A/N: Next to last chapter. In the meantime, my luggage is… somewhere in the world, my body doesn't know what time zone it lives in, my belongings are scattered across 3 or 4 different 'homes' and we're moving 600 miles away. And I need a new job.
On the plus side, I can probably turn the baggage issues into a hilarious story with our two favorite team…
Last time: Jamel grasped the inside of the car's frame and reached outside.
The precious water bottles floated just beyond his fingers.
Jamel leaned further, stretching precariously over the empty air.
Danny knew he wouldn't get a better chance. Clenching his teeth, he kicked.
"Danny? Danny, can you hear me?"
Danny heard, but it didn't register. His eyes fixated on his arm. The force of the kick and the sudden shift of the car against the cables had jolted his arm, and now, despite the cast, the bone had punctured the skin.
It didn't hurt as bad as he thought it would. In fact, it didn't hurt at all really. Not yet.
He stared at the jagged bit of bone and the blood oozing out around the edges of the skin and wondered why he wasn't screaming in agony. It shouldhurt. Somewhere inside, his body instinctively knew it should be hurting; it understood something was horribly wrong. His stomach roiled, and Danny suddenly turned away, spitting up bile.
Then he lay there, throat burning. How was there anything left? He thought he'd emptied his stomach earlier.
The acrid odor of the acid ushered in a fresh wave of nausea, and he retched one more time, then turned his head quickly away.
His throat ached. Danny wiped a shaking hand across his mouth. "I'm here," he tried to call out, his voice scratching just above a whisper. He turned his head toward the empty doorway where Jamel had crouched just moments before. "Steve?" he tried again. He realized the car was tilted again, angled toward the open doorway. One of the cables must have slipped. Reaching out, Danny snagged the nearest seatbelt and wrapped it around his good arm. "I could use some help here!" he called hoarsely as the car shuddered and listed another several inches.
"Danny, if you can hear me, sit tight. We're coming down to you."
We. We are coming down. Did that mean Steve was coming down, too? Danny's eyes watered and he clenched his teeth against the searing pain in his arm. Something clanged against the floor- no, the roof- of the car as a new rope was lowered, but Danny barely heard it. His arm hurt, bad. He moaned, trying not to scream.
"Sir? Detective Williams?"
Danny cracked open one eye and saw a watery image of the same young man- Gary? Gavin?- suspended on a rope outside the door.
"Sir, can you hear me?" the man asked.
"Yeah," Danny grunted tersely. He swallowed as the car swayed slightly.
"How are you feeling?"
"Hurts." Danny knew his eyes were wet. A pained hiss escaped his lips. "Bad."
"I bet so. Looks like the car really did a number on you," Gavin said sympathetically, adjusting something on his harness.
Danny squinted at something outside, just behind Gavin. "Water?" he rasped. He licked his lips and looked hopefully at Gavin. The bottles Steve had sent down for the ruse glittered outside in the sunlight, still just beyond reach. Danny wasn't sure how much longer he could last without water. His lips had cracked, his throat was brutally sore, and the bile had left a nasty aftertaste in his mouth.
Gavin pulled himself carefully inside the car and inched across to Danny's position. "No can do, sorry. We've got to get you out of here."
Fresh tears sprang to Danny's eyes. "Need water," he begged hoarsly.
"I hear you, but until we know the extent of your injuries, no water." Gavin managed a sympathetic half-smile and pulled a small baggie out of his pocket. "But I can give you this. You can suck on that, just don't swallow," he said, placing the damp cloth in Danny's good hand.
Irritated, Danny stuck a corner of the cloth in his mouth and closed his eyes as Gavin poked and prodded.
"Better?" Gavin was already examining Danny's arm.
"Mm," Danny grunted, feeling marginally less like a desert. The cloth did nothing to ease his pain. "Still hurts."
"Your arm? I bet it does." Gavin jotted down some notes. Then he pulled out a walkie-talkie and read off some numbers.
Danny blinked hazily. "Sorry," he mumbled as the hot stench of vomit wafted unpleasantly through the air.
"Hey, no problem brah. See this all the time." Unfazed, Gavin maneuvered himself above Danny's head and began to examine something along his scalp.
Danny winced as Gavin hit a tender spot.
"Can't even smell it anymore," the medic continued, dabbing at the spot again. "Got a nasty cut here."
"Just one?" Danny tried to joke. It kept his mind off his arm. He squinted as Gavin shone a light in his eyes. "Ow."
"Sorry," Gavin responded unapologetically. "Definite concussion. Were you unconscious?"
