Catherine was working on some data analysis from a satellite for a mission they had been preparing for for quite some time now, as she got notice of the incoming call. Her commanding officer answered the call and Catherine was bound to dismiss the sudden tension in his shoulders and his even more clipped than usual answers.
“Lieutenant, get our military hospital ward ready for an injured and zoned Navy SEAL sentinel”, he barked at her.
She nodded and quickly asked before he could storm off: “Which sense? And what kind of injuries?”
“Sight and hearing, probably touch as well. He got hit by a collapsing building, probably concussion.”
She cursed under her breath as she dialed the ward. Zones on more than one sense alone were difficult, but dealing with something like a concussion on top of that was a nightmare. She had set up the ward in seconds and then jogged down to the landing zone to see if they needed anything. The landing zone was already buzzing with people, which were pulling a barrow out of the dark Sea Stallion that still chopped its blades through the air. Catherine couldn’t make out much, just a lifeless, filth-smeared and blood-stained figure, covered with an oxygen mask and hooked on several IVs the paramedics held high in the air. They ran past her, the doctors already shouting for an OR. She just got a glimpse of a bloodied, pale face, but the acidly smell of agony hit her like a freight train right in her gut. She slapped a hand over her nose and mouth before she could think about it. Her feet felt numb and glued to the spot, because underneath all that nauseating stench lay something very familiar.
She knew that sentinel. That was Steve, fighting for his life.
Catherine forced herself out of her sudden shock and ran after the hospital staff, just to be held back by one of them.
“Sorry Lieutenant, but you can’t go in.”
“How is he?”, she asked desperately rather than demanding and maybe that was, what actually got her an answer in return.
“Stable, but his injuries are severe. A rib punctuated his lung, it collapsed, but we were able to stabilize it with a pleural drainage. He got a concussion and his back is deeply cut from the debris. He suffered a gunshot wound to his stomach as well as a dislocated left shoulder. What really worries us are his zones. We have to perform surgery because of his lung, the bullet wound and his shoulder with a heavy sedate and if he can’t get out of those zones quickly after the surgery, we need to take in the possibility of a coma for an unpredictable amount of time.”
“He may never wake up again? Caught in his zone?”, Catherine asked with a shaky voice. Being caught in a zone was the worst possible situation a sentinel could ever experience. Cut off from the outside world with no anchor to ground yourself onto, you were going insane in your own head. Although this could drag on for years, the results were the same; sooner or later the sentinel would die.
“He has a guide?”, the medic asked. “If so, get them here fast. Or get any guide. The sooner they get the sentinel out of his zones, the better.” He left her, hurrying after the others in the direction of the OR.
Catherine didn’t waste any time either and rushed off in the other direction. Guide, she needed to find Steve a guide. She almost missed her workstation in her haste and hurriedly pulled up Steve’s file with just a few clicks on her keyboard. Having access to almost any information with the navy never came in handier.
She scrolled through the content of the file. Guide … were was that damned list of Steve’s guides … Description … Physical abilities … Background/Heritage … Damn, it had to be somewhere! She scrolled back, her eyes flying over the words. There!
Bond status: unbonded.
Registered guide: Lieutenant Freddie Hart (deceased in battle 2010/09).
Registered temporary guide: Lieutenant Matt Bricks (2010/10 – 2011/06), Warrant Officer Dean Chester (2011/08 – 2011/12), Petty Officer Susan Nguyen (2012/06 – 2012/07), Petty Officer John José Perez (2013/09).
Catherine stared at the dates. September 2013. That was over half a year ago. Steve hadn’t had a guide, not even a temporary one for more than nineteen months? How could he still function? How could he still be such an excellent SEAL?
That couldn’t be. No one could live without some guiding for such a long time, even more so when your first guide had died in battle. Not even Steve was that tough. She read the names again. They said her nothing; she couldn’t remember meeting one of them, so they probably had been assigned to Steve by request of the navy. She wanted to smack herself on the head desperately as she suddenly realized that Steve did have a guide. Of some sorts. She twisted her mind over the name Steve had asked her to look up the last times he had called. Fuck, why couldn’t she remember, it hadn’t been that a difficult name. Will … William something. William Deeds? Dean … Dean William? Daniel Williams!
