Authors Note

Thanks to my wonderful friend and beta, Trish! You are amazing and you know I wouldn't be able to write without your support.

I also want to thank all our followers and mcrollins shippers, who send their support to our tumblr blog (operationtidalwave) and who kind of poked me to start publishing here too :)

The Picture

"Oh, I'm sorry," Catherine snickered, she didn't even try to cover it up with an innocent look and sweetness. Her surfboard had hit Steve on the head and it wasn't exactly an accident.

When he flinched, muttering under his breath, she felt a slight burst of satisfaction. Catherine didn't want to actually hurt him, but honestly he had asked for a smack over the head. Doing it with a surfboard at least made it look like an accident, plus it hurt more.

"It's fine," Steve smiled at her nervously, glancing back and forth between Cath and two sorority girls he was talking to at the moment. Something told him he should retreat immediately, because over some unknown reason Cath was looking somewhat annoyed. He glanced at her then turned around and apologized to the girls, "Umm, you know, I have to go now, so... talk to you some other time, okay?"

"We'll count on it," one of the girls smiled brightly.

"I bet they will," Cath snorted, rolling her eyes. It wasn't the first time that Steve was the centre of women's attention. He was handsome, he drew attention, simple as that. Catherine wasn't the type of woman who would throw a jealous fit over something so silly. She wouldn't be jealous at all, somehow that trait that was 'typical' for other couples never stuck to her and Steve. He smiled at her when other men were offering her a drink, she had fun watching Steve squirm every time some overeager woman tried to cross his personal space. They knew each other far too well for their trust to be shaken by distance or other people's opinions. Jealousy never even crept in.

But there were other little monsters chewing on Cath's mind from time to time. A slight uncertainty being one of them. Those tiny moments when she wondered, if they were going to last, or if it was too casual to survive. She wasn't scared about their friendship, rather about that small part underneath, which quickened her heartbeat every time she was with him.

Considering how difficult it was to spend time together, she greedily wanted each hour to be fulfilled, instead of being wasted on polishing his male ego. Especially since she had been excitedly waiting for these few days in Coronado and the surfing lessons that he had promised her.

Steve always talked so passionately about the beaches of Oahu, about the smell of the ocean, the thrill of surfing. Honestly, she was so happy about this surfing lesson not just because she wanted to learn so badly, but because she couldn't stop thinking about Steve's joyful, excited tone each time he talked about it. His face lit up as they stepped out onto the beach, and at some point Cath was sure he was going to rip her tank top off just because he wanted to surf as soon as possible and she was taking too much time undressing for his liking.

"Okay, why do I have a feeling that I'm in trouble?" He scratched his head, looking at her sheepishly. Okay, so maybe he got little carried away by the conversation, but those girls had asked him about Annapolis and he could go on for hours talking about the Navy.

"You're not," Catherine rolled her eyes, shaking her head. He looked like a little boy caught stealing cookies and trying to talk his way out of punishment with an innocent smile.

She stuck her surfboard in the sand, inspecting it closely for a moment. Steve, a little dismayed, watched as she bit her lip nervously, how she scrunched her nose and huffed quietly, as her toes fidgeted in the sand. She said he wasn't in trouble, but something was definitely bothering her.

At first Steve thought it was about those girls, but that thought quickly dispersed, because this wasn't something Cath would do. She had probably gotten impatient, when he started talking to those two instead of teaching her to surf, hence the hit to the head.

"We're friends, right?" she asked suddenly, looking up at him. The question took him by complete surprise, and for a moment he tried to process if he had actually heard it right.

"Yeah, we're... friends. Sure." Steve never had any doubts about Cath being his friend. One of his best friends, in fact, and he only had a few of them. Basically two. And if someone ever asked who she was to him, he always answered that she's his friend. Brilliant, loyal, dependable and funny. A beautiful friend that he liked to kiss. A friend with long, slender legs, that he couldn't help but notice every time she wore shorts. One of the closest people to him, who knew the darkest spots in his heart and mind, and never abandoned him. She was his first and last thought almost every day, especially when thousand of miles separated them.

