Can't ever thank enough for all the amazing reviews and lovely PMs. It's great to have your support and to be able to share my Steve/Cath-centred feelings with you.
Trish, my star-crossed friend, who also happens to be my beta - thank you even more than usual, for the motivation, guidance and putting up with all of my ideas.
"I've got you," the softly spoken words, without a hint of amusement, though resounding cheerfully, are so similar to all the meaningful promises they've said to each other. Never melodramatic, just a palette of simple statements, mostly whispered in the midst of the dark night, when a nightmare broke through.
With a huff Steve glares at his own feet, before lifting his head up and smiling at Cath, whose hands are holding onto him, supporting his arm and back. Red mittens covered in slowly melting, tiny snowflakes, match the red scarves - her and Steve's - gifts from Catherine's mum.
"Good," he breathes out, trying to regain his balance, "But I'm afraid the ice wants me too, so it's gonna be a tough fight."
Gymnastics was never his strong point, though he can do some acrobatics and stunts, but with his SEAL training and combat experience, somehow he never needed to master skating. He can jump from roofs and last long minutes hanging from a bar, but not maintain balance on thin blades. Not exactly his fault, Hawaii isn't the place where kids spend winter sliding on frozen ponds, which was one of Catherine's favorite activities.
Until she changed it for the Academy's track and hand to hand combat training. Her mum always thought of it as a loss, not Cath though, she never regretted her decision. Skating was her passion, but not her goal, unlike becoming a Navy officer.
"You've faced greater challenges," she smiles at him, slowly sliding further away, hands still holding his, letting him lean on her slightly. "Like my dad dragging you to chop the Christmas tree," her snort is adorned with a chuckle as she shakes her head at the thought.
When Cath's dad had announced that he has planned a family escapade for a perfect Christmas tree, all three of the recipients of this news had stared at him in disbelief. Steve was the first and only one to eagerly respond to that idea, sharing the Captain's itch for an old, slightly testosterone-driven tradition. Reasoning didn't quite work, though both Cath and her mum had tried to, as the two men found the idea of a trip to cut down the perfect pine extremely enticing. With thermal cups filled with coffee, bars of chocolate stacked in their pockets and of course a Navy approved gear, the two of them had ventured into the woods.
Catherine's reluctance toward the lumberjack role play dispersed the moment they came back. Steve's big, happy smile lighting up his whole face, igniting sparks in his eyes, he looked so proud and peaceful, clearly having a great time.
"He didn't drag me," Steve instantly defends his partner in crime, "You, on the other hand, kind of did," he looks at her knowingly, trying to take another slide without wobbling too much. Not that he would say no to her, but she was persistent with her mission to get him on ice, specifically on the frozen pond on which she used to skate as a kid.
Shrugging, she dismisses him, "I wasn't hearing any complaints when I asked you last night, if you still wanted to do this."
"That's cause you were hearing-" he pauses as his feet slide backwards and he needs to catch her to prevent from falling flat on his face. When he steadies, his eyes look up at her again, lips curving in a smirk as he finishes his thought, "Other sounds, Lieutenant. And you did it on purpose, don't even try to deny it. Asking me in the midst of-" he glances around, making sure no one is close enough to listen, "Fucking, is like asking a kid if they want a candy."
With a wicked grin Cath slides closer, mouth millimeters from his, "You can get another candy tonight, if you won't be too bruised," she adds mirthfully, before suddenly withdrawing and skating away.
Her laughter resounds in the air, turning Steve's dumbfounded face into a broad smile as he watches her graceful silhouette glide.
Keeping his balance as he stays in one spot is not that hard after he manages to strain the particular muscles in his body, but when Cath skates close, reaching her hand towards him and he makes an attempt to slide forward to her, the coordination goes awry and he stumbles backwards. White surroundings twirl in front of his eyes, in a flash becoming a greyish skyline.
Sudden gasp turns into a painful groan as he hits the cold, hard surface. The dull ache fills his body, from the butt to the head, his back numbing with the coldness of the ice. He shuts his eyes tight for a moment, trying to pray away the buzzing in his skull, which fortunately slowly subsides, letting the familiar voice get to him.
"Steve?" Catherine leans over him, mitten-clad hands touching his head gently, "Are you okay?"
She's one to know how wide the spectrum of ice falls is, from the hilarious, harmless ones, ending only with a bruised pride and butt, to those serious, ending careers, spreading blood on the clear, shiny surface. If she were a mere spectator, Steve's fall probably would amuse her, but her mind is filled with so many glimpses at his wounds, that the perspective of another one stops her heartbeat for a second. The laughter and teasing can come later, after she makes sure he's all right.
"Ughh," he groans, closing his eyes and reopening them, gaze shifting to her face, "No candies," his mutter confuses her and for a brief moment, before she processes the meaning, she suspects he has hit his head too hard, "I am damaged, won't perform too good."
"Rubbish," Cath snorts, grasping his hands and helping him up, "I know a Commander, who performed outstandingly with a sling and two bullet wounds."
"Ah, yeah, I might know the man," Steve smiles cheekily, sliding alongside Catherine to the pond's brim, longingly looking at the blanket covered bench. Sitting on it elicits another hiss, but at least it's a more comfortable and softer surface. And he finally can fully regain his body control, without straining each muscle to keep from falling - which, as proven few seconds ago, he was failing at.
With his body secured on a sturdy location, he can fully assess his bruises. The head doesn't hurt, only muscles in his neck as he instinctively strained to minimize the impact, but his back and ass will probably be sore for a few days, maybe even blotched with purple bruises. Other than that and a strong jab to his ego, he's fine.