She hacked the name into the program and dialed the number displayed on her monitor. Her finger hovered over the call button, as she suddenly remembered Steve’s plea to keep Danny out of any official search, afraid to raise red flags within the Navy Guild. Shit. She eyed her monitor again and the official search request she had made in the database. Shit shit shit. Now, there would be questions, no doubt. But this was about Steve, who might die if he didn’t get a guide. Steve, who might never wake up again. Praying that later both Steve and this Danny may understand, why she had to do, what she did right now, she hit the call button on the phone. Impatiently she drubbed her fingers on the table as she waited for the call to connect.
Pick up, she thought with all her willpower. Pick up, come on!
Finally, it clicked and a voice answered. “Detective Williams.”
Catherine was shortly taken aback by the Detective, but she pushed her surprise aside. Later, Steve first. “Detective Williams, my name is Lieutenant Sentinel Catherine Rollins of the US Navy. I may have a very unusual request, but I wouldn’t call if it weren’t urgent. I presume you are acquainted with Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett?”
“Yes, I am. What happened?” He sounded suddenly highly alerted and she hated that she had to call with such bad news, confirming his obvious worry.
“Detective, Commander McGarrett … Steve had been severely injured on a mission. He’s in surgery right now. But the problem is that he zoned before he passed out. He’s still caught and the medics fear that he will stay comatose even after the sedatives wear off.”
“I know this is a big request, but since you’re the only guide I know of, who Steve had been working with lately –“
“What can I do?”, he interrupted her. A huge weight dropped off Catherine’s tense shoulders.
“Would it be possible for you to take a few days off and come to see Steve personally? We would fly you in, our base is somewhere in the Pacific right now. Sorry, I can’t be more specific.”
“That’s OK, Lieutenant Rollins.” She could hear a faint smile in his voice. Although he wasn’t her guide and they were speaking to each other for the first time (and not in person, just over the phone), she felt calmness soothing over her agitated senses. Williams was a strong guide. Hopefully strong enough to pull Steve out of his prison.
“I need to make some arrangements, but I could be ready tomorrow morning?”, he said after a short pause.
Catherine glanced at her watch and did a quick calculation. “We could pick you up in six hours, would that be possible? I know it’s the middle of the night at Hawaii at that time, but it would buy Steve some precious hours.”
“Yeah, I’ll give my best. Captain’s not gonna take that easy”, he sighed, but sounded determined all the same.
She felt a smile sneak on her lips. “If he’s being a bit too difficult, please call this number.” She rattled off the digits of her commanding officer’s direct access. He hopefully wouldn’t mind.
The hours after Catherine’s conversation with Williams dragged like sticky tar. Steve had been out of surgery after two hours, still peppered with various IVs and connected to a lot of peeping machines. Catherine was just allowed to pay him a visit behind a glass door and a window, since the presence of another sentinel could cause him even more distress and push him further into the zone. He looked pale and ragged in the white sheets, his dark hair a stark contrast.
Her shift for today was actually over, but she wouldn’t leave her workstation once she had been shooed away from Steve’s sick bed by some nurses, too riled up to consider sleeping. She waited anxiously for Williams to arrive and therefore a place near those phones was better than her sleeping quarters.
It was nearly four in the morning, when one of the phones finally rang. Her commanding officer barked into the receiver and gave Catherine a sharp nod. She jumped from her seat and hurried over to the landing area, which was still relatively busy, but she still spotted him almost right away. Williams wore a rumpled shirt with a tie, most likely the same attire he had worn all day at work. He looked tired and glanced skeptical at his surroundings. From his voice alone, Catherine had somehow imagined a tall man with a dark beard and some silver in his hair. Being confronted with a man being in his thirties and shorter than herself, but with a shoulder-to-waist-ratio like a pit bull was a little surprise. She tried to picture Steve with him, but somehow it wouldn’t fit.
“Please, Danny’s just fine”, he said as she came over, voice rough from napping in a helicopter. His accent was rich, though, and she tried to place him. Definitely not Hawaiian.
