?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

H50/Chaos fic: Interagency Cooperation 6/7

April 19th, 2012 (07:02 am)
hopeful

feeling: hopeful

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR
PART FIVE
PART SIX
PART SEVEN



PART SIX

Kono’s always been something of an adrenaline junkie. It sort of goes with the territory, being a surfer. To her, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of catching a wave and riding it even as it threatens to swallow her hole.

This is why police work has always been a logical second choice to her. Sure, there’s no wind in her hair and water on her face, but going in hot for an arrest, taking the bad guys down – it provides the same sort of thrill.

Only this time, the wind is in her hair and the water is in her face and she’s still going after the bad guys. It’s like the best of both worlds.

So she’s not sure why she’s so terrified.

Maybe it’s because she’s doing this without any real backup. She does have her CIA counterpart, but he looks like as much of a rookie as she does and while she is inclined to trust his skills, it doesn’t occur to her until they’re already in pursuit that this is the first time she’s run point on something like this.

More than that, it’s the first time she’s ventured on some kind of bust without anyone nearby to pull her out in case things go south.

And things can go south. That’s another thing. She knows the skinny on the buyers and so it only stands to reason that their sellers are just as notoriously bad. And given 5-0’s track record, things tend to find a way to go wrong if they possibly can.

It’s a little of all of those things, if she’s honest, but it’s also the fact that one of their own is on the line and Kono’s driving a boat in the wrong direction to offer help.

True, this is better than being stuck in the van back on dry land, but it’s still counterintuitive to her, like going with Steve to take down Hesse while Chin is strapped to a bomb. It’s the right thing to do, it’s necessary, but it still feels a little like she’s turning her back on Danny.

A lot like she’s turning her back on Danny.

Kono could let this bother her.

Or she could turn it around and use it to enhance her focus and get this job done faster.

With that in mind, she keeps her hands tight on the wheel, eyes zeroed in on their target. Kono had procured a boat from HPD – and procured is the word she gave to Rick and it’s the one she’ll use in her report even if stole is probably more apt – and it was fortunately well equipped for pursuits.

Granted, pursuit driving is still a skill she has yet to perfect, but at least on the open ocean there’s less possibility to inflict incidental damage to the surrounding areas.

It’s just her and the bad guys, and Kono’s got determination and speed on her side.

Next to her, Rick is braced against the helm and his voice is loud when he yells, “The Coast Guard has responded to the APB we put out, but they’re a ways out.”

Kono frowns, matching the course changes in their assailants. Glancing at the readouts, she contemplates how fast she can go without losing control. This is as fast as she’s ever driven, but she pushes the throttle forward and the engine roars in response. “We can’t wait!” she yells back, not sparing Rick a look as the boat seems to shudder beneath her.

Rick rocks a little on his feet but doesn’t fall. Out of the corner of her eyes, she sees him shake his head. “This is taking too long!”

Logically, Kono knows it hasn’t been that long. At these speeds, they’re covering a lot of water, and it seems like it’s taking forever with the adrenaline thrumming through her veins but her innate sense of time tell us her otherwise.

But there’s a lot that’s not logical about this because she needs to be back at the scene. She needs to make sure her team’s okay.

“We’ll need someone to help us cut them off,” Kono says back to him, shaking her head in disappointment. “Otherwise we’ve got nothing to make them stop.”

“Can you get ahead of them?” Rick asks.

Kono looks at the controls again, feels the boat straining under her feet. “We’re almost at the maximum speed,” she said. “Much faster and we’ll have no control.”

Rick is frowning. “So all we can do is keep pace with them until backup arrives,” he says, in clear exasperation even over the wind rushing through her ears.

He’s saying it by means of complaint and resignation, but something in it triggers for Kono. Keeping pace – that’s just what they’re doing. They’re keeping pace with the other boat. As far as things go, they’re fairly evenly matched, so it’s not likely that Kono can gain too much of an upper hand.

But then again, maybe she doesn’t need speed to have the upper hand. Using their boat to cut off the other is reckless and dangerous anyway, and really, it’s not the boat she needs to stop. It’s the people in it.

She’s been thinking about this all wrong. She shouldn’t be thinking about driving the boat but getting aboard the other one.

With new determination, she refocuses her attention. Instead of following a straight line with the boat in front of her, she veers slightly to the side. Out of the other boat’s wake, the waters are a little less choppy and she’s able to put on speed with less frontal friction. With a small boost, she revs the engine harder and it lurches ahead, gaining on the other boat.

“What are you doing?” Rick asks.

He sounds as concerned as he does confused, and she might feel sorry for him if she had the time.

“Do you know how to drive this thing?” she asks instead.

Rick’s brow is furrowed. “Yes, but--”

She doesn’t wait for his explanation or his denial. Instead, she edges away, nodding down toward the controls. “I need you to steer it up alongside, as close as you can.”

Rick wrinkles his nose. “Wait, you’re not going to--”

She nods, holding his gaze just for a moment.

“That’s crazy!” he says.

