Summary: Human beings were not meant to fly. At least that's what Danny had always argued.
Author's notes: Thanks, as always, to my wonderful betas and friends, Cokie316 and Rogue Tomato. You ladies are the best.
Thanks also to Faye Dartmouth, for encouraging me to write a straight-up h/c story. I hope you all like the results.
Human beings were not meant to fly.
At least that's what Danny had always argued. When God created man, He equipped him with what he would need for survival. A brain for logic and reason. Five senses to alert him to his surroundings. Strong arms for harvesting and hunting. Swift legs to help him outrun danger.
He did not include a pair of wings.
It was an old argument now, eighteen months into their partnership. Danny usually pulled it out when they were headed to an airfield or helicopter pad. He wasn't afraid of flying, although take offs and landings still made him a bit nervous. He just liked to rant and bust the pilot's chops.
Especially when the pilot was Steve.
Steve would roll his eyes and say that while God may not have given man wings, He wasn't opposed to him flying. After all, He did give man intelligence, creativity, and the ability to adapt. It was only a matter of time before man figured out how to fly for himself.
Then Danny would point out Icarus as a prime example of what could go wrong and Steve would counter that Icarus' problem was pilot error before citing the Wright brothers and Charles Lindbergh. The back and forth would continue until they were almost yelling at each other and finally they would just agree to disagree. Until the next time.
Steve didn't understand Danny's position and never would. After all, he had been flying his entire life; it was a common mode of transportation between the islands. Being in the air had never bothered him any more than being in the water. It was just a natural part of life.
It wasn't until he joined the SEALs that Steve began to pilot aircraft himself. He learned how to expertly handle helicopters, ultra-lights, gliders, and small planes as part of his training. He also jumped out of planes more times than he could count during his SEAL career and occasionally as part of a normal day on the job in Five-0. He guided his parachute with the same measure of control he displayed in every aspect of his life, but also added to it a measure of grace and fluidity. Once he even overheard one of his SQT instructors commenting that Steve was so graceful when he glided through the air, even the birds were jealous.
That usual grace was missing now.
Because human beings were not meant to fly.
Not without wings. Not without machinery. Not without parachutes.
All of which were conspicuously absent as the meth lab exploded, rocketing Steve backwards through the air.
It all happened in slow motion.
Danny watched in horror as the fire blasted out of the house, taking the front door and windows with it, and engulfed the entire structure in wild flames.
He knew it would be too late. Just a few steps behind Steve, he knew they would both be caught in the concussive wave of energy from the blast. He didn't even have time to shout out a warning before he, too, was forcefully thrown backwards through the air, just a millisecond after Steve.
Danny thought it almost looked like an action movie, the slow motion, where the heroes fly through the air on wires that are digitally removed from the final cut later.
Except they weren't wearing wires. And none of this was make-believe.
Danny saw Steve's body fly through the air, the force propelling him back until he was almost as far back as Danny. Danny turned his head to the right just in time to see Steve's shoulders and head slam to the ground, his legs awkwardly flipping over his body so that he came to rest on his stomach with his head toward the house and his feet towards Danny. A second later, Danny himself landed, flat on his back, and his head hit the hard ground with a sickening crack.
There was nothing slow about the blackness that engulfed him.
He heard sirens.
At least that's what he thought he heard. It was hard to hear over the deafening roar in his ears.
They were at a distance, but they were coming.
If only he could remember why they were necessary.
Danny felt an overwhelming heat nearby and knew he needed to find out if he was in danger. He opened his eyes slowly, blinking against both fatigue and the particles that were swirling in the air, irritating his eyes. After a few moments, his vision began to clear and the darkness around the edges dissipated. And recognized the particles for what they were. Ash.
Why is there ash in the air, he wondered.
It all came back to him with such force that he inhaled sharply, gulping air, and had to fight down the bile rising in his throat.
Meth lab. Explosion.
Danny raised his head and his vision swam. The first thing he saw was the inferno. Make that three infernos. He squinted and focused until the three blazing homes merged into one. No doubt the drug dealers were dead, blown up along with their meth lab inside the house; nobody inside could have survived that blast.
Well, at least they won't be a problem anymore, he thought.
Danny turned his head to the side, looking for Steve. He found him only a few feet away, five at most. Steve's body was face down with his arms and legs bent at odd angles, his head turned away from Danny. Steve's right ear, left arm, and the top part of his pants were all drenched in blood.
But worst of all, Steve wasn't moving.
