Summary: Just how much trouble can Steve get into during one tiny reserve drill?

Pairings: Steve/Cath, minor Kono/Adam, Chin/Malia

Warnings: -

Chapter 7

Catherine was practically skidding down the hall in a non-regulations kind of way, her mood flitting between nervousness due to the verdict and relief to be getting away from work. She could concentrate on computers and images less than ever, with the hearing coming to an end after her deposition. Vucovik had wanted to hear Steve on the matter, but, thankfully, Commander Lou had categorically refused that with a decisive glare toward the SEAL to dissuade him from opening his big mouth. The disagreeable JAG's expression had been suitably sour, but as neither lawyer had any further motions, the hearing concluded. Delario had retreated to mull over the case until she recently got a notification that the judge was ready to inform them of his decision.

The young Lieutenant stopped short in her tracks, gulping. For a moment she felt herself shiver. This verdict could end their struggle or feed them to the wolves. Suddenly, all the terrible marks came on her skin came to mind. She raised her hand to her left arm rubbing over her tender skin as if to return its natural warmth to it. Most of the bruises had faded by now, fortunately, only the worst still marring her image. She had looked at them every night, cursing herself for how careless she had been and how she had lead Steve into this situation. She knew in her head that it was not her fault, but her heart still ached for him. She knew her eyes reflected the same guilt she tried to talk him out of when she saw it in his blue orbs. She rubbed her arm more forcefully to drive the chill from her bones. So lost was she in her thoughts that she had not heard the approaching footsteps until they stopped in front of her.

Looking up, she recognized the young sailor from the mess hall and two of his friends. They were leering at her, taunting her with their unashamed gazes. Catherine just rolled her eyes. She was a strong woman with a pretty face in a male-dominated work place – whatever they would say, it would hardly be the first time she heard it. So instead of going on an immediate defensive, which would only serve to make their molesting more tenacious, she merely raised an eyebrow and waited. The first thing she was offered was a long whistling sound as they stepped closer, crowding her. Not quite close enough to suggest assault or groping was to follow, but enough to make any normal person feel uncomfortable. Catherine's other eyebrow joined the first, almost disappearing under her hairline.

"Look here, boys," the ring leader singsonged. "The sainted Lieutenant Rollins, defender of SEALs-"

"The tramp!", one of them interjected.

"No, a froghog, that's what she is," the third one added. "Look how she's shivering-"

"-missing your stud already, Rollins? Needing a fix?", the sailor sneered. He stepped closer still, until they were only a hair's breath away from touching, all the while rubbing his hands together suggestively. Catherine fought the instinct to roll her eyes again. "I could mount you sometime if you miss it so much..."

"-heard you liked a wild ride, is that true?"

The ring leader opened his mouth again, but this time Catherine was out of patience. She raised her finger to his lips and smiled wickedly. Time to give him a little bit of his own medicine, she decided and crowed internally when her response made them pause uncertainly. They'd expected outrage, but she'd give them something far more sinister. Moving to close the distance between her an the sailor – she hadn't bothered to recall his name or read it of the tag – hovering just before their lips touched. Her hands crept up to the man's shoulder to fist in his uniform shirt as their breaths mingled. Then, in a clear clinical tone, she gave him her answer and his humiliation.

"I'd rather change my sex."

Her grip on his shoulders turned bruising when she rammed her knee up to meet his groin. The sailor staggered back, furling in on himself. His two followers looked hastily between him and her, obviously contemplating whether to get their friend out of there or attempt to avenge him and get into an all out fight with their superior. Catherine was hoping for the latter, her hands itching to curl into fists and break a few bones. The inactivity and powerlessness of the last few days had accumulated inside her in the form of a tightly curled ball of rage. These three impudent brats were exactly the vent she needed. Better than some old sandbag any day. The decision, however, was taken out of either of their hands as a new voice appeared in the corridor.

"What the hell is going on here?!", the booming voice of Commander Fenn made their heads turn. By the look on his face, he was going to drag them all to the Captain.