"Catherine, you know we're friends, but also more than friends," he sighed, rubbing the back of his head nervously. He hoped they weren't heading toward some really emotional conversation, because - crap, he was horrible at it.

"I know," the way she smiled eased Steve's worries a bit, "Steve, I love to spend time with you, even beating your ass at the air hockey-"

"You didn't beat me, Rollins," Steve protested instantly, remembering their last evening when his ego got severely bruised as she danced around him in mock triumph. "It was pure luck, plus I had something in my eye," he defended himself.

"Yeah, blindness," Cath snickered. Steve was the most competitive of all people she knew, but those rare moments, when she managed to beat him at something, were purely epic.

"Anyway," she cleared her throat and continued, "I'm pretty sure friends, especially more than friends, do more than that. They at least eat together from time to time. I mean dinner, real dinner. We never had that. And I wonder, is there any particular reason? Or are we going to be friends who never eat together?"

Steve stared at her for a long moment, mostly because he got speechless at her little rant.

"Not true. We ate together plenty of times," he finally replied. What was she talking about? They ate together all the time, even this morning before going to the beach.

"I mean an actual meal together, Steve, not mess hall with a thousand other cadets and ensigns. Think somewhere outside mess hall," she pointed out, looking at him tellingly. Cath never considered herself to be a girl that needed to be wined and dined regularly, she actually preferred small, simple and cozy atmosphere. But from time to time going somewhere a little more special wouldn't hurt. Besides, Steve in buttoned shirts was always an added plus.

"Last July!" he exclaimed triumphantly, grinning like he had just discovered hidden treasure, "That small place on our way to Colorado. We were eating together, just the two of us."

"Mhm, yes, true. Just the two of us," Catherine nodded, but Steve's smile faded as she added, "At the crooked table by the roadhouse on our trip to my parents. Eating our own sandwiches and drinking soda."

"I thought it was, you know, kind of romantic." The sheepish look on his face made Cath laugh.

"Steve, please, you wouldn't know romance if it bit you in the ass. You would actually kill it with your bare hands and ask questions later," she snorted.

That wasn't quite true, because Steve managed to leave her speechless a few times with small, but absolutely astonishing gestures. The thing was, he had no idea that they were so special, he simply did them without considering if they were romantic.

"I like when you're sarcastic," he smirked, leaning closer, brushing his fingers over the surfboard's brim, until they reached Catherine's hand and skimmed over it teasingly.

"You like to change the subject, but that's not going to happen, sailor," she quickly withdrew her hand and poked him in the chest. Unfortunately, Steve had this special ability of distracting her, if he wanted to avoid something. She tried to resist, but usually she caved in after a series of disarming smiles and some cute pleading.

"Fine," Steve pouted, crossing his arms, "So I assume that today's breakfast doesn't count either, right?" He didn't have to look at Cath to know he assumed right. He focused all his thoughts on finding at least one example which could shatter Cath's theory, but after a few long moments he had to surrender. "Right... You're right," he sighed. He made his decision in an instant, without thinking about it twice, and announced, "I'm taking you to dinner."

"Really?" Cath arched her brow, eyeing him skeptically.

It wasn't anything new, him making such split-second decisions, it was partially because of his training - as a leader of his team he had to make quick strategic decisions under pressure, but mostly his impatient nature was at fault.

"Dinner? Real dinner?" she wanted to make sure they were talking about the same thing.

"Yup. With real cutlery and waiters. I'll make reservations for this evening," Steve grinned. He was practically gloating now, like it was his idea all along and she should be jumping happily. Catherine did smile at him, her face lighting up, though her smile was evoked by his glow rather than by the promise of dinner.

Suddenly she bent down, hand reaching into her bag, rummaging through it for a few seconds, before she retrieved her cell and straightened up.

"What are you doing?" Steve asked, perplexed, as she zeroed the phone in on him, her delicate, slender finger pressing on the camera button.

"This needs to be memorized, like for eternity. So I'm taking a picture," Catherine said, moving a bit closer and zooming in on Steve's face. He stepped back and as she took another step forward, he took another one backwards. When she kicked him lightly in his shin, he finally stopped moving, deciding it was best to suffer for a brief moment than have his ass kicked.

