Thank you for all the amazing, heartwarming reviews! I love writing about Steve and Catherine, and hearing so many encouraging words from you motivates me even more :)
The soft melody of swing sounded so lovely, making Cath sway lightly as she watched couples twirling on the dance floor. She was slowly sipping her wine, viewing the ballroom. She always was more of a beer-and-popcorn girl, but she had to admit that attending such a opulent gala had its benefits. For example, it was a perfect excuse to buy a beautiful, new dress.
She might be a tough girl, passionate about sports, but she was also a woman who liked to look astonishing from time to time. Especially when the face of her companion lit up like a Christmas tree upon seeing her.
Speaking of her companion, Catherine scanned the room searching for her partner. He was still stuck at one of the tables and she laughed at the terrified look on his face, cornered by few lovely, but shamelessly inquisitive older ladies. The glamorous widows of the Navy, as they were called sometimes. They used these galas as a perfect opportunity to catch themselves a pretty prey, in the form of a young, fit Navy Officer.
And Catherine's companion, being the perfect gentleman, couldn't dismiss them. Numerous tours in the war zone, and yet he was scared and paralyzed in front of a few harmless seventy-year-old ladies. Or maybe they weren't all that harmless...
Cath smiled, deciding to postpone a rescue mission for a few more minutes, so she could enjoy the show. She chuckled as one of the women rubbed his arm up and down.
She froze suddenly, when someone's soft voice resounded in her ear.
"Good evening, Lieutenant."
For a brief moment she wasn't able to move, she made herself slowly turn around. Her gaze remained glued to the floor, but she finally forced herself to lift it up to his face, eyes travelling up his entire body in the process. He was in his dress whites, all glorious and official.
He looked thinner, but his face was still handsome. Those deep blue eyes, penetrating right through her, a charming, but slightly sad smile playing across his lips.
Hearing his voice was enough to make her heart jump, but now, lookingstraight at him it seemed like it had decided to stop beating for a few seconds.
"Steve," her voice trembled and she mentally reprimanded herself for using his name instead of the usual reply - saying his name brought a sudden pang of ache.
He noticed the light shiver in her voice and how her body involuntary leaned towards him, but she restrained herself.
"It's good to see you," Steve admitted.
"You too. It's been... a while." Over seven dreadful months without seeing him, without hearing his voice. At first she tried to avoid any possible way of hearing any news about him, but it was inevitable to hear things from time to time. She fought with herself, trying to unlearn those feelings of longing and worry.
Honestly, she thought it was all in the past. She thought she had managed to put it all behind her, her life now taking on a new direction. But seeing him now moved her in a way she wasn't expecting.
"Listen, Cath. If you don't want us to talk, it's fine. I understand," Stevesighed, his smile fading. "After all, it was me who ended things between us."
"No, it's okay. We can talk. We're... friends," she assured him, though itseemed so hard to say that word. To think of him only as an old friend.
They used to call each other friends, especially when people were asking about their relationship, but it was different. Then, that term had been saturated with warmth, playfulness and something way deeper. Now it was almost meaningless. There was nothing behind it, except a painful void.
Steve smiled, his gaze drifting away from her to look to the other side of the room for a moment. He pressed his lips, already kind of regretting his
next question, but he couldn't stop himself. "You're here with someone?"
"Yes," she answered, "But you already knew that, didn't you?"
Of course he knew.
Somehow he always knew everything about her. Not that he was fishing for news, but he couldn't stop himself from listening to gossip or small talk whenever he heard her name. So yes, he knew about her relationship with Billy Harrington. And the fact that he knew the guy didn't help at all.
Steve had reprimanded himself so many times for feeling this anger, this jealousy. He didn't have right to be jealous, after all he was the idiot who had said things before truly thinking about them. Over seven months ago, it had seemed like the best idea to let her go. She deserved so much more than what he could ever give her and he was afraid that his own feelings for her weren't good enough. Or maybe he got scared of them...
He was always in control of everything, of every aspect of his duty, his military life. Catherine Rollins took some of it away. She made him feel vulnerable and unsure and it was scaring the hell out of him.