"Nothing, sir," the three men muttered.

Now it was Fenn's turn to roll his eyes. He shifted his gaze pointedly to Catherine.

"Nothing's wrong, sir," she insisted.

"That's not what I saw. You three, back to work. I'll have a word with your CO later," he barked at the men, then he looked at Catherine again. "You're my own problem."

"Yes, sir."

"I knew you would be trouble – the moment this started, I knew. Damn it, the favors were supposed to be a quiet deal."

"I know, sir. We shouldn't have been caught. I'm sorry, sir. I'm sorry you got caught up in this mess."

"Damn right I was." He sighed and gave a rueful smile. "Well, I guess I wasn't helping any."

If this was supposed to be his apology for being an ass, it wasn't much, but she would take it.

"We should get you to the hearing. This will have consequences."

Of course, he had to ruin it.


(Conference Room)

It took an elbow in the sides from Commander Lou to get him back to reality and stand up in a sign of respect with everyone else. He watched Captain Delario sit down and take notice of the seating arrangements of everyone involved. The older man did not raise an inquisitive eyebrow as he had during past sessions, merely sighed as if he were anxious to get this out of the way. With a hand he motioned for everyone to sit back down, then turned to Steve.

"Anything to add before I announce my findings, Lieutenant Commander?"

Steve shook his head. He'd already said everything he could as had a lot of other people on his behalf and on Vucovik's. He couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Very well, then," Captain Delario spoke up again. "Both sides have presented their case in the past sessions. As this is an Article 32 hearing, I'm not here to find on the guilt or innocence of the accused, merely to decide whether this case should go to court-martial. Lieutenant Commander McGarrett, please rise."

The whole room seemed to hold its breath as Steve and his lawyer stood. The sound of their chairs scraping along the floor filled the room. Steve heard the small intake of breath coming from behind his back. He turned slightly to let his gaze fall on Catherine. His brave lieutenant was tense, wringing the hemline of her uniform jacket continuously. When she met his eyes, she had a stubborn look about her and he knew she was making a brave face for him. She stood by his side, no matter what. He tried to smile encouragingly, but knew it came out somewhat crooked. Another elbow to his ribs had him refocus his attention on the judge.

The older man looked severe as his eyes shifted between all the main cast of this drama he had watched unfold. He saw Vucovik's clenched jaw, could almost hear the man's teeth grind against each other. He let his gaze wander over the audience, briefly scrutinizing the united front of SEALs sitting in the rows behind the defendant. McGarrett's team had appeared without fail, looking focused and determined. Catherine Rollins sat with them, right behind the Commander, her gaze transfixed on Delario himself. She was pale, but would be strong for McGarrett's sake. The man himself stood resolutely. He looked straight ahead, no emotions clouding his expression as he waited for the judge to speak.

Delario cocked his head. This had certainly been an interesting few days. Trying a sailor of the Commander's caliber for anything was rare, and the circumstances were even rarer. Accused of raping his girlfriend, he had had to account for every moment passed in the woman's company, his friendship and relationship with her scrutinized from the very first day to the present. There had been moments when their behavior had strayed from strictly professional boundaries even as they worked together. The kiss in the back alley came to mind as did the Commander's kneeling form in the fantail and the way he had calmed Lieutenant Rollins in the brig. The judge remembered how intimate the moment had felt. He had almost felt like an intruder as he had watched their love and trust work its way through the woman's anger. It could not be denied that they worked well together, though. He had studied both their files and it was abundantly clear that they made quite the team. He had been informed of more recent co-operations that bordered on misappropriation of military equipment, which Captain Swanson had implicitly allowed. Now he'd had to decide if that was enough to end both these sailors' careers. It had not been an easy choice. The Navy could always use officers like these two, great at their jobs and with their heart and minds in the right places. Generally, they were very good role models for future generations of Navy men and women. However, their personal transgressions had been severe at the time and the favors Rollins did her boyfriend should not go unpunished. Yet...

