Sammy's Notes: Thanks so much to all of you for your enthusiastic response to the REAL World and all the happenings in it. Your support means so much to all three of us and we can't say thank you enough for coming on this journey with us.
Thanks to Mari for being her normal awesome self and for all her hand holding and cheerleading on every story and this one specifically.
And to ilna for nicely (we decided to call it nicely right?) requesting I write the Bangkok bar scene which was glossed over in my earlier story Moments in Time. Her persistence paid off and here it is.
I can't imagine myself taking this journey with two better people than the two of you. Onward and upward ladies!
Also, to those of you who have asked, yes my mailing list goal has been reached and the 100 page fic is well underway. At first I was worried about making sure it was 100 pages and now I'm just hoping I can keep it under 150.
Righting a Wrong
Steve arrived in Bangkok, bone weary and more than ready for his first three-day liberty since … he couldn't even remember when. First he planned on stopping for a few drinks to take the edge off the stress he'd been operating under for the last several months, and then he planned to find a no-frills hotel room and sleep for at least two days.
He'd decide what to do on the third day when the time came.
He flagged down a cab and heard himself asking to be taken to Iron Fairies. He had no idea why he'd chosen that bar as opposed to any one of the dozen others he knew that were closer to the airport.
He chuckled to himself.
That wasn't true.
He knew exactly why he'd chosen that particular establishment.
Iron Fairies was a place that Catherine loved. She always made it a point to get there when she had some free time in town. She loved the wrought-iron spiral staircase that lead to the second floor where old movies were projected on the walls. She loved the magician who made his way from table to table entertaining the patrons. She loved the melancholy jazz music that filled the main floor bar.
He shook his head with a rueful smile and thought about asking the driver to take him somewhere else but decided against it.
He was only going in for a few quick drinks.
It wasn't like Catherine would be there.
As far as he knew she was still in Amsterdam.
He closed his eyes against the mental pictures that threatened to overwhelm him. Pictures that had invaded his thoughts on more than one occasion over the last few months since he had broken up with Catherine.
That day remained fresh in his mind despite all efforts to push it away. He remembered how he held on stubbornly against the sadness in her eyes as she asked why. How he steeled himself and repeated the words he had practiced in his head beforehand.
'My life is too uncertain.' 'I can't offer you anything permanent.' 'It's not fair to ask you to put your life on hold.' 'You deserve better.'
He remembered the hurt in her eyes as each sentence landed like a body blow.
And then he kissed her on the cheek and walked away. Fighting every step against the voices in his head screaming for him to go back. To hold her in his arms. To say he hadn't meant it.
But he kept walking.
Right to his next assignment.
When he was busy he was able to push thoughts of her aside and concentrate on his mission. He had to. For his own safety and that of his teammates. But every down minute thoughts of her crowded his mind.
It was unfamiliar territory for him. He'd never had any problem in the past leaving people and relationships behind. He told himself he just needed time but deep down he knew that wasn't true. There was something different about Catherine. Something that kept her in his heart and soul in a way no other person had ever been.
His smile at the memory of her turned to a grimace when he recalled how he heard she was dating Billy Harrington. He'd run into another SEAL, a teammate of Billy's, at a mission planning meeting in Iraq and the guy had told him he'd just been in Amsterdam and seen Catherine with Billy. Steve had shrugged non-committally, determined not to let Billy's teammate see how the news affected him. The last thing he wanted was word getting back to Harrington that he had gotten under Steve's skin.
But in reality the news had been like a dagger to his heart.
He and Catherine had crossed paths with each other a few times since but it had always been quick, one or the other of them headed off to a new assignment, and after a few minutes of small talk, almost always duty related, Steve would excuse himself before the conversation had a chance to turn to Billy. They'd exchanged a few emails and made an effort to keep in touch but Steve was determined not to be THAT guy. The one who wouldn't stay out of the middle of his ex-girlfriend's new relationship.
As the cab pulled to a stop in front of Iron Fairies he had to admit to himself that it was her memory that had drawn him here. He paid the driver, grabbed his duffel bag and got out of the cab.