So he convinced himself that it was honorable to let her go, that it would make things better. Well, it didn't. And thinking about any man, even Billy, anywhere near her made his stomach clench. He felt bitterness on his tongue every time he thought about anyone other than himself making her smile so brightly, holding her close, hearing her soft voice, touching her skin.
"Guilty," he said, forcing himself back to the present. At least he had enough decency to look sheepish.
Cath shook her head, but couldn't help a small amused smile. "I'm here with Billy," she said.
"Just here?" he asked teasingly, though he knew answer to that too.
"Steve, please don't," she sighed, looking at him pleadingly.
"Don't what?" He pretended to be confused, but she knew him too well to fall for that innocent look.
"Don't flirt with me," Cath closed her eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. "Please, don't flirt with me when you don't mean it."
It was too hard for her to simply get back onto their old playful routine,knowing that it'd be only for a few moments and then he would leave her with this void in her heart. Yes, it was tempting. Her tongue was already tingling, ready to reply him in this most natural, teasing manner. But she knew how much pain it would cause later, when she would try to fall asleep next to someone else. Someone who wasn't Steve.
Catherine liked Billy, she really did. And maybe someday it would be possible for her to say she loves him. Someday, when her heart won't tremble at the slightest thought of Steve McGarrett.
"Who said I don't mean it?" his gaze bore directly into her eyes.
"It doesn't work that way, Steve," Cath huffed angrily, setting her glass aside and crossing her arms. "You can't just pop up after seven months, march up with all your charm and expect me to fall for you like a little, silly lady mesmerized by Commander McGarrett's glory."
"I know, Catherine. I know," he nodded, closing his eyes for a moment. "And I would never try to do that with you. I respect you too much. Besides, you would kick my ass if I did. Honestly, I didn't even know if I would see you here tonight. But here you are and I... Sorry."
She was silent for a moment, but didn't take her eyes off him. Cath was never the one to avert her eyes - she could win battles with the force of her gaze, but it was a challenge Steve always accepted.
"Seeing you took me by surprise too," she said finally.
Some kind of instinct had been trying to push her into his arms the moment she saw him. With her last ounce of self-restraint she was able to stop herself from closing the distance between them. His scent, so familiar to her, tempted her to lean closer and bury her face in the crook of his neck, that smile weakening her knees, evoking warmth and carelessness.
Steve only nodded, pressing his lips together.
They both looked awkwardly around the room, until Cath felt his hand on her lower back. He gently pushed her towards the dance floor.
"What are you doing?" she exclaimed, but somehow her feet kept moving alongside his.
"We're going to dance. Aren't I allowed to take you dancing?" Steve moved them between few twirling couples, until they were almost in the middle of the floor.
"Yes... but... no! Steve, no," Cath tried to resist, "You know I hate dancing."
If there was any activity in the world that Cath dreaded, it was definitely dancing. Especially ballroom dancing.
"I saw you dancing in Coronado," he grinned remembering one of those unforgettable evenings.
"That doesn't count. I was tipsy and the girls dragged me into it." If she hadn't been encouraged by the amount of alcohol, she would have fought against it harder that night. "Not to mention you pulled me off the dance floor pretty quickly."
"And now I'm pulling you in," Steve announced, as he gently twirled her around and faced her, his hand resting on her back, touching exposed skin. He reached for her hand, entwining their fingers together.
"That's not a good idea. I'm bad at it, you know. Really bad. I'm gonna stomp on your feet," Catherine bit her lip nervously, glancing at her feet and then back at Steve, who was still smiling at her.
"You're not bad at it. You just want to control everything, so you try to take the lead and that turns out badly," he said, chuckling at the way she
scrunched her nose.
Steve for sure was one to know a thing or two about control issues. But Catherine, like many women in the Navy, had to be extra tough and prove herself among other men, so the need to take control was somewhat in her blood.
"Cath, do you trust me?" he asked, tracing small circles on her back.
"With my life," her immediate response surprised Cath herself.
The certainty in her voice touched Steve's heart with a soft, but painful force, evoking ache and overwhelming happiness at the same time.
Hearing her saying that meant so much to him. It meant everything.