"So," he sighs, cringing at the pain in his back as he moves his arm to wrap it around Catherine, who sits beside him, "We for sure know that ice skating is not my strong point."
"I kind of knew that all along," Cath chuckles, patting his leg, "It's you, who thought as a SEAL, or simply as Steve McGarrett, can do anything and master ice skating within a few minutes of trying." He might have not been thrilled about spending the afternoon on the frozen pond, but she knows him well enough to read the determination written on his face, when he was tying the skates.
"Not in a few minutes," Steve opposes, his slightly indignant face cracking with a sheepish grin as he adds, "An hour at most."
Cath bursts out laughing at that, the lovely melody of her mirth making Steve's heart thump happily, spreading a smile on his face. Her head lolls onto his shoulder, dark strands sticking out from underneath a red wool hat and that simplest of closeness somehow minimizes the aching throbbing in his body.
He pulls her closer, placing a kiss on her temple and resting his cheek on the top of her head. Their gazes follow a few of other skaters. There's not many of them, only a group of kids with parents and a pair in their mid twenties, as the pond is one of the rarely crowded places, unlike the rinks in the city center. Steve smiles upon seeing a toddler on a sleigh-like thing with handles, being pushed by a woman, probably his mum. The kid's arms are spread wide as they slide, his laughter resounding in the air.
"You know," Cath's eyes are glued to a girl clutching the hands of her parents, "Skating was something I shared with my mum."
Steve's hand reaches for hers where it rests over his knee, squeezing it gently, as she speaks, "I was a daddy's girl, fascinated with the Navy, practically in love with it. But I also loved skating. And it was something that my mum did with me," she smiles at the memory of her mother's face lighting up when she watched her on ice, "We came here, to this pond. Dad spread the blankets on the bench and sat down with a thermos bottle of cocoa, watching me and mum skating."
When she was a small kid, they skated side by side, hands clasped together, making silly poses when sliding before her dad. As she grew, their routines slightly changed, to making a contest out of who is faster or twirls longer. But still, it was always the two of them, dad sitting on the bench and leaving this small spot of tradition for them.
With a nostalgic sigh, Catherine snuggles closer to Steve, enjoying the closeness and safety his presence provides. She feels his gaze on her, somehow it's always easy to tell when he's looking at her, his fingers grasping her hand a bit tighter, lips brushing the tip of her ear, where it peeks between the strands of hair.
Sitting here with her by his side, with the frost pinching at his face and snowflakes melting on his skin, is one of the rarest experiences that reaches so deeply, tugging on his heart with a new shade of feelings.
They had visited her parents more than once, but it's the first Christmas in a snow-filled land and as hesitant and scared as he was of it, every moment was unforgettable. Going with Robert to cut down the perfect tree, spending more time talking and laughing over Bailey's spiced coffee than chopping the tree itself, was only one of the many details, which made him feel like at home.
As they sat later in the living room, decorating the tree, Catherine's dad drinking his freshly made eggnog, she mentioned with a smile that a star needs to be placed on the top. Apparently it was a tradition for Robert to lift Cath, so she could put it there. And she smiled at her father, eyes twinkling and hands reaching out, like a little child wanting to be taken into her parent's arms. Both her and Steve's hearts were overwhelmed, when the Captain eyed them and said the tradition of course needs to be maintained, but now there's another man to hold Catherine in his arms, And I couldn't think of a better man to do that, than you, Steve.
It had been hard to tell whose smiles were wider - his and Cath's, or her parents', as he gently lifted her up to place the star on the top of the Christmas tree.
All of the small, most meaningful details made this visit one of the best in his life, from the warm welcome, up to Robert asking him to cut the turkey. Losing or replacing this experience is unthinkable for Steve, however great holidays in Hawaii are, the two are so different and so needed. He wouldn't want to miss out on that.
"What do you say for an every other year plan?" Steve's voice resounds softly in Cath's ear, but the meaning of his words is confusing and she twists her body, lifting up her head to look at him.
"Huh?" she raises her brows, "What do you mean?" A part of her brain processes the possible meaning, but not fully grasping the concept as it can have at least a few points.
"I mean Christmas," he holds her gaze, fingers still around her mitten-clad palm, now tracing patterns on the red wool, "I love Christmas in Hawaii, with our Ohana, with Mary coming to visit. You baking coconut truffles," his eyes twinkle at the thought of one of the rare sweets he likes, the one that Catherine makes especially for him on Christmas, "But I love it here too. Your parents are amazing, the atmosphere so different from the island. Hawaii is a part of me and my tradition, while here I find all these great details about you."
Cath's lips sealing on his in a sweet, delicate kiss, interrupt him for a moment. He keeps his eyes closed a brief second longer after she pulls back, relishing in the tingling sensation in his lips.
His smile is not as bright as hers, but it's an honest shade of pure happiness as he says, "I would like for us and our kids to experience both sides." Steve shrugs, briefly shifting his gaze to the side, trying to regain control over his voice that cracks with emotion. They had the talk about having kids more than once, mentioning their plans to build a family had stopped being awkward long ago, but it still fills him with emotion.
"One year we would stay in Hawaii and the next we'd come here. And so on," in his mind he can already imagine himself sitting on that bench, watching Catherine with a small, wobbly kid.
"I've always said you are good with planning," she beams up at him, before once again leaning in to kiss him. This time it lingers, mouths moving slowly against each other, tiny snowflakes melting on their lips.