Danny fought down the panic and told himself Steve was unconscious, refusing to believe his partner's stillness could be attributed to anything else.
He turned to his right, towards Steve, and barely contained a cry as white-hot pain flared up his side. He immediately rolled back onto his back and carefully lifted his shirt, looking down to see what had caused the pain. It wasn't hard to find. A decent sized piece of wood was embedded in the flesh on the right side of his waist, right above his pants. Rolling over had done nothing to help the situation, and had actually jammed the wood a little farther into his body. Danny knew he had two choices; remain laying on his back and wait for help from the approaching sirens, or quickly roll onto his stomach going the opposite direction, bypassing the wood chip, so he could get to Steve.
He chose the latter.
With an agonized groan, Danny rolled to his left and onto his stomach. He was rewarded not only by success, but also a mouthful of dirt. He sputtered, spitting out tiny bits of earth, before raising his head. He panted, trying to catch his breath, and looked over at Steve. It would be a few seconds before Danny felt up to moving again, so he decided to call out to Steve and see if he could get a response.
"Steve," Danny called, although how loudly, he wasn't sure. He couldn't hear himself but he wasn't sure if that was because he didn't actually make a sound, or if his voice was so soft his ears simply couldn't pick it up over the ringing. He took a few deep breaths, coughed a few times, and tried again. "Steve."
This time, he heard his voice. But Steve did not. Or, if he did, he still didn't move. Either way, Danny knew he would need to go over and check his partner.
Standing up and walking was out of the question. Not only was Danny beyond exhausted, the explosion sapping him of every ounce of strength, but his left ankle was throbbing mercilessly and he knew it was probably broken. But his arms, though scraped up, were reasonably intact, so he decided to army-crawl his way over.
Which was easier said than done.
Army crawls always look easy. Babies did them, for crying out loud. But, of course, babies didn't have broken ankles, chips of wood impaling them in their sides, severe headaches, or dizziness to content with. Not to mention babies were normally cruising over cushy, forgiving surfaces; carpet, rugs, or the like. Not hard ground with rocks and a slight incline.
Danny refused to let any of these excuses stop him, but they did slow him down. Still, he angled his body towards Steve, placed one arm in front of the other, and pulled, dragging his beaten body behind him. By the time he covered the five feet separating him from Steve, he heard a police car coming down the street. When he finally got a good look at his partner, he hoped the ambulance was not far behind.
Because Steve looked every bit as bad as Danny felt.
Steve's pants were soaked with blood, but without moving him, Danny had no idea what was wrong. Unwilling to risk further injury, he left Steve's legs alone and pulled himself further up beside Steve's body, towards his head.
Steve's left arm was full of small bits of debris- wood, pebbles, glass, and the like- undoubtedly embedded into his flesh by force of the explosion. None of the pieces looked large, and all were smaller than the chip in Danny's own body, but it would still take a doctor quite a while to remove all the foreign matter and stitch Steve up. He could not see Steve's right arm from his vantage point, but he assumed it suffered a similar fate.
Danny grunted as he crawled another foot up to Steve's head. He struggled to prop himself up high enough to look over Steve's body to see his face, which was still turned away from him.
Steve's face, now that Danny could see it, was covered in so much blood that he gagged and looked away for a second before he could compose himself. Danny knew head wounds bled a lot, but the amount of blood obscuring Steve's features was disturbing, even for a professional like himself. He hoped it was all coming from the large gash near Steve's right ear and the small cuts on his face, but he didn't dare move his partner to see if he had any more head wounds.
That was all Danny could assess from his current position. And while his cursory inspection told him what he already knew, that Steve was seriously injured, it did not answer the most important question.
Was he alive?
Danny propped his body up on his left elbow, tenuously reaching out his shaking right hand to Steve's throat to feel for a pulse. His fingers slid across the warm blood and he had to adjust them a few times, growing more panicked each time he came up empty, but then he found it.
A heartbeat. It was faint and slow, but it was there.
Danny exhaled a sigh of relief just as the paramedics knelt down beside them. He wasn't exactly sure when the ambulance had arrived, but he had never been so happy to see the cavalry in his entire life.
They paramedics refused to let Danny ride in the ambulance with Steve, insisting that he and Steve were both injured enough to need his own ambulance.
Danny would have argued more, but once they were ready to transport Steve, with a c-collar, saline IV, and oxygen mask in place, he backed off, not wanting to delay them for even one second.
