The plane was having a problem. Of that much, Steve was certain. He saw the panicked looks on everyone around him, felt Danny’s steely grip on his hand, and saw his life flashing in front of his eyes. For a brief moment, Steve reflected on everything he could have done and should have done as opposed to what he had already done but he was a man of action, a Navy SEAL for fuck’s sake and he wasn’t about to just sit still and say nothing.
Danny and he were sitting behind the wing.
That meant they had about a 40 percent greater chance of surviving a crash if indeed they were going to crash.
The first few minutes after a crash were the most important. He couldn’t panic if he wanted to help Danny and his fellow passengers.
Planes that regularly flew over water for extended periods of time were required to carry life rafts with needed supplies in them. Steve remembered seeing the compartment holding a deflated raft in a carry case next to the midsection exit.
“Put your shoes on, Danny,” Steve ordered as he slipped into his own pair of leather boat shoes. Danny hesitated, reluctant to let go of Steve’s hand. “Now, Danny!! Put them on!” Steve nudged Danny’s shoes towards the blonde who acquiesced and shoved his feet in his sneakers, not bothering to untie the laces.
The plane was still dropping but not nose first which meant that the pilot was probably trying to ditch the plane in the water. That was good as they had a better chance of getting out in one piece. The absence of the hum of the engines on their side told Steve that the plane was experiencing a mammoth mechanical problem and he silently prayed that their flight crew would be able to handle the emergency.
Just then, as Danny reached out to hold Steve’s hand again, the pilot started to speak over the intercom, prefacing his speech with apologies and some talk about prayer. Danny looked wide eyed at Steve and the look of panic on Danny’s face broke Steve’s heart. Steve shook his head and squeezed Danny’s hand then bent close to Danny’s ear, slipping off his mask so he could talk.
“Listen. He’s going to ditch the plane—“
“Ditch the plane? What’s that even mean? We’re going to crash, Steve and I won’t ever see my daughter again I won’t ever see Gracie and she will grow up without me and—“
“DANNY!” Steve said harshly.
Danny stopped talking but he was still crying.
“If he ditches the plane in the water this is what we are going to do. Are you listening to me??”
Danny shook his head yes and with a shaking hand put his mask back on though his eyes were glued to Steve.
“We are going to assume the position of our head down and our seatbelts fastened. But as soon as the plane hits the water, you are going to unfasten that belt and grab your seat cushion. Grab your backpack and you’re going to follow me, right next to me you understand?”
“Right next to me. You’re going to follow me to the exit which is just right up there,” Steve pointed at the midsection door. “Then you are going to wait while I get the raft and we are going to jump into the water. Got that?”
Danny nodded again.
“What are you going to do?” Steve asked.
“Take your belt off immediately. Like right away,” Steve interjected.
“Take my belt off right away,” Danny repeated.
“Good boy. Ok hang on to me. I can tell he’s coming in close.”
“Fuck! Steve we’re going to die!”
“Nobody’s gonna die on my watch,” Steve said vehemently. He braced himself for the impact, feeling Danny doing the same. He prayed hard, hoping that this earth hadn’t seen the last of them, that he and Danny would get home to Gracie, that they wouldn’t just be a memory.
The plane hit the water hard. Steve felt the snap and thrust as the body of the airliner met water and the acrid smell of jet fuel filled the cabin. Danny was stiff beside him but as water poured in did what Steve had instructed him to do and undid his seat belt and grabbed his backpack. Steve slid out into the aisle, yelling for people to follow him although there were some unfortunate souls who were not going to be able to get up let alone listen to him. He told Danny not to look, keeping them moving along the center aisle where the water was rushing in, both of them wading towards the gaping hole where the door to the exit once was.
Steve saw the raft and smashed the plastic compartment with both fists, not feeling the cuts that caused the blood to run down his arms from his damaged hands. He held the raft and pushed Danny out the door that was slowly filling up with water. The opening was about three feet tall and Steve ducked down and slid the raft, which was just a heavy folded up square and would stay that way until the pin on the side was pulled, after him. Danny was treading water and trying to get away from the sinking plane.
Thank God it was daylight, Steve thought. He was on autopilot now, swimming towards Danny and urging the smaller man to keep swimming out away from the suction of the jet. Nobody else seemed to be following them and Steve felt a wave of horror run through him then tamped that down to concentrate on his and Danny’s survival.
Keep swimming! Come on!” Steve yelled, pushing Danny forward through the oily water. They needed to get as far away as possible in case the water formed a whirlpool from the plane’s sinking to take them down. Danny flailed and then began to crawl towards an open stretch of water. He had at some point put his backpack on and that gave him some buoyancy in the water. Steve followed trying not to think, just trying to push on and hold on to the raft.