“About as crazy as stealing the radio and apprehending a boat against orders,” she quips back.

His concern gives way to a disbelieving laugh. His hand is reaching for the controls when the retort of a gunshot pierces through the waves and the splintering of wood in front of them makes them both duck down.

Kono bites back a curse, working to maintain control of the boat while getting out of the line of sight. Rick has flattened himself below the ledge, looking up at her with fresh concern. “I don’t suppose you have an extra gun, do you?”

Kono eyes him, lifting her eyebrows. “You’re not sanctioned to work within U.S. borders,” she reminds him.

Another gunshot nicks the windshield and Kono has to wince.

Rick tilts his head knowingly. “If I don’t cover you, it’s not going to matter much anyway.”

He has a point. And at this point, Kono figures that one more bent law isn’t going to put them in any greater jeopardy than before.

Resolutely, she nods, trying to hunch down as best she can while still maintaining her visibility. “In the cabin, locked in the cabinet,” she says. She hadn’t checked this boat in particular, but she’d been on enough HPD boats since joining 5-0 to know.

“Do you have the key?” he starts to ask, but his question is cut short as another bullet cracks the windshield in front of Kono.

“Be creative!” she shouts at him, and her adrenaline is throbbing now, building so deep within her that she can barely contain it.

Rick nods solemnly before darting back. He keeps low but moves quickly. She’s suddenly not sure if telling him to get creative is really the best advice she’s ever given, but when another gunshot flies above her head, she figures now isn’t the time to question it.

As an alternative, she puts her attention back on navigating, because at these speeds, any kind of distraction could have grave consequences – for the mission and for her own safety. This means she has to lift herself up a bit, which puts her back in the line of fire, but she has to count on the fact that these speeds make her something of a moving target anyway.

Shifting upward so she has a clearer view ahead of her, another bullet shatters something behind her, and she really hopes she’s right in that assessment. From this vantage point, she can make out a few figures on the other boat, all hidden, but that doesn’t stop her from pulling her own gun and taking a shot.

It’s nowhere close, of course, but at this point, she just wants to keep them on their toes. Any appearance of crossfire will keep them covered, which will impede their ability to shoot. All of which, Kono thinks is a good thing.

Still, firing and holding course and speed is a little difficult, so she really hope that Rick hurries up before something goes terribly wrong.

Another pair of gunshots filter off harmlessly to the sides, and Kono fires back. As she maneuvers closer, she is more than a little relieved when Rick finally comes back. He’s got a shotgun in his hands and she raises her eyebrows. “Big enough gun?”

Rick frowns, perturbed. “Do you want cover fire or not?”

He has a point there, and really, Kono doesn’t have the time to question the details. Not with the speed they’re going and the distance they’re putting between themselves and their teammates. It’s time to finish this. One way or another, and that thought is so pressing that Kono lets all her doubts just fall away.

Because there are doubts. Doubts about whether or not it’s feasible to jump from one moving boat to another. Doubts about if they can stay out of the line of fire long enough to make it work. Doubts about if Kono can really overthrow an entire boat by herself.

Those things matter on some level, but ultimately they just don’t. They can’t. Because Kono’s already handing over the control, easing herself down and pressing herself against the side of the boat while she maneuvers her way to a better position.

Rick steps in for her seamlessly, and it’s something of a relief to realize he’s fully capable of steering the boat. They maintain speed so they’re evenly paced with the other boat now and Rick inches them closer even while bullets continue to rain down on them.

Time is of the essence now, if for no other reason than she knows they’re only going to get one shot at this. Either she makes this jump successfully or she doesn’t. She makes this bust or it all falls apart.

It’s somewhat numbing in its disparity but she refuses to dwell on it.

Refuses to even think of anything short of success.

She’s backed herself up to a spot on the side where she’ll have a clear jumping point and an unimpeded dismount. The trick now is to wait until they’re close enough and until she sees an opening on the other boat.

Things are moving quickly but she slows her mind down, keeping her focus singular. With the shooters opting for well fortified positions, she should have a little time to get situated on deck before someone comes after her. This has left the deck open, which works in her favor.

Rick glances back at her just for a moment and she nods tightly. Face grim, he turns his attention back toward steering and veers the boat precariously close.

This is it, she tells herself. This is it.

Before she can second guess herself, she’s springing up, climbing the ledge. For the briefest moment, she sees the water splashing between the boat, feels the force of the air catching against her body.

From up ahead, there are fresh gunshots – Rick’s cover fire.

She has no time to see if it’s effective as she uses all her power to fling herself off the boat.

For a moment, she’s flying, suspended in air. It’s as thrilling as it is terrifying, and she feels a rush of invincibility and vulnerability all at once. But she can’t stop it now – not even if she wanted to – and she wonders if this type of insanity is what it’s like to be Steve McGarrett all the time.

The thought ceases as she lands hard on the wood decking of the other boat. The impact jars her, bringing her back to the here and now. Instinct takes over, and Kono lets the job talk to her and she listens to the nuances around her. These are the impulses that let her catch and ride a wave. She hones them differently now, but the idea is all the same.

