Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to the TV series, Hawaii Five-0.
This is a short-ish three part series I started writing soon after watching 4.21, for the first time. I hope to have the other two parts posted sometime later this weekend.
N. J. Borba
The second time she called he was woken from a not-so-sound sleep.
Steve groped for the ringing phone atop his nightstand, swearing under his breath and wishing he'd silenced it for the night. He finally grasped it and managed to blindly hit the answer call button as he flopped back against the mattress, "Danny, we can't have another case," he groaned, "I didn't get home until a half hour ago and I just fell asleep."
"I'm so sorry I woke you."
His eyes opened wide as he shot up into a seated position, the sheet bunching around his bare waist, "Catherine?"
Her voice was practically a whisper, "I wasn't even thinking about the time difference, I just…"
He rubbed the heel of his hand against his eye. She sounded wearier than he felt. Steve did a quick calculation and determined it was afternoon there, "I didn't expect to hear from you again," he finally said, "So soon." It had been two weeks, two of the longest weeks of his life.
Silence filled the line and he pulled the phone away from his ear, checking to see if the call had disconnected.
"Cath?" he put it to his ear again and finally heard the very distant sound of her breathing. "What's going on?" Steve really wanted to ask what was wrong but he resisted.
"Just a bad day, I…" Catherine paused, "I had to hide out most of last night and into today. It's getting harder to stay out of sight just wearing this scarf around my head. It's pretty obvious I'm a Westerner traveling alone and," she took a deep breath, "And I probably shouldn't have even bothered you with this call."
"You can call me anytime," Steve was quick to assure her. "Where are you now? When you said across the border I assume you meant…"
"Pakistan," she confirmed, "Slipped through last week."
He nodded, "You swung south, crossed over the Kunar River and up into Arandu."
That caused her to chuckle softly, "Are you tracking me from Oahu?" Catherine wondered.
"No," Steve massaged his neck with one hand, trying to relax the stiff muscles there, "I just happen to know that's the best route from where you were in Badakhshan province. I know that track fairly well, was once in charge of a supply convoy that passed through there heading the same direction. We were due further south, though, where…" he trailed off.
"I'm guessing when you say supply convoy you mean highly classified op which you can't really tell me about," she deduced.
"Nobody likes a showoff," Steve gently teased.
"Takes one to know one," she enjoyed the brief moment of levity, knowing no one else could help calm her nerves like he could. Catherine swallowed, "Steve, we should probably keep the calls short. Finding places to recharge my battery is tricky. And even though my sat-phone has voice encryption, someone might be monitoring your cell. I know there was some trouble after they rescued you and I don't want to put you in danger, at least not any more than…"
Steve nodded, hearing the unspoken words, "Yeah," he reluctantly agreed. "Listen, Catherine, I hope it's okay if I tell you…"
"No, don't say it again yet," Catherine stopped him. "I want to keep savoring the first time a little longer."
He smiled, lying back against the bed, "I was just going to say… I miss you."
She chuckled softly, "I miss you, too."
Her third call worried him.
"Hello?" he cautiously answered the unknown number, pacing barefoot around the living room.
"Steve, I found…" the connection was lousy, static, cutting in and out, "Should be able to stay here for a while, but… battery on my sat-phone is… I don't know if…"
He heard a click, "Catherine?" Steve tried to get her back, "Cath?"
The line was dead.
Steve hung up, but waited. He stood there for nearly a half hour just staring at the phone, hoping it would ring again. Finally he walked to the back door, glancing outward and up at the night sky. He remembered the last time he'd seen her in his backyard. It had been the night her friend Amir called. She had looked so worried that night as she'd frantically tried to get the call to reconnect. And he'd felt helpless seeing her like that. He felt helpless again.
A star streaked across the sky, causing him to sigh. "Take care, Catherine," he whispered.
The fourth call didn't come for months. Four months since she'd left. Since he'd left her on her own.
"Danny, just stop being such an ass about this. I'm leaving," Steve marched toward the truck, reaching into his front right pocket for the keys. He was pissed. And mad at his self as he fumbled the keys. They skittered across the pavement and got lost somewhere beneath his truck. "Great," he mumbled, "Now look what you made me do."
"I didn't drop them," Danny stood by as he watched his friend get down on his belly and shimmy beneath the Silverado. "And maybe I'm an ass, though I'm still not sure why, but you're the one acting like a child… just storming off like that. Not to mention, rude."
"If you hadn't roped me into this… this…" Steve huffed as he grasped his keys and backed out. He stood and faced his friend, "Why did you even think this would be okay?"
Music from the restaurant could be heard behind them as they stood in the parking lot.