Danny grunted affirmative and closed his eyes as the light pulled away.
"Uh…" Danny tried to do the math in his head. "3… 4… don't know," he finally gave up.
"Okay, okay," Gavin said easily.
The car groaned and shifted again. Danny tensed, unable to tell which direction it had tilted.
"Hey, relax brah. They just pulled it up again. They've got us."
"Easy for you to say," Danny murmured around the damp napkin. You can leave anytime you want,he thought, but was too tired to vocalize. Danny heard the scratching of a pen on his notepad as Gavin jotted more notes.
"I'm going to stabilize your arm next. Not gonna lie, Detective Williams- it's going to hurt."
"Still got that napkin I gave you?"
Danny clenched his teeth down on it and squeezed his eyes shut. "Mhm." He felt Gavin's hands on his arm and winced. "That's it?"
Gavin barked a short laugh. "I haven't even started."
Danny briefly passed out. When he opened his eyes again, he found Gavin frowning worriedly a few inches from his face.
"We need to get you out of here. You don't look good."
"You think?" Danny snarked hoarsely. His eyes passed over the plastic and gauze stabilizing his arm. Then he heard something and tensed. "Noise?"
"Rescue team had to re-stabilize the car. Again."
Danny noticed a slight rocking motion.
"They should be on their way down now. They'll remove the other windshield and slide you out the bottom- well, the top- of the vehicle." Gavin scooted across the car toward the open door.
"Where… uh?" Danny waved his good hand loosely. He didn't want to be left alone again.
"Relax, brah. I've got a present for you." Winking, Gavin slid out of the car and was hoisted out of sight.
Danny wrinkled his nose, annoyed. "Not good time… for surprises," he muttered, closing his eyes.
"Really?" a new voice answered. "I'll just go back up, then."
Danny's eyes shot open. "Steve?"
"Hey. Just take it easy." Steve unclipped from the rope and folded his large frame into the car. Edging toward Danny's position, he grinned and settled in just above his head. "Hey buddy."
"Hey," Danny tried to grin back, but failed. Distracting pain radiated from his broken arm. "You part of… rescue team?"
"Something like that."
"Rope?" Danny looked pointedly at the empty carabiner on Steve's harness.
"Eh," Steve shrugged. "How you holding up?"
Danny pulled at his sweaty shirt collar with his good hand. "Roasted turkey in the oven." Four words together. He gasped as another surge of pain took his breath away. "Any way… they can… can hurry up?"
"They're working on it," Steve said, ignoring Danny's irritated huff. "Sending a board down now."
"A board?" Flushing, Danny tried to push himself up, but Steve held him back. "I don't…"
"You were in a bad wreck; it's just a precaution."
"Ugh," but Danny was too hot and uncomfortable to think of anything else to say. "What, uh… what happened… to Jamel?"
Steve glanced toward the door. "You don't need to worry about him."
Danny grimaced. Another figure appeared in the doorway and shoved a board toward Steve.
"Detective, we'll have you out of there in just a few minutes."
"Great." Danny tried to hold still as they transitioned him onto a backboard, but couldn't help the grunt of pain as his arm was jolted in the process. Foam pads were placed on either side of his head, effectively locking him into place. Then a large blanket was wrapped over his legs to protect him from glass before someone else began working on the windshield. Steve stayed at his side the whole time, holding his good hand and, Danny noticed, attempting to surreptitiously check his pulse.
"No touchy-feely," Danny quipped, pulling away. "I'm fine." The blanket exacerbated the hot stickiness of the car-oven and he wondered if his body would spontaneously combust at some point. "Done?"
"Them? Yeah, they're almost done. Just don't move."
Like I can do anything else. But Danny was, perhaps for the first time in his life, tired of talking. Strapped in as he was, Danny couldn't even turn his head to get a breath of fresh air. The hard pads holding his head firmly in place kept his eyes pointed toward the seat above his head. Between the heat and the blanket and the rather packed car, he felt more than a little claustrophobic.
"What's wrong?" Steve had noticed Danny beginning to pant.
"Move… a little… left?"
Frowning, Steve scooted a few inches over. "Why?" Glancing behind him, he saw the open doorway. "Oh."
"Need… to breathe." The air was still stagnant, but the sight of blue sky provided some relief. "What's he doing?" Immobile, Danny pointed with his eyes to the man beside Steve, who was brandishing a large needle.
"IV with fluids, Detective Williams," the man said. "This may pinch."
Danny eyed the needle apprehensively. His arm still throbbed and he wished the needle contained some of the good stuff. "I don't get… a say in this… do I?"