This is why she’s able to let go, to let herself ride the wave of adrenaline and just do what needs to be done. She takes the first assailant by surprise, using her gun to pistol whip him into submission. She doesn’t have time to secure him when another pops up. She dodges expertly, snaking her way around to catch him with a kick that makes his gun skitter away. She follows up with a punch to the face and he goes down.

She makes her way through the boat. The bullets miss her even as the others go down. She takes out who she can with hand to hand but the last one she wings with a shot to the arm before it’s over.

Without thinking, she takes the controls, easing off the gas and bringing it to a stop.

Standing on the deck, she’s breathing hard, bruised by still standing.

In the water, Rick brings the other boat to a stop in front of her, standing anxiously on his toes to get a better look. “You okay?” he calls.

Kono looks again at her work, almost in disbelief. But she nods, laughing slightly. “Yeah,” she says. “I’m okay.”

Rick nods back. “Coast Guard said they can be here in fifteen minutes.”

Kono frowns. “If we tie them up and secure them separately,” she begins.

Rick grins. “And disable their engine,” he continues.

“Then we should make it back to the others in ten,” she says.

“Well, then,” Rick says. “What are we waiting for?”

“Nothing,” Kono says, bending over to drag one of the suspects to the railing. “Nothing at all.”

-o-

It’s actual remarkable to Danny.

Since being a part of 5-0, he’s often attributed the continual peril and unparalleled amounts of impending disaster to be Steve’s fault. After all, Mr. Super SEAL didn’t just attract danger, he actively pursued it, looking for ways to turn a completely ordinary situation into a surefire incidence of doom. In all this, Steve’s shown his prowess at finding the least easy way of doing things, somehow managing to elicit harm even during his downtime.

After all, how else did one man get Danny shot, harbor a hated dictator in his house and fall down the side of a cliff all within one year of being commissioned? It defies logic, plain and simple. Steve defies logic.

So it’s downright remarkable to Danny that Steve’s impeccable sense of dangerous luck afflicts him even when the SEAL isn’t actually around.

But it’s true. Because Danny is handcuffed and beaten with some perpetually happy dipstick with an accent when things get worse.

Yes, things actually gets worse and when the explosion rocks the boat, Danny’s only conscious thought is that it’s all Steve’s fault.

How and why are not so important, and even if they were, Danny doesn’t have the ability to dwell on such details, not while he’s being tossed around like some damn pinball.

His sense of equilibrium is shot as the force lifts him, flinging him haphazardly into the air. He’s mentally preparing himself for impact but it doesn’t come because something tries to rip his shoulders from their sockets instead.

Not a pinball, he thinks – a damn tethered pinball – and the thought is so distasteful that he fails to anticipate the violent thrashing that tweaks his arms, slamming his head into a wall while simultaneously slicing open his wrists.

He’s not sure if he’s still moving or not – things are spinning and aching in equal turns now – but Danny is unequivocally certain that this is most definitely Steve’s fault.

He’s so intent on this thought that Danny doesn’t remember the Scotsman until he’s yelling Danny’s name.

“Detective Williams!” he’s yelling, somewhat insistently, since Danny doesn’t have enough to deal with today. “Detective Williams!”

It pisses him off enough that Danny actually opens his eyes and thinks that this is somehow Billy’s fault, too. “This plan sucks,” Danny grumbles.

The Scot grins in relief, a motion which seems to test the bruises on his face. There’s a new gash on his forehead, leaking blood in messy rivulets down his face. “It does have its share of drawbacks,” Billy agrees. “I do enjoy a good boat tour, but generally I prefer more sightseeing and less bleeding.”

For a moment, all Danny can do is scowl as he regains all his senses. They’re still handcuffed to the duct work but the explosion has still tossed them. Danny’s lying awkwardly on the floor, legs splayed and body twisted, half suspended by the cuffs around his wrist. Billy has been flung back so he’s farther away than before and from his uncomfortable posture, it seems his shoulder has not fared quite as well as Danny’s.

More than that, they seem to be skewed, the center of gravity inexplicably shifted, which does nothing to assuage Danny’s sense of trepidation

These observations are pertinent but they’re still obscuring the major factor here.

Frowning, Danny shakes his head. “Did we just get blown up?”

Billy isn’t looking at him anymore. Instead, he’s trying to gain some kind of footing, pushing himself against the slanted floor while angling his restrained arm along the duct in obvious discomfort. “Aye,” he says. “Seems Casey and Chin were thorough in their work.”

This makes sense – as well as anything involving getting blown up makes sense. Except there’s still something off, something really not quite right.

Danny shifts, working to get his free hand under him, and realizes the unpredicted element. Because he’s banged up but there’s more. He’s wet.

Stuck in an off kilter boat with his hands cuffed, he’s wet.

Which means... “Are we taking on water?” he asks because he really wants the answer to be no.

Billy nods grimly. “Aye.”