"Commander McGarrett, it seems abundantly clear that there can be no talk of sexual assault in the intimacy shared between yourself and Lieutenant Rollins. And though these favors are certainly non-conform with Navy regulations, they occurred with the knowledge and acceptance of both Lieutenant Rollins' CO and Captain. She certainly had good insight to secure their aid, and it is not for them that you are facing this court today anyway. Overall, you should thank her, Commander. Her explanation of your visits to her apartment was sound and her honesty certainly refreshing." What he really meant was disturbing, but he couldn't very well let on to that. Jesus, that woman wasn't embarrassed by anything it would seem.

"Your honor?" The question sounded more tentative than Steve would have normally liked. He cast Vucovik a glance who had asked at the same time, though more incredulous. Delario looked between the two men.

"I will not refer this case to court-martial over one kiss eight years ago."

There was an instant cheer from the rows behind McGarrett. There were claps on backs and hugs and laughter as the room slowly cleared. Vucovik stood behind his desk undecided for a moment, then he got up to congratulate McGarrett. He forewent the customary handshake and the SEAL didn't offer his hand either. The two sized each other up for another second, before the lawyer marched out of the room. Steve watched him go without regret or anger; it was over. When Commander Lou tugged on his arm he turned away without a second thought.

"This is hopefully the last I've seen of you in a court, McGarrett," she said as she extended a hand in congratulation. "All's well that ends well, huh?"

"As long as this is the end," he replied and they shared an easy smile. Before she left, she gave a nod to something behind him and a little wave. As he watched her go, he couldn't help but think he's made a new friend, somehow. He turned to find Catherine smiling up at him. She was still an arm's length away, mindful of where they were and what they had just gotten out off, but she looked relieved and happy again and that was all that mattered. He smiled back impishly. They'd made it. They had weathered the storm, together. "It's over, Cath."

"Yeah, finally," she replied, her voice breaking and he could see the first signs of tears on her face.

"Hey, it's a happy occasion. No crying now."

"For a moment there, I thought-" They both could only count their blessings that Delario hadn't dug too deep about their little escapade in the fantail.

"Me, too," he admitted when he saw how vulnerable she looked. She had a way of making him lower his defenses and let go of his mask of invincibility that even Danny couldn't rival. She made him feel safe to be vulnerable, too. They both smiled shakily at the other and shared a silly little laugh as they shifted uncomfortably on their feet, unsure of what to say or do next. They were not alone, they were not home but on the Enterprise – there was only so much that they could do...

"Oh, for god's sake, just kiss the girl already, Commander," Delario's voice called back to them as he exited through the side door. The two sailors shared the same gob-smacked expression as they stared at the door following that particular directive, but soon shook it off with another laugh. Steve's gaze found Catherine's again. There was so much there, so much emotion. So much left unsaid and now was not the right time either.

"Later," Catherine whispered tentatively.

"Later," Steve promised.


'Later' found Catherine shifting on her feet nervously as she stood in front of the hated conference room once more. The Captain had called her to meet him there for a discussion of the day's events. She had heard through the grape vine that the three lechers had had their privileges cut for the rest of the tour, including any shore leave they might have enjoyed in various ports the Enterprise would stay in. She glanced behind herself, sure to miss Steve on the airfield. There hadn't been a time when she hadn't seen him off since the early days of their relationship and she cursed herself for her own stupidity. This would be the first time that she wouldn't be there, all because she had wanted to humiliate that stupid boy. Of course, she had acted just as stupidly by letting her thirst for confrontation get to her. If she had kept her cool, she might be exchanging flirty banter with her handsome sailor right now.

Catherine grumbled at herself. She was procrastinating. Steadying herself, she knocked and entered. Captain Swanson wasn't quite glaring at her , but his gaze were certainly less than friendly. She gulped. Loss of leave and privileges might be the least of her problems by the end of this conversation. She was the one who had assaulted fellow sailors. She chided herself again. She should not have let her temper get the best of her. Swallowing she took the seat he indicated for her. She wrung her hands together instead of folding them neatly in her lap.