The man laughed. "Nope. Sorry sir."
Steve squeezed his hand. "Tell me about the wreck. You've told me about Jamel, but I haven't heard how you flipped your neighbor's car off a cliff yet." With a chuckle, Steve added, "How are you going to pay him back, anyway?"
"No clue. Don't need a car payment… on top of everything."
"So Jamel? What happened?"
Danny closed his eyes and tried to think back to the wreck early that morning. "It's kind of hazy." He tried to ignore his arm, but it was increasingly hard to do. "Jamel took me… to the car… drove downtown… I almost made it… to the Palace," Danny flashed a grin. "Then he caught on."
"What did he do?"
"Uh, waved the gun around… stuff… threatening remarks… you know." Danny's fingers mimed the actions in miniature. "Idiot tried to cuff me… to the steering wheel. Didn't realize… I couldn't turn the wheel…"
"This isn't like the movies, Jamel. You can't actually drive while handcuffed to the wheel in real life. Besides, I'm not going anywhere- you have the gun."
"Fine. Just… hold still," Jamel grunted, leaning over to unfasten the handcuffs. "There? Happy."
"Just peachy." Danny flexed both wrists. "Think we can leave the parking lot now? Or are you going to find something else to complain about?"
"Do you ever shut up?" Jamel cut off his response with a wave of the gun. "Just… just drive, okay."
"Where to?" Danny asked in response, pulling onto the road. "Ala Moana? Diamond Head?"
"Uh, yeah. Diamond Head."
The next fifteen minutes passed in silence. The skyscrapers of downtown passed away behind them and they entered the suburbs, skirting the base of Diamond Head as traffic slowly dwindled.
"So what happened next?"
Danny blinked. The medic had finished with the IV and was now pressing gently on Danny's abdomen. "Ow."
"That hurts?" The man pressed again, confirming Danny's wince. He jotted something down in his notepad. "."
"Danny." Steve tapped his arm. "What happened next?"
"Uh…George. George happened…" but Danny didn't get a chance to explain. There was suddenly a low cracking noise and, with a shudder, the windshield pulled away. A rush of cool air filled the space and Danny's eyes were suddenly damp. He blinked as tears rolled away down the side of his face, unable to wipe them away.
"Yeah, yeah," Danny sniffed. "Just the fresh air, you know?"
"Mmm." Steve patted him on the arm.
"You tell anyone I cried and I'll beat you up," Danny added.
Steve raised an eyebrow and made no comment.
"Commander, shouldn't you be on rope?" one of the newcomers asked, peering in through the new opening.
"Already told him," another man grunted. "We're ready, sir, whenever you are."
And after that, there was nothing to say. The fasteners were checked, several ropes and cables were brought in, Danny's backboard was settled into a wire frame which they slid through the car, and suddenly he was lowered through the windshield and out into the sunlight. The world tilted and wavered as the basket swung away from the car. Bright sunlight flashed across the sea and a stiff wind buffeted his gurney back and forth above the waves. Unable to turn his head, he closed his eyes to the vertigo and rubbed his fingers nervously against the straps as a crane hoisted him to the top of the cliff.
Someone cheered. A crowd of people surrounded him, and there was more prodding and poking, but no more questions. Another person unfastened him from the basket, and Steve appeared a few minutes later to help lift the backboard and carry him toward the waiting ambulance.
"Hang on, stop," Danny suddenly blurted.
"Turn me around."
One of the medics frowned, but Steve knew what he wanted. Motioning to the others to follow, he turned Danny's board toward the cliff and tilted him until the wreck was visible. Balanced precariously between two narrow prongs of the cliff, the car swayed slightly, bucking against the cables anchoring it in place. Both ends were smashed, all but one window shattered, and the driver's side had been nearly caved in.
Danny gulped. "I was in that? In there?" He wasn't sure how the car had even landed like that.
"They said it was a miracle you survived," Steve said, a frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. Danny suddenly appreciated just how much stress the SEAL must have been under while watching helplessly from the top of the cliff. "Just one inch, maybe less, and you'd both have been dead."
Danny swallowed thickly. "One inch?"
"I think I'm going to pass out."
Steve rubbed his arm. "Hey, you're safe now. You're all good."
"No, I mean… I really think I'm… I'm going to pass… pass…" Unable to focus, Danny had trouble finishing. The world spun in a dizzying circle and he suddenly felt very lightheaded.
"Danny?" Steve's face appeared above him. "Stay with me, buddy. We're headed to the hospi…"
But Danny didn't hear him.