He did chance one last look back at the plane. The nose was fully submerged but even from his vantage point, Steve could tell it was crumpled. The pilots had taken one for the team; they likely had not survived.
The rest of the plane had sunk even further and now only part of the very top showed above the water. Trying to tamp down his feelings of panic, Steve started to swim over towards Danny.
“The water’s c-c-cold,” Danny yelled then started to giggle, high pitched and crazy like. Steve reached his side and with his free hand slapped Danny, hard, across the face. Danny recoiled then looked at Steve with big eyes.
“You’re gonna be ok. Keep swimming a bit. I’m going to pull the pin on this so we can get up in it.”
“Yes Steve.” Danny had calmed down though the shock was probably just subdued for a small moment. Danny did as he was told, swimming and trying to do his best to please Steve.
Steve hated himself for hitting Danny but thought it was the only way he could get through to his partner. The water was making his own teeth chatter and the sooner they were in the raft the better.
Steve reached around the tough plastic square and found the pin. He prayed that it work and pulled the peg out and much to his relief, the raft inflated and took shape. It blossomed out into a pillowy ride about 12 fret across and four feet deep.
“Danny!” Steve pulled it over to where Danny was treading water. “Throw your pack in and then I’ll help you get up.”
“My fingers are... my fingers are messed up.,,” Danny held his one hand up and two of his fingers were bent at odd angles.
“I’ll get your pack,” Steve said, swimming over and behind Danny, one of his hands on the raft. “Gotta hold the raft for me. Think you can do that?”
“Yeah yeah I can d-d-do that.” Danny reached up and held on to the raft with one hand as Steve slid the pack off one shoulder then waited while Danny changed hands to hold the raft with his other hand.
“Good, Danny, that’s good!”
“G-g-good? Yeah?” Danny grinned but it was more of a grimace.
“Ok listen. Grab hold of the side and try to lift up with your arms tucked on like this.” Steve demonstrated an arm fold much like a genie would do when granting a wish.
Danny did exactly that and Steve pushed him up and over. Danny tumbled into the raft causing it to lurch out of Steve’s grasp. But Danny had also seen what had happened and reached over the side to right himself and offer a hand to Steve.
“Come on! I’ll pull you up!”
Steve swam close and took Danny’s hand. He heard Danny’s sharp intake of breath as Steve grabbed ahold but true to Danny’s word, he pulled Steve up and over until Steve was laying on the bottom of the raft, ass up in the air and head against the bottom of the thick rubber flotation vessel.
“You’re a little stuck there,” Danny said and helped Steve turn around to sit up. In the day’s light, Steve could see that Danny was holding on to his stomach and rocking a bit. Oh God help them if the blonde was bleeding internally!
“Danny! Are you hurt?” Steve crawled closer, pulling Danny’s arms away.
“ A little sore but if you don’t move you’re gonna get my vomit all over you!” With that, Danny turned around and with his head over the side, threw up for several minutes.
Steve rubbed Danny’s back, reality setting in. Were they the only survivors? And where exactly were they? Had the Captain or crew made a MayDay call? Was someone somewhere tracking the plane?
“Better?” Steve asked as Danny slid around to face his partner. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
“My fingers,” Danny muttered. “But that’s it.”
“Ok listen. I’m going to try to get a bearing on our surroundings. Then we will take the next step—“
“—are we the only survivors, Steve? Is there anyone else?”
Both men looked back at where the plane had gone down, now just a swirling eddy on the sea. Nothing of the plane showed above it.
“I think so. They wouldn’t undo the belt. I told them... told them to get up!” Steve’s voice caught.
“Ok ok Steven it’s ok.” Danny rubbed Steve’s arm. “Think you can get your bearings out here?” His voice was calm. It was just what Steve needed.
“Well...” he squirmed around in his seat. “Look! Over there! That’s an island right?”
Danny turned and squinted. It looked like an island alright. That is if they could trust their own sight.
“Yeah I think it is, Steve.” Danny put his hand over his eyes to try to shield some of the light and the reflection it made on the water. “How far do you think it is?”
“I dunno. Maybe ... a couple miles.”
“Do we use these paddles?” Danny asked pointing to the small plastic paddles that were attached to the floor of the raft.
“Yeah I guess so.” Steve reached for them and then paused. There was a zipper compartment on either side of the raft itself. He pulled open the one closest to himself. “We’ve got some water... some MRE’s... a first aid kit.... blanket...”