"Commander Fenn brought to my attention that there has been an alarming decline in the quality of your work. It seems that you are constantly distracted – inattentiveness, delayed response to the address by a superior officer, staring into space. You don't meet the standards or any kind of a work quota, Lieutenant Rollins-"

Catherine opened her mouth to protest. Sure, she had not been on top of her game lately, but she had done her job. Swanson only had to give her a pointed look to shut her up.

"I know there's no defined quota for work like yours and I know that you were under a lot of pressure, but that doesn't matter. There's always a lot of pressure and the Navy expects you to handle it and do your job to keep our boys safe when they're out there. You need to leave your personal life out of your work, Lieutenant. If you haven't learned that yet, I'm not sure a career in the Navy is suited for you."

That stung. Catherine felt tears prick at her eyes unexpectedly; quickly, she blinked them away and swallowed down the bile. She couldn't face the Captain right now, her eyes staring straight ahead, hurt at his cruel estimation. She wanted to argue, to fight back to get up and growl at him, listing off all her successes and all the reasons he should be glad to have her. The truth was, though, that she didn't do the job for any kind of recognition, but because she loved it, and stamping her feet with a petulant moan would have only made her more pathetic.

"You're right, sir. I let my emotions cloud my judgment. I'm sorry and I promise it won't happen again, sir."

"Damn right, it won't, Rollins. I'm relieving you of duty."

A sharp intake of breath from her, then he continues.

"In light of recent events it has become clear that the Enterprise is no place for you, Lieutenant. It is apparent that you can't work with its crew anymore and I can't have petty squabbles on my ship – let alone an all out brawl that is sure to come if you stay here."

She was getting sick. This couldn't be happening. It just couldn't. She loved her job, she loved working on the Enterprise. Okay, confined spaces and lack of steady land could get on her nerves after six months, but without that there wouldn't be any coming ashore to see Steve waiting there for her leaning againt his truck ready to take her home and she loved those moments. What would she do now? Where would she be stationed? Would there be a disciplinary hearing against her? Catherine was drawing a blank. At that moment she noticed the small, inconspicuous papers lying on the desk. Horrified,she realized that they were her transfer papers. She felt the bile rise again, stronger than before, unsure whether she could fight it back down.

"Therefore," Swanson said, a hand coming to her shoulder to draw her attention. He looked into her watering eyes, his features had softened. "Therefore, I'm reassigning you to Pearl-Hickam."

Catherine's breath caught in her throat. Her body literally shook with relief at hearing those words and seeing the Captain smile. A throaty laugh escaped her before she could swallow it down. She breathed in deep as she jumped up out of her seat. The chair fell over behind her. Clucking embarrassedly, she put it back up. Captain Swanson cleared his throat and rearranged his features into a stern expression. He went to pick up the papers, handing them to her with a certain glee.

"Now get the hell off my ship, Lieutenant. Your plane is waiting," he ordered, adding the last part with some cheek. Steve was on that plane as they both knew very well. "And wipe that grin off your face, Rollins, this is supposed to be punishment."

She would have skipped out the door if it wouldn't have been wholly undignified and in direct violation of the Captain's orders. She'd rather not chance giving him a reason to second-guess his decision. Upon opening the door, she found Trish and Mick in front of it, carrying her duffel bag. By the looks of it, her things had already been packed up.

"The Captain gave you the heads up?", she questioned.

"...I had an inkling," Mick admitted, handing her the duffel bag and pulling her into a brief, but tight hug.

"We should go," Trish added, hugging the life out of her for a few seconds.


"The others are working and, since you won't see McGarrett off this time, we decided we would see the both of you off."

"We should hurry. The plane won't wait forever," Mick added.