Danny sort of expects more, but there is no more, and his head hurts and his arms ache and he’s sitting an in ever growing pool of water. “I thought the explosion was supposed to disable the boat, not sink it,” he says finally with due incredulity in his tone.

Billy glances at him, a hint of apology in his face. “I’m guessing our good friends were carrying more than we suspected,” he says. “Explosion like requires some addition accelerant than a normal charge.”

Danny closes his eyes, muttering a curse. Of course they were. And of course their charges hit the boat just right to set off that kind of chain reaction.

This was so Steve’s fault.

“As it is,” Billy continues, “the distinct scent of smoke and our precarious positioning suggests that we are going down one way or another. I would recommend looking for an exit.”

At this, Danny scoffs. He can’t help it. Billy says it plainly, as though it makes total sense. And in theory, Danny agrees. He doesn’t want to die and he especially doesn’t want to die slowly and painfully by drowning. Thanks to Rachel, he’s seen Titanic. Sinking ships have predictable ends and even if the water isn’t freezing, it’s still deadly, and Danny would like very much to avoid that.

The problem is, of course, that they’re handcuffed to the duct work. It’s a small detail, but a salient one, and one that almost precludes any type of exit, no matter how much Danny dislikes it.

As obvious as this is to Danny, his CIA cohort seems entirely oblivious to the fact. Instead, he’s awkwardly scooting along the ducting, pulling back at intervals while wincing in pain.

“You do realize that we’re handcuffed here, right?” Danny asks, hoping that the simple question will help common sense regain its foothold in their less-than-ideal situation.

Billy nods, face tight. His free hand is feeling along the metal now, pushing and testing. “This is a wee bit of a problem, I’ll admit.”

“A wee bit...,” Danny tries to repeat, but it’s too outlandish to get far. “What part of handcuffed in a sinking ship do you not understand?”

Billy looks at him again, eyebrows lifted quizzically. “There are numerous factors working against us here, but I’ve been in worse situations,” he tells Danny, as though it’s somehow supposed to make him feel better.

It doesn’t. It makes him feel worse because now he’s not just going to die a slow and horrible death, but he’s going to die a slow and horrible death alongside a frustratingly optimistic psychopath.

“Besides,” Billy continues, looking back along the wall, “if the ship is sinking, there is one positive factor.”

Danny rolls his eyes. “And what could that possibly be?”

Billy looks at him, surprised. “The charges were set by our teammates,” he reminds Danny. “So if there are charges--”

It clicks. “Then our teams are nearby,” he concludes. The revelation is such a sudden shock of hope that Danny actually laughs.

“Indeed,” Billy says, fiddling with a joint of the duct. “And I can’t speak for your fine teammates, but I’m quite well acquainted with my own. And if they’re nearby, they’re not going to let us go down with the ship. Not if they can help it.”

Danny doesn’t know their new CIA counterparts well, but he does know his team. More than that, he knows Steve. Crazy, super SEAL himself. He’s annoying and inclined toward danger, but he’s the type who gets the job done. He’s also the type who wouldn’t let Danny die. Take him to the brink, sure, and Danny’s handcuffed to a sinking boat to prove it, but die – no, that’s not like Steve.

This is good news, but it’s tempered by the sudden groan of the boat around them as it shifts even more to the side, sloshing the water as it rises, soaking Danny’s waistline.

He grimaces. The water’s not cold, but he’s still getting wet, and no matter how much he trusts his team, there’s still the pressing reality of being handcuffed to a sinking ship that is more than a little bothersome.

Billy’s face has paled slightly and he’s moving faster now. No matter what he says, he’s feeling the growing sense of urgency as well. While Danny appreciates a strong grasp on reality, he can’t deny that seeing the other man show any signs of losing his composure is somewhat less than reassuring.

Danny can only watch as the Scotsman pulls at the cuffs, lashing out at the duct work to no avail. After a frenetic effort, he seems to sag, sitting back into the water, his chest heaving.

“Any luck there, James Bond?”

Billy looks at him, eyebrow quirked. “This metal is surprisingly sturdy,” he reports.

Danny rolls his eyes. “Go figure,” he mutters. “Usually people like to make their boats so they don’t sink and all.”

Billy just seems perturbed. “You know, perhaps your energies could be better used if you tried to be helpful,” he suggests diplomatically.

Danny snorts. “And how would you suggest I do that?”

“I don’t suppose you have a paperclip, do you?” Billy asks.

“You feel the need to do some office organizing before we die?” Danny quips.

“No, I--”

The answer is lost as the boat rocks again – more violently this time, and Danny has to scramble to keep himself from falling.

As it is, he’s dunked into the water, soaking his torso even as he flails to stay above it. Next to him, Billy is suffering a similar fate, but his eyes are wide as he looks out across the room.

And then Danny sees why.

The most recent shift has sent the boat further on its side. Whereas the water was trickling in before, it’s gushing now, coming in under the door and rising quickly. It’s around Danny’s chest now and Danny can only watch as it laps higher against him.

Billy collects a breath and lets it out. “Well,” he says. “That’s not what I was hoping for.”