“That’s good.” Danny nodded and pulled his paddle out. “How do we do this? Where do I... use this?”
“Hang on.” Steve got situated and then had Danny turn so he was in front of Steve. “You can paddle off to the starboard side and I’ll do this side.”
“Wait ok starboard—“
“—means the right side, Danny—“
“Then just say the right side! Don’t talk to me in code!” Danny cleared his throat and started to paddle, his oar sluicing through the water.
“Ok alright!” Steve sighed and began to match Danny with strokes, the raft inching towards the island ahead.
“New Zealand? Are there sharks here?” Danny asked.
Steve was silent and mused on the question. Should he answer honestly? Danny had enough to worry about and then add sharks to the mix.
“There are, aren’t there? That’s why you aren’t saying anything.” Danny shook his head. He was sticky wet and stunk of fuel. His fingers hurt and he had not stopped shivering since they’d got on the raft. But he was alive by some divine Providence and for that he was so very thankful.
“Maybe you should just worry about making it to the island, Danny.” Steve took a deep breath and resisted reaching for the water even though his throat was patched. He would wait. They might need that water supply on the island.
“Speaking of that, it’s closer.” Danny stared at the island that was indeed getting closer. It was bigger than he had first thought and higher too, the sloping hill evident now that they were within sight range.
“Looks big. Hope there’s some self sustaining materials there,” Steve offered. He was getting a second wind now that they were this close. But there were few trees scattered on the side of the island. Instead, rocky outcroppings stood side by side with tall grass. The beach was narrow and was well protected by rocks.
“Ok Danny listen to me!” Steve stopped paddling letting the waves carry them towards the rocks.
“What you’re going to say I’m not going to like am I?” Danny turned towards Steve and put his paddle down.
“Probably not.” Steve motioned to the rocks now figuring predominantly in front of them. “I don’t want to lose this raft. So we’re going to have to jump out and maneuver it around those rocks to the beach.”
Danny looked disgusted and raised a hand like he was going to argue but thought better of it. His shoulders slumped and he nodded.
“Yeah? Ok? “
“Yes ok Steve! Let’s do this somehow...” Danny sighed and got to his knees. He looked over the side and then slid into the water, the shock of the cold against his dry skin even worse than their initial dunking when the plane crashed.
“Ok now just hold on to the raft kind of out of the water and we will wade towards the beach!” Steve led the way, holding up his end of the float with long arms. Danny struggled behind him, his fingers not cooperating as he held on to the bindings.
It was hard to maneuver but Steve was a relentless taskmaster. They waded slowly through the rocks and their sharp points, trying to avoid getting tossed up alongside of them from the surf. It was hard work and by the time they reached the sand on the shore both were exhausted. Steve fell down with his hand still on the raft and Danny just collapsed on to the sand, face first and arms outstretched.
They lay there panting until Steve rose and got the water bottle from the emergency supplies. He opened it and drank half the bottle then handed it to a grateful Danny who finished it.
“Here we are,” Danny said sitting up. The sun felt like an old friend on his skin. “Some vacation. I thought when the brochure pictured a beach it wasn’t one I’d have to wade through rocks to get there.”
Steve smiled. Oh my God they were alive! Alive!! And in one piece!
“So now what survivor SEAL?” Danny asked. He sat up and crossed his legs beneath him. He was still wet but the sun was drying him out. He was grateful to be above ground and breathing.
“Now we explore. Build a fire. Check out the natural resources.” Steve rubbed a hand across his face. He was tired, sore, mentally done. But when he looked at the hopeful face of his partner, he was inspired.
“Build a... I don’t see any matches. I don’t carry a lighter.”
“I’ll use a stick and bow. I think that fire is our first priority.”
“A stick and bow? What even is that?” Danny asked.
“Survival techniques, Danny.” Steve stood up and started to scour for dry tinder. Some of the clumps of sea grass were quite what he was looking for and Steve instructed Danny to find dry branches and bring them back to a level area of the beach. Danny mumbled something but was trying to follow Steve’s orders. He was clenching and unclenching his fists and Steve realized that Danny had what looked like broken fingers on both hands.
“Looks like I hit the jackpot,” Danny said happily, standing in front of a cluster of limbs and sticks. They felt fairly dry.
“Great! Bring them back over here and stack it up!” Steve went looking in the brush for a good sturdy piece of wood for his fire starter kit. He found a rather strong sapling and bent a bough until it broke, twisting it to make sure it came off the tree. Alright. He had his bow. Now he needed a straight piece of stick and a thick piece for the bottom to put his plan into place.