'Later' found Steve all packed up and waiting on the airstrip, ready to be shipped back to the islands. His reserve drill had come to an end without him and, as they would be sending everyone else back home or on their respective missions, there was no one to finish his training with. He would either have to repeat the experience once back at Pearl or he might be allowed to wait until the next scheduled reserve drill in six months. He wasn't sure which option he would prefer. He felt a sense of duty to finish what he had come here for, yet he could not rid himself of the sense of betrayal, of utter hurt that he felt inside at what he had gone through at the hands of the Navy. He couldn't bring this into balance with his own guilt still gnawing at his insides either.

He knew Catherine felt the same way herself, of course. They were idiots, the both of them, and he could practically hear the verbal lashing he would get from Danny if the Jersey detective were here right now. His face darkened a bit at the thought of his partner. He remembered what Mick had said about how Danny had made Catherine cry. He knew his friend hadn't meant for that to happen and probably regretted it, but protecting Catherine was ingrained into his DNA. It was part of his nature. Sighing, Steve decided to talk to his partner, knowing that it would be a brief, yet uncomfortable conversation.

He glanced at the plane that would take him to Udeid, the first of several trips that would be necessary to get home if the Navy was feeling vindictive. He glanced back at the hatch from which he was waiting to see Catherine emerge, but it remained stubbornly closed. He'd have to board the plain in a couple of minutes. If she didn't turn up soon they miss their last chance to talk face to face for the next couple of months. He cursed inwardly, wondering where she was and what was keeping her. He didn't worry about Catherine not coming to see him off; they'd long passed the stage in their relationship where they needed to pretend not to need each other.

He glanced at his watch. It was time. With one last mournful look toward the hatch, he climbed aboard. Steve sat down and leaned back into the first seat he found, his fingers drumming against his knee as he waited for take-off. The pilot informed him and the few other passengers that they would be delayed due to a last-minute additional passenger. Whoever the landlubber was, Steve wanted to strangle him. If he was going to have to leave without saying goodbye to Catherine, wait for their 'later' without the aid of one more moment of seeing her smiling face to tide him over, he wanted to be gone now. Then maybe he could stop glancing at whatever glimpse of the outside world he could get, agonizing over whether or not he would see her sprinting out the hatch only to realize it was too late for stolen moments.

'Finally,' Steve thought when a duffel bag was thrown into the plane directly in front of his feet. He closed his eyes in a silent prayer that he'd get out of here now. He'd never see the Enterprise in the same light again. Neither would Catherine, he realized. He wondered what it would mean for her as the one who had to stay. He had to deal with the Navy once every six months, allowing him some time to get over the hurt, but she was stuck in this world and on this very ship, to boot. Steve bit the inside of his cheek. He should have gone to talk to Captain Swanson and see if the older man could arrange something for Catherine – a post on another carrier or maybe even ashore. Yeah, right...

He chuckled.

"Hey, sailor, is that seat taken?"

The familiar voice made his eyes snap open. The easy tone still ringing in the air and the broad grin on her beautiful face made him smile. He moved his duffel bag off the seat beside him just as she plopped down on it. They grinned at each other even as the plane started moving, not saying a word nor glancing away for what seemed like forever. They didn't speak, didn't need words. Those would come later. She would explain it all to him later. They didn't touch; that, too, could wait. They had nothing but time, now that their troubles were behind them.


Once they had landed at Udeid air base, Steve and Catherine separated for a moment. They had half an hour before they had to board their next flight. Though he was beat from the day's events, Steve headed straight for the public phone to call home. He moved passed a few fellow sailors who had been on the transport flight with him as well as some zoomies stationed at the base. Between exhaustion and anxiety he could barely concentrate enough to give each a nod in greeting, earning himself a few admonishing words by the base chaplain. The elderly man must have seen how blastedly tired he was and took pity on him, pointing him to a short cut to the phone he was looking for. Steve didn't need to be told twice, thanked him silently and dashed off. His hand latched onto the receiver as soon as he reached it, though he did not immediately pick it up. Instead he held it in a steadfast grip as if gripping his lifeline. Taking a few deep breath, he dialed.