It’s a lot less than Danny was hoping for; it’s almost a damn death sentence. Because even if the water’s really not that high in the room, Danny can’t get to full height thanks to the handcuffs and he’s not great with the physics of it all, but he doesn’t need a formula to know that he’s going to die. And soon.

This is disconcerting to Danny because he’s had his mind set on not dying for quite some time now. With all the near death experiences he endures on the job, he’s rather appreciated the fact that he hasn’t died. Because Danny has a daughter and he loves his daughter and he wants to see her grow up and he’s pretty sure that’s not going to happen if his body is entombed under the damn ocean.

The only thing worse than living in Hawaii is dying in Hawaii, and Danny doesn’t want to die.

“It’s not time to despair quite yet,” Billy says next to him.

Danny looks up at him, incredulous. “When would you like to despair?” he snaps. “When the water is to our chins? Or how about when it’s over our heads and we’re not breathing?”

Billy’s face is set, but he shakes his head intently. “They’ll come,” he says, pushing himself upward. “We just need to keep our chins up. Literally.”

Danny manages a scoff.

Billy seems to ignore him. “We have to find the high point,” he says, scooting toward Danny as best he can. It’s cumbersome work in the water and the handcuffs, but as he closes the distance he adds, “The boat is tipped in the other direction. We can buy ourselves a bit of time if we position ourselves as close as we can to that wall.”

With a scowl, Danny works to get his feet beneath him. “Great, so we’ll drown in five minutes instead of three.”

“You know, you are quite the nay sayer,” he says, and his voice is more clipped now.

Danny grunts as he makes his way toward the wall, Billy right behind him. “Right, so it’s my fault,” he says, shaking his head. He’s as far as he can go, and it’s an awkward position but he grounds himself as best he can even as the water threatens to dislodge him. “Excuse me for thinking we might drown when we’re trapped in a sinking ship while handcuffed.”

“With the cavalry inevitably on the way,” Billy assures him.

Before Danny can tell him in no uncertain terms what he can do with his sunny side up attitude, the ship lurches again. It’s less violent this time, but the dip is dramatic and the water swells around them, moving in two seconds from Danny’s shoulder to his chin.

Danny swears, trying to reposition himself but finding only a few more centimeters of height. Billy is taller but farther into the water and seems to be fairing no better.

“Okay,” Billy relents. “I admit this is looking worse now.”

“You think?” Danny asks in accusation.

Billy settles himself back, nodding tightly. “They’ll come, though,” he says again, just as adamant, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. He turns, grinning at Danny. “Nothing like a last minute rescue to make the story even more spectacular, eh?”

Danny looks at him for a long moment, trying to gauge just how serious the CIA operative is.

He thinks he’ll see signs of doubts or deception, but the man actually believes what he says.

Of course he believes what he says. Because apparently Danny is the only sane person in the entire world.

“You have problems, you know that?” Danny asks pointedly.

Much to Danny’s annoyance, Billy nods in ready agreement. “Indeed,” he says. “I think that’s been thoroughly established by now.”

Danny makes a face. “And that doesn’t bother you?”

Billy shrugs. “Seeing as we may be ready to meet our untimely doom, I’m not sure it really matters much.”

“Oh,” he says, thinking of further objection but coming up blank. “I guess you may have a point there.”

There doesn’t seem to be much else to say, but Billy doesn’t seem to know that, but before the Scot can speak again to tell Danny something utterly inane, the boat groans, shifting again. This time, when the water sloshes, it covers Danny’s head.

Just like that, Danny panics, struggling to pull himself up. His arm pulls hard against the handcuff, jerking at the duct, but nothing gives but Danny’s shoulder. The muscles and ligaments scream out, but Danny hardly feels them as his lungs start to demand air.

It doesn’t matter, though, and that’s the kicker. Danny yanks his shoulder clear of his socket and it’s still not enough. Because the water is over his head and the boat is sinking and Danny’s going to die here, like this, right now.

He thrashes in the water, as angry as he is desperate. Because he needs air, he needs air, he needs air.

Next to him, the water is a flurry of bubbles, but Billy’s having no luck either. It’s a slow thing, drowning, and the seconds feel like hours and Danny thinks about how stupid this all is. How he’s going to die here, how he’ll never see Grace, how he’s doing the right thing but it doesn’t mean anything.

The water next to him goes still. He sees Billy floating stilly now, eyes closed and his free arm limp in the water.

Danny doesn’t have time to think about what that means as the neurons in his brain fire once, twice, and he takes an inevitable, gulping breath and water fills his lungs before everything just goes dark.

-o-

There’s really not very much that scares Steve. Gun fights, high speed chases, dangerous suspects: they’re all sort of the norm, as far as Steve’s concerned, and he’s always more focused on getting the job done than worrying about how to get the job done. Danny seems to think this makes Steve dangerous or, at the very least, a little unhinged, but it really just seems practical to Steve.

After all, Steve is trained and he’s good at what he does. He has no reason to be scared because he’ll put his skills against anyone’s every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Hell, three times on Sundays because is honestly not scared of much.