If he was lucky he could drink just enough to push thoughts of her to the side so he could sleep for two days like he planned.
He opened the front door and stepped into the dark bar that reminded him of something out of vaudeville. Even before his eyes adjusted he sensed a familiar energy.
His eyes moved quickly from table to table checking out the inhabitants.
When they landed on a small table in the back he saw her.
'Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…' he thought.
His eyes darted to the second chair pulled up to the small table. No one was seated there. And there was no drink in front of it so it was unlikely the occupant was just in the rest room.
Every voice in his head was screaming for him to turn and walk out. Run even. He wasn't sure he was in the frame of mind to see her and pretend everything was ok.
He froze for a minute then made a decision. He took a deep breath and started towards the table.
She didn't look up until he was standing right beside her.
When she saw him her face broke out in a radiant smile which he returned immediately.
"Catherine Rollins," he beamed.
"Steve McGarrett, as I live and breathe," she smiled back.
"What are you doing here?"
"Three-day liberty. You?"
"Same. I just stopped for a few drinks then I'm gonna find a hotel and crash."
"Sounds exciting," she teased.
"Yeah, well, what can I say," he grinned.
"Are you here alone?" she asked, a slight tremor in her voice as she glanced behind him.
"I am. You?"
"I'm flying solo tonight," she confirmed. "Care to join me?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
Steve sat down and the waitress was there immediately to take his order. Catherine rolled her eyes as the young woman flirted openly with Steve.
'Some things never change,' she muttered under her breath.
The waitress took Steve's order and turned to walk away then, almost as afterthought, turned back and asked if Catherine needed anything.
"No, I'm good." Catherine indicated her almost full drink that had been delivered just seconds before Steve arrived.
She smirked as the waitress turned her smile on Steve again and said "I'll be right back with your drink."
"What?" he said as he caught the look on Catherine's face.
"Nothing," she smiled softly. "It's just good to see you again."
"You too," Steve said honestly. "I've missed you." He paused for a second just to take in the welcome sight of her, then cleared his throat against the rising emotion and decided to steer the conversation to safer ground. "How's your family?"
"Great," Catherine smiled and nodded.
She was halfway through telling him about Grandma Ang's adventures at a Cubs' game when the waitress returned with his drink. The young lady frowned when she saw that Steve was too interested in what Catherine was saying to spare her more than a polite nod.
By the time she finished telling him about her parents moving again and getting adjusted to her father's latest duty station both of their drinks were gone.
He knew he shouldn't ask, knew it was none of his business, but also knew he'd never forgive himself if he let this opportunity pass.
"So how's Harrington?" he asked as he fiddled with his empty glass and tried to appear nonchalant.
"Good I suppose. Last I heard anyway," Catherine replied. She was well aware he was fishing for information and she was going to make him work for it.
"I haven't seen him in a while. But last I heard he was doing well."
"What do you mean you haven't seen him?"
"You're a smart man, McGarrett. Figure it out."
Her grin told him she wasn't half as annoyed as she was pretending to be.
"Are you saying that you and the boy wonder aren't together anymore?"
Catherine tapped her finger on the end of her nose. "Like I always say … you are handsome and smart."
Suddenly thoughts of drinking away her memory and sleeping away his liberty were pushed out of his mind by other thoughts. Thoughts of him and Catherine. Thoughts of second chances. Thoughts of how there was no way he was going to let this opportunity slip through his fingers.
He sent up thanks to whatever power in the universe had brought him to this place tonight as the waitress approached and asked if they were ready for another round.
Steve could barely hide his ear to ear grin as he said they were.
Catherine changed the subject and asked after some of the men in Steve's unit that she knew and they spent the next hour and two drinks catching up on what had been happening in each other's Navy lives.
When he couldn't stand not knowing anymore, and had ingested enough liquid courage, he turned to Catherine and asked the one thing he really wanted to know. "What happened between you and Harrington?"
"What do you mean what happened?"
Now it was Catherine's turn to fidget with her empty glass. She knew what Steve was asking and wasn't sure if she was prepared to tell him the truth.