“Hey Steve! Where are you?” Danny crashed through the brush and Steve hid a smile. Subtle thy name was not Danny.
“Right here.” He took out a pocket knife from his cargo pants pocket and stripped the bark off a piece of tree.
“Do you think they have people out looking for us yet?”
“Hope so. That’s why a fire is so important.” Steve handed Danny the sticks he’d found then gouged out a small channel from the large thick piece of stick he had on his hand. “Come on. Let’s go see if I can make that fire.”
An hour later, Danny and Steve were sitting beside a large smoky fire. Steve had indeed been successful with a bow fire starter, thanks to his choosing the right materials and the assistance of one of Danny’s shoestrings. Danny had been impressed and now sat beside the fire enjoying the warmth. His clothes had dried out but were stiff with the fuel and salt from the ocean. He wanted to lay down and sleep for hours, days even, until this nightmare was over and he and Steve were back in Hawaii.
“You ok? Let me see your hands.” Steve pulled Danny closer to him.
“What are you going to do?” Danny asked suspiciously.
“What? What do you mean what am I going to do? I just want to look. Come on. Don’t be a baby.” Steve reached for Danny’s hand but the smaller man hid it behind his back.
“No. Leave me alone.”
“Come on Danny. Let me see. I don’t want to hurt you—“
“—says Jack Torrance to his son. No, Danny, I don’t want to hurt you! I just want to kill you!”
“Don’t be a baby!” Steve argued, finally getting hold of Danny’s hand and holding him by the wrist. “Oh man looks like you have a couple broken fingers.”
“Yeah well they’re fine. Just leave it, Steven.” Danny tried to pull away but Steve held on tightly.
“Look, I’m just going to kiss them. Make them feel better.” Steve brought Danny’s hand up to his mouth and pursed his lips. Danny relaxed and at the same time, Steve brought his other hand up and grabbed Danny’s broken digits, snapping both broken fingers back into place.
Danny screamed and pulled his hand away. What followed was a litany of curse words all somehow tied to Steve’s ancestry and before Danny could react physically, Steve grabbed Danny’s other hand and set the broken fingers on that hand.
Danny curled up in the fetal position holding on to his throbbing hands. Steve had opened the first aid kit and found tongue depressors; he laid out several then got the tape.
“I’ll tape them. Let me see.” Steve gently pried Danny up and Danny reluctantly held out both hands.
“Animal,” Danny muttered.
“This will help them,” Steve answered taping the sticks in place on Danny’s bent fingers.
“Hurts but.... it’s better than being.... dead...” Danny finished.
“Open that pack of yours and let’s see if you have anything we can use or eat.” Steve put the first aid kit away and looked around their narrow beach. The island was fairly big but he was thinking they should try to climb up the hill to check out the rest of it.
“Let’s see,” Danny said, happy to have something to do to take his mind off his fingers, “I have some chips, some chocolate covered raisins, 4 granola bars, and oh yeah 2 sandwiches from that one kiosk we stopped at before we boarded. PB&J.”
“You’re brilliant,” Steve said and resisted the urge to kiss his partner.
“Where do you think we are? Like how far from New Zealand?”
“No idea. I don’t have the slightest clue. But I do think the pilots sent an SOS so we can be sure help will be coming.” Steve looked at the sandwiches. They could eat those to get some strength to climb the hill and reconnoiter. “Let’s have a sandwich and then we’re gonna take a walk.”
“Ok.” Danny was all for that as he handed one of the sammies to Steve and opened the other for himself. He took a deep breath. They had some food and some water. Perhaps they would be rescued soon.
As he ate, he tried not to think about the plane going down. He swore he could still feel it if he thought about it and that made his stomach feel like a million knots. Steve had known just what to do. His cool head and preparation were the things that had given them safety and allowed them to escape. Danny watched his friend eat the sandwich while his blue eyed gaze flitted all around them. Steve was never still unless he was asleep and even then, as Danny had found out from their one plane ride, it was a crapshoot.
“Are we going to be ok, Steve?” Danny asked.
“Of course we are. We’ll be rescued soon. Just eat and stop worrying.” Steve gave Danny one of his trademark goofy grins and Danny couldn’t help but smile back.
“You’re still an animal.” Danny held up his splinted fingers.
“You’ll thank me later.” Steve shoved the last piece of his sandwich into his mouth and stood up, brushing off his pants. “Come on, Magellan, we’ve got an island to explore.”
Danny sighed and stood, still eating his sandwich. With some tired reluctance, he followed Steve through the knee high brush and up the rocky slope.