“Lieutenant Catherine Rollins. Thank you for coming over, we really appreciate it.”
He simply nodded. “What happened?”, he asked as they made their way through the base to the hospital ward.
Right to the point. She sighed inwardly. “A mission went south. I can’t tell you much, but the building, where Steve and his team were supposed to draw out a camp of gun dealers working for several terrorist organizations, was under heavy attack. They had special anti-sentinel weaponry and three of our men dropped into a zone. Steve was the furthest into the building, so when it collapsed it buried him alive until our men were able to fight off the rebels and call in for back-up.”
“What happened to the guides?”
Catherine quickly glanced at him sideways. “There were none.”
Williams halted so abruptly as if he had run into a glass wall. “There were no – what do you mean, there were no guides? You sent your sentinels on such dangerous missions without a single guide?! You risk their lives as well as their mental healthiness deliberately?” The small duffle in his hand swung wildly as he underlined each question with a wide gesture. He slowly stalked forward again, eyes narrowed at her as if she was responsible for Steve’s current condition. “I don’t know where to start with actually. You can’t sent in a group of unbondend, unguided sentinels into a warzone and then hope for the best!”
“Detective Williams, Danny,” said Catherine in her hopefully best soothing voice. “It is not our place to discuss this subject. We just need you to help Lieutenant Commander Sentinel Steve McGarrett to come back from unconsciousness and out of these zones.”
Williams took a deep breath and visibly willed the words down that lay undoubtedly at the tip of his tongue. She understood fewer and fewer why Steve had requested the assistance of this guide twice or more. He didn’t seem to have any treat in him that was sought after in guides: calmness, composure and balance. Williams seemed to have more in common with a bulldozer than an anchor. A very loud and mouthy bulldozer. She almost regretted calling him in. She didn’t know either how he was able to soothe her over the phone earlier, but maybe that was because of Catherine’s own inner picture of a calm and centered guide.
“Alright,” Williams said, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “Zones. As in plural. I won’t comment. Which senses?”
Catherine swallowed her sharp reply. “We’re not hundred per cent sure, but we guess hearing, sight and touch. The medics already tried standard stimuli, but he wouldn’t respond.”
They walked the rest of the way in silence that felt like a heavy weight. She finally stopped at the door of Steve’s room, looking through the window next to the glass door. Steve lay there exactly like he had when she had visited earlier. Her stomach turned in knots at the thought that he may never wake up again.
A hand on her shoulder startled her out of that dangerous train of thoughts. Williams looked at her with soft eyes and suddenly she felt reassured and a lot calmer. There was the guide again, who had soothed her over the phone without knowing her.
“He’ll be fine. He’s a fighter and a SEAL, he won’t be stopped by a zone, Lieutenant.”
Catherine nodded at that. Something like hope was rising inside her at his words and she quickly waved over a nurse. Time to get Steve out of these zones. After a short briefing, Williams – Danny – was ushered inside. The rest of them had to keep out, although a team of medics, nurses and doctors as well as several commanding officers and Tony and José from Steve’s SEAL team, who were the only ones without serious injuries, gathered one by one in front of the door and the window.
Catherine gave Tony and José a tiny nod and they came over to stand at her side.
“Who’s that?” Tony asked, jerking his chin in the general direction of Steve and Danny.
“A guide Steve had seen a couple of times. Unofficially. He’s his only regular so far,” she said quietly. Inside, Danny had dropped the duffle in a corner and slowly made his way over to Steve, talking without grand gestures this time. It was too hushed to make out the words, but it looked intimate.
“Unofficially? This means, not even his temp, then? Huh, I’ll be surprised if that’s gonna work,” huffed Tony and crossed his arms. A white bandage covered the thick muscles of his upper arm. Tony wasn’t a sentinel himself and sometimes the whole guide-concept got lost on him.
“It’s the only one Steve seems familiar with. We just have to hope for the best.”
Tony grunted and watched on. Danny was now sitting on the bed, beside Steve, one of his hands in his own. He still told Steve something as he slowly took off the oxygen mask of Steve’s face. A nurse drew in a sharp breath and hissed: “What the hell is he doing? That’s not standard protocol!”
