Sitting somewhere in the middle of the Crimean Mountains, Steve played the upcoming mission through in his head. Each step, each turn, each action was filled away in his mind and had been practiced a million times in training runs. Every possibly important information was known, as well as the risk involved and none of it was shockingly new for Steve. But still he felt like a wire was strung too tight and about to snap inside him. That wasn’t ideal to start with. Being that uptight held a certain risk to zone at the slightest disruption and that would jeopardize the mission and his men. Steve couldn’t risk that.
He stared up at the blue afternoon sky and tried to ease his mind into focus. He didn’t need a guide to lead him through meditations, although it would have been nice to have one this time. Their mission was due to start in a few moments, so the luxury of meeting with a local guide was utterly ridiculous.
A slight headache crept behind his eyes. It set all his senses into alarm mode, because headaches normally were a sign for an oncoming zone or at least the very likely possibility thereof.
Fuck, he probably needed a guide after all. Just to tone the headache down. He needed a clear mind for this mission; his men depended on him and his sanity. He thought about calling the service hotline of the Navy Guild to be put up with a guide to go through a simple grounding exercise over the phone at least. But somehow that thought alone made the headache even stronger.
Suddenly, an idea formed itself and Steve wasn’t able to get rid of it, no matter how hard he tried to tell himself that he definitely shouldn't go after it. But he couldn’t really bring himself to care. The mission was threatened with him slightly unstable like that. So, with a suddenly fast pounding heart he pulled the satphone out of the pocket of his vest and dialed a number he knew by heart. After a few rings, an amused female voice answered: “Commander. How do I owe this pleasure?”
“Cath, I need a favor.” Steve rubbed with his free hand over his face. He didn’t feel good about this one, but he couldn’t shake his mind off the idea anymore. Or off a certain calloused hand-shake.
She was silent for a moment. “Where are you?”
“On a mission. I’m sorry for calling you like this, but I need … I need a guide, Cath. I’m not feeling right and I need someone to shake me out of it.”
“Alright, no worry, I’ll get you one on the phone. The grads of this year are really great –“
“No, Cath, no grad. I … could you look up someone, who visited the base at Pearl a few weeks back?”, he interrupted her, already feeling worse for asking that kind of favor from her.
Cath hesitated. “You know that is actually no information you should have access to? Privacy protection and all that?”
“Yes, I know, and I wouldn’t be asking, but I know that it’ll work, ok? He grounded me before quite efficiently. Name’s Danny – Daniel Williams. And, Cath. Please keep this call down. I don’t want the Navy Guild catch a whiff on that one and pull him in just because, you know …”
“You owe me dinner”, Cath sighed and Steve could hear her working the keyboard already. He smirked relieved.
“You’ll get the best steaks on this planet.”
“At least. I’ll put you through. Good luck, Commander.” Her voice was cut off, before Steve could answer that, and was replaced by tooting. It rang several times and Steve already thought that no one would answer, when a sleepy voice cracked through the receiver, thousands of miles away.
“That better be important, Meka, because I’m gonna miss my beauty sleep.”
Steve’s heart tumbled at the sound of Danny’s voice.
“Hello? If this is some fucking joke –“
“No! No. It’s … it’s Steve.” Steve gripped the short hair at the back of his head tightly, as he waited anxiously for Danny to break the heavy silence that had followed his words.
Finally, the phone cracked again. “Steve? SEAL Commander Steve?”
“What happened? You alright?” Danny suddenly sounded wide-awake and alarmed, ready to do God knew what, although he wouldn’t be able to actually help Steve if he were in serious trouble. It made Steve’s chest clench in guilt.
“Shit, sorry, forgot about the time shift. I woke you up. I’m fine, sorry for the disturbance”, Steve stammered. Just hearing Danny’s voice for a minute had already eased some of the pressure on his eyeballs.
“You are not, don’t try to kid me”, Danny said matter-of-factly. Something rustled and Steve imagined Danny turning on the light of his nightstand and sitting upright in his bed. Some nice warm bed with no biting winds that made your eyes water.