The detective shrugged, "I don't know, maybe because a man whose advice I take seriously…" he watched Steve's brow raise, "Yes, occasionally I do take you seriously," Danny confirmed, "Trust me, no one was more shocked to find that out than me. Look, you said to me not so long ago that I should try to find some happiness, right? And I have with Amber. I took a risk and I'm happy. I just figured you might want to share in that happiness with me."
Steve frowned. "By being set up with some friend of Amber's?" he shook his head.
"It was not a set up," Danny replied, "I just thought maybe it was time for you to realize…"
"Realize what, Danny?" he challenged, "Catherine is coming back. She'll be home and you… I guess I expected a little more support from you."
"Maybe I'd lend support if you cared to talk to me, or let me get a word in," Danny shot back, "But you don't. You don't talk about it, you don't talk about her. She's my friend, too. You think I don't care about what's going on with her?"
"You said she was a big girl and could take care of herself," Steve reminded him.
Danny sighed, "Yeah… yes, I did. I was a little pissed at her right then while looking at your nearly dead body, which happened because you were over there helping her. She made her choice, Steve, and it didn't include you. She took off on this foolish mission, so you can't sit back and blame me for being a little upset at her."
"No, Danny," he disputed, "It included me. She told me she was better off on her own to protect me." Steve shook his head, "Maybe if you understood about duty and honor… Amir and his family saved Catherine's life, twice. That's huge, Danny. That's a life debt. But, screw you if you can't understand that," he nearly ripped the door off its handle, jumped inside and turned the engine over, roaring out of the parking lot, leaving his friend behind.
The living room was dark and empty again as he arrived home.
He grabbed a beer from the fridge and walked outside, down toward the water.
Moonlight cast a shimmer over the ocean. His cell phone rang.
"I'm sorry," Steve answered.
"For what?" she asked.
"Cath?" his heartbeat quickened, "I thought you were Danny."
"That is something to be sorry about," Catherine joked. "How's Danny doing?"
"He's mad at you," Steve let slip.
There was a short pause before she said, "I'd probably be mad at him if he'd left you in a foreign country to die," she admitted.
"Hey, that's not what happened, Catherine," Steve tried to comfort her through a phone line, thousands of miles separating them. "I told you to take the kids, keep them safe. I would've done the same thing if things had been reversed," he declared, "You know I'm right."
She sighed then laughed softly, trying to keep herself from crying, "I know, I just… every time I try to fall asleep out here I keep seeing you on that road. You shot that man to save my life and then… having to sit there and watch them as they…" Catherine took a deep breath, trying to steady her voice, "I haven't prayed in a long time, Steve, you know that. Not since the days when my mother demanded that I pray every Sunday."
"And you always stood up to her, protested," he remembered her telling him once, "Saying no one could command another person to pray."
"Yeah," she bit her lip, reconfirming that nobody else knew her like he did, "But when I watched those men haul you up into the back of that truck, I… I prayed, Steve. I prayed to any God that would listen. Please, please just let him be safe," Catherine whispered.
Steve sunk down onto the lawn, his feet touching the sandy edge. He sat his beer aside and closed his eyes. "I'm safe, Cath," he assured her. "Have you located Najib?"
"No," Catherine regrouped, "But we've narrowed down his location to about three different places in Northern Pakistan," she revealed.
He was suddenly more curious than worried, "We?"
"It's been a while since we last talked," Catherine realized, "Amir hasn't been able to leave his home, partly because he doesn't want to leave Farah alone, but also because Taliban soldiers are watching that area very closely now. Yet he's managed to organize troops for me. Well, they're not so much troops as they are civilians willing to fight."
His worry radar was nearly off the scale now, "Cath, it sounds way too dangerous."
"You think I don't know that?" she sighed, "These men Amir has sent to me, they're fathers, older brothers, uncles and even grandfathers of the boys we helped rescue four months ago. They want to find the men responsible. They're tired of sitting back and allowing these things to happen."
"I don't want to argue with you about this, because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be on the winning end of that discussion. But you know you're not in the Navy anymore, Cath," he shook his head, realizing he was stating the obvious, "You're out there without any backup if things go sideways and I know that's how you want it, to keep a low profile, but... I'm worried," Steve finally gave it to her straight.
"Wouldn't expect anything less," she responded with a serious tone.
He wished he could see her face because he knew she was probably smiling in spite of it all, always trying to stay strong for him, "You have to go, don't you?"
"I should," Catherine answered, not wanting to drag out the enviable. "I have men willing and able to fight, but it's going to take a lot to turn them into soldiers. I'll try to call again as soon as possible. But until then, promise me something?"
"Just name it."
"Apologize to Danny for real, make up, forgive him for whatever he said or did," she instructed, "And then tell him I miss him."
Steve nodded, "I will," he smiled, "And you tell that crazy former Navy lieutenant over there to stay safe."
She laughed quietly, "Roger that."
To be continued…