"'...'lo?", a quiet voice mumbled over the phone.

Steve cursed. Of course, it was late in Hawaii.

"Danny, it's me. I-"

"Steve?! Seriously? Finally, it was about freaking time. You get yourself arrested and I hear about it from your girlfriend, sorry, your not-girlfriend when all I get from you is zip. Zip, can you imagine? My best friend, my brother, you have some nerve calling... uh, you know what, never mind, I wanna do this face to face, so why are you calling?"

"To tell you that you'll get your chance very soon if you play shuttle service from the air field back to my house."

"When?", was all Danny asked, though it was clear he wanted to say more, ask a million questions and yell at his partner some more.

"Tomorrow afternoon. Call Pearl to get the exact ETA in the morning. And could you get some things from the grocery store? And Danny..."

"I know. I'm sorry, Steve, I never meant to hurt Catherine. I've been waiting to apologize to her again as long as you have wanted me to do it. I'll be there."

"Thanks, partner," the SEAL replied seriously. He could practically cut the tension that wafted over to him from the other end of the line with a knife. He could feel Danny's worry as if it were his own, sense his fear and silent support. Steve heaved a long sigh; there wasn't time to explain everything. So he limited himself to the bare necessities. "It's over. We're coming home."


"Catherine's on the flight, too. Listen, I'll explain when we arrive. I got to go, got a plane to catch now."

"Okay, see you tomorrow, partner."

Steve hung up without another word, but with a small smile gracing his features. He joined Catherine on the air strip, sharing his smile with her. She looked a little woozy; she fell asleep almost as soon as the wheels lifted off the ground and stayed out through the entire flight. Steve worried that recent events might have taken more of a toll on her than they first realized. He gently shook her awake. She grumbled unintelligibly at first, but soon she opened her eyes and smiled lazily at him.

"Morning, sailor, we there yet?", she whispered quietly so as not to be overheard. Steve himself had to strain to hear her. When he did, he broke out into a bit of a grin, though.

"Yeah, we're back on the pineapple-infested hellhole."

"I take it Danny is picking us up?", she asked as she rubbed her eyes slowly to reach full wakefulness. "Good," she continued at his nod as they made their way down the ramp, "then I can keep napping in the Camaro."

He stifled a laugh.

"You can sleep all you want once we're home." He saw her look up at him curiously for a moment and worried to have overstepped some invisible line they never talked about, but then her lips extended into the brightest, most beautiful smile he had ever seen. His heart throbbed in relief and joy. He couldn't fight the urge to smile back just as goofily.

"Can't wait to get home," she murmured, brushing her hand against his arm. That was the most affectionate gesture she dared to make while still under military eyes. "Will you join me?" As much as they missed making love to each other, they both knew that was not what this was about. They would have been separated by an invisible wall during his reserve drill anyway, but the hearing had put additional strain on them. Now she just wanted to sleep next to him again, feel close and enjoy each other's warmth.

"What else... ah, there's Danny."

The other man approached and got right on with the apologies without even a word of greeting. Catherine shook her head with a rueful smile. They hugged, then she climbed into the back of the car and was dead to the world again as soon as she hit the head rest. Danny raised his eyebrow at Steve, but the other man merely shrugged uncertainly, mouthed the word 'tired'. They exchanged one of their manly half-hugs before getting in. It wasn't until a few minutes into the drive that the Jersey detective broached the subject that was gnawing at his insides.

"So, it's really over?"

"Yeah, there was obviously nothing to the rape charges and Judge Delario decided that there wasn't enough to go on to lay charges in a court-martial for conduct unbecoming and fraternizing. Vucovik just wanted to make a name for himself by taking down a SEAL, a poster boy. Delario didn't refer the matter to court-martial."

"So, you're free?"


Danny paused briefly.

"How does it feel?"