But, in the water, Steve’s scared now.

Chin and Casey have Ito and his gang under control, and Steve trusts Kono and Rick with the escaping seller. When all the pieces of this case are coming together, there’s still that one loose end that threatens to unravel everything.

And it’s up to Steve to stop it.

It’s up to Steve, and he’s trained for this sort of thing, and he’s more scared than he’s been in a long, long time.

It’s the same fear he felt when there had been blood at Mary’s rental. The fear that gripped him when Chin was on his knees with a bomb around his neck. The fear that he first knew when Hesse had called him on the phone and ended everything with a single gunshot.

Fear.

Steve didn’t save his father, but he saved Chin and he saved Mary. He can save Danny, too.

He will save Danny.

Still, the fear is reaching its apex; it’s been building since this mission began, since he saw Danny get taken by gunpoint onto Ito’s boat. He had let Michael talk him out of it – let the CIA operative talk him into control and patience – and Steve can only hope that wasn’t a mistake.

Because swimming through the water, swimming to the boat where he last saw Danny alive, it sure as hell feels a little like a mistake. If anything happens to Danny...

Steve doesn’t let himself think it. Can’t let himself think it. Nothing can happen to Danny.

He’s so focused on this, that it’s almost easy to forget that he’s not alone in this. Stroke for stroke, Dorset is matching his pace. For all that he resents the CIA’s involvement in what should have been his case, he can’t deny that Danny was right: they’re more alike than different and that’s really the problem. There’s only room for one bull headed maverick on this team and that’s Steve’s job, with Kono very thoroughly in training.

But Steve can’t begrudge Michael this, because he understands the fear building in his gut as the ship creaks and groans, tipping precariously in the sea. Michael has a man down there, too, and regardless of how it happened or what Steve thinks of the man, he doesn’t wish that on anyone.

Besides, Steve knows there are two potential victims in the boat – Danny and Collins – and Steve is not going to pretend to hide where his priorities lay. So it may be best that Dorset is with him if Steve’s going to pull this mission off without building up a body count.

And that is part of Steve’s goal. He can hear Danny in his head, oh, since when is that even remotely on your radar? But it is, and Danny knows it.

Closing the last of the distance to the boat, Steve hopes Danny knows it.

At the boat, Steve pulls to a stop, treading water momentarily as he takes stock of the situation. Up close, it’s clear that the boat is in imminent peril. He can’t say for sure how long they’ve got, but it’s a matter of minutes before the entire thing goes down.

The boat is tipping, the deck half submerged in the ocean. There’s smoke billowing from the exposed hull, which has a hole ripped through it from where one of the charges presumably went off. He can smell a sharp odor, which cloys at his nostrils, and he realizes that the ship sinking isn’t the only risk. It might explode first if the fire reaches the gasoline left in the engine.

“They were carrying weapons,” Michael says through slightly stunted breaths as he treads next to Steve. “You can smell it; that’s why the charge caused more damage than intended.”

Steve nods, feeling grim. “And if it hits the engine,” he says knowingly.

Michael inclines his head, spitting water. “Only if it doesn’t sink first.”

Steve takes a breath, resolved. “Then I guess we should hurry,” he says.

It’s clear that Michael doesn’t need to be told twice. “Stick together or separate?” he asks.

Taking a few strokes forward, Steve circumvents the partially submerged rail, moving his way toward the cabin door. Michael is right beside him, stroke for stroke. “Together,” he says, and it’s a tenuous choice, but it’s one he’s sticking to now. There’s not a lot of time and if Danny and Collins have surfaced yet, there’s a reason for it. This means that Steve will probably need help in getting them out, help he won’t have if he and Dorset take different paths. “Either we all get out together or we don’t get out at all.”

It’s a little ominous, but it doesn’t deter Michael. Which is actually another point in the man’s favor, not that Steve is inclined to start cutting anyone any slack, especially at a time like this.

If anything, all of this just motivates Steve to move – faster. He gives up on any kind of analysis and pulls the door to the cabin open with force, and though it resists somewhat, it still yields under Steve’s efforts. Inside, the cabin is shifted, making walking difficult. They have to traipse through the water, which is up to their ankles, until they finally reach the stairs to the lower decks.

This boat isn’t huge, but it’s big enough, and as Steve makes his way down the tight staircase, the boat lurches again and Steve has to brace himself.

The floor isn’t visible under the water, which seems to be trickling in from all directions now. Steve can’t identify a single source of the leak, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

Fortunately, there’s still enough daylight to see through the dim hallways, but as Steve looks up and down the corridor, it’s still a tossup as to which direction to go.

Michael is pressed up behind him. “Any thoughts on where they’d be?”

Steve looks again, frowning. “They’d want to keep them in a secure room,” he says.

Michael cranes his head to look around Steve. “Looks like passenger cabins down that way,” he says. He looks the other direction. “Engine room and other utilities are that way.”

Steve follows his gaze, nodding. “And if I had two questionable passengers that I wanted to stow in a secure location, I wouldn’t be putting them up in comfort.”

