Summary: Tag to episode 3.06 – I Ka Wa Mamua (In a Time Past). Steve calls Catherine after nearly losing his partner brings up other memories.

Note: Thanks to Sammy for always being willing to read drafts and give feedback.


Always

Catherine set her phone down the third time her call went straight to Steve's voicemail. She knew he and Danny were uninjured and that he'd call when he could, but that didn't make the waiting any easier.

She walked to the balcony and looked out at the spectacular view from the hotel window, but it couldn't hold her attention and she returned to the table to look down at the silent device.

She had just reminded herself that staring at the phone was not going to make it ring when it buzzed to life and Steve's face appeared on the screen. Exhaling with relief, she picked it up and accepted the call.

"Steve, finally."

His tired voice came over the line. "Hey. I'm sorry. I just got done with the governor."

"You and Danny are okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, we're okay. Danny's gone to get Grace for their father-daughter dance." He paused before he continued. "Are you still at the base?"

"No, no, I left after we got the all clear from the Army bomb squad," she answered, then narrowed her eyebrows as she tried to decipher his tone. "Are you at home? Do you . . . want me to come over? Or . . ." she let her voice fade.

"Actually, Cath, you still got that room at the Hilton?"

"Yeah, I'm there now."

"Do you mind if I come there?" he asked quietly.

"Of course not. Rainbow Tower, room 3104. Steve, are you really okay?"

He didn't answer immediately, but finally said, "Yeah. Yeah . . . I could just . . . use a little R & R, too, you know?"

Catherine paused, trying to read between the lines. "Okay. How far away are you?"

"I'll be right there. I'm in the main lobby."


Minutes later, Catherine heard a soft knock and opened the door. Steve's smile was as tired as his voice had been on the phone and when he spoke now, it was without energy.

"Hey."

"Hey," she replied, watching his face for any further clues to his frame of mind. "Come in," she continued as she moved to the side and held the door so he could enter.

Walking past her, Steve stopped in the middle of the room. Catherine paused, noting the tension in his back. She let the door close and came around him, touching his hand.

"Steve, you sure you're okay?" she asked, concern clear in her voice and on her face.

In response he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close.

Though surprised by the suddenness of his actions, she didn't hesitate to curl her arms around his shoulders. After a moment she felt him lean down to bury his head in her neck and she placed her hand on the back of his head to offer silent comfort. Her mind raced with possibilities that would explain his behavior, but she waited for him to speak.

He straightened finally and released her, not quite meeting her eyes when he spoke. "I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't have come. You're trying to relax. I don't really know why I . . ."

"You came because you didn't want to be alone, Steve." She put her hand to his cheek and he focused on her as she continued. "And that's perfectly understandable. I'm glad you came. Here. Sit down," she said, leading him to foot of the bed. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked, sitting beside him.

His pause was so long that she certain he was going to say no, but to her surprise he started to speak.

"I could have lost him today," he said quietly. He glanced over at her. "I could have lost my partner."

Catherine nodded slowly, rubbing his arm as she waited for him to continue.

"I couldn't leave him. He told me to go. Wanted me to take care of Grace. But I couldn't leave him alone. Couldn't leave him behind. Not after . . ." his voice faded as he looked down and she finally understood what else was going on in his head.

"Freddie," she said quietly.

He nodded once, but didn't speak.

She watched his profile, debating how to continue. She put a hand on his forearm and said, "You never really told me about what happened." She stopped his automatic reply with a gentle squeeze of his arm. "I know you can't go into specifics."

His answering nod told her she was right about what he had been about to say.

She moved her hand to his. "But if you want to talk, just generally, I'll listen."

Steve rubbed his head with his other hand before dropping it down to cover hers. He looked at her. "Could we just . . . lie down for a bit?" he asked. "It's been a long day."

Catherine regarded him for a moment, but decided not to push. He'd talk when he was ready and she knew that might not be today. She nodded and said, "Yeah. Come on."

She stood, toeing off her boots, and walked around to the head of the bed to rearrange the pillows while he bent and unlaced his shoes before removing them. Standing, he shrugged out of his button down and dropped it on the chair. She knelt on the bed and waited as he stretched out on his back. He pulled her to him and she settled against his side, resting her hand on his chest.

After several minutes had passed in silence, she glanced up and saw his eyes were closed, though she knew he wasn't asleep. She was surprised when he started to speak again.

"Freddie's . . . he's still . . ." He exhaled slowly and opened his eyes. "We couldn't go back for his body. His family, they don't even know where he–" he stopped, swallowing with difficulty before he continued. "And it's been nearly three years."

Catherine was silent as she took in his words. Narrowing her eyebrows, she sat up slowly.

"Hey."

He looked up at her. "What?"

"What if . . ." she started, still working through details in her head.

"What?" he repeated, leaning up on his elbows.

She refocused on him. "Like you said, it's been almost three years. What if we get in touch with DOD and the State Department? Maybe there's something they can do now that they couldn't at the time."

He shook his head. "They've been in talks since it happened. Negotiations completely stalled last year."

"Then maybe it's time to get them started again," she insisted.

He looked at her for a moment and then his eyes narrowed. His gaze shifted and she could practically see the wheels in his head turning as he mentally ran through his contacts and possible options.

"Yeah," he said, his voice quiet and firm. He nodded, slowly at first and then with more conviction. "Yeah," he repeated and she could tell he had formulated a plan of action.

He looked back at her and, without another word, reached for her with a hand on the side of her neck. Pulling her close, he kissed her briefly but with feeling before he settled them both back on the bed, his hand trailing down her shoulder and resting on her upper arm.

"Thank you, Cath," he said, his voice earnest.

Her arm tightened around him and she was just as serious when she replied, "Always."