"It sucks," Steve grunted loudly. There was a hitch in Catherine's breathing that made him lower his voice again. No need to rip her from the sleep she so urgently needed. His voice came out as a low, desperate hiss. "I mean I'm glad that I won't be court-martialed, but the Navy won't forget that that fuck even happened. The people I've worked with, people who respected me; many will look at me and wonder... and it fucking sucks. I feel betrayed."

"We won't wonder, Steve. Chin, Kono and I; we won't ever wonder and if they do, then they didn't respect you. They certainly didn't know you."

Steve mouth twitched. They stopped in front of his house. Danny suddenly seemed nervous as he glanced into the rear view mirror. Looking at the sleeping beauty in the back seat, the SEAL didn't have the heart to wake her up. Instead he opened the back door and lifted her off the seat. He followed a twitching Danny. It became even curiouser when they reached the front door. Danny placed himself between his partner and the door, suggesting he go inside and clean up a bit. Steve raised his eyebrows. He had left the detective in charge of his house. Danny still caring for that dog they'd found on one of their recent cases made him aware of the possibility of a less than well-ordered house, yet at this point he could have cared less. He was tired, Catherine was already asleep in his arms and he only wanted to snuggle together in their bed in their home and not get up until mid-morning the next day. So he pushed past Danny, entering his house. It seemed perfectly in order as far as he could tell at first glance. Only the small group of surprise guests arranged under a 'Welcome Home' banner was a bit of a surprise. They all talked in unison.

"Steve, there you-"

"Good to see you, boss, we-"

Commander, good to-"

"Big Kahuna, what's with sista-"

Steve gave them a furtive grin. He was moved by their gesture, but he was too tired to deal with a party right now.

"I'll put the shrimp in the fridge, so you and sista can celebrate later," Kamekona said nodding his head in a meaningful way.

"Thanks, Kame. Kono," Steve said motioning upstairs with his head.

"Sure thing, boss," she replied and dashed up to open the bedroom door while Steve thanked everyone for coming. He received a few pats on the back and indulgent smiles, but it was clear that once he was up there, he wasn't coming back down again. Danny grinned at him. They settled on having a BBQ the next day when their celebrees would both be awake enough to enjoy their friends' company. Then, as his friends quietly left the house, Steve climbed the stairs, wondering how Catherine could sleep through all that. She must have been really tired out. He exchanged a partial hug with Kono – mainly, she hugged him - when she came down.

"Welcome back, boss."

"Glad to be here. We're having a BBQ tomorrow."

"Won't miss it. I'll bring Adam, so behave."

Steve chuckled. "No promises, but I know what it means to be under unfavorable scrutiny now. So I'll do my best."

He went into their bedroom and placed Catherine gently on the bed, removing both their clothes down to her underwear before joining her. He snuggled close like he had promised himself he would. He wanted to tell her now; he'd had that overwhelming urge to say it for what seemed like forever, but again it wasn't the right time. Catherine was already asleep, it would feel like cheating to tell her now. He'd say the words when she woke up. He couldn't wait to see the smile on her face when he'd finally get over himself. He wanted her happy, and he knew that she knew, but saying it was better. An arm slid around her waist as his eyes blinked in the haze of the afternoon sun lighting their bedroom. Everything looked, felt warm and welcoming. Nothing like the grayish, dreary aircraft carrier they had just left. He'd felt oppressed there, all the charges weighing down on him. Here, at home with his girl, he felt safe and loved. Judging by the way she unconsciously nestled back into him, a contented sigh escaping her, this was true for Catherine as well. They were safe together. Home. Home was were the heart was, they said. Steve last thought before drifting into blissful sleep was that his heart was right here in his arms.

End of Trouble!

A/N: All is well that ends well. I left blue undertones in there, because it seemed right for Steve to feel betrayed. Not everything can or needs to be resolved att he happy end; the important thing is that they have crossed into smooth waters to repair the damage. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it.

No idea what my next project will be, but I hope you'll be with me again when I've figured it out.

FicreaderT: I thought about getting Admiral Rollins involved, but then I thought that would smack of favoritism and I thought they could get out on their own.