Still, as he watched them carry Steve on a backboard to the ambulance, he couldn't help but feel he had let his partner down by staying behind. He knew that was irrational- that Steve would not fault him for not being at his side every second when Danny had been injured badly himself- but he couldn't help how he felt. As the first ambulance pulled away and a second one arrived, its paramedics descending upon him, Danny vowed that when Steve woke up, he would be waiting by his partner's side.
Even if he had to do it from a hospital bed.
Danny was not in a hospital bed that long.
The doctors in the ER were efficient and quickly determined the extent of his injuries. They removed the wood chip in his side and other debris embedded in his body, stitched him up, and set his broken ankle. He would have to wear a walking boot for a few weeks, but that was the least of his concerns. He was kept overnight for observation to monitor his concussion and help control the pain, but was released late the next afternoon with orders to go home and rest.
Naturally, he did neither.
Instead, Chin took the handles of Danny's wheelchair and pushed him up to the ICU, where Kono was waiting for them outside the door to Steve's room. She offered Danny a smile and leaned down to carefully hug him. Then she exchanged a sad glance with Chin before opening the door, allowing Chin to push Danny inside.
Entering Steve's room for the first time was depressing, to say the least. Chin and Kono had told Danny it was bad, but until he saw Steve with his own eyes, he didn't understand exactly what they meant.
Granted, words like "internal bleeding", "hematoma", and "intracranial pressure" never sounded good. But hearing words and seeing their physical manifestations was completely different.
Danny quickly realized that there were not enough words in the English language- or any language, for that matter- to prepare him for the sight of his best friend lying in a hospital bed, with wires attached all over his body, a drainage tube inserted into his partially shaved head, and a ventilator helping him breathe.
Danny's already low spirits crashed to the ground, as hard and decisively as Icarus' fall, and he struggled to get his emotions in check.
"Danny, are you ok?" Chin asked gently.
Danny sniffed once before replying with a feeble nod, his gaze still fixed on his partner.
Chin sensed, intuitively, that Danny needed to be alone. "We'll be down the hall in the waiting room if you need us," he said, giving Danny's shoulder as soft squeeze before he left.
Danny wheeled his chair closer to Steve's side. He didn't know what else to do.
So he reached out his hand, lightly grasped Steve's forearm, careful to avoid the bandages, and settled in for the wait.
On the first day, Danny refused to believe it could get any worse.
On the second day, he found out it could.
On the third day, Danny flashed his badge to Steve's doctor and told him he wasn't going anywhere, no matter what hospital policy said.
On the fourth day, Kono managed to convince him to grab a shower while she waited by Steve's side, promising to call him if anything changed.
On the fifth day, Danny relived every stupid argument he had ever had with Steve.
On the sixth day, he began bargaining with God.
On the seventh day, he was convinced God wasn't listening.
On the eighth day, he was convinced God was.
Because on the eighth day, Steve's vital signs began to improve. The doctor smiled and said he was turning the corner. And Danny silently thanked God for the miracle as he blinked back tears of relief.
On the ninth day, Steve started to make involuntary movements, his muscles twitching as his body prepared to wake. Danny couldn't help but feel his spirits lift even more.
On the tenth day, Steve woke up.
It wasn't dramatic. Unlike the slow motion of the explosion, Steve's return to consciousness was nothing like the movies. The hero didn't wake up, get out of bed, and start fighting the bad guys ten minutes later.
Instead, Danny woke up from a nap to see that Steve's eyes were open, staring at the ceiling. Granted, his eyes were glassy and unfocused, but that didn't matter. He was awake.
Danny got up from his chair and hobbled the few feet over to Steve's side. Steve was still looking at the ceiling, unaware of Danny's presence, so Danny gently placed his hand on Steve's shoulder, not wanting to startle him. Steve slowly turned his head to his side, his blue eyes still wide and uncomprehending, but after a moment, they narrowed as he recognized Danny.
"Hey," Danny said softly, and smiled.
Steve was unable to talk, the trach tube from the ventilator still in place. But he and Danny never really needed words to communicate.
Steve weakly furrowed his brow.
"You're in a hospital," Danny said, answering Steve's unasked question. "The meth lab exploded."
Steve's forehead went slack for a moment before he raised his eyebrows and looked directly into Danny's eyes.
Danny grinned. "I'm fine. But thanks for asking."
Steve visibly relaxed and sighed before closing his eyes, his strength spent for now.
Danny continued to stand by his side, smiling, well after Steve was asleep, his spirits now flying with the knowledge that Steve would be ok.
And Danny learned something on the tenth day.
He learned that Steve was right. God hadn't given man wings.
But that didn't mean he couldn't soar.