The pain that she felt when he broke up with her was like nothing she'd ever felt before. She cried in her bunk every night for weeks. Thoughts of him, fears for his safety, and concern about whether he was taking care of himself filled every minute of her day where her mind wasn't occupied with work.
After a few weeks she made the decision to move on with her life. If Steve didn't want to be with her she had to accept that.
She wasn't the kind of girl to wallow indefinitely.
But still every time she heard a report of injuries or of a mission that went wrong she couldn't think straight until she found out Steve wasn't involved.
Eventually she'd started dating Billy. He was handsome, smart, funny and ambitious. Exactly the kind of man who should have made her forget all about Steve McGarrett.
But somehow Steve was never far from her mind.
She'd had fun with Billy. And she genuinely cared about him. But when it became clear that he was ready to take their relationship to a more serious level she'd had to admit to herself that her heart just wasn't available to him, not in the way he wanted it to be, and that it was unfair to let the relationship continue with the false hope that someday she might return his feelings when she knew she never would.
"Why did you and Harrington break up?" Steve asked directly, pulling her out of her reverie.
She looked him square in the eyes and decided honesty was the best policy.
Now or never.
"Because he wasn't you."
Steve smiled broadly at her then leaned in, as if drawn by a magnet, and pressed his lips to hers.
For the first time in months he felt at peace. He felt grounded. He felt like he was where he belonged. He placed his hand on her knee and moved to deepen the kiss.
"Whoa there, sailor," she said as she pulled back.
Steve was relieved to see her smile was practically as big as his own.
"I'm sorry," he said, not looking all that sorry. "I shouldn't have … " His voice trailed off.
"It's not that," Catherine reassured him as she placed her hand on his knee and scooted her chair closer. "But we're in a public place."
"Oh right." Steve looked around as if suddenly remembering the other patrons in the room. He took a deep breath and continued. "Also, I don't want you to think I'm just after … well … you know. When I said I've missed you, Cath, I meant I've missed … being with you … obviously. But I've also missed talking to you and knowing you were out there somewhere on my side."
"I've always been out there somewhere on your side, Steve."
His breath caught. "I don't deserve that kind of loyalty from you. I'm really sorry … I don't know what I was thinking … I should never have …"
"Shhh," Catherine moved her hand up his thigh. "It's ok."
"It's not ok. I hurt you."
"You did. But now you have a chance to make it right. If you want to that is."
"I want to … very much," Steve said sincerely. He raised his hand and caressed her cheek. "I'm so sorry, Cath. I never meant to hurt you. I thought I was doing what was best for you."
She leaned into his caress. "There will never be a time when what's best for me will involve not being with you," she said, blinking back tears.
Steve's heart leapt to his throat. "I'm so sorry for any tears you cried over me, Cath. I really am."
She leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. "You'll just have to find a way to make it up to me," she whispered as her hand moved higher on his thigh.
"Like dinner?" He grinned. "I'm kinda hungry."
"That's one option," Catherine said flirtily. "Where would we go? Somewhere fancy?"
"If you want. I'm not sure what I have in my duffel bag but I can probably throw something together for reasonably fancy."
"Hmmmm." Catherine licked her lips.
"I need to find a hotel room so I can get cleaned up a little," Steve said, his voice higher in pitch than normal.
"I have a room," Catherine offered. "It's not very big but we might be able to squeeze in together if we try. You can grab a shower and change there then we can head out to dinner."
"Sounds like a plan." he smiled broadly.
Catherine reached for her purse. "Just let me settle the tab."
Steve put his hand in his pocket, pulled out his wallet and gave it to her. "Here, use this. Pay the bill and I'll meet you outside in a minute."
"Everything ok?" she asked.
"Everything's … yeah … I just need a minute." He smirked and indicated his lap.
Catherine grinned and handed him his duffel bag. "Did you forget this?"
"Oh, I did. Very useful in this situation," he laughed as he positioned it in front of him and headed for the bar to pay the tab.
Five minutes later they were in a cab on the way to Catherine's hotel and her hand was on his thigh again and he really hoped he'd be able to make it across the hotel lobby without embarrassing himself. But there was no way he was asking her to take her hands off him.
