With Catherine returning this Friday, I wrote this little one-shot as to how that meeting with her and Steve might go. Just for fun. Can't wait to see the new episode!
Steve stepped outside into the early morning light. The biting Montana air matched the bitter coldness that had pooled inside him since Joe died. Blowing on his hands, Steve carefully stepped around the gouges in the porch where the explosion from the RPG had ripped through it. In the last two days since Joe's burial, Steve had been working around the ranch to fix what had been broken. He’d cleared out the debris from inside the house. Repaired the fences. Today he’d work on removing the burned out shells of the cars in the driveway, but no matter how hard he worked, nothing would ever be the same again.
Joe was gone.
The grief burned through him. There was no ocean to swim in, no beach to run on, to help him process the rage, denial, and anguish warring within him. All he could do was work on the ranch.
He pulled on Joe’s coat and walked toward the ragged edge of the porch where boards were splintered and ripped in two.
Just like his life. Again.
He leaned against a support beam and folded his arms, looking toward the horizon. The sun was barely peeking over the mountain range, just as beautiful as the last sunset Joe had seen before he died. Pain lanced through Steve and he pushed the thought away. There were so many things Steve hadn’t told Joe. Asked him. Thanked him for.
So many regrets. And now it was too late.
The crunch of gravel signaled a car coming up the driveway and Steve turned at the sound. He’d asked his team to give him some time and they'd reluctantly agreed. So who was here?
The SUV stopped near the burned out remains of the car he’d arrived in with Joe. Turning off the engine, she stepped out and shut the door. Her eyes locked with his.
The numb hollowness that had gripped his chest loosened a little at the sight of her. There were so many Cath memories intertwined with Joe. He’d respected Catherine, liked her, and encouraged Steve to ask her out.
And been so proud when he had.
Steve watched her approach him, frozen where he was on the porch. He’d kept himself moving since the burial, running on grief and adrenaline, but seeing her made him want to grab her and hold her and never let her go. He’d lost so much. They'd lost so much. And though they'd regained their footing when she'd come to Hawaii last time, he wasn't sure how she would react if he took her in his arms right now.
She stopped a few steps away from him, her beautiful brown eyes mirroring his grief. "Joe asked me to come." She stopped, struggling to control her emotions. "He told me what you were planning at the ranch and asked me to have a plane fueled and waiting to bring you here from California. Then he told me to get here as quickly as I could."
Thinking back to that last day and Joe’s words of how good it was to have friends in the agency, Steve swallowed the lump of emotion that was suddenly clogging his throat. He looked heavenward. Joe had known there was a good chance the mission could go south and he'd made sure Steve wouldn’t be alone. Watching out for him, even in death.
He’d sent Cath.
Steve walked down the porch steps, and she met him halfway, her arms outstretched. He pressed her against him, her warmth dispelling another corner of ice that had surrounded his heart the moment Joe died. "Thanks for coming," he finally said as he stepped back, his voice raspy.
She touched his face, letting her hand run over his jaw. "I'm so sorry."
He closed his eyes, wanting to pull her back into his arms. To hold onto someone who felt strong and solid in a world that had shifted into something unknown. As if she could read his thoughts, she reached for him again, her arms wrapping around him. He dropped his head to her shoulder and crushed her to him. "I can't believe he's gone," he whispered.
"At that last phone call, it felt like he was trying to say goodbye. I got here as soon as I could." She sniffed and Steve could feel the tears she’d been trying to hold back earlier fall on his cheek. Her grief entwined with his as they embraced, silently drawing strength from one another.
Steve reluctantly pulled back, the words he’d held in finally coming to the surface. "You know, I told him to go, that I could handle it myself, but he wouldn't leave. He might be alive now if I just would have tried harder to make him go." The words hung in the icy air, edged with guilt.
Catherine immediately shook her head. “No. You can’t blame yourself. Joe sacrificed his life to protect you and the team. He knew the risks and he took them. Nothing you said or did would have changed his mind.” Her voice rang sure, smoothing the edge that had cut his conscience.
Steve had known it deep down, but it felt good to hear her say it. “I'm going to find Hassan and make him pay." It was the only way he'd ever have peace.
“I know.” Cath took his hands in hers and looked up at him. "I've been tracking Hassan and I know exactly where he'll be tomorrow night."
He met her gaze. How many times had he reached out for her help while he was on a case? She'd put herself on the line for him again and again. They'd always made a good team. Whether they were together relationship-wise or not, he could count on that. "He'll be expecting me to come after him."
She nodded. "Probably. I have a plan, but we have to move fast."
Steve looked to the tree line. Though he couldn't see the Ponderosa pine that Joe was buried next to, he could see it in his mind's eye. He squeezed Cath's hand. Joe was going to get justice. Things that felt insurmountable before suddenly seemed doable with her by his side.
"Okay then. Let's do this."