A doctor patted her on the back. “Everything’s alright so far, Evelyn, his vitals are stable. Maybe unorthodox methods are exactly what is needed here.”
After that, Danny just seemed to sit there and talk to Steve. What he was saying must be far from standard protocol as well, because it didn’t look like he was guiding Steve through meditation exercises, but did actually tell him some story. His arm that didn’t hold Steve’s hand was gesturing again, although he toned it done, but obviously he couldn’t help it. Now and then even a smile crossed his face.
Catherine was fascinated. That was the most uncommon attempt at pulling a sentinel out of several zones she had ever witnessed. Tony seemed to agree, but not in a positive way, if she interpreted his impatient grunting right.
She didn’t know how long they stood there and watched Danny talk, but suddenly something must have changed, because Danny stopped mid-sentence and leaned forward, touching Steve’s face with his free hand. Everyone in front of the window shuffled closer to the glass.
For several minutes nothing seemed to happen besides Danny leaning over Steve’s face and talking in a now clearly guiding voice. And suddenly Steve leapt forward so fast, Catherine didn’t know for a moment what happened. Steve clutched white fists into Danny’s shirt to pull him close and buried his face at the side of Danny’s neck. He froze there and didn’t move any further, just inhaling the scent of the guide beside him.
“Holy shit,” muttered Tony. Catherine had almost forgotten he was there. “That was unexpected. What the heck is he doing?”
“What do you mean?” she asked irritated over the excited chatter of the doctors and nurses.
Tony barked out a laugh. “He’s sniffing this poor guy’s neck like some druggie. If I wouldn’t know it better, I’d say he’s getting scent-drunk.”
Catherine eyed the pair skeptical. Reactivating a sense that hadn’t zoned was common practice. She wouldn’t call it scent-drunk, when Steve only slowly got his other senses back under control by first anchoring himself with an intact one. But when Steve clawed at the clothing covering Danny’s neck and Danny had to get rid of his tie and open his shirt further without Steve so much as desist from inhaling his scent, she knew that Tony was right.
The nurses and doctors got agitated, because they wanted to check in on their patient, but so far Danny hadn’t given the signal that it was safe to enter, on which they had agreed on earlier.
Catherine had expected that Danny would coax Steve into lying down again after he had successfully anchored himself on his sense of smell, but they sat on the bed for almost another quarter of an hour. Normally only bonded guides would allow their partners to scent them this long; everything else was actually considered as harassment. Slowly Steve’s iron tight grip on Danny’s shirt eased and finally he lifted his head from the crook of Danny’s neck to look at him instead. Catherine could make out the moment when Danny told Steve to dial his senses down again and relief flooded through her veins. Steve was back.
Still Danny didn’t give the clear, but grabbed Steve’s face with both hands and said something that looked suspiciously like an insult. Steve held tightly onto Danny’s strong forearms, but Catherine couldn’t see his face as his body was facing solely Danny. Then Danny cracked a smile, warm and fond, and Steve seemed to huff and slowly sank back into his cushions. Danny gave the OK-signal and the doctors and nurses filtered in, but in between all that chaos Steve’s gaze always searched Danny’s, who stood just out of the way for all the medical staff, as if to make sure Danny hadn’t suddenly vanished.
“Well, McGarrett sure as hell will get rubbed that lovely encounter in. A lot,” smirked Tony.
Catherine scowled at him. “He just woke up from a surgery and a triple zone. You think that’s funny?”
“Oh, Lieutenant, he actually meant that it took a collapsing building for Commander McGarrett to finally realize that he needed to see that guide again. He’s been insufferable for months and now we know the reason,” said José with his calm voice and Catherine blinked back into the room to see Danny nudging Steve in the shoulder and Steve just lay there grinning.
Well, maybe they did fit after all. Which wasn't good, ifSteve still wanted to keep Danny somehow out of the reach of the Navy Guild. After that display of compatibility, they sure as hell would be after him. Maybe she could do something to slow down the inevitable. But she needed to warn Steve nevertheless as soon as he had recovered enough.