After making it across the hotel lobby without incident, barely, Steve and Catherine rushed up two flights of stairs, unwilling to wait for the elevator, and down the hall to Catherine's room. As Catherine pulled the key out of her pocket and attempted to get it in the door, Steve, always impatient, leaned into her back letting her feel just how much he wanted her. He splayed his hands against her torso and began to slide them slowly upward toward her breasts as he kissed her neck fervently.
"You're not helping," she giggled as the key once again missed the slot.
"I'm not trying to," Steve growled into her ear.
"Well I'm not gonna do anything here in the hall so until this door gets opened … "
That was all Steve needed to hear to spur him into action. He grasped Catherine's hand, the one that was holding the key, and guided it steadily towards the doorknob.
"Just like this," he whispered in her ear as the key slid smoothly into the hole. "Now just rotate a little."
Catherine moaned as the door pushed open and they tumbled inside. She immediately turned and backed Steve up against the door, kissing him passionately.
"Only you, sailor," she panted as she reached for his belt buckle, "could make opening a door sexy."
"What can I say?" Steve's smirk dissolved into a moan as Catherine's hand slipped inside his pants. "I aim to please."
"Your aim is very good," Catherine purred into his ear.
"Yours isn't so bad either."
Steve didn't want their first time back together to be against a hotel room door so he lifted her effortlessly and her legs went naturally around his waist. He carried her to the bed and paused. "What about dinner?"
"Later," Catherine said. She lowered her legs to floor, careful to press seductively against him as she did, and began to remove her clothes. She paused and looked at him. "Unless you're really hungry?"
"I'm hungry all right. Ravenous even," Steve said as he began to remove his own clothes. "But not for food."
When they finally came up for air it was lunchtime the next day. Catherine woke to find Steve watching her with a sleepy smile.
"Nothing," he leaned in and kissed her softly. "I just like looking at you."
"Well, I like looking at you right back." She pulled him in for another kiss.
"You think we should get dressed and go scrounge up some food?"
"Probably." Catherine leaned in and kissed him softly. Then again. And again.
"You're not getting up," Steve pointed out.
"Mmmm," Catherine kissed along his jawline. "You either."
"You make a good point," Steve said as he tipped his head back to give her better access to his neck.
"I'm more thirsty than anything," she sighed.
"Let me grab a couple of waters out of the mini bar."
"Those are expensive."
"What's my other option?"
"Vending machine at the end of the hall."
Steve opened the mini bar and pulled out two waters. "Not worth getting dressed for," he laughed as he returned to the bed and handed Catherine a cold bottle of $6 water.
He downed his own bottle quickly then leaned back against the headboard and Catherine settled against his side.
"What are you thinking?" she asked.
"Nothing really. Just that … this is not what I thought I'd be doing on this liberty."
"Oh really?" she snuggled against him more tightly. "What did you think you'd be doing?"
"Well maybe something similar to this," he grinned wolfishly, "except … you know …alone. And thinking about you."
"What's so funny," Steve asked.
"It's just that … when I saw you there in Iron Fairies … I'd been thinking about some of the good times we'd had there. And I was just getting ready to come back here, alone, and … you know … but thinking about you."
Steve moaned loudly. "You can't say things like that, Catherine."
"Because now I'm picturing you … alone … and …"
Catherine laughed out loud and straddled his lap. "Maybe if you're a good boy I'll show you later. But for right now I have things in mind that are much more fun for two."
Next time they came up for air it was almost noon on the second day of liberty. They called room service because neither felt like getting dressed nor leaving the room. When the food arrived they sat cross-legged on the bed and devoured it in near silence. When they finished Steve grabbed the tray and twisted around to place it on the floor beside the bed.
"What did you …" he started as he turned back around and saw Catherine stretching languorously, arms above her head.
"What did I what?" she smiled.
"I don't even remember," he said as he got on his knees and crawled towards her.
"Whether we're leaving the room today or not I definitely need a shower," Catherine said, holding up her hand in the universal sign for stop, as Steve reached her and straddled her body.
"The shower is a dangerous place," he leered from his position above her. "You could slip and fall and hit your head."
