, he's dead. And he probably has been for a while. Jenna got led – or led Steve – on a wild goose chase. And just listening to her voice, God, the pain and the fear and the hopelessness there, Danny knows something is really, really wrong.
"It's OK, it's OK. Just tell me: where's Steve?"
It takes just a second for Jenna to answer, but Danny knows the answer before she speaks. Because this day has gone completely to Hell, and with that descent, what other answer could there be?
"It's Wo Fat. It's Wo Fat, Danny. He has Steve. And I led him right to him."
Danny's stomach is somewhere in the basement of the Palace right now. His eyes end up locking with Chin's for a split second, and he can see the same fear – yes, the fear, because Danny can't call it anything else – reflected there. Because of that, his voice chokes up as he asks the next question. The words get out, but he really doesn't know how.
"Is he alive?"
"We're south of Kaesong. A town called -"
Suddenly, there is nothing but static. Danny tells her to repeat it, she's broken up, but all he hears is the static. All he can do is repeat her name, once, twice – the third time a shout and still no answer.
She never answered his question. She said we, so that's good, but he doesn't have a town. He doesn't have his answer. There is no affirmative, and no negative, and then the phone goes dead. It drops the call and Kono loses the trace, and it's all Danny can do not to lose his tenuous grip on his emotions and pitch the phone into the wall.
"Is he alive?"
He needs to know.
Danny is driving, and damned if Steve wouldn't be proud of him right now. He's taking the corners with his Camaro like it's on rails, doing everything Steve has ever done to his car – and more.
Because it's not just his partner out there, though that'd be enough. It's his friend, and for all of Danny's ranting and big words and threats, what he would do without the man who has essentially become his brother … well, he doesn't want to think about it.
He won't think about it. Instead, he picks up his phone, and calls Joe.
"Give me a sitrep."
There's no preamble, and Danny welcomes it – jarhead speak or not. Because right now, Danny has to believe in what Joe is and what he can do. If he believes in Joe, Danny can also believe Steve might still be alive, might live through this, might come back.
So Danny lays it all out, and explains where he is going. To Governor Denning, who's already reamed them a new one about procedure and accountability and God knows how he's going to take the head of his 5-O task force flying to North FUCKING Korea to help with a ransom exchange.
When Danny's done – giving a sitrep that he thinks Steve would be proud of under the circumstances – there is silence for a moment before Joe states what Danny knew when he got in the car.
"He's going to say no, Danny. His hands are tied. It's North Korea. We have no diplomatic relations, and no way to insert a military presence."
Danny knows this. He knew it when Steve left yesterday morning, and it's why he got in Steve's face and tried to remind him where he was going, and what could go wrong. Because Superman or not, Steve had no margin for error here, and no margin for error with too many variables never adds up well.
"I've got to try. You know that."
There's silence on the other end, but Danny knows Joe is still there. Knows it as well as he knows this side trip to Gov. Denning is costing them precious time. But Danny has to try, in case there's something he's not seeing, in case Denning has one string he hasn't thought to pull.
And because Danny knows that, and Joe knows that, he's ready when Joe asks the next question.
"Have you thought about what you're going to do when he says no?"
It's no surprise to Danny when he realizes he's known the answer to that question since Kaye's satellite phone cut out. It's the reason why he's calling Joe – and the reason why his gut may be locked up, but it's not churning him out a new ulcer.
Danny's mind flashes back to yesterday morning, a lifetime ago. The last words he exchanged with Steven, and the acknowledgment then – hid behind jokes and a little bit of forced laughter – of just how bad this could get.
"Yeah, jerk. I'm concerned. Big deal."
"I'll be fine, all right? It's North Korea … what could go wrong?"
Everything could go wrong. And everything has so far. But Danny's going to fix it, and he can't do it alone. Silently, before finally answering Joe's question, Danny tosses up a quick prayer.
Dammitall, Steve, you keep yourself alive long enough for us to do this. Don't you dare die on me.
"Yeah, I've thought about it. Get down to 5-O. I'll be back in an hour."