“What time is it?”, Steve asked softly. The tight clutch around his ribcage lessened a bit.
“Uhm, three in the morning.”
“Oh shit. Sorry, Danny.”
“Yeah, too late for that now”, he chuckled. The warm sound sent a shiver through Steve’s gut and made his headache disappear. “So, what’s up? Where in the world did you get that number from?”
“I’m on a mission. Sorry, can’t tell you much about it, but I … I got a headache and think it could grow into a zone with the next trigger, so I asked a friend of mine to look up your number. It won’t show, promise. I’m really sorry, I just called like that, but I uhm, I need … could you just tell me something?” This sounded so stupid, even to himself. The request was so ridiculous and childish in Steve’s ears, like he was five years old and afraid of the boogeyman.
Danny was silent again and Steve cursed himself. Of course Danny wasn’t amused about being woken up in the middle of the night (and whoever this Meka was – maybe even another sentinel Danny was seeing, for he knew right to nothing about Danny at all – he probably had called unwantedly a couple of times in the middle of the night as well) and might be downright pissed that Steve had sort of hacked a navy system to get his number.
But when Danny did speak again, his voice was soft and warm. “What do you want to hear? I’m afraid I’m a bad storyteller. Ask Grace, she always corrects me when I read to her.”
His words took such a load off Steve’s mind that he almost choked on his next words: “Then tell me about Grace.”
Steve sat there, head hanging between his shoulders and his free hand absently brushing over his short hair, so no one would see his smile that spread across his face secretly, as Danny started telling about Grace. This moment was his sanctuary and no outsider should be part of it, not even one of his buddies. He listened to Danny’s doubts about Grace taking surfing lessons (dangerous currents and sharks and Grace in a bikini, oh no, thank you), which led to her love of dolphins and that they were going to the zoo next weekend to see and feed them. He tried to save some money to buy them a night at the Kahala Hotel, because they had dolphins you could swim with and he wanted Grace to have a memorable first birthday on Hawaii. Danny talked about Grace growing up in Jersey, how his marriage flopped and smacked him in the face and how he ended in that pineapple-infested hell-hole in the end. Because pineapple on pizza? So wrong! Everything was wrong on Hawaii: too much sunshine, too many beaches, too ridiculously cliché with all the surfers and rainbows and palm trees.
Danny just went on with Steve listening silently or maybe humming in agreement and it felt so beautifully normal that it made Steve’s chest ache once more. His headache was completely gone, his mind settled and relaxed, his pulse again on a steady rhythm.
“Hey, you still there?” asked Danny, voice a bit hoarse. Steve decided that he liked that sound. It reminded him of lazy Sunday mornings. Oh, dangerous territory, McGarrett.
“Yeah. Thank you, Danny.”
He heard a hearty yawn over the line. “Sorry, I feel like I’ve gone through a really relaxing meditation myself.” Danny laughed and Steve decided that he liked that sound even better. “You’ll be good, babe?”
“Ba- did you just call me babe?”, Steve laughed lighthearted.
“It’s a Jersey thing!”
Steve practically saw the toothy grin Danny must have on his face. He shook his head, still smiling. “I’m sorry, but I have to go now. Thank you, Danny, I mean it.”
Danny hummed. “Just don’t get blown up, ok?” His voice was soft, almost inaudible over the cracking connection. Steve wondered, if he was actually falling asleep again.
“See you around, Danny.”
The line went dead and Steve felt oddly alone. He blinked into the bright sun, trying to bring his focus back to the here and now. Mike appeared on the hill carrying his full equipment already.
“We’re ready to go in ten, Commander.”
Steve nodded, the upcoming mission razor sharp at the front of his mind again. He stowed away the warm feeling that the call with Danny had left inside him for later, when there was time to indulge in it properly. Right now, he had to take his men in and out of that op.
Steve rose, stashing the satphone back into his pocket. He knew it was completely nonsense, but he liked to think that Danny was somehow watching out for him.