"My, that does sound dangerous."
Steve nodded triumphantly and lowered his mouth to her left breast, eliciting a happy moan. He eased Catherine gently backward till she was lying flat on the mattress and moved to the other breast. She put her hands in his hair and lost herself in the sensations for several minutes.
Her nails along his scalp and her contented sighs and moans filled his heart with joy. He raised his head and looked in her eyes.
"Maybe I should come with you, just in case."
"Hmmmm," she asked, momentarily confused.
"To the shower," he chuckled.
"That sounds like an excellent idea," she smiled contentedly at him. "But first finish what you were doing."
"You don't have to ask me twice," Steve smiled as he lowered his head and lost himself in the rhythm of the way their bodies moved together so effortlessly.
Six hours later they finally made it to the shower. Unfortunately, they could not make it out of the bathroom post-shower without another round of energetic lovemaking on the bathroom vanity during which they found an inventive use for the bottle of green apple scented lotion that had been supplied by the hotel.
Which lead to Steve being banished from the bathroom to wait impatiently, perched on the edge of the bed, while Catherine took another shower, alone, because she said he couldn't be trusted to let her actually get clean.
When she emerged from the bathroom, towel drying her hair while wearing nothing but his buds t-shirt that she had liberated from his duffel bag, Steve grinned.
"Well that was a wasted shower," he said as he crossed to her in two strides, wrapped her in his arms and began nuzzling his neck.
"Steve, come on," Catherine said, making no attempt at all to escape, "can't I stay clean for at least 10 minutes?"
"If you wanted to stay clean you should have worn your own t-shirt." He smiled at her and waggled his eyebrows.
"That would have made a difference?" she asked skeptically.
"Well we'll never know now but this one is mine and I'm taking it back right …"
Steve stopped mid-sentence, his t shirt pushed all the way up exposing Catherine's naked torso, when there was a knock on the door accompanied by a loud "Room Service."
"You ordered food?" Catherine giggled.
"Just a little something to help us keep our strength up," he said as he removed his hands, letting his shirt fall back down, covering her to the mid-thigh. He crossed the room and, looking back to make sure she was sufficiently covered, answered the door and signed for their meal. Hamburgers, french fries and chocolate milkshakes, because he knew they were one of Catherine's favorite treats.
He remembered being mesmerized watching her drink one the first time they met.
He placed the tray on the room's small table and pulled out Catherine's chair with a flourish.
"Why thank you, kind sir," she laughed as she took her seat. Steve handed her her napkin then took his own seat and slid the chair over right next to hers.
They laughed and joked as they ate, Catherine occasionally stealing one of his french fries because it was well done and those were her favorite kind.
She threw back her head and laughed as he recounted his attempts at mixing together available MREs on his last mission in an effort to break the monotony of the same old meals every night. The resulting mixture of pepper steak and Italian pasta was barely edible and about as far from gourmet as you could get which resulted in Steve eating freeze-dried pop tarts for dinner.
When they finished their meal they returned to the bed, but this time they curled up together and watched an old black and white movie on tv. They fell asleep, wrapped in each other's arms, before was it over and awoke hours later and made love slowly, whispering words of thanks for the fact that they had found their way back to each other, each taking time to reacquaint themselves with every inch of the other's body.
By the time the morning of the last day of liberty came they could both feel their time together slipping away, but neither wanted to be the first to say anything. They spent the day cuddling in bed between rounds of lovemaking, filling each other in on what had happened since they had last been together.
Steve found he wanted to know every detail, well not every detail, he was happy to skip the more explicit ones involving Harrington, but he wanted to know exactly what she'd been doing over the last few months. He felt as though he was completing the Story of Catherine that he held in his heart. There had been no missing chapters from the time they met at Annapolis until the day he broke up with her.
The biggest mistake he ever made.
And the first time the story felt broken.
But now, as she talked, he was filling in those pages and completing the book and his heart felt full and happy. He was able to really breathe for the first time in months.
"Am I boring you?" she asked, drawing his attention back to her.
"Not at all," he smiled brightly and kissed her temple. "I want to hear everything."
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