"A picture of me?" he whined. He was never quite fond of being in front of a camera of any kind. It had been torture when they had to take their photos for the school yearbook. At that moment he regretted joining the football team, because it meant additional, and unnecessarily large, photos.

"A picture of Lieutenant Steve McGarrett deciding to actually take me to dinner," she smirked, sparing him the comment about achieving this point after four years of knowing each other.

"Smartass," Steve snorted. He tilted his head to the side, brows slightly furrowed, corners of his mouth twitched in a smile.

"Stop making stupid faces!" Cath couldn't help but laugh at his silliness as she clicked the camera button. This cute, but goofy face was now frozen on her screen, and she wanted both to erase it and keep it forever at the same time. It was probably the first and maybe only photograph of Steve looking so relaxed and simply happy, at least the only one she had ever seen. Warmth spread over her at the sudden thought that he looked so happy now, being with her.

"I can't. I'm looking at you and it just makes my face go like this," he pulled a face, but couldn't stop a grin from taking over. Taking a step forward he put one of his arms around her waist, trying to grab her phone with the other.

"You're such a goof!" she said, slapping him lightly on the chest.

"Aww, Rollins, I think you like me," Steve teased her, as she involuntarily pressed closer against him, her breath hitching as he brushed his fingers over her lower back. It was just a small touch, they usually avoided PDA, but nonetheless closeness always affected Catherine. And Steve knew about it.

"Thinking was never your strong point," she bit back, giggling as he traced his fingertips over that soft, ticklish spot on her belly.

"Yeah? And what's my strong point?" he challenged her, arching his brows. He stopped tickling her for a moment, contemplating on other ways to get back at her without drawing too much attention. Coronado was filled with Navy personel wandering around and even though Steve and Cath never hid their friendship, some parts of their relationship weren't for public display.

"I don't know, you're pretty good with carrying luggage," Catherine shrugged nonchalantly, pretending to think really hard of any other of his advantages.

"Carrying luggage, huh? Do you mean stubborn brunettes with twisted ankles?" Steve's smirk and the suggestive tone of his voice made her shiver slightly. The memory of their first encounter was cute and quite funny, but somehow he managed to mention it in a way that immediately flushed her cheeks. Steve blinked a little surprised, "Are you blushing?"

"No!" she denied, bracing her hands against his chest and pushing him away.

"Oh god, you're blushing, Cath," this unexpected discovery send a jolt of joy and satisfaction through Steve. He pulled her softly back, smiling at her, "You look beautiful..."

"A-aa, nope. No goodies before dinner, Steve," her hand closed over his mouth as he tried to lean in for a kiss. Cath grimaced and shrieked, when he licked the inside of her palm. Wiping it over his t-shirt, she finally managed to wiggle out of his embrace.

"Don't I deserve at least an extra cookie or something?" he pouted, but took his shirt off in one move as Catherine transferred her focus to the surfboard. He glanced a few times her way, enjoying the tempting view of the blue strings of her bikini bottom knotted in a loose bow. He had to swallow hard at the realization it would take only one tug...

"Not yet," Cath's voice brought him back to reality and he forced himself to look up at her face. Fortunately for him, she hadn't seemed to notice him staring, though he was pretty sure she always knew when he was looking at her.

"You cruel woman," an overdramatic sigh escaped Steve's lips, but he smiled as she rolled her eyes at him.

Cath tossed her surfboard onto the sand, a handful of it powdered Steve's feet. She lightly poked the board with her toes, not sure if she should step on it or wait for his instructions. When he didn't say anything, she decided to exhort him.

"Yeah, yeah, now are you going to teach me surfing or do you plan on flirting with the lifeguard over there? He keeps eyeing you for twenty minutes now. I think he wants to show you his buoy..." she motioned toward the lifeguard's turret.

"That's cute, Rollins," Steve retorted, shaking his head. Grasping her hand delicately he moved her to stand beside him, facing away from the ocean.

"I try," Catherine smiled. She beamed when he gave her a quick, sweet peck on the cheek.