It gave him a slight glimpse of hope, that maybe it wasn't all lost. That maybe he wasn't misreading those tiny gestures, or the way she spoke his name. Still, he knew it didn't gave him the right to ruin anything she had built with Billy. But the thought of the slightest chance of having her back in his life, displaced all chivalry.
"Then just let me take the lead," Steve smiled, pressing her closer against him and moving their bodies gently.
At first she kept her body stiff, but after a few smooth and perfect steps, she relaxed into him. It was so much easier to let her guard down, feeling his body pressed so close, his arms daintily supporting her.
"You look absolutely beautiful," he said, tracing his fingers over the deep emerald-green fabric, cut so low on her back.
"Thank you. You're not too bad yourself, sailor," Cath replied, nonchalantly brushing her fingertips over his uniform.
They moved smoothly at a slow pace dictated by the orchestra.
Steve's breath hitched in his lungs, when she gripped onto him tighter, leaning her head on his arm. He could feel her heart beating rapidly, thumping softly against his chest.
"Can I say that I've missed you?" Steve whispered with his lips almost pressed against the bare skin of her arm.
"Yes," her voice trembled as her eyes closed for a moment.
When she opened them, her gaze landed on Billy. Still surrounded by overeager ladies, his eyes frantically scanning the room, probably looking for her. Catherine suddenly felt a pang of guilt. Not because she had left him there, nor because she was dancing with Steve, but because being in Steve's arms felt so good.
Cath adored Billy's presence. He stormed into her life when she had needed it, kind of sweeping her of her feet. Always so cheerful and sweet. All time they'd spent together never felt wasted.
But it just never felt like this.
No matter how many nights she had spent in Billy's arms, she never felt like she belonged there. She tried to convince herself that she simply needed time, or that dreaming of belonging was a mere sappy fairy tale. But how could she not believe in it, if she felt that permeating pull right now?
"I miss you, Steve," she sniffed suddenly, burying her face in the crook of Steve's neck.
He felt his heart stop for a second, before it started beating as fast as hers. He tightened his grip around her, leaning his head into her arm. "I'm so sorry, Cath," he murmured, his lips brushing along her collarbone. "I regretted that decision the moment I left. But you know me, I'm too stubborn and too proud. And now..."
She knew what he wanted to say - now that she had Billy. She was with Billy now and there was nothing Steve could do about it. But he had waited for her to do something, to make that awful decision.
It made her so mad! Mad at Steve for showing up this evening, for being himself, for turning everything upside down. Mad at herself for letting it all go that far, for giving into him so easily. Some small part of her was also mad at Billy. For being here with her.
"The song ended," Catherine stiffened in his arms and slowly stepped away, though their fingers were still entwined. Her eyes were shining with tears as she looked at him sadly.
"Yes, it did. I just hope it wasn't our last dance," Steve lifted her hand, placing a small soft kiss upon her knuckles.
He turned around, before she managed to say anything. She watched him disappear in the crowd gathered at the exit. It seemed like time had frozen and she didn't notice all the couples dancing around her or Billy slowly heading in her direction.
Her anger and brain were battling against everything she felt. Running after Steve shouldn't be the way to handle things with Billy, if she even decided to make that decision. Catherine wasn't the type of woman who would do such thing, melodramatic arcs weren't in her nature. And Billy deserved something more than a sad look and a sudden escape.
Yet, before she fully processed her own actions, she was already halfway to the door, scanning the perimeter in search of a particular Commander in his dress whites who had to be somewhere amongst about a hundred other Navy Officers.
She found him already outside, walking slowly towards his car. This time she didn't hesitate even for a moment. Walking as fast as her high heels allowed, she tried to catch up to him.
Steve turned his head slightly, when he heard footsteps behind. Just a glimpse of her silhouette was enough to stop him dead in his tracks.
"Catherine?" his throat went suddenly dry as his eyes ran over her body over and over again, like he wasn't believing she was standing right before him.
It seemed even more unbelievable, when she pressed herself against him, burying her face in his chest. Her fingers gripped tightly at his uniform as her body shivered in his arms, and he kissed the top of her head, sighing with relief.
Moments later, she lifted her head up, letting her breath tickle his lips before she kissed him.