“So toward the engine room?” Michael says knowingly.

It’s the same conclusion that Steve has made, but as he gazes down the corridor again, he can’t help but have a twinge of trepidation. Not because he doubts their conclusion – because Steve’s more than somewhat certain on that point – but because that direction is clouded with smoke, even as the water level continues to rise.

There’s no time to spare. As if Steve really needed another reminder.

Still, the thought of Danny somewhere down that hall, in the water and in the smoke, is more than enough to get him moving again.

The hallway is harder to navigate than the cabin above, and as Steve makes his way down, the water is splashing at his waist. The smoke is thicker now, burning in his lungs. Normally Steve would duck under it, but with the water, he just has to endure.

He starts opening the doors indiscriminately, pushing them open on one side of the hall while Michael does the same on the other. The empty rooms are sparsely furnished, but the cabinets seemed stocked for the journey ahead. There’s plenty of cargo space, but no sign of life.

No sign of Danny.

Trudging downward, they’re running out of rooms. The engine room is clearly marked, but Steve knows that checking that room is futile. That’s where the fire and the leak are concentrated. Opening that door could make the entire ship go down even faster or spur on the probable explosion of the engine.

More than that, if Danny and his counterpart are in the engine room, then Steve knows there’s probably not much to rescue.

Steve kicks open the last door on his side unnecessary, feeling a swell of hope. But inside, there’s – water.

A few crates are floating inside, but there’s nothing else.

There’s nothing.

“Hey!” Michael calls suddenly. “I got them!”

Steve startles, turning sharply. He doesn’t waste time stepping up behind Michael, looking intently over the other man’s shoulder as they make their way in the room.

This cabin is smaller than the others with no port hole and no adornments. It seems to be a storage space, and a small one at that, with duct work running along the walls.

At first, that’s all Steve can see. His mind maps out the room’s dimensions, its lack of exits. It’s the prime place to stash someone because it has limited accessibility. It’s easy to control.

That’s the cold, analytical part of Steve’s brain. The rest of him – every last part of him – is looking for the one thing he can’t analyze away.

Michael is ahead of him, wading into the water. It’s deeper here, the boat tipped dangerously and collecting severely to one side of the filling room. He can’t see right away what Michael’s doing, but when the CIA operative splashes forward, half submerged himself, Steve finally sees it.

Finally sees them.

The two figures are hard to see in the dim water, but Steve can see them now. Danny’s blonde hair is visible just under the surface and the Scottish operative’s taller frame is behind him.

Michael is wet up to his neck now as he wades between them. “They’re handcuffed,” he reports, reaching under so his chin is just above the water.

Steve doesn’t reply. Instead, he collects a breath and dives under, keeping his eyes open in the murkiness.

Underneath the surface, it’s easy to see that both men are lax, expressions blank as their limbs waft in the deluge. Most people might think it’s too late, but Steve can’t believe that.

He ignores it for now, reaching down to find the handcuffs. It’s like Michael said; they’re handcuffed, but it’s low to the ground, on a secure duct running above a foot up from the floor. That’s why Danny and Collins are underwater when there’s still air left in the room. They couldn’t get above the waterline, not with their hands keeping them so far down.

This is the bad news, but there’s good news. Because the water level isn’t too far over their heads. Given the rate the room is filling, this means they haven’t been underwater long.

This means there’s still time to save them.

It’s not much hope, but it’s all the hope Steve needs.

Spluttering, he surfaces and looks at Michael. “We need to get the locks undone.”

Michael isn’t looking at him, riffling instead through his soggy wallet. “I know,” he says, pulling out a paperclip. He hands it out to Steve before pulling out another. “I trust you know how to use this?”

Steve accepts it, huffing slightly. “You’re not armed, but somehow you’re still dangerous,” he muses.

Michael inclines his head. “We’re the CIA,” he says. “We don’t have all the fancy bells and whistles like special task forces. We use what we have.”

Steve doesn’t ask any more questions. There’s no time to anyway, not with Michael diving under and the water still rising. With another breath, he goes under again. Neither of them have talked about their plans, but Michael is working on Collins while Steve doesn’t hesitate to pick the lock on Danny’s wrist. It’s not easy to do in the dim water, and Steve’s hands seem to shake slightly as he struggles to keep a hold on the paperclip. He’s skilled at forced entry, but usually his tactics are more force and less finesse, so it’s been a while since he’s picked a lock straight up.

It doesn’t matter, though. Steve’s trained and Steve’s good at what he does and Steve’s never been more motivated than he is right now.

Still, the clip slips and Steve almost drops it. He curses and bubbles come out of his mouth. His lungs are just starting to burn and normally Steve can hold his breath longer than this, but this is Danny.

Limp and lifeless under the water, this is Danny. And that fact changes everything.

The tendrils of desperation tickle his mind, but he can’t give into them. He won’t. Next to him, Michael pushes to the surface, pulling Collins with him.

Bearing down, Steve focuses, willing his fingers to obey. The clips slips into the fail safe and with two good pokes, the mechanism pops free.

Immediately, Steve drops the clip, moving to undo the cuffs and pull Danny’s wrist free.

Pushing off the ground, Steve moves to the surface, wrapping his arm around Danny’s chest as he heaves them both upward and out.

At the surface, Steve sucks in greedily, all too aware that Danny fails to do the same. It’s a numbing fact, but not unexpected, and Steve knows this isn’t over yet.

Michael is treading water now, working to keep Collins’ head above water. The taller man is limp, his head lax against Michael shoulder, even as the CIA operative eyes him expectantly. And Steve notes that he hasn’t left yet, even when he could have, even with his man clearly in need of treatment. “You good?” he asks.

Steve’s jaw works, but he nods. “You could have left, you know,” he says as he struggles to get a better grip on Danny’s body.

“We all go down together or we all get out together,” Michael reminds him.

It’s actually surprising, because while Steve had meant it, he hadn’t meant it. He’s harbored his resentments and made no secret of his lack of trust, and he honestly doesn’t know if their roles had been reversed if Steve would have waited.

Suddenly, the ship lurches again and they’re all thrown to the side. Steve compensates quickly, but looks around the room with fresh worry. “I think it’s time to go,” he says.

Michael is already moving toward the door. “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” he says.

In the hall, the water is too high to walk through and the smoke has severely hindered the visibility. It’s a less than ideal situation, but one glance at Danny’s blue features is all the motivation Steve needs. Because he’s on the clock now in a very real way – and not just before the boat goes down or up in flame, but before it’s too late to bring Danny back.

Michael is just ahead of him, swimming awkwardly with Collins in tow. It’s slow work, and by the time they make it to the stairs, Steve’s frustration is about at its breaking point. When they make it up the water laden stairs, Steve fans out, kicking with force against the stagnant water. He’s at the open door when the boat shifts again and everything shakes dramatically as the boat drops sharply.

This is it, and Steve knows it from experience. He has just enough time to get himself and Danny out before the entire thing goes down.

In this, survival is key. Saving Danny is paramount – at all costs.

But he remembers Michael stepping into the fight in the alley. Staying behind to ensure Danny got out. They all get out together...

Or they don’t get out at all.

It’s almost counterintuitive, but Danny’s showed him a thing or two about teamwork. And maybe that can extend beyond 5-0. Maybe today it has to.

Pausing at the doorway, Steve turns back. The cabin is almost full now and Michael is struggling, his head going under as he tries to pull Collins the last of the distance. Sparing a glance at Danny, Steve takes one last gulp of air and dives back.

Under the water, he holds Danny close to him. As he closes the gap toward Michael, he sees the CIA operative still kicking with purpose even as the taller man weighs him down. Gravity is working against them all now, and Steve figures he’s got about one shot to pull this off.

One shot is all he needs.

Without hesitating he grabs Michael’s wrist. The other man looks up, surprised, but when Steve nods, Michael nods back. That’s all the incentive Steve needs to turn back toward the door and spring forward with all the force he has to muster. For the normal person, it’d be impossible. But Steve is a SEAL and he’s trained for underwater work.

Even so, it’s a near miss as he surges toward the door, pulling the others along with him. Michael helps out as best he can, and together, they propel themselves through the open door and into the water beyond.

The boat is almost down now, the deck gone and the top of the cabin sinking after it quickly. Steve steels himself against the burning in his lungs and keeps his grips secure as he kicks one last time in an attempt to pull them free of the boat’s downward momentum.

It’s perilous work and the pull of the boat’s downward spiral is pressing. But Steve doesn’t let it get the better of him – get the better of any of them. His vision is tunneling but the surface is near and Steve is nothing if not focused on the goal.

Air.

Rescue.

Completion.

Steve doesn’t realize he’s hit the surface until the sun blinds him and only when he hears Michael gasp next to him does Steve remember to breathe.

The breath is gulping, deep and desperate, and when he looks around, he sees Michael treading water next to him, Collins still slumped in his arms.

Heaving, Steve looks to Danny, who is still pressed against him, body limp and pale in the now glaring sunlight.

They’ve made it this far, but it’s not over yet.

“Hey!” Michael is yelling, voice hoarse with sea water as he waves his free hand. “Hey!”

Steve turns, following Michael’s gaze. Bobbing nearby is Chin’s boat and Malick is leaning over the edge with his arms down, ready to pluck Danny from his arms.

It’s against Steve’s instincts to let go, but he doesn’t have a choice. He shifts, letting Malick grab Danny under his armpits and together they heave him onto the deck. Steve turns and Michael’s already in position, and soon Collins is on board as well.

No one offers Steve a hand, and Steve doesn’t intend to wait for one. He’s pulling himself on board, Michael not far behind, because the case is closed but the mission isn’t over.

Dripping wet on the deck, Steve looks down at Danny and Collins, laid out on the deck. They’re both blue – not breathing, and Casey is bent over in barely control panic.

This mission isn’t close to over yet.

NEXT